“We sell experiences”, says Robin Murphy, owner of Oregon Coast Glassworks. Robin, an accountant by trade, and her husband William, both Native American, started the business from scratch about 10 years ago in Newport.
The pandemic and its terrible impact on small businesses skyrocketed requests to the SBLC. In the spring, the SBLC was able to marshal existing resources, including the Ford Family Foundation and Prosper Portland, to support a unique track that served 25 COVID-19 affected businesses. We also presented numerous times on COVID-related legal issues. Once those funds were used, Washington County Business Recovery Center and Centro de Prosperidad, through a grant by Business Oregon, stepped up and provided additional support. This CARES Act funding will continue until the end of this year.
Small businesses across Oregon have struggled to adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic. Business owners are looking for advice navigating new rules and regulations, along with a host of other legal questions arising out of now-unpayable leases, undeliverable contracts, and in some instances, business closures.
The demand for these services pre-existed funding, and the SBLC is thankful to be in a better position to help clients in Washington County and throughout Oregon. When the this COVID-specific funding runs out at the end of 2020, the SBLC will continue to look for new and creative ways to serve businesses suffering from COVID-related issues across Oregon.
Located in an unusual intersection of health care, technology, business and privacy issues, Christina Glabas’ journey led her to found Gazelle Consulting in 2015. As one of the early HIPAA compliance service providers in Oregon, Christina has seen significant growth in companies’ willingness to tackle privacy and security issues. Currently, Gazelle Consulting works with a diverse range of businesses including health care practitioners, educational institutions, technology companies, and nonprofits. Christina loves to talk about subjects that intimidate many business owners. She has noticed that while people frequently communicate their dislike of HIPAA and GDPR policies, there has been a shift of understanding and awareness of the importance to protect consumers and the riskiness of exposing health care information.
For the past nine years, the Small Business Legal Clinic (SBLC) has assisted over 18 manufactured dwelling co-operatives to help create more affordable housing communities in Oregon. Along with our mission to serve low-income businesses and nonprofits, the SBLC is committed to securing safe and affordable housing throughout Oregon. We spoke with SBLC Staff Attorney Brian Dasso to find out more about the process.
Q: Please tell us about the clients you currently represent.
About 50% of my work is devoted to representing manufactured dwelling co-operative (co-op) clients. While several of our co-op clients are based in the Portland metro area, most are scattered throughout rural Oregon. (Check out the SBLC client map for list and locations.) The co-ops are owned by residents, and the residents also form the co-op’s board of directors. We partner closely with Community and Shelter Assistance Corporation (CASA of Oregon), a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, in working with the co-ops. Generally, CASA of Oregon generally serves as the co-op’s technical advisor and the SBLC is their legal advisor. We also currently represent housing authorities that build traditional affordable housing such as single dwelling homes, townhomes, and apartments.
Q: What are some of the legal issues and challenges that manufactured dwelling co-operatives often face?
The SBLC helps draft governing documents, by-laws, and community rules, and recently, we helped four co-ops with closing the purchase of their manufactured dwelling parks. After closing, we continue counseling the co-ops with general business and real estate law, such as lease management, landlord-tenant communications, and compliance with Oregon rent control and fair housing laws. One challenge we face in representing co-ops is the high turnover rate of board members, and we continue to work with CASA of Oregon to create a smooth onboarding process for new board members.
Q: How has COVID-19 change things for you and your clients?
The biggest difference would be not being able to have the initial meetings in-person. Before the pandemic, I would usually meet with clients in-person for the first meeting and communicate via email or phone throughout our representation, but now, everything from intake to closing takes place online. I think it’s important to have the personal interaction with our clients, and I look forward to being back in our office once it is safe for everyone.
Meals 4 Heels, owned by Nikeisah Newton, originally started as a late night healthy eating option for exotic dancers and sex workers. As Portland is both known for its eclectic food and high number of strip clubs per capita, Nikeisah sought to combine these two themes into a niche industry that could supply healthy eating options for late night workers. Beginning in January of 2019, news of Meals for Heels traveled via word of mouth and she took orders directly from Instagram direct messages, texts, calls, etc. Additionally, by being able to directly message Meals for Heals, Nikeisah was able to remove the “creepy guy factor” that comes with ordering from a food delivery app and having a complete stranger deliver food to a club.
Initially, the idea was to have a mass gathering in the office with over 50 attorneys, clients and law students working together to start their new businesses. These plans were quickly modified in early March. The SBLC was able to shift focus to online meetings, with clients meeting with attorneys through video conferencing. Despite the fact that the SBLC saw a drastic decrease in interest in starting businesses due to both pandemic restrictions and economic uncertainty, thirteen clients met with attorneys and formed and registered their business in late April and early May 2020.