Forest James combines his love of photography and his entrepreneurial talent in many ways, and thanks to the Oregon IDA Initiative and strong support from Central Oregon institutions his business endeavors are thriving, he’s creating jobs, and he’s giving back to his community.
Forest now lives in Ashland with his wife, but he grew up on the Tolowa reservation on the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast where “the redwood trees meet the ocean.” He heard about the Oregon IDA Initiative from a fellow member of the Tolawa tribal community, known as the Smith River Rancheria. The Initiative provided him with the perfect opportunity to solidify his business understanding and practices for his promising photography business, to develop credit and financial habits that will help him grow his business, and allow him to continue to contribute towards the cultural traditions of his tribe.
The IDA Initiative helped Forest develop the habits to reduce business debt, and the skills to create a workable business plan. The savings and financial support allowed him to purchase equipment that carries the plan forward, increases his productivity, expands his market, and saves time.
Forest speaks highly of the classes he took as part of his participation in the Initiative. In particular, he talked about NeighborImpact’s Yolanda Vanderpool and how she ”was invaluable in financial classes. She was able to somehow personalize it to all the students so that we each got the value out of the class that we needed. So much so that my wife actually started coming to the classes even though she wasn’t an IDA participant.”
Yolanda really enjoyed working with Forest as well, both individually and as part of the class. She remembers “working on a budget with him and discovering how many slurpees he bought. The next time we met he had bought a case in order to save money on the daily purchase.” His contagious enthusiasm lifted up the whole class and Yolanda looks forward to continuing to hear about his successes.
Forest also speaks positively about the required business class at Cascade Oregon Community College and his instructor, Maureen, who was “incredible both in the classes and individually, one-on-one. She taught us how to create the business plan and then how to implement it. I couldn’t believe how accessible she was. Beyond the courses, she allowed us to come in outside of class anytime. My wife and I took her up on that more than once… The business plan support was huge. I’m still using those skills when applying for other financing, etc. and have my books from those classes at my fingertips constantly.”
In addition to the photography business that directly benefited from the funds his IDA provided, Forest is launching a Non-Profit this month that provides training to Native American and Rural communities in the areas of Media, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Agriculture and Communications Infrastructure. The knowledge he gained through the IDA Initiative will contribute to the success of this new opportunity for Native communities across Oregon and the United States.
Forest and his wife cannot tell enough people about the opportunities the Oregon IDA Initiative provides and are thankful for the continuous impacts the experience made in their personal and professional lives saying, “This experience literally changed how we approached money management and I don’t really have any idea if those changes could have been accessed outside of the financial classes that are required by the IDA Initiative in order to access the match funds.” Forest’s businesses are thriving and he continues to give back to his community.