Inspiration Meets Opportunity

United States, June 25, 2004

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    Photo: Mercy Corps Northwest Photo:

Korona Presley’s business helps encourage people during difficult times in their lives. She knows just how to express sentiments that uplift the spirit. After all, Presley has been down before.

A couple of years ago, Presley found herself unemployed as a result of disability. She could no longer do her previous job as a result of a herniated disc in her back and persistent knee problems. However, with three children and two grandchildren to support, she found herself needing to find something to fill the income gap, and fast.

Inspiration came quickly to Presley, and opportunity followed soon afterward.

Presley, who has been writing poetry for almost 25 years, came up with the idea for greeting cards made specifically for recovery and rehabilitation milestones. Faced with a difficult situation herself, she saw a market for sentiments that stirred people to rise above their trying circumstances.

She had the idea for her own business, but not the means to achieve it. However, a chance meeting changed Korona’s fortunes.

“I attended a meeting of the International Business Women of Faith, an organization started by my aunt,” said Presley. “A representative from Mercy Corps came and did a presentation for the fifteen women in attendance. The representative talked about how Mercy Corps helped people in a situation like mine to start their own business, and to succeed.”

Presley followed up with the Mercy Corps representative after the meeting, and soon entered the organization’s Individual Development Account (IDA) program.

Mercy Corps’ IDA program helps low-income entrepreneurs develop a basic business plan, save money and learn about personal and business finances. Successful participants qualify for a matching grant of one to two times their savings amount, to be put toward starting their business. Since 2001, Mercy Corps’ IDA program has assisted 248 participants and funded 63 individuals who sought to establish their own business. There are 60 more active savers who are still involved in the program.

Presley says she learned a lot from attending business classes and receiving one-on-one training from Mercy Corps mentors.

“The Mercy Corps staff is really wonderful,” she said. “The IDA program helped me learn to save money, meet financial responsibilities, and establish and monitor credit. The staff really goes the extra mile.”

Upon completing the IDA program in the summer of 2003, Korona had her savings of $500 matched with a $500 grant from Mercy Corps. This seed money enabled her to start her business, Korona’s Greetings.

Almost a year later, business is booming for Korona Presley. Sales of handmade, personalized greeting cards and framed art at her northeast Portland, Oregon shop are skyrocketing. Orders for her unique artwork are coming in from across the country. Presley hopes to open a second shop in the near future, and will have her own website within the next few months.

Presley is so pleased with her Mercy Corps experience that she’s recommended the IDA program to two friends. One of them has already started an entrepreneurship counseling business, while the other is currently involved in IDA classes.

For Korona Presley, Mercy Corps is where her inspiration met opportunity.

“I am forever grateful to Mercy Corps. They backed me up, believed in me, and gave me tools I can use throughout my life. They changed my life and my children’s lives for good.”