What began on a 30,000-acre sheep ranch near Shaniko in central Oregon, has turned into an international sensation. Imperial Stock Ranch, a state leader in sustainable practices, used a USDA grant to research markets, complete a feasibility study, and write a business plan to expand their meat and wool business into the fashion industry. And that led to a partnership with one of the hottest designers in the Northwest and a break-out showing at the Portland Fashion Week Show that had people around the world talking.
The company credits Mary Merrill of the Small Business Development Center at Columbia Gorge Community College with helping them take the right steps. “She has been unbelievable on this project,” said Erin Stone of Imperial. “Mary is one of the best business development practitioners in the state. She listens; she helps; she gets her hands dirty; she sticks with you and tries to find other resources. She’s been instrumental in moving this as far forward as it has.”