Enterprise, Oregon is a tiny rural town bordered by forests and valleys. There are only about 2,000 residents in the town—not the most likely candidate for an entrepreneurial revival. Recently, though, the town has been seeing an uptick in entrepreneurial activity, thanks to the nonprofit Reinventing Rural’s work in providing support and resources for all sorts of entrepreneurs in the small town.
Silje Christoffersen, who runs the design studio Steep Creek Studio, is one of these entrepreneurs.
She’d grown up in Enterprise, but moved to Idaho for her partner’s job in 2019. She had always been interested in art and design, so, after moving, Silje pursued several graphic design and branding jobs, working with businesses such as a women’s clothing company, a civic organization, and a creative agency. In January of 2021, Silje took a job as the graphic designer for a local motor vehicle parts manufacturer to further hone her skills.
“I had exposure to speaking in a lot of voices,” she explained.
In 2022, she started feeling a strong pull to return to her hometown in Oregon to open a design studio of her own.
Because of Enterprise’s small scale, Silje wasn’t sure if her hometown would have the resources to support her business. But it was important for her to invest in her community and follow her passion for art.
When she found out that Reinventing Rural had partnered with a local economic development organization to offer CO.STARTERS courses to entrepreneurs in Enterprise, Silje decided that would be a great way to see if she could realistically turn her passion for design into a business. She had always done projects on the side for people in Enterprise. Now, she would have the opportunity to see if her small town could sustain a full-fledged graphic design studio.
“CO.STARTERS Bootcamp and Core were helpful in teaching me not to let perfect be the enemy of good. Especially since we’re in a rural place, it’s easy to compare ourselves to businesses with more resources and funding, and think we need all that to get started. But that actually sets you up for failure. CO.STARTERS helped me to re-center, realize that I don’t need all of that, and distill my resources to the least I needed to just get started."
In December of 2022, Silje joined CO.STARTERS Bootcamp to get Steep Creek Studio off the ground. Even though she was a bit overwhelmed at first, struggling with worry and imposter syndrome, she was encouraged by the community she found in the two-day business planning intensive.
“Everyone came in with different experiences and levels of where we were with our businesses. It was a very accessible, welcoming environment to ask questions, and it gave me the confidence to just get started,” Silje explained.
After CO.STARTERS Bootcamp, Silje officially registered Steep Creek Studio, which has attracted a steady stream of local and national clients, to the extent that she’s been able to support herself with her work full-time. While she’s still refining her specialty, the studio offers a wide variety of design work, including graphic design, illustrative and traditional art, and logo, promotional, and website design.
To build on what she had learned in CO.STARTERS Bootcamp and continue solidifying her business, Silje enrolled in CO.STARTERS Core, a longer and more in-depth cohort-based program, in January of 2023.
“CO.STARTERS Bootcamp and Core were helpful in teaching me not to let perfect be the enemy of good,” Silje said. “Especially since we’re in a rural place, it’s easy to compare ourselves to businesses with more resources and funding, and think we need all that to get started. But that actually sets you up for failure. CO.STARTERS helped me to re-center, realize that I don’t need all of that, and distill my resources to the least I needed to just get started.”
She also appreciated that CO.STARTERS Core reminded her that she would learn things along the way.
“That would be my advice to entrepreneurs just getting started: Your business model canvas and business plan don’t need to be perfect!” she said. “Unexpected things might happen, and it’s important to be open to letting the process itself show you how to move forward.”