Larissa Owens produces and sells The Green Book. - Bob Pennell

Home Grown: The Green Book

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? The Green Book is an annual business directory of green businesses and businesses with heart — people with integrity who are involved in the community. I'm working on the 19th edition. It's a free publication found at the library and on grocery store racks. It publishes each June and it closes in April.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I was born in San Jose, Calif., and my parents moved to the Rogue Valley in 1974. I've lived here except for a brief stint after college when I went to Portland.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? We were looking for a business that I could run mostly out of the home, because we were in the process of adopting our daughter, and also something I could use from my experience in college and graphic arts. Nancy Anderson Powell started The Green Book in 1991. I knew her through the Medford Chamber of Commerce and we talked about it for a bit. I bought it March 17, 2005. (Note: This date has been corrected.)

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I wish I would have had more start-up capital to totally revamp the Web site. I know it costs a lot of money to get a Web site the way you want it to look and keep it updated. As my knowledge has grown over the past five years, I'm learning more possibilities. You have to pay a lot of money to get the search engines to find your Web site.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? I have tried using contractors to help me with sales, but it hasn't worked out well. I'm not interested in hiring someone I don't know and haven't decided whether I'm going to do that again. Every year I think about joining different organizations and have narrowed it down to the ones I feel I get my money's worth from. I belong to the Grants Pass and Medford chambers and the Women Entrepreneurs of Southern Oregon.

Who are your competitors? There have been a few that have come and gone. In the past, some have come out quarterly or monthly and found that it doesn't work. Unfortunately for me, they get a lot of advertisers. When I call these people they say, "I'm already in publication X."

What are your goals? I definitely want to see it get bigger and have a higher page count. It's usually about 40 pages. It's been bigger before, when it was more tabloid-size. I've kept it consistent between 90 and 100 advertisers. I've focused on not just making it an Ashland book. It's more broad-based now. The first couple of years I'd go into Medford and they would say, "That's an Ashland book." I grew up in Medford and went to college in Ashland, so I'm familiar with the differences in the communities.

What training or education did you need? I've got a degree in communications from Southern Oregon University and graphic design experience that started back in college. I have marketing and promotions experience. Because I have those skills, I can do a lot of those things myself. The previous owner contracted a lot of that work out.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Stick your neck out there and find something you love, using the skills you have. Get involved in the business community. The business communities around here are very supportive of each other, like an extended family. Of course, be prepared to work a lot of hours.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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