“If you asked me two or three years ago I would have said, ‘No, I’ll never start a business.”

                         — Anna Hutson                    

Anna Hutson never thought of herself as an entrepreneur. Her parents, who adopted Anna from South Korea as a child, held long-term jobs for as long as she can remember. Her mother was a librarian; her father worked for the county. So when Anna quit a good job at a large creative marketing agency to start Avenue, she admits her parents were concerned. In fact, “They still are,” she says, and laughingly adds, “and probably should be.”

Anna had been working in digital marketing and advertising ever since she moved to Portland in 2008. She realized that neither the large nor smaller agencies she had worked at inspired her on a personal level, and the volunteerism and community connection that she had always valued were not a part of her work life.  

In March 2016 Anna took the plunge and founded Avenue, seeing the business as a platform to have a bigger voice. As a small company new to the game, she recognized the need for a conservative approach to her end goal of serving 100 percent community-minded clients. She has accepted work that comes her way but proudly notes that in the past year she’s been able to turn down potential clients whose values were not aligned with Avenue’s dedication to community impact.

Soon after starting Avenue she discovered B-Corps, a for-profit business model certified to meet rigorous standards in social accountability with the motto, “Business as a force for good.” She connected with this values-driven model that she could build Avenue around and proudly received her B-Corp certification in December 2017. Also in 2017, Avenue’s second year in business, the Portland Business Journal recognized Anna’s accomplishments with its  prestigious Forty Under Forty award for her ongoing efforts as a Volunteer Reader and Governing Board Member for SMART (Start Making a Reader Today).

Having grown up in Seattle, Anna views Portland as collectively forward-thinking but with a long way to go in terms of diversity. Her advice for people of color starting or running a business in Portland? Business for a Better Portland and APANO are both great organizations to connect with other minority (women and people of color) business owners. And she encourages people to take advantage of programs specifically earmarked for minority business owners, like access to capital and education.

Storyteller: Kjell Van Zoen | Photos: Kim Nguyen | Published: March 2018

Avenue Agency