Alum feature: Meet Christopher Joseph

Graduation Year: 2012

Please briefly describe your career path and what led you to choose The School of Business at Portland State.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I always knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps after I graduated from high school. While taking my undergraduate courses in business, I initially became interested in business law and intellectual property. I later pivoted to a focus on leadership and business management, in part due to my family’s experience within the business industry.

What skills gained at PSU and early in your career have you found most valuable in the long run?

I gained many key skills during my time at PSU such as time management, problem-solving, and team building. All of the courses I took through The School of Business required me to utilize and strengthen these skills and apply them to Cascade Spirits. Working on projects with a team is a key component of running a successful business. Having had many opportunities at PSU to collaborate with a team helped me grow in patience, humility and interpersonal communication.

What inspires you personally and professionally?

I’m inspired professionally through the creation and innovation of products and services and bringing them to market. I continually network with entrepreneurs in Portland and am inspired by their like-mindedness and passion for creation.

I’m proud of the products my business has created and provided for consumers, which continues to motivate me to create thoughtful products with inspiring design. Personally, I’m inspired by my family, both those who motivated me in my earlier years and my daughter who I hope will also have a passion for entrepreneurship.

What advice do you have for current or prospective graduate business students who are interested in your fields?

I’ve often found the path with the most resistance to be the path with the most opportunity. In other words, walk along the road less traveled and search for opportunities and holes in the market that others may miss. Also, stay connected with your peers and professors after graduating — they may become future business partners or advisors in the future.

What does “redefining business” mean to you?

There’s been a shift in the definition of “business” within the last few years, with a shift in focus to employer accountability and community uplifting. I pride myself on creating an environment where employees are treated with respect through livable wages, continuing education and internal growth opportunities. There’s a healthy balance between shareholder equity and employee happiness, and both parties are taken into consideration during decision making. Providing fulfilling careers, participating in farmers markets and non-profit events and partnering with other small businesses are some of the ways in which we uplift our communities. I don’t see business as a money machine, but rather a tool to enrich the lives of my community.

What are the most pressing challenges or opportunities for your businesses in 2020?

Expansion and growth have been both a challenge and opportunity for my businesses in 2020. With growth comes growing pains, and the current environment has created some unforeseen difficulties around remote collaboration. Alignment along all departments within a business is essential to successful expansion, ultimately allowing us to bring new brands and product lines to market, so adapting to a new work-from-home environment has been imperative to moving our business forward.

With the changing economic realities amid the coronavirus pandemic and renewed calls for racial justice, there are competing priorities for business leaders, consumers and community members. What lessons do you want to share with other business owners?

I encourage all business owners to participate in their community, whether that be providing job opportunities to those unemployed due to the pandemic or through support of a minority-owned business. We as employers have a responsibility to uplift our communities in whatever capacity we can, and the opportunities to do so are endless. At times it feels like there’s an abundance of priorities, but empowering your teams to share ideas and participate in small acts of kindness can make a big, positive impact.

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