In Their Words
As a not-for-profit, member owned credit union, we’re incredibly proud of our small role in opening doors –professional and personal – for our members and the communities we serve together. When our members and community partners succeed, it exemplifies how credit unions can help people achieve their dreams and improve our world.
Here are just a few of those success stories, told by our members in their own words:
When Kevin Carroll came to First Tech to get a loan to help self publish his first book, he didn’t realize he would be igniting a career inspiring everyone from children to Fortune 500 CEOs.
Kevin has since traveled the world sharing his story, inspiring others to ignite their spirit of play. As he puts it, “Who knew a journey would begin with a red rubber ball?”
Nong Poonsukwattana arrived in Portland, OR in 2003 when she was only 23 years old. With $70 in her pocket, and all of her belongings fitting into two suitcases, she set out to start her life in Rose City. After working as a cook and waitress, Nong realized that it was time for a change. She saved her money and decided to take the leap into becoming an entrepreneur. Nong took her love of cooking and her experiences from growing up in Bangkok, Thailand and kept both at the core of her business. She realized that many people love chicken and rice, so it made sense for her to specialize in this one dish.
With her dedication to her craft, her keen talent as chef and business owner, Nong’s Khao Man Gai quickly became a highly sought after food spot in town. Since she has opened her first food cart, Nong has grown her business to two brick and mortar locations, now serving roughly 500 people each day. Nong and her restaurant have been recognized by Marie Claire, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and many other publications. She is a James Beard semifinalist, and has been featured on Chopped.
Through all of her success, Nong credits a lesson her mother taught her as being a driving force behind how she runs her business: “Give first, then receive”. If you visit Nong’s Khao Man Gai, you will see that lesson manifested when you are handed that one specialized dish, carefully wrapped in butcher paper, resembling a small gift made just for you.
When Nick graduated college, the reality of paying back his loans began to quickly set in. He realized that his significant debt kept him from living the life he had always imagined for himself. Worse still, he’d have to save almost everything he earned just to be able to pay his debts back on time.
After deciding to move to the West Coast and settling in Oregon, he discovered First Tech and was quickly approved for Student Loan Refinancing. Now that Nick has refinanced his student loans, he has a renewed lease on life.
“I see a lot of different possibilities now that I've had this weight lifted off of my shoulders. I have the ability to think about five years from now and 10 years from now instead of ‘in 29 days I have to my pay my student loans again.’”
Nick’s newfound freedom has also provided him the opportunity to pursue his passion of surfing. Now when Nick is in the water, the only thing he thinks about is the next big wave.
When Kari Kulojärvi arrived in the United States from Finland to begin his new job, everything was new. While trying to work through the complications involved with a move halfway around the world, Kari and his family also had to navigate America’s banking bureaucracy. It was overwhelming. They had no financial history in America, and faced an uphill battle in finding a home, buying a car and getting settled in their new country.
"I had no credit history, I didn't know how to open a bank account, how to buy or lease a car. And of course, I had to close my life back in Finland, so there was a lot of things going on back there too,” Kulojärvi said. “Closing accounts, selling cars back in Finland while buying new cars and stuff over here. Just so much going on. I didn't even know how to start.”
With the help of First Tech’s Relocation Program, Kari was able to gain the financial standing and security he needed to start his new life here. We are proud to call Kari our member, and to share his story with you.
Aron Carleson has made First Tech a part of her family. In her role as the Executive Director of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation, Carleson has teamed up with First Tech to help bridge the digital divide by providing access to technology and STEM education for kids who need it most. But her relationship with First Tech extends beyond her job, as Carleson and her family have invested in First Tech as their primary financial institution for more than 10 years. The Carleson family has big plans for their future, with retirement on the horizon and a commitment to improving their Hillsboro community for generations to come.
“We see a long future in Hillsboro, and we’re grateful for First Tech for helping us to make those long-range plans come true,” Carleson said.
We’re thankful for members and leaders like Aron. She’s deepening her roots in Hillsboro, and building strong relationships with organizations that are invested in the community.
Jensen Yip and 808 Grinds
Meet Jensen: a small business owner, husband, dad, and proud member of First Tech. Like so many of our members, Jensen is looking for financial security while pursuing his dreams. He hails from Hawaii and brings with him a unique flavor of the islands, which he has parlayed into a successful business. Years ago, Jensen bought a car—financed through First Tech—and later sold it to buy his first food truck serving traditional Hawaiian food in a very Portland way: unique, fast, and delicious. Jensen’s work ethic and entrepreneurial sense has helped him grow his business to include multiple food trucks—plus a brick-and-mortar location—in and around the Portland area.
Jensen and his wife, Jesse, met years ago and shared the same belief that putting their trust in a community-oriented institution like First Tech was the best decision for their growing family.
We are proud to have Jensen and Jesse as members of First Tech.
Hillsboro Schools Foundation
Dash and Dot are two little robots making a big impact in Hillsboro, Oregon. The project was made possible by a Hillsboro Schools Foundation innovation grant, which First Tech has been supporting for more than 10 years. By providing access to technology for kids who need it most, Hillsboro Schools Foundation is helping to bridge the digital divide. Dash and Dot provide students with an opportunity to apply creative problem solving, coding, and math in a way that is engaging and fun. We’re honored to support and fund STEM initiatives that translate to more success and involvement in the classroom.
“Thanks to First Tech’s support, children who wouldn’t have the opportunities to engage in technology have this hands-on STEM experience in the classroom,” said Hillsboro Schools Foundation Executive Director Aron Carleson.
The Plug into Portland program is an excellent example of how Free Geek is making a difference to bridge the digital divide. First Tech is thrilled to partner with such an empowering organization that champions digital equality.