A publication of Hood River News, The Dalles Chronicle, and White Salmon Enterprise
Emily Curtis has spent the last 10 years building a business from the ground up with her husband, and the last seven or eight pouring her heart and soul into Hood River Rotary — a combined experience she describes as “like standing in a fire hydrant — really exciting, but it’s a wild ride.”
Curtis, who grew up in The Dalles, returned home to the Columbia River Gorge after college and worked at the Hood River Chamber of Commerce for a while, where she picked up marketing skills. “But it wasn’t called marketing,” she said, “it was telling our businesses’ story and what we do.” Curtis insists that her job at Curtis LLC is the same: Continuing to tell the business’ story; particularly focusing on how the team at Curtis Homes does everything together, as a team.
That aspect of teamwork also comes into play at Rotary. “When we work together, we become so much more powerful as a group,” she said, adding that Rotary is good at “valuing the differences in people and the strengths in people and really trying to draw those out.”
Curtis is embarking on her year-long term as president of Hood River Rotary, an organization she joined to get connected to more local businesses and grew to love for its commitment to the community.
“There’s such a long legacy of people who’ve given so much to our community who have been president,” she said, adding that she’s “excited to be a small part of that long history of service.”
She encourages young people like herself to get involved in Rotary, since it’s a way to give back to the community in a tangible way; and you get to meet up with local business professionals for lunch every Thursday, “and how much time do you get to carve out to do that?!”
When asked what she has learned from her Rotary experience, she said that, not only has she learned more about herself as a young professional, she has learned that there is power in just showing up — “Whether on the business side or getting involved in Rotary or as a company getting involved in the Children’s Park,” she said, “you don’t need someone to ask you. You just need to volunteer and say ‘yes.’”
Curtis Homes, the business she co-owns and operates with her husband, Cameron, started from a volunteer opportunity the couple said ‘yes’ to over 10 years ago: Helping to rebuild houses gutted by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The experience had such an impact that Curtis incorporated the fleur de lis — a symbol of grassroots support for New Orleans’ recovery — into the business’ logo. “We came home and thought , ‘homes mean so much to so many people,’” she said, “We wanted a daily reminder of why we’re doing this…It’s about providing a home that people will spend Christmas in and bring new babies into; that idea that people will get to have a home that will last them a lifetime.”
The one question that Curtis gets the most, she said, is what it’s like to work directly with her husband. “It’s been neat to be able to build this company together,” she said, adding that they both enjoy being each other’s cheerleader. “It’s fun both ways, to see each other grow.”
The couple, who recently celebrated their 11th anniversary, have the added challenge of incorporating their 4-year-old daughter, Lucy, into the business — which, Curtis said, sometimes means bringing her along to meetings in Bend.
“It’s really important that Lucy knows what hard work is and what a small business looks like,” she said. “As a woman, to have been able to show a daughter that she’s capable, telling her ‘you’re capable and you can really do anything you want’” has been an incredible experience, she added.
When asked what other advice she would want to pass on to her daughter, Curtis said, “I want Lucy to know how much she’s capable to really achieve, to surround herself with other wise people … and to trust yourself,” she said, “we all know a bit more than we think and failure is totally okay. Everybody roots for a failure, but nobody roots for a quitter, so failure is totally okay.”