Member Interview: Green Drop Garage

“No matter what, things are going to keep changing and all we can do is guide the change to where we think it ought to go.”

This month, we talked with Business for a Better Portland member, Farhad Ghafarzade, founder of Green Drop Garage. We asked Farhad to share the driving interests that have led him from biodiesel to boat owner to a revolutionary car repair business.

Green Drop Garage is a full-service auto shop on a mission to deliver stress-free car care while leading the way for eco-conscious business. We’ve fundamentally changed the operating model of a car repair shop by introducing a flat-rate membership model — unlimited basic maintenance service with no hidden costs starting at only $15 a month. This makes expert care affordable and replaces scare tactics with honest advice. It’s profitable because people come first.

Green Drop Garage is also a force for good in the community. In addition to our BBPDX membership, we’re a certified B Corporation, named #3 in the 2018 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon, and Certified Gold for Sustainability at Work

Why did you decide to join Business For a Better Portland?

“Being a business owner, I feel a responsibility to engage with the community. It’s sad to see business owners put themselves on the “woe is me” side. They say “these taxes or higher wages are going to put us out of business.”

BBPDX is representing those business owners that do the right thing and then they make business work for them. It’s not just a financial outlook on business, it’s a whole-city outlook and we’re not just guarding one type of interest.

I operate Green Drop on that level playing field, being fair to my stakeholders -- the employees, the community, and the environment. If we do it right, we’re creating that vibrant city we all want to live in.

In your opinion, what is the value of BBPDX’s work?

“As business leaders we have tons of noise coming at us everyday. We learn to say no a lot - especially to the daunting (and usually unproductive) task of engaging our civic leaders who may not understand business owners and their desire to actually be a force for good in the community.

BBBPDX represents a larger business community and also has time and resources to actually advance them farther than the individual business owner alone. Bringing more voices and a more skilled voice to civic leaders, we have a better chance of having them listen.

BBPDX works on a few focus areas including transportation, affordable housing, and equitable access to capital. Which issue area most attracted you to BBPDX and why?

“The biggest is the “why.” No one single issue attracts me to BBPDX. I appreciate the organization’s approach to engagement.

A few of our civic leaders are more populist than pragmatic in their views which usually puts business on one side and the community on the other side. It starts to be an “us versus them” dynamic. I think that contributes to what’s wrong with the nation right now.

BBPDX helps us look at all of these issues from a more holistic, global view and seeing that the other side isn’t always the bad guy.

What is your vision for how Portland can be “better”?

“I think Portland can be better in how we approach development - of both buildings and businesses. The biggest risk takers are those who develop businesses and those who build buildings.

But when regulatory requirements start piling on, you increase the financial pressure on a developer or anyone who’s trying to do something creative - and then they can’t take those bold risks that make our city unique.

Food carts are a great example - they’ve served as a quick and cheap testing grounds for new concepts. Out of it, we got success stories like: Salt and Straw, Nong's, PDX Sliders. The barrier to entry was low, partly due to a low regulatory hurdle to get started.

I get sad when I see large storage buildings or cookie-cutter multi-family units pop up. I want more Dumbbell buildings, more Society Hotels. I think a more conscious look at how we are treating building developers will yield more creative (read: risky) development projects that aren't just about maximizing a return. We can foster safe & affordable housing, creative buildings and conscious development.

I talk to people and there’s always a lament about something - growth, things getting more expensive, housing getting more scarce -- and yes, those are real issues and we can change them for the better. No matter what, things are going to keep changing and all we can do is guide the change to where we think it ought to go. BBPDX helps us be more constructive and productive and spend less time wringing our hands.

— Farhad Ghafarzade, Founder, Green Drop Garage