Built Oregon -Oregon's Entrepreneurial Digital Magazine

And The Heart Still Rules: 8 More Great Oregon Entrepreneurial Stories


Issue #2 of Built Oregon features 8 stories that couldn’t be more different, but yet, couldn’t be more similar.

They span the entire state, and encompass 8 wildly different businesses: coffee, online games, packaged seafood, herbal products, recycling, natural gas refueling, a restaurant – and socks. Lots of socks.

There’s much to learn from reading all 8 of them, and when you do, you’ll notice a distinctive thread that brings on home the best lesson of them all.

In fulfilling an entrepreneurial dream, the heart still rules.

Oh yeah, I know, the head still has something to do with it – after all, there’s always numbers to crunch and strategies to plan and execute.

But the thing that gets them from “hmmm, I should try this” to “heck yeah, I’m going for it, even though I’m really scared” is that organ pumping blood all around our bodies.

And thank goodness for that, because these 8 companies are making a difference.

In Grants Pass, Dutch Bros. co-founder Travis Boersma isn’t selling coffee in hundreds of drive-up kiosks in 7 states – notwithstanding the flocks of happy people driving away with their daily cups o’ joe. As he explains, there’s more to those smiles than the hot coffee:

We are uniquely different. The mindset of our service is ‘quality.’ And the product is ‘love.’ Love is the product.”

In Portland, Sock It To Me sells imaginatively designed (and pretty darn wacky, in such a cool way) socks with a pretty simple philosophy, noted here by CEO Michelle Walker:

Hiring, team issues, birthdays, trips, weddings, baby showers—we always talk people first. Because people make the business.”

Meanwhile, over at Enterprise in the northeastern part of the state, founder Jody Berry is making herbal products at Wild Carrot Herbals that have SO much extra in them – stuff that isn’t listed on the ingredient panel.  Jody notes,

Our products are brought to you by people. We are family owned and operated in this beautiful and wild place in northeast Oregon, where we manufacture everything ourselves. Our products are all made in very small batches – measured, mixed, hand poured and labeled the old fashioned way: with love, care and cleanliness.”

Eugene has emerged as a pocket of excellence for game makers, thanks in large part to Jeff Tunnell and his latest venture, Spotkin. His heart is certainly there, and many other game programmers have followed his lead, because of the city’s great sense of place and quality of life.  He’s also passionate about educating kids – more so than than getting the big score.  Jeff puts it this way:

We don’t need to make billions of dollars, we don’t need to be the types of guys who I think are strangling education these days. We can change things and still make a good living. A small number of people can change the world and change the way things are happening. We can do it.”

On Oregon’s central coast, somethin’ fishy is going on (couldn’t resist that one).  Duncan Berry started Fishpeople to “change our relationship with the sea through business”.   Instead of just catching them, gutting them and shipping them out-of-state, Duncan had other ideas, built around creating a transparent path between the sea and the consumer.  He notes:

What narrowed the focus was around providing solutions: A super-healthy form of protein, a social and environmental mission, and delivering a food that was being underutilized only because of the delivery mechanism,”

What if a vehicle could be fueled by natural gas?  In Bend, the team at Onboard Dynamics is pushing hard to totally disrupt a major industry with a technology developed by co-founder Chris Hagan.  The trouble was, the project needed some funding before it could start to fly, and that’s when the connected and collaborative community of Oregon went into action and helped find the necessary cash.  Says CEO Rita Hansen:

It is a success story. The story is not done yet, but this whole community came together to make this happen.”

Up in the northern coastal city of Newport, Laura Anderson has forged Local Ocean, a thriving seafood restaurant and fish market that has become the state’s standard bearer for locally caught seafood and sustainable fishing practices. Laura aims for the heart, and hits it:

We give them the best seafood experience they’ve ever had in their life. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear our exact mission statement come out of people’s mouths.”

And back in Portland, the recycling business City of Roses is rooted deeply by a multi-generational work ethic and the family values of its two founders, Al and Alando Simpson.  The kind of recycling they do is connected to the core essence of the state as well, as Alando explains:

Salvage, reuse, recycle, discard—especially in a sustainably conscious region like Oregon, it gives us a lot of upside for providing alternative value. There’s a different cultural sentiment here. To me, Oregon is just one word that’s an extension of the term ‘organic.’ It’s the original root way of how people should be.”

That’s our latest issue.  Indeed, there’s a lot of heart on those pages. And there’s more to come, as we continue the Built Oregon journey. So glad you’re with us!

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Terry St. Marie

Terry "Starbucker" St. Marie, when he isn't working with Mitch & Rick on Built Oregon, writes on his own site, TerryStarbucker.com, and is also a business consultant, Director of Finance of PDX retailer/record label Tender Loving Empire, investor in the Oregon Angel Fund, chairman of the board of Social Ventures Portland, and a general man about town (and espresso bars)