Built Oregon -Oregon's Entrepreneurial Digital Magazine

Author - Mitch Daugherty

Inspired by a goat: The Chivaz Wear story

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The story of Oregon’s successful Chivaz Wear started in — of all places — Silicon Valley.

Matt Gilman was working at various video game and app startups in the Bay Area, where he found himself spending an enormous amount of time and effort building other people’s dreams and ideas. After years of working for others, he learned how the system worked and those insights led to a realization: he didn’t like working for other people._X4A0135

Inspired by a goat

The initial idea for Chivaz Wear came when Matt had a few extra dollars and wanted to upgrade his wardrobe, with an emphasis on unique socks that didn’t fall down.

“I always liked wearing long socks with shorts, but in 2006, the only long socks available were tube socks that came in multipacks and other ‘stylish’ socks from places like The Gap that had poor quality and uninspiring design,” he said. “Socks that fall down are called quitters, which is something I learned that from a Canadian friend growing up. I am not a quitter, nor will I create something that would be considered a quitter.”

The initial spark was expanded by a chance encounter with a goat..

“At this same time, I met this goat named Chiva (Spanish word for goat). She was the first goat that I ever really got to be around for more than just a quick looksee. She had a strong personality, and spent most of her day standing on a surfboard, surveying her expansive world, from the middle of my friend’s tree.”

AV5A7844-2So how did the combination of socks and a goat came together to launch a brand? As an independent person himself, the connection made perfect sense to Matt. He put a stake in the ground to make unique and high quality socks that were an expression of not only the independent and awesome spirit he saw in Chiva, but how he felt in the world.

“In my mind, goats represented so many things I saw as part of the brand; Independent flexible, adaptable, crafty, wiry, bearded and/or horned, great on their feet (sure footed), always trying to escape their pen, will eat anything, will not sacrifice their personality, friends to many, and unique.”

But the transition from a concept to an actual company can get a bit messy and complicated – especially when it comes to a consumer products brand. As a number of consumer product founders do, Matt took to Kickstarter.

“I had no money, so I floated the idea out there and I got a ton of pre-orders: $20,000 worth. That money allowed me to order the socks and start selling them. Without Kickstarter, I would have had to find some type of financing and no one in Silicon Valley was interested in hearing about small sock companies. I was hoping to raise $7,500 because I would have chipped in another $7,500 to get the initial order actually made. When I reached $20,000 I couldn’t believe it.”

It took Matt quite a while to find a reliable and quality focused manufacturer that understood the type of product he wanted to create, and wouldn’t cut corners or rush things. The socks had to hold their elasticity (wouldn’t fall down), kept their color, wouldn’t be too hot, and most importantly felt awesome when you put them on.

“I have drawings from 2007 showing my socks with a label on each sock and my goat logo loud and clear. I had several manufacturers that I prototyped with that I found through Alibaba. No one was giving me what I wanted, and the struggle through translation was obvious. I don’t know how to speak Chinese and they didn’t know how to speak English, and everything suffered as a result. After almost giving up, I ran into a friend of mine from Taiwan and he told me about his cousins who had once dealt with a good manufacturer there. I got in touch and immediately I knew that these people were professionals. We probably ran through another 10 prototypes before arriving at the right mix of materials and colors and price. I haven’t looked elsewhere since. “

With the manufacturing lined up, he turned his focus to the designs. From the outset Matt knew he wanted to have three designs with goats on them as a way to build his own IP. In his mind, anyone can make a striped sock, but not just anyone can make a goat sock. However, the realities of the marketplace and consumers had to be balanced with a unique IP.Copy of IMG_3852

Designing to differentiate

Beyond the initial logo design, Matt has mostly just used his own soul to come up with the designs, and with no art background, he still creates the socks in an old school way – with paper and colored pencils. He also doesn’t really look at other company’s designs, and as a result, there is a uniqueness that is simply inspired by goats, colors, nature and the environment around me.

“ More people initially like stripes more than goats, so I created nine styles that were all over the map to see what people actually wanted…unfortunately I ordered a bit too many of a few styles and was sitting on inventory for longer than i wanted. It was a great learning process though.The second phase of Chivaz has been a bit different. I ordered smaller quantities and styles, but they are selling faster. There is still a lot to be dialed in when it comes to the styling.”

Screenshot 2017-01-28 10.01.15Integrated into the styling and production are a few hidden features like the “get goatin” on the inside of each cuff, the cloven hoofprint on the bottoms, and the reflective embroidery on the back of each calf. These subtle elements harken back to the original idea genesis, but also help to define the brand.

As with most creative founders, he does have one that he’s particularly connected to.

“ I’m most proud of my current Black and White Chivaz sock. Not only does it have the Chivaz brand front and center, which I hope will serve as a reminder to the person wearing them to “get goatin'” and find their inner goat, but they also are two different socks with the same design. This goes even deeper with the brand and the message that I am trying to spread – that something that looks opposite, might actually be the same.”

You can learn more about the black and white sock via this Medium post Matt wrote.

Growing the company in Central Oregon

Matt moved out of the Bay Area because he wasn’t thriving there or growing like he wanted to as a person. He found that life was too busy and full of things that he didn’t always enjoy doing, and the general quality of life was a constant sense of pressure.

“ Sitting in traffic, absurd day care prices,  and some uninspiring companies that I had worked at led a general sense of dismay. Chivaz was on hiatus because I just couldn’t keep doing that and a full time job with a long commute. So when I moved to Redmond, it was conscious decision between my wife and I to change our lifestyle and get back to doing things that felt naturally good. Seeing beautiful nature, hiking, biking, meeting people, learning new perspectives, and understanding how to live without an income – which is still tough!”

Screenshot 2017-01-28 09.24.152016 was a huge year of growth for Matt and his family, which is something he attributes to the environment that Oregon has to offer.  Their rent went from $4300/month to $1500/month, a drastic change that gave them the room to make some mistakes – mistakes that would have really hindered them in the Bay Area.

“In the Bay Area I had no more room for mistakes. I would go into debt immediately between any jobs, so that had to keep all of my focus – instead of my own well being, my family, my creativity and my business, but what we found in Bend was an awesome and welcoming community.”

Matt didn’t know what he was going to do for work after he moved to Redmond, so he started to network in Bend. He met  Preston Calicott from Five Talent and thought the meeting would be a good one because he thought it could lead to a job or at the least introduce him to a couple of people and teach him about the area. The two of them started chatting about different companies and Matt kept droning on about random stuff. However, the conversation took an immediate turn when it switched to socks.

“We started talking about socks and I immediately changed my attitude. He basically said that I shouldn’t work for others if I really wanted to do socks. He was a bit harsh and honest with me, which was something I hadn’t heard in ages – so I welcomed it after wiping away my tears. What a blessing. He then introduced me to Gary Bracelin & Eric Meade of Bend Outdoor Worx and I just kept going out and trying to meet people on my own after that. I would just walk into different stores with a bag of socks and my story and start talking. I couldn’t believe it, but people actually had time for me.”

What Matt found in Bend was a similar tribe of people. There is a big group of people who do their own thing, so they seemed to know what he was going through, and more importantly, everyone has been supportive of the mission that he is on and stoked that he is bringing a new product to town.

AV5A7849The community and environment led to the creation of a new design, the Cascadia sock. The concept is based around a simple belief; Central Oregon is an awesome mixture of nature, independent spirits, local love, pioneering heritage, and the ability to see past boundary lines and into what brings us together as a people.

“I had no idea what Cascadia was when I moved here and now I am so proud to be a part of this community. I only made 200 of those socks and I am selling them quicker than I thought. Honestly, I feel like I am just lucky to be the first company to make a really good quality sock with this design that obviously came from someone else. I have learned that people also buy based on what they know and people who recognize that design love the design.I’d like to get these socks at some retailers in other areas of Cascadia, so if anyone out there knows of any, please send them my way – retail is still not my strong suit.”

One of the biggest challenges facing Matt and Chivaz is around spreading the “gospel of the goat,” but that could also be seen as an opportunity, one that he is slowly realizing every day.

“People keep saying they wear their Chivaz doing different activities like yoga, skiing, biking, running hiking, CrossFit, boomerang throwing, painting, cooking, and on and on. I haven’t had a chance to really dive deep into any of those segments. What I’d really like to do is get in good with other local entrepreneurs that are hustling like me and make make some co-branded socks, but I haven’t been able to build the relationships or work out the math quite yet.”

The bottom line is that Matt can’t wait to make more socks that will inspire and remind people to tap into their inner-goat. To get people believing in themselves and their own personalities and to embrace the differences that make each of us unique. To, as he puts it, “Get goatin!”

For more information, visit www.chivazwear.com. You can also like them on facebook and follow them instagram.ChivazHats1-26

Cutting a path to success: The ArcLight Dynamics Story

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Scott Cunningham had a simple idea: he wanted to carve realistic replicas of mountains. But that simple idea proved anything but simple to accomplish.

As he began exploring the project, a friend told him about CNC Computer Numerical Control) machines which could carve any shape he dreamt up. After researching CNC machines online, Scott purchased a CNC router from a vendor, but the quality turned out to be really poor. This led him to rebuild the entire drive system using surplus parts he found on ebay.

Once he fixed that initial machine, he realized that he could also build bigger and better CNC routers on his own.BRiJ-Way-LLC

Early beginnings

Scott worked on the CNC routers for a while, but eventually got into metalworking where he noticed the CNC plasma tables were selling for premium prices. He sensed an opportunity.

“I knew I could build a better one but — more importantly — provide an unmatched level of support,” he said. “At the time, you could read lots of reviews on the internet about how poorly these companies were treating their customers. And many of these customers just didn’t get any education on how to run these tables. It was obvious that these companies didn’t know that negative online reviews could hurt them.”

So in 2009, he started with two prototypes. Out of the two prototypes, one stood out as a potentially viable product — one which looks strikingly similar to the machines they sell today.

Scott used that table throughout 2010 to make metal art which he displayed at the Sunriver Artists Gallery in Central Oregon. This provided a solid trial run, but in his mind he kept pondering if people would actually buy the table.

“At the end of the year I basically threw it up on ebay just to see if anyone would bite, and I sold my first table a month later in January of 2011. That year I built 7 tables in my garage, and sold all of them on ebay.”

15937225_622225007949071_3764450894718195906_oWith initial sales traction and some market validation, Scott started thinking there was a true opportunity around building the CNC tables. That thinking accelerated when the recession cost him his full time job and he found himself unemployed. That change in circumstances opened the door to the beginnings of ArcLight Dynamics.

“With my small severance pay I rented a shop and hired two of my fellow unemployed co-coworkers, and built a website. From that point on the business took off and I hired two more of my old co-workers within a year’s time.”

That initial website had a high level of focus and professionalism. In all of his market research, Scott realized that many companies had a very limited amount of actual product information on their websites. This was a huge negative in his mind. He wanted potential and returning customers to have the ability to find an answer to any question they might have about the tables. There was an additional emphasis around producing comprehensive training videos that would allow their customers to hit the ground running.

“When we started out I created a series to video tutorials that showed our customers how to program and run our tables and put them up on Youtube for anyone to use. At this time no other manufacturer had done this, but from my perspective it was essential. So a lot of people who use other brands of tables used our videos to teach themselves how to run their systems. As a result we became the authority and source for training. “

The focus on the customer from the outset allowed ArcLight Dynamics to slip in and fill the void.

Developing an innovative product

ArcLight Dynamics tables are complete packages, which means that all someone needs to have for a very functional cutting system are standard components. And while this may seem like the norm, that is far from the case, and another area in which the focus on the customer has paid off.

“Other companies often start out with low prices, but the system won’t cut well until you add on options, which add to the cost. We believe customers will get the best bang for their buck with an ArcLight Dynamics table. We combine solid durable frames, combined with easy to use software, and most important to our success, excellent customer support.”

Scott and his team saw the biggest opportunity for their tables within small to medium size shops and businesses, and to gain traction within these verticals they had to be very conscious of the pricing. By keeping all of the parts and production in-house, they have been able to not only control costs, but also maintain high standards.

13305220_521846171320289_2423757534828226125_o“I do all the R&D in house for the design of the tables and develop new product lines. I don’t have formal education in it, but I’ve always had a knack for it. Keeping the overhead low is another reason we have been able to keep prices low. We have been very lucky as we found low cost rental space when we started out, and was able to take over more space when we needed it. But moving forward it is going to be very challenging to find a large enough building to rent or buy in the current market.”

Keeping the pricing low as they were just ramping up was a lot easier than the current production rate of 8 tables per week. So Scott and his team started researching ways to not only maintain their costs, but also create a more efficient process. This resulted in ArcLight Dynamics partnering with the local Fastenal store.

“Fastenal has been a huge help in sourcing and maintaining our inventory. Often I can find the best price on a product on the internet, and they can then match that price or do better. But what is really great is they come to our facility and stock the parts for us, maintain that stock, and often they are able to keep a back stock of our parts at their store. This saves a lot of labor and gives us ”just in time” ordering that helps with cash flow and storage space.”

ArcLight Dynamics started out with four sizes of tables, and just recently added two new larger models. The initial four were identical in design and function, while the most recent tables have larger steel welded frames and a more smoother and precise functionality. The new tables are named the Arc Max series, and are focused larger industrial environments. But new models are not rolled out too often.

“We just came out with the Arc Max table design this year, and so the new product cycle up until this point is about every 5 years. To date our best selling table is our 5’x10’ Arcpro 12000 table, accounting for 30% of our sales.”

ArcLight Dynamics has seen 40% year-over-year growth, which can, in many ways, be directly attributed to the high level of craftsmanship put into each table, along with the high level of customer service. One sector in particular, custom automotive, has really seen an uptick in the adoption and usage of CNC tables. Scott believes the adoption of CNC tables in these smaller shops, not just those focused on automotive work, can be traced back to a combination of things.

“The quality of cut that can be achieved with a plasma cutter has greatly improved in the 6 years, while at the same time, the cost of CNC technology had dropped in price. People have also become comfortable with running computer controlled equipment. They have come to the realization that they need this technology in their shops if they want to compete in the marketplace.”14681025_580637488774490_787406608450889072_o

Connecting to the community

There is a strong connection between ArcLight Dynamics and the Central Oregon community. Scott and his family see not only a place with a high quality of life to raise families, but also one they can help support through providing good paying jobs with benefits. In addition to the jobs, the company pumped $2.25 Million back into the local economy.

Scott also found connections that have been a tremendous help to his business, including Steve Curley from the SBDC.

“I started off taking the two year business development course through the SBDC and that was immensely helpful in getting me to understand how to grow our business. After the completion of that course they told me that we would qualify to continue working with the Grow Oregon program. This is when they introduced us to a new program they were offering,the Entrepreneurial Operating System, or EOS. This system has been very helpful in bringing the rest of our management team on board so they can start running the company independent of me. It has been very empowering for them and helped me grow from being self employed, to being a true entrepreneur/ business owner.”

Table made for Central Oregon based Noslr

Table made for Central Oregon based Nosler

The training and resources Scott received have helped to shape a great company culture as well. ArcLight Dynamics has been able to consistently move people up from the bottom and into management. This means that every one of their employees started out cutting steel , welding, assembling tables, and lastly, training customers on how to run the tables.

This has resulted in not only a sense of empowerment for the employees, but also created an entire company that has a very deep knowledge base, has a commitment to making sure the table works for the customer the way it should, and knows how each customer can get the most from their tables.

As the company continues to grow at a high clip, one of the biggest challenges facing ArcLight Dynamics will be finding a large enough space to rent or buy to not constrain growth. But taking on challenges like these are where Scott and his team feel most comfortable. They have created a great product, culture, and customer support system, and are more poised to seize on opportunities as opposed to slowing down due to challenges. Scott also has advice for other founders about to take the leap.

“Don’t hesitate, take bigger risks, and don’t be afraid to invest more in your company.”

For more information, visit www.arclightcnc.com and like the on facebook.

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Passport Oregon And Its Bold Quest To Close The Urban-Rural Divide

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Kevin Frazier, the founder and ED of Passport Oregon, never met someone with a degree in ‘Problem Solving’ or a Masters in ‘Moving Past Ideation.’ But soon after he graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Economics an opportunity to build, refine, and hone those skills quickly appeared. Eleven months later, he is now the Executive Director of a growing nonprofit, Passport Oregon. We sat down with Kevin to learn more about his journey and the mission for Passport Oregon.

How did the concept for Passport Oregon come to be?

When I started Passport Oregon, I didn’t know the first thing about establishing a nonprofit. I didn’t let that stop me from taking action. Why? Because I knew that if I didn’t act, Omar and kids like him across our state would continue to spend their weekends inside, evenings online, and free time doing something familiar, regular, and all together un-outdoorsy.

That bugged me. It nagged me when I went hiking and only saw people that looked like me. It frustrated me when I perused my Facebook feed, full of people adventuring throughout the state. It filled my thoughts as ads about Oregon’s outdoors played on the TV. Omar showed me the Nature Gap in our state. I needed to figure out how to construct a bridge across this burgeoning divide.29951608324_de94e54d41_k

You mention Omar, who is he, and how did your interaction with him lead to an enhanced focus around the Passport concept?

Who is Omar? For two years, I mentored Omar at his school, Spencer Butte Middle School in Eugene. Our weekly gatherings over PB&Js usually sparked conversations about grades, girls, and the Giants – his favorite baseball team. Eventually, I started to ask him about his weekend plans. They didn’t vary much. He played Call of Duty, walked to the arcade seven blocks down the street, and saw the occasional movie. Week after week, I queried him. Week after week, only the titles of the games and names of the movies changed. Week after week, I grew more and more despondent.

I told my roommate, Kyle, about my concerns. Over a patio beer – a weekly ritual during which we drank one of Oregon’s fantastic brews on our patio – he told me to channel my curiosity. If I thought there was a problem, then I should find a solution or help someone who already has found an answer.

With Kyle’s wind at my sails and Basecamp S’more Stout inducing confidence, I embarked on a weekend assignment to study the Nature Gap Adhering to my collegiate habits, I treated this inquiry like a good student would – as a formal opportunity to implement the scientific method. This homework would soon become so much more.

The ‘Scientific Method’ does not sound like the typical entrepreneurial process, expand on how you followed this method to determine the need and opportunity

So, first, I outlined my questions: Is Omar’s indoor-intensive schedule and relatively small radius of exploration the exception or the norm? If the latter, why, and what strategies can be used to remedy the chasm between Oregonians and their outdoors?

The background research came next. I uncovered loads of literature on the Nature Gap, Nature Deficiency Disorder (NDD), and Vitamin N (short for nature). Authors such as Richard Louv introduced me to all of this jargon and more. Like an onion, each chapter read and term googled peeled off another layer of the larger puzzle, until I was left with facts and figures pertaining to Oregonians like Omar. Thankfully, people from across the nation and the Pacific Northwest were aware of NDD and shockingly low levels of Vitamin N in our communities and, even more, our schools.

But, I did not find any foundation, organization or individual addressing my largest qualm with Omar’s rare excursions: not only was he not getting outside, he was also not seeing all that Oregon has to offer. Ski trips to Mt. Hood, learning to surf at Seaside, wake boarding at Wallowa Lake, hiking Smith Rock, and gazing into the endless blue of Crater Lake had an indelible impression on me as a child. Each trip outside of my own Shire exposed me to an unfamiliar setting.30198783224_0d235a6268_k-1

How did your outdoor experiences affect you, and how did these experiences shape the initial Passport Oregon mission?

I encountered new people with views far different than my own and perspectives as varied as our state’s regions. I exercised my brain and body through learning new skills and failing and face planting regularly. Although I was pleased organizations were connecting students with the parks within their neighborhood, I wanted to go a step further and connect these youngsters with all of Oregon’s natural wonders – the coast, the Gorge, Mt. Hood, Smith Rock, the Painted Hills, Wallowa Lake, and Crater Lake – while also introducing them to the economic, cultural, and historic significance of these sites.

My love for Oregon and its people drove me to move to the next steps in the scientific method – developing 30198749844_2bfde8d435_za hypothesis and testing with an experiment. Here’s the hypothesis: if a nonprofit empowered students to travel across the state, meet its people, and learn its history, then they would later make nature a norm in their lives and, as a result of having a stronger sense of place and vastly expanded horizons, contribute to closing other gaps in our society such as the urban-rural divide.

Surely, no science professor would have accepted such a broad, open-ended hypothesis. Thankfully, I didn’t need any professor’s approval. Instead, I simply needed people to help me execute an experiment – start a nonprofit called Passport Oregon with a clear mission: Exploration for All. Passport Oregon would form cohorts of students that would embark on regular trips around the state. Trips would include a different parent on each trip, perspectives from all Oregonians, and facilitate exposure to the unknown and unbelievable. This experiment induced the trying times, chaos, and wicked problems I mentioned earlier.

Starting a nonprofit is similar to starting any business, so once the experiment was concluding, how did you go about the organizational formation?

For a chemistry question, you call chemists. When launching a rocket, you dial up rocket scientists. Who do you convene when you start a nonprofit or, more broadly, when trying to address any novel, complex, and entrenched problem? Earlier, I said that no book could completely ready you for inciting change. However, I have learned that one book is a necessary condition for a successful experiment – a phonebook or at least the 21st century equivalent, Siri. I called people in the public and private sectors, had coffee with educators and entrepreneurs, spoke to executive directors and volunteers, and skyped friends who share my affinity for a particular Robert F. Kennedy quote: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

We jointly asked, “Why not break down the barriers to nature? Why not leverage the love so many hold for our environment to propel students out of Portland and across Oregon?” During each call, I listened intently. I listened, asked lots of questions and took notes. Each conversation shaped the settled-upon solution: a school principal told me about the importance of engaging and interactive content wherever we took the students; an elected official introduced me to members of Oregon’s Native American tribes that would happily introduce our students to their stories, culture, and challenges; other nonprofit leaders informed me of the dos and don’ts of the trade and connected me with others who ran organizations with overlapping aims; and, of course, my parents, family, and friends gave me tips and leads to follow.

Running an experiment requires the right equipment. Ideally, your tools and materials will be perfectly suited for the ensuing steps. In this ideal world, you could purchase the finest implements and not worry for a second about the cost. That’s not possible when starting a nonprofit, especially one that is all volunteer based. From my aforementioned chats, I started compiling a list of folks that would want to join me in closing this gap. If they indicated interest, my first question was, “If you could do anything for Passport Oregon, what would it be?” This question reflects my belief that people work best and work happiest when doing something they love, when they feel challenged, and “in the zone.” This was yet another example of listening – compiling as much information as possible so that those who did opt to volunteer their already limited free time would see their involvement with Passport not as draining, but as inspiring.30466512332_8cf3f9e1a2_k-1

How did you put together your team and organize the first official Passport Oregon trip?

Slowly, but surely, we built a team and readied our first trip. Our background research and extensive networking connected us with a principal of a school with a high rate of NDD. When we met with him and his leadership, we were open about the fact that we did not have all the answers, but would meticulously solicit feedback from them, the students, and their parents to refine and improve our efforts to make Oregon an even more wonderful place. In the same way, we prioritized meeting the parents and the students before we commenced with their cohort. We outlined our plans, answered a myriad of questions, and took the first steps toward making nature a habit in their homes. We did not shy away from labeling this initial group of explorers an experiment. Our honesty facilitated greater communication and shortened the time period between an issue being raised and a response being implemented.

A case in point: Our first trip (what could also be labeled as our first experiment) to Trillium Lake and Mt. Hood was a typical fall day in the Oregon Cascades: wet, windy, and with woefully limited visibility. Our video and photos attest to the misty conditions. Even from Timberline Lodge, we couldn’t see the cloud-enveloped peak. Outfitted in running shoes and winter sweaters, our students, like the paths we trekked on, absorbed quite a lot of water. In short, they were not dressed for the occasion. Although we had asked parents to ensure their explorer had gear for less than great weather, our team recognized that our assumption – that all Oregonians magically have Columbia Sportswear gear tucked in their closest – was ill advised. Thankfully, the wet weather only damped the cohort’s sweaters and not their spirits. We think the hot chocolates at Huckleberry Inn in Government Camp may have helped as well.

What did that first trip teach you?

Needless to say, our first trip/experiment revealed some errors, opportunities, and successes. Our proactive pursuit of finding these shortcomings meant that we started planning how we could do better on the drive back to Portland. With our next trip already on the horizon and more inclement conditions surely ahead, we knew that better preparing our students for Oregon’s notoriously surprising and significant showers meant quickly reaching out to that same web of kindred souls that helped the project get off the ground. By the next trip, each student donned a Tested Tough Columbia Sportswear jacket, which made the gusty conditions in the Gorge feel like a light Portland breeze.

How many trips have you done to this point?

Six trips (Mt. Hood, the Gorge, Cannon Beach, Mt. Pisgah, , and a service day in Portland), 210 hours of kids exploring nature, and 42 hot chocolates later, Passport Oregon has an initial answer to our hypothesis – it is correct. Per their teacher’s reports, the students look forward to each trip, fastidiously analyze the itinerary for the coming adventure as soon as it is available, and frequently share their stories with classmates.

30583150135_84ac3d8991_zLikewise, the parents that have joined us regularly ask to come along again as soon as possible. While we are pleased with these initial results, we are not yet satisfied.

Passport Oregon is looking forward to a 2017 filled with even more exploration, empowerment, and education. In March, we will launch two new cohorts that will embark on their tour of Oregon. Approximately three months later, another new set of cohorts will begin their time venturing around the state. These explorers will kickoff a new round of experiments. We will be ready, prepared to assess how we can do better, and continue to make exploration for all possible for all.

The organization is still young, but how has what you’ve done to this point helped to shape how you see it evolving?

We’ve already encountered new obstacles to Portlanders and Oregonians getting outside: parents and families commonly don’t have the time to plan for a day in the outdoors – mapping out locations, finding affordable meals, and determining the best gas and rest stops; and, the rising costs of going on an adventure – park fees, gas, food, and admission to places like museums. Accordingly, we are launching two additional experiments in 2017.

The first is simply making our trip itineraries publicly available on our website. To track their usage, we ask that those who use the sample trips as a foundation for their own hike, trek, or exploration send us a picture of their time in the wild. Second, in the coming year we will introduce our Adventure Fund. This resource will be available to all Passport Oregon families. The fund will enable families with financial difficulties to apply to have the cost of their excursion entirely covered, just as their child’s trips are covered currently through Passport Oregon. Again, all we ask is that those who utilize the fund send us a photo of their expedition. Stay tuned for more details on the Adventure Fund and how you can reinforce this essential effort to reduce disparities in access to nature.

Also,  we are still listening – if anyone has suggestions, ideas, or comments, please send me an email at kevin@passportoregon.org.  We are always looking for volunteers, and those  interested in Passport Oregon volunteer opportunities can shoot ariel@passportoregon.org an email to learn about the variety of volunteer roles we have available. Finally, please check out our website passportoregon.org and spread the word – Oregon’s outdoors must be available and accessible.

You can find Passport Oregon on its website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Built with a mission in mind

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Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything – George Bernard Shaw

Built Oregon was officially launched two years ago this week.

The idea, concept, and passion behind the project was born through a shared belief amongst the founders that a simple concept — telling the stories of founders — could change the conversation for businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Oregon.

Over the past two years, we’ve managed to tell 85 stories, both written and spoken. What’s more, we’ve gathered people together through numerous events to hear those stories firsthand. Those events — those face-to-face moments of community building — have enabled us to actively engage in lively and wide-ranging talks about cross industry and regional entrepreneurship activity, explore both rural and urban economic development challenges and opportunities, highlight the need to have underrepresented communities participate and have a voice in the conversations, and revealed the unique collaborative elements that make up the Oregon entrepreneurial DNA.

All of these conversations, more than anything, have reinforced our shared desire to continue to follow the original Built Oregon mission around storytelling. But simply continuing isn’t enough. We are driven to do more. We believe we have a unique opportunity build upon this foundation to have an even greater impact for Oregon entrepreneurship.

To reflect our dedication to this mission and our continued willingness to champion it, Built Oregon is now a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

It’s a decision that aligns well with the mission focused impact we want to have — a mission that will always follow a guiding star pointing towards supporting cross industry and regional entrepreneurship and collaborating with other organizations and entities to create a cohesive narrative and vision of Oregon.

Built Oregon was launched through our community on Kickstarter and helped via an investment by Oregon Story Board. It was that initial support and the ongoing support of partners like the Oregon SBDC, Anvil Media, and others that have enabled us to keep telling the stories.

But the stories are just the beginning. We’ve happily donated hundreds of hours of our time to discussions around statewide economic development, broad based access to capital, innovation that is inclusive, and ways to engage underrepresented communities.

These discussions illuminated and forged Built Oregon’s path forward.

It’s a path that allows us to play a critical role as a conduit for the opportunities and challenges throughout the state, while continuing to raise awareness around what is happening in every community.

It is a path that creates more opportunities to collaborate with partner organizations to catalyze the next wave of entrepreneurs, while continuing to grow the established brands and those companies that are already off to the races.

It’s a path that will take into account our mission to add value to all voices and ideas.

As founders, we strongly believe that our evolution to an nonprofit is one that will allow us to reach our long term vision for Built Oregon. But more importantly, it crystallizes how we can have the most positive impact around the state.

Do we have big ideas? You bet. Will our path forward be easy? Nope.

But we have a firm belief in our mission, a dedication to this state and commitment to the people who get up every morning to chase their entrepreneurial dreams or build up the communities where they reside.

We look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Best,

Mitch, Terry, and Rick

Swallowtail Spirits leverages passion, hustle, and fortitude to build a growing distillery

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Kevin Barrett was spending hours upon hours researching and experimenting with home brewing and distilling, and consuming any content on distilling that he could find. He did all this while only putting a fraction of his time researching geography for his degree from the University of Oregon.

Given how he was focusing his time it only made sense that if he was to carve out a career, one that he loved, it should be around something he was passionate about. Thus, the journey from home distiller to Swallowtail Spirits began.14379769_568685866675742_4984882555288960865_o

Early Beginnings

Kevin started making home brewed beer around six years ago, and did so knowing that it would be the first step to making whiskey. The first spirit he made was a brandy, from 5 gallons of leftover wine from Silvan Ridge Winery in Eugene.

And so began his journey in the distilling craft, characterized by much experimentation.

“ I made a couple of stills and talked with local distillers about the production and permitting process. I made a few whiskeys, brandies and vodkas. Some were good, but most were bad so I researched more to find out how to make them better.”

But through trial and error, the whiskies started to taste better. The taste improvements led to people inquiring if Kevin could make special batches for weddings and one of a kind gifts. But the demand for the early batches led to a bit of dilemma.

“ The aging process is the toughest part though because no batch of whiskey that I have made has lasted for longer than 6 months on oak. Everyone drank it.”

The initial interest in the spirits he was making provided him with the validation needed to pursue starting a spirits brand. But in a crowded market, having a strong brand upon which to build is critical, and Kevin had help from a close supporter in creating it.

“ I wanted to link the distillery to the state in some way. I threw around a few names, but then my girlfriend suggested Swallowtail Spirits after Oregon’s state insect, The Swallowtail Butterfly.”

swallowtail-2With the brand locked in and the distilling process fine tuned, it was time to move past small batch production and bring Swallowtail to a larger market. But ramping up liquor sales is not simply about having a solid marketing plan, it’s about having the fortitude to grind it out.

“ Liquor sales in Oregon are all about the hustle. You or an employee have to be out there with the consumer, engaging with them, explaining the process and getting feedback. Nobody will sell the product better than an owner. We know every detail of the process and are passionate about the business. It’s why I am still out there doing the tastings in the liquor stores. Customers like talking with the owners and when they see how engaged we are they get pretty engaged as well. If you can get them engaged and passionate about the product then you now have a customer for life.”

Kevin and his team hustled. They met customers at markets and stores, and talked about the brand to liquor shop owners. The consumers really liked the Swallowtail vodka, with many folks comparing it to top shelf brands. But Kevin was conservative as he entered the market, and even though he believed passionately that their vodka was as good as many highly regarded brands, he entered the market at a lower price point, a move they looked to remedy as they scaled up.

“ We actually listed it at too low of a price initially. Price point reflects a lot on consumer opinion. If you don’t have a premium price, you don’t have a premium product. We’ve increased the price twice over the last year and have seen no drop in demand.”

The premium level of spirits that Swallowtail produces can be traced back to their distilling process. A process that begins and ends with an intense attention to detail.

The water used in the distilling process comes from the lowland Willamette Valley Aquifer System, which has been filtered over many years through the volcanic sediment. Kevin and his team continue that filtration process to an incredible degree. The vodka is filtered through activated carbon sixty times, which produces a very polished vodka and helps to eliminate the by-products of the distilling process.

“ By-products like congeners and fusel oils are left behind in small amounts in vodka. They are what’s responsible for off flavors, odors and colors. They are also responsible for hangovers. Activated carbon pulls these by-products out of the vodka like magnets, with positive and negative charges. We filter our vodka an insane amount of times to get the cleanest product we can in a reasonable amount of time.”

Given the bounty within Oregon, Swallowtail has a vision to use as many locally sourced raw materials as possible in the making of their spirits. But with scaling up fast, finding those sources takes time, and they are actively searching for local suppliers to make that goal a reality.dsc_0082

Connecting to the community and putting down roots

The distilling process, especially with vodka and whiskey, takes a very particular equipment setup to produce. Swallowtail recently purchased a 300 gallon pot still to make their whiskies. The new equipment will allow them to produce about a half a barrel of whiskey a day. The goal is to effectively ramp up sales and production, and purchase equipment to the point where they can produce at least a barrel of whiskey per day. In addition, they also now have a tasting room where they can really connect to the community and consumer.

In addition, the new equipment allows them to ramp up production of their gin, and Swallowtail is taking steps to expand their offerings even further.

“ We will be producing our own single malt (Scotch style) whiskey and bourbon. November marks the launch of two gins as well; a Navy strength (114 proof) London Dry gin and a American gin (90 proof) as well. A goal of our tasting room is to start sampling 2 different products each month to get input from our consumers. Once we find out what they like, we will produce those liquors as well.”

In addition, Swallowtail has partnered up with fellow Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing to produce a whiskey based on their OATIS Oatmeal Stout. They recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to purchase the oak whiskey barrels and necessary equipment needed to produce the collaboration.

The time Kevin has put into building the brand to this point has been immense. But he has also connected to, and worked with, a diverse mix of organizations.

“ From the start I have never stopped asking questions. Anyone who would give me their time was on my list. I started with NEDCO in Springfield then moved to SBDC at Lane Community College for help with the business plan, forecasting and strategy for funding.”

The SBDC’s feedback around Swallowtail’s business plan was a huge asset. Multiple people took the time to go over a series of revisions, and as Kevin notes, it still changes every month.kevinbarrett1-300x216

In addition to the help NEDCO and the SBDC provided, Kevin was also accepted into the RAIN Accelerator program. Just like he did with the SBDC, Kevin continued to ask questions, which led him down the accelerator path.

“ I talked with Joe Maruschak at RAIN in February of 2015 about what I was doing. In September I met with Joe and Shane Johnson and finally convinced them that I really had no idea what I was doing. They let me into the program in September and it was one of the most amazing experiences. It’s like taking an MBA crash course in 12 weeks, but you get to focus in on where you really need to.”

But even a crash course MBA program and support from a myriad of business resources can’t speed up the time it takes to launch a craft spirits company. The wait time for permitting can put a serious dent into any solid plan, as the distiller continues to pay rent and insurance without revenue coming in during that time period. Luckily Kevin planned in advance, which allowed him to save close to $60K.

“ I started contract bottling a year and a half before I applied for a permit at my own facility so I already had a foothold in the Oregon market and had revenue coming in.”

That forward thinking and the hustle to get the product onto shelves has led to a 10% monthly growth rate in the state of Oregon, and with the addition of new products, their local growth will continue to grow while also looking towards distribution in other states.

So we’ll certainly keep seeing Oregon’s state insect on shelves in Oregon and beyond over the next few years.

For more information, visit www.swallowtailspirits.com.

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Drinking from the tank – The DrinkTanks story

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In Bend Oregon, Nicholas Hill and the ever growing team at DrinkTanks design and assemble stainless steel growlers that are unique and built to last.

The company has evolved from sketches on a napkin to an 18,000 sq. ft. production facility. Nicholas and the team have stitched together an entrepreneurial journey that has balanced life events, crowdfunding, and rapid growth in order to create a sustainable business in Central Oregon.

Early origins

Nicholas, a Bend native, was running Pacific Line Promotional Company when his father Dr. Tim Hill joined him on launching a water bottle company. The company looked to leverage their combined experience in Food and Beverage and brand product marketing.

They named the company Pistol Creek Water Bottles and looked to create a line of bottles that reflected their passion for the outdoors. They were set, and had an idea as to what they wanted to create. That was until a trip to a conference in Las Vegas.

“In 2010 at the Mandalay Bay seafood buffet, my dad and I started to draw some ideas for a new product focus. What if we did something based on the initial double-walled water bottle idea, but made a product that kept your beer cold.”

It was a subtle change of focus, but one that opened up new opportunities.

Not surprisingly, the first ideas were based on the water bottle design. They had already dialed in the design and sourcing, which is extremely important to product companies – especially young ones. And this would have provided an easy transition if they followed a similar process, but that was not the case.

“ As the product design unfolded, we decided to put a focus on the engineering, and as opposed to the previous pre-made Pistol Creek bottles, we made the leap to a unique and custom design.”2015_drinktanks_pub_16 2015_drinktanks_pub_16

And just as things began to get ramped up, Nicholas’ father passed away. He was left running Pistol Creek and Pacific Line at the same time. His father’s influence to design a truly unique growler was instilled in Nicholas, and so he made the decision to sell Pacific Line and focus on Pistol Creek. It was about this time when they made the decision to change the name to DrinkTanks, a name that better described the vision they had for the product line.

Kicking things into gear

Nicholas and his dad had worked on a few designs for the tanks, and after some trial and error, John Herrick of Herrick Product Development joined the DrinkTanks team to help fine-tune the design. John was the perfect match to take the original vision forwards. They spent the next 9 months working on prototypes and designs with a first focus on strong functionality.

As the design began to get closer to the final form, the team at DrinkTanks started to ponder doing a Kickstarter campaign, and before the launch worked on some initial analysis of their own.

“We started talking to factories and doing consumer analysis, including going around to the bars and brewpubs here in Bend and talking to the patrons. The feedback we received was very valuable, including feedback on the name.”

So with a super glued together prototype, they launched a campaign in 2013 with a goal of $30,000. The campaign was a huge success, with 2,076 backers pledging a total of $304,142, with the most valuable aspect being the knowledge that there is a market for their product. The team had also taken PO’s prior to launching the campaign, so by the time of the launch, they had dialed-in production and fixed mass production errors.2015_drinktanks_rock_climbing_3

“Although the amount raised on Kickstarter didn’t solve all of our money problems, the fact that we had spent the time to figure out the tooling and inventory processes prior to launch allowed us to to get a running start on building the company and sales pipeline.”

After they made sure the backers had their DrinkTanks, they turned their focus to the craft beer industry to build up sales. There were numerous challenges, from being a new technology and brand to also being the most expensive growler on the market at the time. But with Nicholas’ promotional company experience, they pursued the co-branded path to help them get both noticed and to shore up the initial validity. In addition to the craft beer market, they put effort into the outdoor industry vertical where the tank’s design and functionality was a welcome addition.

The sales pipeline picked up, as well as the operational challenges. Nicholas is from Bend and had an innate passion to build the company in Central Oregon. They began production in a 4,400 sq. ft. facility that they quickly outgrew. The company moved from that initial facility to a current footprint of 18,000 sq. ft. to accommodate production and employee growth- the team nearly doubled from 18 to 35 people during just a 60 day period in 2016.

But with expansion also came the need to raise additional capital to allow for the growth to continue. Nicholas raised some money from the original shareholders and also received $250,000 from the Grow Oregon program. They also found local support from Mid Oregon Credit Union who also played a large role in the capital support.2015_drinktanks_rock_climbing_10

The capital infusion has allowed DrinkTanks to continue on its strong growth trajectory, but other challenges are always on Nicholas’ radar.

Building a product company that has direct ties to the lifestyle of the community – beverages and outdoors – has been a huge positive. The community has been supportive, but the local pool is small for employees and executive talent. In addition to the talent challenges, managing the logistics of growth will also play a critical role. Each tank has 18 different and unique parts, all supplied by different manufacturers.

But those challenges are part of DrinkTanks’ current wild ride. The next 12-24 months will see new diversity in regards to their product offering, but the core focus will not change.

Nicholas has enjoyed the journey from a napkin drawing to an 18,000 sq. ft. facility, and wouldn’t change a thing. However, if we could offer his former self some advice it would include being intentional about surrounding yourself with smart people, learning to delegate earlier, and making the transition from founder to CEO at a quicker pace.

For more information, visit www.drinktanks.com. You can also follow them on facebook, twitter and instagram.screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-6-04-15-pm

Bringing kombucha to the masses – the Humm Kombucha story

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The Humm Kombucha story can be traced back to a friendship that was formed over some hard hit tennis balls, and discussions around kitchen tables.

Those discussions, occurring during a time when the recession was hitting Central Oregon especially hard, led to the launch of a consumer brand that has seen explosive growth in an ever expanding category. They are looking to be trailblazers in the kombucha market – a market that is growing at a 25% yearly clip and is estimated to hit $1.8 Billion by 2020.

But that growth has never led them away from from those early roots. Friendship, family, community, and having fun are elements that remain at their core, even as the wild ride is picking up speed.copy-of-img_8254

Bringing a family recipe to market

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Humm Kombucha Cofounder and CEO Jamie Danek and her family were looking to enroll their son in an Outward Bound program, and they had narrowed their city choices down to two. Jamie had run a successful recruiting business on the east coast, and her husband was a contractor. The recession hit and the economy in and around Bend started to decline. The contracting work evaporated and the number of other opportunities was waning.

It was around this time that Jamie had a chance encounter with Michelle Mitchell on a local tennis court. Both of them were beginners, but that didn’t stifle their competitiveness, and after a day of hitting hard shots back and forth they sat down and became fast friends.

During one of their many discussions they tried some of Michelle’s mother in law’s kombucha, which was not especially tasty. Michelle’s husband then tried brewing his own kombucha, and while marginally better than his mom, it still left a bit to be desired. Michelle then tried her hand at brewing up her own kombucha – and they were onto something.

copy-of-10277728_733454623372732_7421625577348645302_nMichelle started to brew more and more kombucha. She and Jamie realized that they felt really good while they were drinking the kombucha and decided they wanted to bring the health benefits of the beverage to a larger audience so that more people could experience the same feeling. They started going door to door and putting up posters around Bend, which created the initial sales pipeline for what was then called Kombucha Mama.

Around this time retail locations started to inquire how they could get Kombucha Mama on their shelves. But without any wholesale program set up, they could not seize on those early opportunities. Jamie and Michelle made the leap and hired a brewer. This helped to increase production, but kombucha takes a long time to brew, and thus, they had an ever growing waitlist for delivery.

But they saw the potential and kept hustling – growing the business step by step and day by day, while taking no salaries for years.

The early focus from a flavor standpoint was the Original, a mate based kombucha. It was well received and allowed Kombucha Mama to get early recognition and brand loyalty. Flush with this early traction they started experimenting with new flavors by pumping fresh fruit and vegetable juices into the kombucha. Jamie and Michelle would go to the local farmer’s markets and get ingredients, then head back and work on new flavors.

As the product line evolved, they decided to put the kombucha on tap, which was a first. They sold kegs to local coffee shops and allowed them to pump in the juices they wanted.

They had an ever increasing sales pipeline and increased brand awareness. It was time to bring kombucha to the masses.copy-of-12313615_1035887283129463_8624499210151166762_n

Brewing up a growth strategy

The production and operations required for kombucha are capital intensive. They were self financed for 4 years and then did a convertible note to raise additional funds and expand the production to keep up with the sales demands.

In addition to the capital, Jamie and Michelle had a keen awareness that they needed to hire the right people. Kombucha was a fairly new category in the beverage world at the time and thus, not only did they have to oversee operational concerns that any craft beverage company would encounter, but they also had to lead with education to consumers. If there was to be mass appeal there had to be mass awareness and understanding as well.

Much of that understanding is around the health benefits of kombucha. The beverage can help balance your ph, contains a high percentage of your daily Vitamin B12, improve digestion (probiotic), improve joint mobility (glucosamines), and strengthen your immune system by being packed full of antioxidants. But being a keystone player and driving home that education in a new market takes time, which is something Jamie and Michelle realized but never dwelled on. It was simple in their minds – kombucha makes you feel great, and so more people should be drinking it.

And with a goal to be on the shelf of every grocery store, they started wondering if Kombucha Mama was the name that not only created new brand awareness on the shelves, but more importantly conveyed what they had been experiencing and seeing as the company grew. There was a sense of happiness and energy around the drink. People drank it and became a part of the tribe – a movement. They would hum a tune and enjoy the day. Thus, Humm Kombucha was launched. It’s a brand name that captured how they felt about the product, and how they wanted the brand to relate to the masses. It was a name that resonated with a large and diverse group of new customers.

And so it was with a new brand that they expanded sales and started working with Cascade Couriers to deliver in Bend and Eugene, and at the 4 year mark signed on with a distributor who took a chance on them. In addition to the distribution expansion, they opened up a taproom at their facility. Jamie saw this as a place where personal interaction could take place.

“ The taproom was unique and allowed the team to create true brand experiences with the products. It was a place where brand evangelists would come, and then who in turn helped to promote it to a larger crowd.”

That larger crowd is where Humm, and kombucha in general, is headed. The vertical is still young and on the precipice of huge growth. Up to this point the focus of many kombucha brands has been more towards the health stores and natural food groceries, while the big potential is to bring kombucha and Humm to a more broad consumer base.

That’s where Jamie and Michelle have been aiming. They’ve done deals with WinCo, Safeway, and 7-Eleven, and also brought Humm to Seahawks Stadium (CenturyLink Field). The NFL and kombucha seems like an unlikely pairing, but it’s led to interest from other NFL teams around the country. They also recently added a nationwide deal with Target to their sales pipeline.

copy-of-file_008Humm has expanded their facility from 5,000 sq. ft. to 30,000 sq. ft. and will be hiring an additional 30 people to meet the growth opportunities head on. This new expansion will allow them to quadruple their brewing production, but they are leaving their taproom and retail location at its current location. This is where the brand interacts with the community – a community that has and continues to mean so much to Humm.

They started the business during the recession without really knowing anybody, and the community welcomed and supported their venture with open arms.

“ Bend is unique and has a strong sense of place. People want to live here and it’s led to a happy population, one that truly gets the idea of community. Everyone is willing to help out or answer questions,” explains Jamie.

This ideal of community and giving back is ingrained in both Jamie and Michelle. They are always willing to lend an ear, or offer up some feedback to other founders and support organizations, including working with EDCO’s (Economic Development for Central Oregon) food and beverage industry cluster initiative.

Being a keystone brand in a rapidly growing industry has put the team at Humm Kombucha on a wild ride, but they would not have it any other way. They will continue to hum with happiness and bring that thirst for adventure to a wider and wider audience.

For more information, visit www.hummkombucha.com. You can also follow them on facebook, twitter and instagram.copy-of-tacoma-fresh-market

 

A new kind of barn raising- The DC Structure story

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In 2003, at the age of 23 Dustin Gruetter applied for and received his contractor’s license.

That license has led him down an entrepreneurial path from painting houses to building world class structures all over the country. But his journey is still evolving in ways that keep his entrepreneurial mind racing.

Early beginnings

DC Buildings, headquartered in NW Portland, started as a general construction business focusing on normal projects like decking work, siding, painting and remodels. There was no thought to developing a business plan or set marketing direction. They simply started working.

Dustin honed his craft through a building construction technology program at Clackamas Community College, while building a structure on his Grandma’s property so he had a place to live while ramping up the company. But it wasn’t just Dustin sleeping on the couch. Half of the team would sleep on couches then get up and work hard all day. The initial work led to more referrals, and the company started to slowly grow into a sustainable business.

But the business and the new ideas were still percolating within Dustin and the company as they expanded outside of Portland.

“We got a call to build an equestrian facility, with one of first ones being in Northwest Portland out on Germantown Road. And then right after that, this company was referring us work and asked if Battle Ground was too far, and we said ‘nope’. Then requests came in from Willamina, Baker City and eventually California and the East coast.”e35c0323-2

But managing multi-state growth as a fairly streamlined staff was something they had to work on daily.

“It wasn’t easy, and it was only made possible because of the great people that we have in place on our Project Management  and Carpentry team along with utilizing technology to collaborate. We have always been modern in the way that we communicate with our clients and internally as a company. We’ve focused on using assets like cloud based project management tools that keep our clients and construction teams updated on a daily basis with photos, daily logs, and a file storage system to keep all of our documents maintained and manage our client’s selections in one spot. We also utilize Skype and web meetings to make sure that we stay aligned as a team on our projects.”

The communication between team members allowed them to manage their internal processes, but since they handle everything from the initial design process to handing over the keys,  open lines of communication and personal outreach with their clients has always played a key role.

“On the building side of things, yes, 100%, that’s our focus. Our mission is that once a client commits to us we’re gonna treat them like kings and queens and try to meet all their needs, over-communicate and shower them with options. But the options are not meant to overcomplicate things or make a building more expensive –  we just don’t want them to look back and say, “Hey, I wish somebody would have told me about this.” To hear that at the end of a project, that means we didn’t do our job.”

The referrals kept coming and the diversity of projects expanded, including a clubhouse for the Carmel Athletic Club, a all-in-one home and processing facility for Upchurch Vineyards, custom homes across the country, wedding venues and a myriad of barns. And as they grew, they found themselves saying ‘no’ more often than they wanted to. There was a large group of people whom DC Building could not service, because it didn’t fit into their business model from a cost standpoint. So the DC team, as entrepreneurs are wont to do, got to work turning what was initially a negative into a new part of their business, by finding a way to share their designs and streamlined processes to a broader customer base.fall-city-wa-workshop-barn-kit-dc-structures_31

Bringing custom barns to the masses

With a schedule that had them talking to 700 people a month along with being highlighted in various magazines, DC Building looked to their construction knowledge, and their awareness of other kit companies, to create a series of barn kits.

The barn kits were conceived and created to leverage a more simple process that is streamlined and cost effective for their clients. They spent 2014 planning the vendor relationships, supply chain, marketing and website development, and launched in May of 2015 with 9 barn kit designs and 9 pavillion designs.

The first kits were sent to Tennessee, San Juan Islands, North Carolina, Colorado and also locally here in Oregon. Although the initial logistics of shipping to all 50 states with varying site conditions did pose some issues for the DC team, their building experience and background allowed them to navigate those early challenges and dial-in a process that is scalable.

“We provide them with a very detailed set of plans and instructions, and then also support them through what we can provide for them here from our building crews. We also pre-assemble certain components that make sense to make it easier for construction, and then we source all this material here in Oregon and the Northwest. “

That focus from the outset has resulted in a very streamlined process – one where the value is passed onto the client.

“ These buildings are pre designed and engineered, and so we already know how much it costs for the materials, and have a general idea of how much it will cost our clients to complete. Combined with the blueprints and building materials that are needed, in as little as 4-6 weeks we can have these packages onsite and ready to build. This is where the cost saving comes in for our clients. We save them time, money, and headache and give them certainty in what the end result is going to be.”

One key aspect of the kits is the integration of the highest quality materials from the Pacific Northwest – many of which these clients could not get at their local lumberyards. These are the same materials used in many in their custom builds, and so even though the costs are reduced, the end product will stand the test of time. This ability to use the highest quality materials, even as operations scale, is a result of the vendor relationships built over time, and DC does not see changing the source materials in the future.

What the future does hold are changes to the line of kits being offered based on client demand. The new line, which include cabins, barn homes and also timber frame kits, is in the works in 2016. The kits have taken off and have created an interesting evolution to the two business verticals, an evolution Dustin is keenly aware of and planning for.

“ You know, this company has really taken off. It actually feels like it’ll probably end up outgrowing the Building business. Probably not this year, but looking ahead in the next year, this company will outgrow the Building company just because we’re able to reach that many more people.”boring-or

Growth and evolution

Along with growth comes new opportunities, which include strategic partnerships that can benefit multiple companies. That is the case in the merging of FrameWork Plus into the DC family of brands. It’s a combination that makes sense for both current operations and future goals.

“ FrameWork Plus has been in business since 1994. They specialize in timber frame construction. The DC style of construction is more post and beam, which is very attractive. But their construction is actually a step up from what we do in a true timber framed building, so everything is put together with very little steel hardware. It’s mostly by hand – mortise and tenon joinery and wood pegs.”

The collaboration with FrameWork allows DC to offer more on both the building and structure sides of the business. It allows the company to offer conventional, post and beam, and timber frame as options. As they scale up the kits, there will be a focus on tying in more timber-framed buildings, barns, and homes. On the flip side, DC brands will incorporate some of their designs and learnings into the FrameWork projects going forwards.

And currently the projects are stacked up. The DC team has 66 total projects going on either in construction or design with about 45 people working on them, and internally the culture has evolved into one where they work hard, but also have fun.

“ It’s been a lot of fun and really enjoyable to just build this team. We have a very low turnover rate and when we bring people in, we tell them that we want to have them retire in this company, and we truly mean it. We’ve seen two or three years of really intense growth, and to be honest, we don’t want to  grow too fast either.”

But with DC Structures on a steep growth trajectory, the company knows that it will be hard to balance strategic growth from a project side with that of a personnel perspective.Their pathway forward is based around creating new product lines for the kits. Lines that build in upgrades and allow the clients to accessorize it a bit more. Lines that will potentially shift the balance of the work towards the structure side of the business.

That growth trajectory is fine with Dustin and his team. They know from experience that hard work pays off in the end, so they are willing to put the time in now in order to create a long term, unique, and sustainable business. The crazy ride the DC brands company has been on over the past 10 years has also imparted a lot of wisdom onto the founders – wisdom that is applicable to a great deal of entrepreneurs out there today.

“ Go with your gut always! Make decisions quickly and have confidence in them and realize there is no time wasted in pre project planning. Focus on the people, both from an employee side and also how you interact and treat your customers. Most importantly, have fun.”damascus-or-party-barn-kit-dc-structures-jpg28

For more information visit www.dcstructures.com, follow them on twitter and like them on facebook.

Ignoring the Status Quo and Doing What Matters: The Grovemade Story

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At a shop in SE Portland, Ken Tomita and the Grovemade team conceptualize, design, build and produce an wide array of products, from laptop stands to knives.

They have built up a company that doing what matters in life. A company that rode the wave of early online sales of iPhone cases into building a strong consumer products company that many times ignored the status quo in order to build the company they envisioned from the start.

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Early origins

As with many entrepreneurial journeys, the Grovemade one was hatched between friends who saw an opportunity to work together. Ken was furniture maker and Joe Mansfield had a laser engraving business. They were both self employed and talked often about the latest happenings, or to bounce ideas off one another.

“We’d toss a football in the street talking about ideas when we really should have been working.  Joe had an idea to make a bamboo iPhone case and put laser engraved art on it.  No one had done it.  He asked around and no one was willing to make this for him…. and I thought why not give it a try.”

And just like that, a product company was hatched.

But going from a conversation between football passes to actually designing and producing the cases proved to be challenging, but also an open road to opportunities. In order to make that road a bit more manageable, Ken and Joe reached out to a number of experts in related fields to get advice and feedback on the Grovemade concept.

One of the key people they talked to was Bill Dieter of Terrazign. Bill supplied Ken and Joe with some great feedback, but just as importantly, introduced them to his machinist friend, Chris Rizzo.

“ Meeting with Rizzo was very encouraging because he had so much expertise in CNC machining and he was eager to take on a challenge.  We hired Rizzo, bought a CNC mill, and got to work.  For 9 months or so it was myself and Rizzo huddled over the machine, trying to develop our first product, the iPhone 3 case.“

But buying that machine was no easy decision. Everyone they talked to steered them towards doing the opposite. A CNC machine is prohibitively expensive, and there is also a steep learning curve. But with Rizzo on board, the decision to purchase the machine was ultimately one that made both short and long term sense to Ken. The machines are are usually in industrial spaces – not creative studios.Environment_Grove_MchningV2_408_edit (1)

“ I chose to take the path and buy my own machine because I felt very strongly that the integration of the making process and the design process is the key to great work.  I had worked for years designing and making furniture and I couldn’t let go of that mindset even with the advice from people to not buy our own equipment. We were hoping that magic would happen if people like us had access to these machines. “

With the machine ready to roll, the team got to work. Ken had the knowledge and experience in woodworking, and a sense that the concept of problem solving to get something made is universal. Rizzo had the know how when it came to the CNC machine, but working at a such a small scale made the process feel new to everyone involved.

The team managed to dial in the design and production process for the iPhone 3 cases, and that early product started them on an unexpecting growth trajectory, which opened up new challenges.

“ It was very difficult to develop our first product in a technical sense but the greatest difficulty was in scaling up the company.  Going from 3-4 people to 20+ very quickly introduced a host of growing pains, as I lacked the experience of managing a larger team.  For me personally, going from actually doing the work to leading the work took a few years to grow into. “

Initial product growth and evolving the line

Grovemade’s iPhone cases created a splash when they were introduced, and the initial sales strategy was 100% online. Ken’s brother created the first website and they were up and running. The team looked to leverage digital PR via outreach to bloggers, and in 2010, there were a lot fewer to focus that outreach on, and the popular ones tended to drive a lot of traffic back to the website.

The company continued to focus on iPhone cases until around 2013-2014, when they anticipated a decline in the iPhone accessory market.

“ We made a big business decision to pivot our company from being about laser engraved art on cases to a product company.  We made this pivot because we took a good look at what our strengths and passions were.  Our unique ability is to create great products (not curating art) so we put everything into that.”

Pivoting away from what was the core product line towards a new vision, while a big move, was one that Grovemade was uniquely able to handle given the structure and processes put in place that allowed them to handle the entire chain, from concepting to production and fulfillment.

“ We have the luxury of pushing the limits of both design and manufacturing because we do it ourselves.  We can attempt and do difficult things that in a traditional setup with a separate designer and manufacturer would be very impractical.  In turn, this leads to us creating unique products.“

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And unique and solid products are what they have created.

Their line of desk products effortlessly blends art and craft into a line that ranges from laptop stands and iPhone docks to planters and mouse pads. The Minimalist Wallet came out of the need to create a better product than what is out there, but also one that exemplifies the company’s core focus on the details. And while a pocket knife might seem like a random brand extension at first glance, a deeper look at how it’s designed and made reveals how keeping the entire process under one roof enables Grovemade to stretch the limits on not only design, but also advanced wood manufacturing.

The stretching of the limits can also be seen in the recent collaboration with speaker designer, Joey Roth. The collaboration married Roth’s incredible speaker insights with Grovemade’s unique advanced wood manufacturing process, with the result being an intricate, gorgeous, and one of a kind desktop wood speaker. It’s a process that took over a year to dial-in the perfect shape and sound, and one that is documented in this blog post

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But beyond being just unique and creative, the products are also a representation of the passion behind the company, and a core belief they are instilling into the company as they move forwards – a belief in who they are and what they make, but also about who they are building products for.

“ Find What Matters is our new slogan this year as we go from being about product to being about the spirit behind the product.  We believe that to do great work you have to love your work and believe that is our true difference maker,” adding “ Our next step is to really engage with our customers and have them help us determine where to go next.  We have always been centered around ourselves, just making stuff we want.  While that is great in some ways the next level is to provide solutions to our customers while also making sure the products are things we would really want.”

Culture and community

As Grovemade continues to grow and expand, there has been a constant and concerted effort to build a strong culture, but as any founder knows, that is many times easier said than done.

The team focused on hiring the right people – especially ones that can navigate the complexities of a company that has design to production under one roof. They hired Jim Hassert to oversee the operational aspects, which took the day to day responsibilities off of Ken and his team. But even moves like this didn’t make it easier.

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“ With our organization running more smoothly we could build up the culture.  There were definitely a few years where it was very painful as we started to zero in on what our culture was and many of us no longer fit in.”

But even with the road bumps, the way Grovemade has been built up and evolved makes it unique in the product design space. There are many challenges with integrating design and manufacturing into manufacturing companies similar to Grovemade, but the team wouldn’t have it any other way.“ It’s absolutely key for our creativity.  We feel the freedom to create and also that we are only limited by our abilities.  Basically we have the feeling that our successes and failures are in our hands.  It’s a great feeling.”

There is also a sense that companies like Grovemade can bring back manufacturing jobs to both Oregon and America. And while that is true, the mission of Grovemade is not American job creation, but rather to create inspiring lives. It’s a topic Ken explains via this honest blog post – “Is Made in the USA a Marketing Gimmick?”

The sense of culture also extends outside of the Grovemade walls and into the consumer product community within Oregon. A community that is collaborative and supportive of one another.

“ Our network has been absolutely critical from the early days when it was just us getting started to present day.  We are only as good as the network around us and we strongly believe in learning from others as part of the Grovemade way.”

And what pieces of knowledge would Ken impart on his former self if he could go back in time to the day they started down this road to building Grovemade?

“ I have no regrets!!!  I wouldn’t give him any tips.  Life is a labyrinth, enjoy it!”

For more information, visit www.grovemade.com, like them on facebook, and follow Grovemade on twitter and instagram20150303_GroveMade_1948

 

 

Treading the access to capital waters: A Q&A with Noah Brockman, Oregon SBDC Network, Capital Access Team Lead

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Noah Brockman is the Oregon SBDC Network, Capital Access Team Lead. In this role, he has engaged founders and companies of all industries and sizes and amassed a great deal of insights into how capital flows through the various channels. We had the chance to talk with Noah about the work the Capital Access Team (CAT) does around the state and also some of the challenges and opportunities in Oregon.

Give us a brief overview of the CAT program here in Oregon –

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network’s Capital Access Team (CAT) got started five years ago as a business advising “special team” dedicated to working with SBDC clients on getting their projects funded. Since then, over 5 years the CAT program has grown into 4 regional teams which have engaged over 600 small businesses. The resulting impact has been to fund 175 (30%) of those businesses projects, worth over $78M in capital.

How did the CAT team help the other 70% – companies that did not end up receiving funding?

The client process the CAT team has developed enables us to engage a wide variety of companies. But the process does take time to complete, and there is a commitment needed by the company founders. About 36% of the 600 small businesses who inquired about CAT assistance over the past 5 years finished the entire CAT process. Of those clients who completed that process, about 75% on average get their projects funded.

For those who do not end up getting funding, a myriad of reasons can play a role including: (1) they changed their mind about doing the project which eliminated the need for funding; (2) they found funding elsewhere without having to work through our process; (3) they didn’t finish the work; (4) or they finished the process and are still in the process of seeking funds.

Talk about the statewide presence your team has, and how you help companies in every corner of the state. That seems like a daunting task given you have only 4 advisors listed on the website.

To grow the program and expand our capacity in 2012, we recruited three of our other SBDC colleagues from around the state with a special knack for getting deals funded to lead regional CAT teams made up of other SBDC Business Advisors focused on funding. We then hosted a statewide SBDC CAT training to share tools, exchange best practices and divide the state into four “CAT regions”.

This regional model has allowed the CAT program to provide advisory resources throughout the state, with each regional team supporting 4-5 SBDCs, in addition to the client referrals we receive from state and regional economic development partners, lenders, investor groups, etc.

Does every state have a CAT?

While each state has its own SBDC state network and any SBDC can assist small business with access to capital, from what I understand through Mark Gregory, our Oregon SBDC Network State Director, there are only a few (maybe 2 or 3) other SBDC state networks that have organized teams of specialized advisors working on capital access. That said, it’s probably fair to say that the Oregon SBDC Network has been an innovator within the American SBDC Network with its CAT program.

What’s something that people might not know about the SBDC CAT?

We are one of few different “special teams” of highly specialized Business Advisors operating within the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network. Our state Network has been operating in Oregon since 1983. The Network currently has 19 Small Business Development Centers, hosted by Community Colleges and Universities around the state.

The Oregon SBDC Network is funded in part federally by the SBA, by the state via Business Oregon, and locally by our host institutions. Our mission is to facilitate economic development from the ground up, meaning we work with entrepreneurs starting or growing a business by providing business advising and entrepreneurial training programs.

In 2015, the Oregon SBDC Network worked with more than 5,200 individual client companies, provided more than 24,000 hours of business advising, helped with the creation of 981 jobs, and aided clients to gain access to $62.1M of capital.

Talk about how the CAT engagement process looks for new businesses/founders, and provided ongoing support for the businesses you have already helped.

We work with a wide array of founders and companies from rural to urban. In order to keep everyone in the funnel and moving on the same path, we ask folks to complete our online “new client readiness assessment” at BizCenterCAT.org. The assessment provides us some basic info about the business and their project, from which we do an initial 40 minute call to review the assessment together and fill in some gaps.

The primary objective of the assessment form and phone call is to figure out where they are at in their process, what’s left for them to complete to be ready for funding, and ensuring they have a solid business plan and financial projections with cash flow. In order to fill in some of those gaps, we provide them templates to work off of, but also engage on a personal level to talk through a finance strategy that makes sense for their particular project.

Once they have their business plan and projections squared away, we work with them to be ‘funding ready’. But like during the initial engagement process, we work closely and collaboratively to develop a finance strategy or source of funds that might be a good fit. Since the funding landscape is pretty broad, this is an essential part of the process.

From there we provide coaching on how to pitch to lenders and investors, and if necessary help to get them connected with funders by way of introductions. We are a resource as needed through the funding process for our clients, and celebrate together at the close of a successful funding raise. Throughout the process, we get to know the entrepreneurs well and usually have a sense as to whether or not they might benefit from additional small business management education offered through one of the SBDCs, or another small business technical service provider. We stay in touch as the business grows and continue to be of service as needed.

I think many times when people think “Capital”, by default they think money, but isn’t there’s some “Human Capital” you put to work for your clients too?

While access to capital is a core component of what we do, getting founders and businesses to the stage where that makes sense involves engaging personally on various levels. Business planning, feasibility, market research, financial analysis, thinking through different finance strategies, and connecting clients with different sources of capital are all key cogs in what we do at CAT.

Does the SBDC CAT program charge clients for services?

Up to this point we have not charged for our services, and while this is such a benefit to early stage companies, I suspect the 60-70% of the folks we talk to who don’t complete the CAT process is based on not having some skin in the game.

We are evaluating the idea of charging a nominal fee for CAT client engagements that will enable us to add access to customized training on financial literacy. By adding a condensed training curriculum, our clients will be better prepared to seek funding and hopefully the program will have an even bigger impact.

Everyone always talks about the challenges around access to capital, but that can mean different things for businesses in certain industries and regions – what are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities around access to capital here in Oregon?

That’s the same question that the Oregon Capital Scan, published by the Lundquist College of Business at UofO (guided by Business Oregon) attempts to explore every two years. The most recent report is due out later this year.

Nonetheless, here are a few thoughts on current challenges and opportunities:

CHALLENGE: (1) Getting a new business less than 2yrs old funded when the founders may or may not have credit issues, have limited personal assets, limited sales, and the business has limited business assets that provide inadequate collateral coverage for a loan.

OPPORTUNITY: (1) Thanks to Oregon’s new Oregon Intrastate Offering rules, small businesses registered in Oregon have a new avenue to raise up to $250,000 of unsecured debt or equity from other Oregon residents investing up to $2,500 each. The rules allow business owners to essentially write their own deal terms, as long as they make sense for the business and investors dig it. This is one new way to raise capital in Oregon for projects that before, would probably not get funded, except perhaps by way of friends and family or accredited investors. To be clear, I’m not saying this is for everyone, but in some cases it’s a good fit and we’re excited to have this as new tool in the small business finance “toolbox”.

CHALLENGE: (2) Helping those newer fledgling small manufacturing businesses operating in Oregon’s maker economy (anyone that makes or produces any kind of stuff), that have yet to obtain (a) expansion capital to increase production capacity or (b) working capital required to fulfill big purchase orders. Sometimes these folks will be paying on an existing start-up loan and have limited personal or business assets, often making it hard for them to qualify for expansion capital or working capital lines of credit even as their business grows.

OPPORTUNITY: (2) (a) Expansion capital to buy equipment or hire employees to increase production capacity is critical to growing a small manufacturing business. One pilot program that was well-suited to meet this need was introduced by Governor Kate Brown and Business Oregon in Q3 of 2015, and seed funded with $250K called the “Small Manufacturing Business Expansion Program“. This program provided micro-loans up to $50K (for up to 50% of the actual project cost) to existing businesses (minimum 2yrs) seeking expansion capital to assist with a building purchase, construction or renovation costs, equipment purchases and employee training. In some cases, the loans were forgivable if jobs were created and retained over a period of time. As you can imagine, it was a popular program and it didn’t take long to blow through the $250K. I’d like to see this program funded again and with another zero, such that $2.5 Million would be earmarked to help Oregon’s small manufacturers “grow our own”.

OPPORTUNITY: (2) (b) Oregon’s small manufacturers also desperately need access to working capital for big purchase order fulfillment. We see this all the time with food entrepreneurs that get picked up by distributors. What’s needed is a seasonal working capital line of credit product designed for newer businesses just to cover production costs (labor and materials) needed to produce and fulfill big production orders. While there are a few Purchase Order Factoring companies out there that do this, it is often expensive money to borrow. A seasonal working capital line of credit program could be setup to cover only the working capital required for purchase orders on an as-needed basis. The problems with this kind of funding are: (1) the collateral for the loan is inventory and receivable that have yet to be produced, making it extremely risky to lenders; (2) newer businesses without much of a track record are higher risk than a manufacturer with a longer track record; (3) and sometimes customers cancel purchase orders. While those are definitely inherent challenges, there’s some room here for non-traditional lenders to step-up and create a program with lender protections in place to address the need without businesses having to resort to a high interest merchant cash advance kind of program.

CHALLENGE: (3) For many Oregon small businesses, it’s hard to know what types of capital are available and how to best access them. This in fact was one of the take-aways from the 2014 Oregon Capital Scan. I imagine that when small business owners apply for traditional capital and get denied, they may not know what else to do and then become part of that group of frustrated entrepreneurs that say “there’s no access to capital in today’s economy”.

OPPORTUNITY: (3) Sometimes it is the case that a company just can’t get funded while the business works to clean up its balance sheet or improve their personal credit situation. However, from what we’ve seen, the problem is oftentimes a combination of the business not being ready to make a capital request and also not knowing the best sources of capital to pursue for their project – so they go a traditional route and sometimes get denied. In other words, by being ready for seeking funding and having a solid business plan and projections with cashflow and then working with an expert on crafting a finance strategy that fits their project and their situation, the results can be much more positive. As I mentioned earlier, those clients that complete the readiness process we take them through have a much greater chance of eventually getting funded. Oregon has lots of business technical service providers across the state that receive funding to help “grow our own” local economy. I’d say the real opportunities lie with those entrepreneurs savvy enough to seek out assistance on the aspects of business management where they have gaps.

What are some of the biggest gaps you see in capital these days – whether it’s around debt for consumer companies or in say rural areas in Oregon?

While I don’t claim to be an expert on the needs of rural Oregon, I understand from colleagues who spend a great deal of time learning the needs of entrepreneurs in rural Oregon, that gaining access to the same talent and resources we have in the metro areas is something that folks talk about not being equal. I also understand that folks are looking at ways to create more access to metro area talent and resources through the use of technology – I hope it works out. I can also imagine that in rural areas there truly are less local sources of capital, and if a local request for capital is denied, that entrepreneur really needs to be resourceful enough to look outside the pond at other options or know where to get assistance.

Discuss how you help clients make the tough decisions around their business and financing, providing advice that may sometimes not be what they want to hear but with your support, is the right advice to give.

It’s always interesting to work with folks on their finance strategy, since the results are not always what we expect up front and tend to evolve as we take them through the process. For instance, a company may be able to whittle down a bank loan request by asking their existing vendors to partner with them and extend vendor terms for an initial inventory fill for a new store opening. While this may not often be considered as a traditional capital source like a bank loan or angel money, vendor terms can be a huge help to get an expansion off the ground when a business has already proven itself to its vendors, and they are willing to do it.

It seems like capital is about outreach to these entrepreneurs, gaining awareness/insights into the companies, and having relationships with funding sources – can you chat a bit about how the CAT builds the relationships at each of those steps since we know how important those relationships are from a support/mentor standpoint.

CAT clients find us many different ways. Some find us on their own or meet us at an event, however the majority are referred to us by word of mouth, both “internally” from within the Oregon SBDC Network, or “externally” from an economic development partner, past clients, or directly from lenders or investor groups – all folks we nurture relationships with.

But no matter how they end up contacting the CAT, the engagement process is the same. Starting with our initial new client call, we ask a ton of questions to gather info about the client and their project to assess if we can assist them and determine any next steps if they decide to move forward with us. As we go deeper in the work together, we narrow down the finance strategy for the project. This narrowing down on the strategy many times allows us to unearth potential ways our network can help, which was evident during a recent client meeting. After learning that the client intended to export and do business in Canada, we were able to suggest they consider leveraging the SBA International Trade finance programs for working capital to support inventory purchases, which lowered the overall amount of equity they were considering raising – helping them keep more ownership in the company.

Working on access to capital requires maintaining awareness about what types of capital are out there, matching sources with uses, knowing when to use special programs earmarked for certain types of projects as appropriate, and nurturing relationships with lenders and investors. To maintain awareness of what’s changing in the landscape, for years we have hosted monthly professional development calls for our SBDC colleagues across the state, featuring guest presenters with updates on new and existing programs from different facets of Oregon’s capital landscape. These calls are a great opportunity to connect with those program leads as well as give us insights on the types of projects they can fund. In addition to the calls, we host networking events regionally to get to know local funders and we often co-host educational workshops around the state for clients, often combined with lender round table discussions hosted by SBA.

What do you enjoy most about your position on the CAT?

It’s a blast working with some of Oregon’s most innovative and talented entrepreneurs.  The best part is watching client projects get funded and knowing that our work is helping Oregon grow a sustainable local economy.

On a daily basis, it’s a combination of working in the office, meeting onsite with clients, representing the Oregon SBDC Network at events, participating on panel discussions, meeting with community partners, and facilitating aspects of this SBDC program like professional development, event planning, marketing, communications and strategic planning.

I’m really fortunate to work with great people across the state including our clients, SBDC colleagues, EcDev partners, lenders, investors, groups, etc.

For more information on the SBDC Capital Access Team, please visit http://www.bizcenter.org/services/capital-access-team/capital-access-team