Built Oregon -Oregon's Entrepreneurial Digital Magazine

Category - Editor’s Notes

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

Little Boxes celebrates the vibrant Portland small business community with its black friday/small biz saturday promotion

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Editor’s Note: We profiled Little Boxes last year, and once again this annual Portland small business promotional event and prize raffle, featuring over 200 local and independent merchants, will take place on November 25th & 26th , 2016. You can find out more and download their app on their website, and you can also follow them on Twitter and on Facebook. Built Oregon is happy to be one of the sponsors of this event, and we’re reprising our 2015 profile below. 

It was early November 2011. Portland jewelry makers Betsy Cross and Will Cervarich were only 3 months removed from opening their first Betsy & Iya brick and mortar retail location in the northwest part of the city, on 24th and Thurman.

It had been a hectic and exhausting 3 months for this couple, who before opening the store had built a thriving wholesale business in Portland making and distributing their handcrafted jewelry to more than 100 locations around the country, and not surprisingly, Cross ended up getting ill and got her first day off at home in a long, long time.

She decided to camp out on her couch and watch TV. That was a decision that changed Cross & Cervarich’s lives.

As Cross explains, “There were already commercials happening for promoting Thanksgiving and Black Friday. And instead of just spacing out like you normally do with commercials that you don’t care about, I got mad. I thought, ‘What is it with Black Friday that every year, it gets worse and worse?’ It’s like, ‘Completely kill yourself to buy the best presents ever at the cheapest prices by staying up all night or waking up at four in the morning…’ ”

The anger generated a big question.

10805674_732905163466667_3671726183326341710_n“I felt a real sense of empowerment to focus on the shops that had given us so much support and business throughout the years”, Cross added. “I’d been in Portland for a long time. How come there’s nothing existing already for these kinds of shops? Why isn’t there a focus? We’re not going to be able to put our shops 50% off, or 40% off. But we don’t have to. Why? Because we have great shops, with a different experience.”

That night, Cervarich came home to hear a new idea for a group retail event on Black Friday.

Cross recalled, “Will came home and I said, ‘What do you think?’ And sometimes in our business relationship, one of us will have an idea and the other one will say, ‘Oh, that’s not a good idea. No way we can pull that off.’ ”

This time, he says ‘That’s genius’, and gets on the computer and immediately comes up with the raffle part of it.”

They also immediately emailed a few of their friends in their retail network to test the idea. “People wrote us back that night” Cross noted, “and said, ‘That’s a great idea and I’m in. So tell us what we need to do’ “

The event also needed a name. Cross recalls, “We were obviously thinking about ‘big box’ stores. And what is different (with the smaller stores)? What is special about gift giving? Little, special boxes wrapped in a particular way. That’s something that smaller shops are really good at.”

So it would be called “Little Boxes”, and something transformative was born.

Betsy Cross & Will Cervarich and their Betsy & Iya Retail Store in PDX

A different way to shop Black Friday

Just a few weeks later, the pair pulled off the first Little Boxes, pulling together the retail network, promoting the event all over town and in the press, and distributing paper booklets that recorded raffle entries for cool prizes to all who visited the 100 stores on that Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

It was a huge success. Cross added “We had shops telling us that they previously had horrible days on Black Friday, because people didn’t think to shop there. They put their energy into the bigger stores.”

And it had the added benefit of being a community experience, something actually enjoyable on a typically hyperactive shopping day. Cervarich notes, “Our whole idea is that shopping, especially on these two days where you’ve just spent time with family being thankful, and celebrating a year with family, shouldn’t about rushing to the store and getting coffeed up, and killing yourself to shop.”

In 2012 they did Little Boxes again, with an even larger network of stores, nearly 200. They also added the ability to gain extra raffle entries by buying merchandise at the stores – the more the person shopped at Little Boxes stores, the more chances they had to win.

The raffle is the big draw. Notes Cross, “It creates a light, fun-filled, game aspect. And I think our main thing was always not just the importance of supporting local, which is an important movement and an important part of our economy, but that our main messaging would be that our shops are just something special, and something different than the alternative shopping experience on Black Friday, especially.”

LB_Budd-+-Finn03By 2013 they topped 200 stores and added an iPhone app to make it easier for customers to find the stores and tally their raffle entries. Last year they tweaked the app with more features, and had even a few more stories participating, and now, in 2015, they are introducing an Android version of the app.

Through the years, Cervarich and Cross have made sure the messaging and tone of the event has was not about being negative about the big box experience on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. It’s meant to be an additive experience. Says Cervarich, “It’s always been important to us to stay positive. Our messaging never is negative on the big box stores.”

An act of leadership in an environment of trust

And, the couple has always made it clear that big profits were never, and still are not, the aim of Little Boxes. Cervarich notes, “It wasn’t about making money off of this idea. It was about doing something that we felt was going to be good for our shop, of course, but also going to be good for Portland shops. Especially shops that we had worked with (and continue to work with) for a number of years”

These two entrepreneurs were uniquely positioned to create this event because there are few other makers in Portland that have the kind of reach of the Betsy & Iya retail distribution network. And by being inspired, almost by divine providence, by a bad Black Friday TV commercial, they answered the call to pull that network (and many other retailers) together under a common banner, to generate a big local economic benefit that otherwise wouldn’t have existed without it.

It was an act of leadership, supported by a communal sense of trust. Says Cervarich, “There is an innate sense of trust (in the Little Boxes network), so when we came to a shop-owner, they weren’t being solicited by somebody who was only doing ads, or only doing something where it was taking money. We had worked with them, so we had a personal relationship, and we also were on their side.

1475786_732905446799972_2431213108730702047_n“And so I think that really helped our credibility. And people felt like, ‘Okay, well, these guys get it. It’s a promotion where it’s coming from the inside out.’ ”

The unique sense of collaboration and cooperation that distinguishes both Portland entrepreneurs and consumers also plays a huge role. Cervarich notes, “I give a lot of credit to Portland. If not in Portland, where else (could it have been successful)?

“Portland shoppers, they get it already. And so we just needed to give them a little push of a reason to go out on Black Friday. And that sense of community has been a huge reason why Little Boxes has become successful.”

And yes, Cross isn’t angry any longer. “It’s brought a ton of joy to our lives in the shop, and just the sheer excitement that we see on shoppers’ faces”, says Cross. “We’ve had a few people say, ‘I never even knew your shop existed and now I’m coming every year. I’m going to participate in Little Boxes every year’ “

You can find out more and download their app on their website,

Lumencor shines a transcendent light on a sustainable path to success

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Back in 2007, a fledgling company took the leap and relocated to Oregon from California, bringing with them a revolutionary product idea and a desire to live and work in a state that could provide them with the best chance to see that idea blossom and thrive.

Today, nine years later that company Lumencor Inc. manufactures its innovative light engine in a 30,000 square foot facility in Beaverton, turning the long dominant, mercury-based lamp world on its head, with not only a superior light source, but one that is significantly more energy efficient and better for the environment, because it doesn’t use mercury (or a bunch of other toxic materials) at all.

To fully conceptualize this you need to erase the image of a traditional light bulb out of your mind, because this light engine is not remotely like a bulb. The light engine features “instant on/off excitation” via electronic control so that energy is consumed (and this is the really cool part) only when illumination is needed.

Lumencor Inc co-founder Claudia Jaffe

Lumencor Inc co-founder Claudia Jaffe

Recently we visited Lumencor for a chat with one of its co-founders, Claudia Jaffe, to find out more about the company, its technology, and its exciting potential as an enabler for even more impactful discoveries and breakthroughs in the bio-tech and manufacturing arenas.

Jaffe, who earned her doctorate in Bioanalytical Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh, is an inventor in nearly all of Lumencor’s patents. She is Lumencor’s Executive Vice President and oversees new business development as well as sales and marketing.

Her husband Steve Jaffe is her fellow co-founder and CEO, so the company retains many of the close knit and humanized characteristics of a family-run business, despite its growth to 60 employees (and still growing) scattered around this large facility.

A better match of business, place and capital

We started by asking Jaffe about their move from California to Oregon in 2007, and their subsequent investment by the Oregon Angel Fund (OAF). It was the very first investment by the then fledgling fund.

“We made a conscious decision to leave California and move to Portland. It is recognized as one of three or four top optics centers in the country and it was an entrée to a whole network of talent in the technical community as well as in finance, legal, marketing, all kinds of services that you need to foster and grow your business. (It’s) a place where we could develop hardware with access to optics, electronics, software and mechanics expertise.

(In Oregon) there’s a desire to build the biotech industry and that’s the market we serve. The investment community was a better match for our initial need than in Silicon Valley. That’s how we found Oregon Angel Fund, and Eric Rosenfeld (the co-founder and manager) has been a tremendous supporter since day one, since we first came scouting and met with him.”

Armed with that initial financing, Jaffe and her team went about developing and selling the technology in suburban Portland. But as with any startup and with any new technology, there had to be an underlying problem they were trying to solve. How did they approach this question, and the even more intriguing question – why hadn’t it been solved before?

“We build lighting that solves certain problems that are just fundamental to LEDs (Light-emitting diodes), but we came to this problem with an integrator’s approach to a solution. We said, ‘We’ll build a modular product so that if the customer needs only red and green light, we can satisfy that. Essentially we have a tool box and can pick and choose aspects of the lighting that specifically suit a given application.’

As a business proposition, there has been a big obstacle to solving this problem. Lighting manufacturers like to build a single product, for example a lamp based on a bulb. Then they just find many, many wall sockets in which to plug. That’s not our approach; we’re integrators.

What we do is talk to the customer, typically an equipment manufacturer, like a microscope company. We ask, ‘What are you trying to solve? What is the technical obstacle? What does the instrument look like? What does it need in terms of the color spectrum, spectral purity, brightness, fast switching time?’ It’s all of these technical performance traits that go into tailoring the light to suit the need. We call it “Tailored Illumination” because we offer control over the spectral, spatial and temporal aspects of the light. In the past lighting couldn’t be so carefully controlled in large part because it was mostly in the form of a simple bulb.

87725-5506057So when you say, ‘Why wasn’t this problem solved before?’, I have to answer because there were so many different aspects, both business and technical, that needed a customized solution, one tailored to the equipment manufacturers’ needs; and those needs vary. Today we have over 100 customers – equipment manufacturers, many individual researchers, labs, hospitals, universities. We offer off-the-shelf products for a larger group of customers but for the smaller group with large volume needs, like the equipment manufacturers, we build a unique product for every one of them. Not a lot of manufacturers of hardware want to do that.”

That begged the question – why don’t they?

“They want to build one kind of lamp. Again, I think our novelty is that we’re very solutions-oriented. You hear it all the time, but we truly are. We tailor our products for the equipment needs, the equipment specifications, and we’re very nimble in manufacturing, very modular in manufacturing and we’ve always had that posture. It’s one thing to impose that after you’ve built the first product, but it’s another thing to envision product with that in mind first.”

Jaffe then spoke about this “old” technology, the good old light bulb, and why Lumencor’s solution is better.

“Lamp manufacturers think about a bulb, and that bulb provides white light. It provides a lot of light in spectral regions that aren’t useful.

(So we said), let’s build white light not from one bulb, one source, but from six different colors as six unique sources, as an example. And if you only need three different colors, we’ll just give you those. There’s no wasted light, because the spectrum that is provided is based on the instrument need or the analysis need as the customer defines it.

Further, it’s electronically controlled so it runs off a DC power supply, not (traditional) AC, much quieter. And it’s electronically pulsed, so you can trigger it on or gate it on and off. When it’s off, it’s because the lights are truly off, not because it’s blocked. All that savings in energy and heat and spectral purity, it’s just a completely different posture for how to provide the light.”

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An enabler of transformative discoveries and inventions

With this better light source, Lumencor becomes an enabler of some grander discoveries and inventions. Jaffe elaborated on this, and those things that have made her sit back in her chair and say, “If it wasn’t for us, this wouldn’t have happened”.

“Well, if it wasn’t for us, some of the kinds of experiments that you can do today wouldn’t be happening. We are truly enabling drug discovery, as one example. Let’s say you want to identify drugs that interact with cells in a certain way. What’s the best way to do that? Watch the cells. But for the most part, the biology hasn’t been done that way – historically you would have a sample of tissue and put it on a microscope slide or create a milkshake literally of cells and add things to it and then test that.

But with our products, the light is kinder, gentler, less disruptive to actual real-time cellular function. Because the light can actually probe at video rates, real-time events in cells, you can literally watch cellular events that you didn’t use to be able to. Tumors are cells gone wild, and with our lighting, you can actually watch the cells replicate in real time and do so in the presence and absence of some potential drug. You cannot do that with a simple lamp.

It’s really interrogating the cell of a tissue in a way that allows you to optically discriminate what you couldn’t see just with the naked eye. This is enabled by the process of fluorescence. Its possible to impose fluorescence in cells or in tissues, to label them if you will with light reactive tags, that allow you to discriminate at a molecular level what’s happening to that biology. The quality of the light very much influences how well you can detect those cellular events.”

A commitment to sustainability

The other side benefit of the technology is its sustainability and environmental friendliness, attributes that Jaffe and Lumencor have leveraged into an overall “green” approach that extends all the way to the packing materials and the building it occupies. Jaffe explains,

lumencor“We built this company, used solid-state components and never used mercury in anything that we ever built. We’re lucky, in that our light engines are relatively low power consuming, they don’t generate heat, and they’re all clean tech. We’ve only ever shipped in recyclable materials and it’s a green kind of process and philosophy we use throughout our organization. It’s a value that we have, a value that the whole organization has, and we just are always thinking about that when we start new processes, ‘How can we do it in a way that is consistent with that value?’

But what about the higher costs to live up to this philosophy?

“The money proposition is very short-sighted. I don’t think there’s any question that, in the long term, it is cheaper to do with a “green” solution. Yes, for the initial investment it may be a little more expensive to buy “sustainable” product. But the overall impact has to include costly waste disposal, long term energy consumption, instrument down-time during maintenance, replacement parts. Plus it goes back to how passionate are you about (being green) – is it really a value for you? I have to believe the scientific community that supports life sciences values this too.“

Following your passion

Lastly, nine years on in Oregon, Jaffe offered advice to those folks that that are thinking about taking the kind of big technological leaps that they took, but perhaps are reluctant because it just seems too hard, even though they have a great idea.

“Isn’t that where all the joy and value comes from, doing something that’s hard? And I also think you have got to follow your passion. I have two little girls, they’re 12 and 14, and I tell them that all the time. ‘Figure out what you love to do and then just do a lot of it. Whether it’s mathematics, arts, music or history, whatever it is, if you have passion and volume, you just discover things more deeply and do them more thoroughly. Do it intensely for a long period of time and expertise will come.’ And that’s what brings you to good work, right?

Before this job, I hadn’t worked for any organization, (I had many different jobs), for longer than two years. I’ve been here nine years and I can’t wait to get to work. We have a very respectful work environment, the people are all great and we know we’re doing valuable work. That makes it much easier to be committed.”

The story of Lumencor epitomizes the promise of Oregon entrepreneurship and its unique take on the role of people, place and the environment, as well as the important role of angel funds like OAF, and the other Oregonians who are willing to invest risk capital to help turn that promise into many successes.

It’s a story that shines an altogether different light than what comes out of their Beaverton factory, but it’s a very bright and illuminating light nonetheless.

To learn more about Lumencor, visit its website at lumencor.com.

Community support for community outings

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We are constantly talking about how important community engagement is to what we are doing at Built Oregon. The engagement helps bring awareness to companies, bridge the gaps between regions and industries, and creates opportunities for collaboration.

Bring awareness. Bridge the gaps. Create collaboration opportunities.

Sounds like I’m describing a fly fishing trip, right?

Ok, maybe I made a bit of a leap there, but follow me for a few.

Soul River Inc. “Runs Wild”, founded by Chad Brown, is a 501(c)3 organization that brings together veterans as mentors and inner city youth to the wild rivers of the NW, with the hope that it encourages youth participants to grow and become ambassadors of our natural environment.

Awareness of the natural world outside of the cities. Bridge the gap between veterans and inner city youth. Create collaboration opportunities on the water and around a campfire.

What Soul River Inc. “Runs Wild” does is truly community engagement. But it’s engagement that can only happen with the help of all of us. The two day outings that take 10 inner city youth and 5 veterans fly fishing costs $2400, and are paid for entirely through donations to the nonprofit.

So here’s where all of us can help. We want to encourage the Built Oregon community to support Soul River Inc. “Runs Wild” as they look to raise the money for their 2016 trips. Our goal is to raise enough money to support one trip. To participate, visit the Support Page.

We are also donating all proceeds from our event on 2/18 to the organization and encouraging all attendees to donate in lieu of paying to attend.

If you donate, please share and use #supportsoulriver.

For more information, visit Soul River Inc “Runs Wild“,  and watch this Oregon Field Guide episode.

Working in the intersection between identity and place: A Q&A with Design+Culture Lab

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Joy Alise Davis had recently graduated from Parsons The New School of Design when an observation led her to form Design+Culture Lab, a research-based social lab dedicated to the transformation of neighborhoods through collaborative design strategies, while addressing complex spatial issues of cultural, racial and ethnic inequality. Joy will be a speaker at the Portland State University Elevating Impact event this week, and Built Oregon sat down with her to learn a bit more about the roots of Design+Culture Lab.

How would you describe Design+Culture Lab?

We are a collaborative design firm, but we operate in the public involvement realm.

 Photographs by Martin Seck, courtesy of Parsons re:d, the magazine for Parsons alumni and the wider Parsons community.

Photographs by Martin Seck, courtesy of Parsons re:d, the magazine for Parsons alumni and the wider Parsons community.

What do you do?

Using a comprehensive and collaborative method that draws on strong relationships with local communities and a deep understanding of their issues, Design+Culture Lab provides a unique consulting service that serves as the glue between disadvantaged community members and urban practitioners within the construction of their environment. By addressing the complex spatial issues associated with cultural, racial, and ethnic inequality, Design+Culture Lab is one of the few that work in the intersection between identity and place.

Our services include collaborative design strategy, engagement management, community data reporting, communication design and interactive engagement tools.

What was the genesis for starting Design+Culture Lab?

Honestly, I was studying at Parsons The New School of Design and focusing on urban design strategy when I noticed that the one of the top design schools in the world didn’t really use race, ethnicity and culture as a lens when designing place. It was very frustrating.  As an African American woman, my identity as a cis woman and as a descendant of slavery influenced how I operated in public space and the built environment.

I also noticed a lack of research efforts from urban designers to collaborate directly with the people who would be affected most by the designs. I would work with (and learn from) architects and urban designers (both domestically and internally), and they had no idea how to involve the public in the decision making process.  Before I studied urban design, I was a very active activist. I made my living by serving the community, civic engagement and by working with underserved communities of color. You can imagine how frustrating it was for a activist like me! Urban Design experts tend to design in a vacuum. I never bought into that idea. I believe that people have the right to actively shape their city.

When did you make the leap to start your own agency?

After graduate school, I took a chance and started my own social enterprise. It was kind of crazy! Instead of waiting for the world to catch up with the reality that America is changing and moving towards a more diverse (a more brown) country, I decided to begin prototyping solutions for positive collaboration along racial lines.This was a very scary leap but it was perfect timing. I had just graduated from one of the top design schools in the world with tons of debt, I was moving across the country (I was drawn to Portland for its strong history of planning/ architecture and strong history of racial exclusion), and I just felt like I was in a point in my life when I was ready to learn from outside of my comfort zone.

There is a great quote by Audre Lorde: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Lorde has become a distant mentor to me as I formed this company. This quote in particular helped me take this leap. I had a vision for a better America, filled with true cultural/racial cohabitation, not just coexistence between the different groups. I knew that if I wanted to make this vision into a reality, I needed to be 100%. So I stepped out on faith. I have a great support system, which really helped. But I was scared –  I was nervous of failing.

 Photographs by Martin Seck, courtesy of Parsons re:d, the magazine for Parsons alumni and the wider Parsons community.

Photographs by Martin Seck, courtesy of Parsons re:d, the magazine for Parsons alumni and the wider Parsons community.

 

What were some of the initial projects you worked on and how did your initial idea change through those engagements?

In 2015 Design+Culture Lab started work on the PAALF People’s Plan, The Division Design Guidelines and the Powell Division Transit Plan. We learned so much while working on those projects. We had the opportunity to strengthen our methods, but also learn business skills that we just couldn’t learn from the classroom, or from a book.

I am a big fan of this TED talk: “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. The “Why” for Design+Culture Lab is this concept that America is becoming more diverse:

IN 2060, THE COUNTRY WILL BE ROUGHLY 43 PERCENT WHITE, 13 PERCENT BLACK, 31 PERCENT HISPANIC, AND 8 PERCENT  ASIAN, WHICH LEAVES 5 PERCENT TO BE  LABELLED AS ‘OTHER’ (TAYLOR 2014).

The world is also becoming more urban:

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, MORE THAN HALF THE WORLD’S POPULATION — THAT’S 3.7 BILLION PEOPLE — NOW RESIDES IN CITIES. AND IT’S EXPECTED THAT NUMBER WILL INCREASE TO TWO-THIRDS BY 2050.(YAHOO NEWS)

The “Why” of our business has not changed. We still believe that equity should be the biggest goal for our country’s urban practitioners over the next 50 years.

The “How”  is also simple. We do this by using creativity and design thinking. We are a laboratory because we are dedicated to prototyping solutions. The “How” of our company has not changed. We still believe that innovation within the urban planning and urban design world must be creative, leveraging design thinking and empathy.

The “What will most certainly evolve. We might find out that operating in the public involvement world is not as impactful as we want it to be. Maybe we will decide to move away from consulting, and solely create interactive engagement products. Maybe we want to only focus on research and producing podcasts and articles. The sky’s the limit! But we will always bring our work back to center, to the “Why”. I am excited to see what evolves over the next year.

We believe that if our efforts are not effective, we will go back to the drawing board. I decided to make this company a laboratory for a reason. I wanted to prototype new solutions and I wanted to experiment through design thinking. We don’t believe we have all the answers but we are dedicated to investing and being flexible while we try to solve issues of racial inequity.

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

FoodWorx: Re-thinking how (and why) you eat

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When people travel, usually uppermost in their minds is what they plan to see — landmark buildings, famous attractions, perhaps well-known works of art. Food is, for many, a secondary consideration of travel. They may want to eat well, but it is not always the main focus of a trip.

That is, unless they fall into a rapidly growing category called food travel. Food travel is the concept that says no matter where you go, you need to eat and drink. So why not enjoy a unique, local food experience and make a memory of it?

That philosophy is why Erik Wolf founded the World Food Travel Association, a Portland-based organization that he leads as Executive Director.

“There are people who travel to go to museums, there are people who travel for shopping, and there are people who travel to New York and London for theater,” Wolf says. “Well, I’m one of those people that travels for food. I end up in grocery stores. I end up in restaurants. I end up on food tours. I end up in food factories.”

The Post-it Note® brainstorm that blended two passions

Erik Wolf

Erik Wolf

Wolf already knew himself to be a “foodie.” Once, after a 15-hour flight to Singapore, rather than immediately collapse on his hotel bed, he noticed a large grocery store across the street and made a beeline for it.

“Jet lag didn’t matter. I was like a kid in a new amusement park. I was going around and seeing the different brands for sale, the different fruits on offer, all the unusual beverages. It was fascinating.”

At that point, however, it wasn’t necessarily a way to make a living. Wolf was working in the tech world in San Francisco. Then in 2001, he “smelled a layoff” and decided to uproot his life and start anew. He moved to Portland, Oregon, found an apartment, and put giant Post-It Notes on the walls to write down his passions and brainstorm a new career.

“What do I like doing? Where do I have connections? What am I good at? And it always came back to food and travel.”

Wolf decided to create a non-profit organization that blended his two passions.

“I wrote a white paper about Culinary Tourism to prove the value to our emerging industry and its potential economic impact. It was a popular paper that was sent around the world more times than I can remember.”

Within two years, he had formed a non-profit association: the International Culinary Tourism Association, which was re-branded as the World Food Travel Association (WFTA) in 2012. Since its inception as an education and trade resource, WFTA has grown to become the world’s leading authority on culinary tourism. It has published culinary travel guides, research on food and beverage tourism, produced dozens of events and conducted seminars to help food-related businesses get the word out to travelers.

A different form of sightseeing

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So what exactly is food travel? It is about helping travelers learn about and explore a local area’s food and beverage culture. That does not necessarily mean meals costing hundreds of dollars per person in a fancy restaurant. According to the WFTA, that kind of customer represents less than ten percent of the overall dining market. And since roughly 25 percent of any travel budget is spent on food, Wolf saw promoting local food and drink as a way to boost local economies and enhance the travelers’ experience.

It was an area of tourism promotion that was still ripe for development. The traditional focus of most tourism offices was on lodging and attractions. At best, there might be a small brochure naming a few restaurants, with no way of telling if those places had paid for the privilege of being listed. Chain restaurants were plentiful.

“When we talk to tourism offices now, often we have to reeducate them. Because they think: ‘Oh, we want the gourmet traveler’ or ‘We should be promoting our 150 cuisines!’ ”

Instead, Wolf says the best thing tourism offices can do is ‘plant the seed’ for good local dining, whether it’s the food cart/street vendor scene, or an area’s famous Key Lime pie. At first, it was an uphill battle. Then the recession of 2007 hit. Tourist offices closed, or their budgets were severely slashed. To cope, they began to look for different things to promote. The WFTA was already poised to help them discover how to package and promote local food cultures to travelers.

Not that all travelers are willing to go outside their comfort zone.

“You will not convince all people to try local food. Some people do all-inclusive packages and that’s fine for them. But then, there’s a level of consumer that does care about where things come from—how food is made and where it’s sourced.”

FoodWorx and the impact of food

Those people are the target markets for the food and beverage tourism industry. The numbers are growing each year. The WFTA expanded its services with lectures and a one-day conference called FoodWorx that explores all issues food-related.

ew photo 13“There are all these food and drink events. Most are great but there’s more to discuss than just sitting there and eating fancy foods and drinking expensive wines. We want to know, what did it take to get that to you? Who was involved in the production of that food? How much fuel was spent to get it to you? And help consumers realize how food impacts their everyday lives.”

FoodWorx 2016 is the fourth annual conference and is expected to attract about 450 people to hear nine speakers and two panels discuss a variety of food issues.

“We take food and combine it with another industry. Whether it’s food and industry, food and tourism, food and technology, food and music, food and health. And then we find an expert to talk about that. Local food and drink samples pepper the day’s talks.”

Who attends?

“It runs the gamut. You get concerned citizens, teachers, retirees, students, journalists and everyday people. You get foodies, restaurant owners, winery people. Plus, a lot of food and drink manufacturers, who come to learn about new industry trends. People travel from all over the world to attend.”

This year’s FoodWorx will be held Saturday, February 20 2016 at the Smith Memorial Union at Portland State University. Live streaming will be available for delegates who cannot attend in person. The forum has become so popular that other cities including Barcelona and Bilbao in Spain want to host their own local FoodWorx, as does Jakarta, Indonesia.

More impact, more innovation

When Wolf founded WTFA, the local food movement was truly in its infancy. Oddly enough, the tragedy of 9-11 had a big impact on people’s interest in food.

“It made people go back in and think about what’s comfortable—family and food. And the local food movement just mushroomed tremendously after 9-11. While he acknowledges that the WFTA can’t take the credit for the local food movement, he does believe that the WFTA was the early trendsetter in promoting food as attraction.”

EW photo 1Wolf says many people talk about the profound impact that the WFTA has had on the world’s tourism industry. “It’s fulfilling to know that we were there at the table, ushering in professionals, helping them to see the potential of promoting food and drink as attractions. And now, as our organization is 14 years old, we have to continue to reinvent ourselves, not rest on our laurels, (and) make sure we’re continuing to innovate, make sure that we’re bringing new and relevant products to market.”

Where does Wolf want this all to lead?

“World domination!”

But in all seriousness, Wolf sees almost unlimited potential for Food Travel. The WFTA has a new annual publication coming out in 2016, titled: Food Trekking in Cascadia. It focuses on the food and drink culture of our Cascadian region. While he may have started out thinking of the overseas traveler’s food experience, Wolf is adamant you don’t have to be a world traveler to be a food tourist. For some, it may mean just heading across town to a new neighborhood to try a new café or pub or wine bar.

Wolf is a firm believer that good food is everywhere—if you know where to look. His life’s mission is to show you where.

Many thanks to KC Cowan for her help and support on this piece

For more information on FoodWorx 2016, visit http://www.FoodWorxConference.com, or find them on Twitter or Facebook .  Built Oregon is one of the marketing sponsors of this event. 

Building a storytelling future

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It’s been a year since we launched the first issue of Built Oregon. And it’s been quite a year at that. Thank you for joining us in that journey.

We are proud to have published more than 50 stories about Oregon entrepreneurs and support groups, many of which had never received the recognition they so richly deserved. We have organized seven events that have brought all of us together to learn more about storytelling, makers, startup communities, and regional movements. And we have had the opportunity to sit down with four founders to discuss their journeys and share them through our podcast.

Many of you have supported us since the beginning. And we are incredibly grateful for the time, money, and feedback you have given to Built Oregon. However, now that 2015 is almost over, it’s time to look forward and focus on what’s next.

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Written

Stories are what weave us together and inspire us. They bring us in, invite us to act, and create conversations. We launched with the intent of telling these stories via our website, and that will continue to be a focus in 2016.

Photography

Oregon prides itself as a state of craftspeople. Images of those people, their workspaces, and their products provide unique insights into what is being built here. For that reason, we are placing additional focus on better documenting Oregon’s founders with photography that is as compelling and beautiful as the businesses that they are building.

Audio

We are going to expand our Founder Talk podcasts in the coming year. These talks will focus on discussing the challenges, opportunities, and sometimes (ok many times) craziness that comes from founding a business. Some of the talks will be an interview with one founder, while others will be a founder interviewing another founder or group discussions on certain topics.

Video

The power of video from a storytelling perspective cannot be understated. We are going to start a series titled “Business and Beverages.” The videos will focus on telling companies’ brand story, product development, uniqueness, economic, and community impact. We will take you “under the hood” of these businesses and show you how the products are made or innovations developed, along with down to earth conversations with founders and area business leaders over a local beverage.

 

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Panel Discussions

Creating awareness and creating discussions that help move the needle have been a focus of past Built Oregon events and will continue to be so in 2016. They will be discussions that talk about the challenges and opportunities in certain industry segments or regions around Oregon.

Storytelling & Listening Tours

Outreach and engagement is the only way to know what is happening around the state. We are going to embark on series of whistle stop (ok, maybe Subaru horn) tours around the state to meet up with people, listen to their first person account of what is happening, and allow them to share their stories.

Built Oregon Main Event

The stories we tell and events we do bring awareness to the companies and groups who are building Oregon. They can inspire the next wave of entrepreneurs, or get people to lean in and get involved in their communities. But we can do more. We should do more. So what do you say, let’s do more. We are going to put it down, right here, that in 2016 Built Oregon is going to organize a big event. So what are we thinking? We’re glad you asked.

  • A multi-day gathering and celebration of Oregon based companies and industries
  • With specific industry showcases and discussions
  • Shining lights on the diverse mix of Oregon founders and companies
  • Storytelling talks
  • And an intentional focus on cross industry and geography collaborative opportunities

Now, this will not be easy, and will most likely be a smaller event the first year. But every journey has to start somewhere. As an avid supporter of Built Oregon always says, “Done beats perfect.”

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In the simplest terms, our focus is going to be on creating more connected communities. Outreach and listening before action. Creating opportunities for voices and movements to be heard; whether those voices are centered on industries like tech, apparel/outdoor, food & beverage, and manufacturing—or issues like inclusive competitiveness and rural economic opportunities.

But as we have said from the beginning, this is not about Built Oregon. It’s about the companies, industries, and communities around Oregon. It’s about hearing your stories, and then working to shine a light on them.

Most importantly, it’s about listening to you. The members and supporters of Built Oregon have gotten us this far, but in our minds, the journey is just beginning.

So there you go. Let’s build a base that we can add to in the future. We hope you will join us as we build a more connected and vibrant Oregon community.

More to come in early 2016.

The Built Oregon Team
(also known as Mitch, Terry and Rick)

Time to shine the light a bit brighter

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F Cancer

At some point in our lives all of us have been affected by cancer, and if you are like me,  have uttered those very words. There are nonprofit organizations and blog posts  based around that very raw emotion – f cancer. It’s because many times it strikes out of nowhere and throws you for a tailspin. That’s how I felt in 2014 when I learned the news that a dear friend, mentor and beacon for this entrepreneurial ecosystem Shelley Gunton was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

It was as if cancer picked a fight with the brightest light; and Shelley took on the fight with the same vigor and passion that surprised none of us who knew her well.

Early this morning, Shelley lost that fight.

And thus, we all lost one of our bright lights. It’s a light that cannot be replaced or replicated. But it’s one that can carry on through all of us.

In the time we give without expecting anything in return.

In our ability to always see opportunities as opposed to challenges.

In the way we focus on hope instead of doubt.

In the generosity we show each other.

In the passion we show for the people and things we love.

In developing relationships instead of acquaintances.

In the way we always greet each other with a smile as opposed to a frown.

In living life to it’s fullest without dwelling on the past.

The time I spent with Shelley through OEN and multiple other groups, and more importantly, the time spent with her since the original diagnosis left an indelible mark on me. I watched her live this passionate, successful, and most importantly, altruistic life.

So we will mourn the loss of our dear friend, and then look to carry on a bit of her light as best we can…because knowing Shelley as we did, she’d be telling us ‘Ok, let’s go make something happen!’

So let’s indeed make something happen.

 

Visit this page to donate to OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute in Shelley’s name. 

Little Boxes: a Portland small business promotion built on community

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It was early November 2011. Portland jewelry makers Betsy Cross and Will Cervarich were only 3 months removed from opening their first Betsy & Iya brick and mortar retail location in the northwest part of the city, on 24th and Thurman.

It had been a hectic and exhausting 3 months for this couple, who before opening the store had built a thriving wholesale business in Portland making and distributing their handcrafted jewelry to more than 100 locations around the country, and not surprisingly, Cross ended up getting ill and got her first day off at home in a long, long time.

She decided to camp out on her couch and watch TV. That was a decision that changed Cross & Cervarich’s lives.

As Cross explains, “There were already commercials happening for promoting Thanksgiving and Black Friday. And instead of just spacing out like you normally do with commercials that you don’t care about, I got mad. I thought, ‘What is it with Black Friday that every year, it gets worse and worse?’ It’s like, ‘Completely kill yourself to buy the best presents ever at the cheapest prices by staying up all night or waking up at four in the morning…’ ”

The anger generated a big question.

10805674_732905163466667_3671726183326341710_n“I felt a real sense of empowerment to focus on the shops that had given us so much support and business throughout the years”, Cross added. “I’d been in Portland for a long time. How come there’s nothing existing already for these kinds of shops? Why isn’t there a focus? We’re not going to be able to put our shops 50% off, or 40% off. But we don’t have to. Why? Because we have great shops, with a different experience.”

That night, Cervarich came home to hear a new idea for a group retail event on Black Friday.

Cross recalled, “Will came home and I said, ‘What do you think?’ And sometimes in our business relationship, one of us will have an idea and the other one will say, ‘Oh, that’s not a good idea. No way we can pull that off.’ ”

This time, he says ‘That’s genius’, and gets on the computer and immediately comes up with the raffle part of it.”

They also immediately emailed a few of their friends in their retail network to test the idea. “People wrote us back that night” Cross noted, “and said, ‘That’s a great idea and I’m in. So tell us what we need to do’ “

The event also needed a name. Cross recalls, “We were obviously thinking about ‘big box’ stores. And what is different (with the smaller stores)? What is special about gift giving? Little, special boxes wrapped in a particular way. That’s something that smaller shops are really good at.”

So it would be called “Little Boxes”, and something transformative was born.

Betsy Cross & Will Cervarich and their Betsy & Iya Retail Store in PDX

A different way to shop Black Friday

Just a few weeks later, the pair pulled off the first Little Boxes, pulling together the retail network, promoting the event all over town and in the press, and distributing paper booklets that recorded raffle entries for cool prizes to all who visited the 100 stores on that Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

It was a huge success. Cross added “We had shops telling us that they previously had horrible days on Black Friday, because people didn’t think to shop there. They put their energy into the bigger stores.”

And it had the added benefit of being a community experience, something actually enjoyable on a typically hyperactive shopping day. Cervarich notes, “Our whole idea is that shopping, especially on these two days where you’ve just spent time with family being thankful, and celebrating a year with family, shouldn’t about rushing to the store and getting coffeed up, and killing yourself to shop.”

In 2012 they did Little Boxes again, with an even larger network of stores, nearly 200. They also added the ability to gain extra raffle entries by buying merchandise at the stores – the more the person shopped at Little Boxes stores, the more chances they had to win.

The raffle is the big draw. Notes Cross, “It creates a light, fun-filled, game aspect. And I think our main thing was always not just the importance of supporting local, which is an important movement and an important part of our economy, but that our main messaging would be that our shops are just something special, and something different than the alternative shopping experience on Black Friday, especially.”

12247954_912416902182158_2552210165008866107_oBy 2013 they topped 200 stores and added an iPhone app to make it easier for customers to find the stores and tally their raffle entries. Last year they tweaked the app with more features, and had even a few more stories participating, and now, in 2015, they are introducing an Android version of the app.

Through the years, Cervarich and Cross have made sure the messaging and tone of the event has was not about being negative about the big box experience on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. It’s meant to be an additive experience. Says Cervarich, “It’s always been important to us to stay positive. Our messaging never is negative on the big box stores.”

An act of leadership in an environment of trust

And, the couple has always made it clear that big profits were never, and still are not, the aim of Little Boxes. Cervarich notes, “It wasn’t about making money off of this idea. It was about doing something that we felt was going to be good for our shop, of course, but also going to be good for Portland shops. Especially shops that we had worked with (and continue to work with) for a number of years”

These two entrepreneurs were uniquely positioned to create this event because there are few other makers in Portland that have the kind of reach of the Betsy & Iya retail distribution network. And by being inspired, almost by divine providence, by a bad Black Friday TV commercial, they answered the call to pull that network (and many other retailers) together under a common banner, to generate a big local economic benefit that otherwise wouldn’t have existed without it.

It was an act of leadership, supported by a communal sense of trust. Says Cervarich, “There is an innate sense of trust (in the Little Boxes network), so when we came to a shop-owner, they weren’t being solicited by somebody who was only doing ads, or only doing something where it was taking money. We had worked with them, so we had a personal relationship, and we also were on their side.

1475786_732905446799972_2431213108730702047_n“And so I think that really helped our credibility. And people felt like, ‘Okay, well, these guys get it. It’s a promotion where it’s coming from the inside out.’ ”

The unique sense of collaboration and cooperation that distinguishes both Portland entrepreneurs and consumers also plays a huge role. Cervarich notes, “I give a lot of credit to Portland. If not in Portland, where else (could it have been successful)?

“Portland shoppers, they get it already. And so we just needed to give them a little push of a reason to go out on Black Friday. And that sense of community has been a huge reason why Little Boxes has become successful.”

And yes, Cross isn’t angry any longer. “It’s brought a ton of joy to our lives in the shop, and just the sheer excitement that we see on shoppers’ faces”, says Cross. “We’ve had a few people say, ‘I never even knew your shop existed and now I’m coming every year. I’m going to participate in Little Boxes every year’ “

Little Boxes 2015 will be November 27th & 28th, and you can find out more on their website, and on Twitter and Facebook, or you can just download one of their apps here. Built Oregon is happy to be a primary sponsor of this event. See you in the stores!

Why relationships should matter more than transactions – a chat with Charlie Brown of Context Partners

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The greatest innovations come from the density of ideas, and the people connecting around it” – Charlie Brown, Context Partners

When you first meet Charlie Brown, the founder of Context Partners, a NE Portland-based design firm, you’re instantly drawn in by his passion and perspective for building successful organizations through the power of relationships, derived from watching his entrepreneur parents as he grew up in West Virginia, and spending 15 years working with social entrepreneurs all over the planet.

As Brown explains, “I was raised by parents who were very active in our local community and they often dragged me along to meetings. Sitting quietly in the corner I saw how change actually occurs. The world doesn’t change because of one person’s idea or effort—it happens through individuals working together towards a shared goal.”

“While it certainly took a number of years to come to the conclusion that our myth of the hero was more often than not just that, a myth, it sparked an interest about what makes organizations a success and change happen. Through an early career with a dot com, then spending years with social entrepreneurs around the world I saw the most successful organizations harnessed the power of their communities, their social networks, to make their mark on the world.”

Brown has a clear vision of how to use what he calls “community-centered design” to help build powerful relationships, communities and human networks for his clients, and started Context Partners purposefully in Portland in 2010, because it was a place that best reflected that vision, particularly in its unique spirit of collaboration and cooperation.

How success is defined for a client depends on the organization. Brown notes, “Success might be noted by increases in brand loyalty, membership or employee retention or innovations being sourced from new channels. But at the core will always be the ability to track the engagement of the client’s community directly to achieving business results or social impact. At the end of the day it is all about the relationships that are the difference between success and failure for an organization.”

I first met Brown a couple of months ago with the idea of doing a longer written story about Context Partners, but after my first 10 minutes with him I knew there was only one way we could present the rest of his story, his ideas, and his perspective and do them justice – we needed to do a video.

So, Mitch and I made a follow up visit and captured this interview with Brown, to continue our talks on a range of topics related to social movements and entrepreneurship, as well as a conversation about the state (and future) of the Portland/Oregon entrepreneurial ecosystem.

You can also find Context Partners on their website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.