Stumptown Startups Blog

Portland couple steps into the Shark Tank with new sandals

Portland couple steps into the Shark Tank with new sandals »Play Video
Liz Bohannon shows her line of sandals to KATU's Stephen Mayer.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Most companies don't string up pictures of their employees for inspiration, but Sseko Designs isn't most companies.

It's the brainchild of Liz Bohannon who originally wanted to be a journalist.

"I really wanted to learn more and report on issues facing women and girls living in extreme poverty," Bohannon said.

So at age 22 she bought a one-way ticket to Uganda. Soon though, she found a new inspiration. She decided to devote herself to helping young women break the cycle of poverty by getting an education.

But university there isn't cheap and most women can't afford tuition. So Bohannon designed a new type of sandal, and challenged three local women to make them.

"I said okay, if you make sandals for the next nine months I promise you will go to university in the fall," Bohannon recalled.

Nine months later she flew back to the states and started selling the sandals out of her trunk with the help of her husband. They've come a long way since then.

The pair pitched their idea on ABC's Shark Tank, the episode runs Friday night.

Since that first college class of three women, Sseko Designs have helped put 57 others through school, inspiring a whole new generation of young women at the same time.

"They start imagining, ‘well shoot, if this girl could do it – she was from my village, now she's going on to college and now she’s pursuing these things – I can do that, I want to be a part of that.’ Getting to see that spark of possibility is one of my favorite parts of my job," Bohannon said.

Will the shark’s bite? Watch #LiveOnK2 @ 9 p.m.

Stumptown Startups: 'Power to the people' kind of investing

Stumptown Startups: 'Power to the people' kind of investing »Play Video
Nick Lambert's company, Machine Studios, was one of the first companies featured on Chroma Fund's website.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- They are just starting out. There're only two companies you can invest in so far, but Chroma Fund CEO Marcus Estes says thanks to the booming tech industry in Portland, that number could eventually be in the hundreds.

Share your lip balm, skip the germs

Share your lip balm, skip the germs »Play Video
Abby Schwalb (right) and her business partner Liz Moscow appear on ABC's Shark Tank.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- She is the latest local entrepreneur to step into the Shark Tank.

Local startup hopes sharks have a sweet tooth

Local startup hopes sharks have a sweet tooth »Play Video
Workers at Scratch & Grain assemble the company's "Cookie Kit."

TIGARD, Ore. -- Welcome to the worldwide headquarters of Scratch & Grain, the latest startup to get the attention of the sharks.

Taya Geiger and Leah Tutin will be featured on ABC's Tuesday night episode of Shark Tank. They are neighbors turned business partners. Leah came up with the idea of an easy-to-use baking kit back in 2012 after her kids wanted to make some cookies at home.

Startups find success with help from Oregon Story Board

Startups find success with help from Oregon Story Board »Play Video
Nick Lambert of Mountain Machine Studios takes the stage at the Hollywood Theater to talk about his startup success with Oregon Story Board.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- They sold out an entire room at the Hollywood Theater. Hundreds of people came to hear about the success of five startups that turned their dreams into reality, thanks to a lot of help from Oregon Story Board.

Nick Lambert of Mountain Machine Studios thought it would be easy to develop his idea into an app until he realized just how hard it was.

Startup promises jeans that fit perfectly

Startup promises jeans that fit perfectly »Play Video
Crystal Beasley runs her jeans business out of her Portland apartment.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Welcome to the worldwide headquarters of Qcut, well actually it's just Crystal Beasley's apartment.

Portland startup making 3D-printed prosthetic hands wins Pitchlandia

Portland startup making 3D-printed prosthetic hands wins Pitchlandia »Play Video
Jordan Nickerson (background) is making these prosthetic hands with a 3-D printer.

It’s dubbed Pitchlandia, but it’s more like a local version of Shark Tank than Portlandia. Portlanders pitch their best business ideas and the audience decides who walks away with cash.

Ultimately, we get to see the new startup companies emerging in Portland, and maybe use their products, while the startups get a little extra financial support.

Cancer survivor creates stylish, sun-protective clothing line

Cancer survivor creates stylish, sun-protective clothing line »Play Video
Summer Kramer created her own line of sun-protective clothing after she was diagnosed with skin cancer and discovered few clothing options.

When doctors diagnosed Summer Kramer with skin cancer in 2007, she knew she had to change how she protected herself from the sun.

“For me it was life-changing, I was a 26-year-old who thought I was immune to every type of ailment you could find,” Kramer said. “It’s terrifying.”

Portland's WebCease helps secure digital lives after death

Portland's WebCease helps secure digital lives after death »Play Video
A screen capture from the WebCease home page.

Have you ever thought about what happens to your Facebook account when you die? What about your iTunes and Amazon accounts? Even reward programs, like airline miles, are considered your digital assets that could ultimately be vulnerable to identity theft and leave your family members stressed and confused.

Research shows the average American has $55,000 in digital assets, so Portland startup WebCease is working to help grieving families sort it all out. Founder and CEO Glenn C. Williamson is officially launching the company this week but pursued the idea after his own mom died a couple years ago.