From Portland Pearl District to Bend



The Story of Choose Growth

It’s generally not news when westside Oregonians move to the Bend area. It’s been happening for years as people seek the many advantages of Central Oregon. But in the case of Isaac Tolpin and Chris Behnke, it is news.

Tolpin is CEO of a new digital media company called Choose Growth. His friend Behnke is COO. Together, the two Portlanders have formulated a business plan that helps maximize the potential of great minds to reach a hungry audience wanting to learn from them and willing to pay for it. They call their client partners “thought leaders” and they offer their intellectual content in digital form through e-Learning.

This hot new startup launched in Portland in 2012

and really started to get momentum in the Spring of 2013. In their creative space in Portland’s Pearl District, they have built a highly talented design team with a production studio, which has become an integral part of the company. Adding to their team in the Pearl, with expansion in mind, they have shifted headquarters to Central Oregon. This brings good news to Bend as Choose Growth plans on hiring 30-40 employees within the next year with various forms of digital media skills including content production, web design, video and marketing.

With office space on the bluff overlooking the Deschutes River on SW Bonnett Way and just down the street from the Deschutes Brewery, Choose Growth is well on its way to becoming entrenched in the Central Oregon business landscape.

So who are these thought leaders? According to CEO Tolpin, “They are brilliant minds. They are teachers, trainers, consultants, speakers and authors. They are genius people who are wired and have a passion to teach and help others.

“We also saw this tremendous growth in the e-Learning industry that’s really well done.” E-Learning is simply interactive, on-line training and education and will be a $115 billion dollar industry by next year.

“We’ve come up with this business model which is really exciting because it has widespread impact. It supports these brilliant people and we get into an industry that is on the cusp of exploding. It creates an even playing field for people around the world to learn – when they can learn using their (smart) devices and when they can learn online. We will be their digital media company and platform.”

Choose Growth COO Chris Behnke adds, “These people have unbelievable content or intellectual property. They have this knowledge that isvaluable and important. There’s a group of people who want that, and it’s difficult for them to connect sometimes. What thought leaders need is a way to leverage what they have to reach more customers, and we’re watching online learning explode.

“e-Learning has been around for 20 years, but it’s been legitimized in the last five years. Google, Harvard, MIT, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others are working together to produce on-line learning.”

In the early stages, on-line learning lacked credibility. Behnke stated, “It was like having a fake-cheesy doctorate degree. People had this weird view of it, but now it’s legitimized and the demand for it is there.”

Behnke says Choose Growth’s goal is to simply take the right thought leaders, develop and package what they have in their head – and for which there is demand- into an e-Learning platform of products that can be offered to consumers in digital form anywhere in the world. “We are pioneers in e-Learning. What are the different ways of communicating the messages of thought leaders? In person, a thought leader can communicate their message in a two-hour lecture. But how does that translate to your iPad while the basketball game is playing on the TV?” Choose Growth will use all forms of technology to leverage the message.

Other Choose Growth plans call for aggregating the content of many thought leaders for a rich, one-stop digital experience called “I Choose Growth.”The plan is to create on-going exposure for their partners which generates recurringshared revenue by amassing content their partners want to contribute into a subscription based platform. It will be a learning platform on many different topics from health to personal development to innovation and business leadership. By working together with their many partners, they feel they can produce a robust learning platform that will grow and sustain. According to Tolpin, a company could subscribe to it for all their employees as a company benefit.

We also talked with several new employees of Choose Growth who are excited about the company’s future and its vision. Emily Armstrong is a brand manager for the company and she says they are currently working to get the video studio up and going. Armstrong is the point person who maintains consistent contact with thought leaders as the company grows. “We’re producing new online courses and products for them. In the next month or two we’re ready to launch about ten new courses from all new partners, which are really exciting for us.”

Dave Felton is a veteran radio voice in Bend with expertise in all forms of digital media. “With the thought leaders we deal with and their need to monetize their brilliance or their genius, they can actually teach through e-Learning and distribute their product via e-commerce. This is really what our partners have needed for a longtime, and we look forward to helping them grow their brand and their business.

“This move to Bend has been perfect. The Bend lifestyle fits what Choose Growth is all about.”

Web specialist Skylar, who only introduced himself by his first name, talked about an e-book he’s producing for one of the company’s clients. “It’s been really fascinating while we are designing them. People who will buy this e-book will learn skills about how to better interact with other people.

“We get to know a client’s personality before we build their website so we can build it around who they are and what they are like.”

Media specialist Dave Nelson added, “It’s cool to see who they are and use that to help them with their digital needs with the longer focus on e-Learning and course development.”

So why are these two entrepreneurs moving their company headquarters from Portland’s trendy Pearl District to Bend? After all, there is a much larger pool of talent in the Portland area.

“It’s personal,” says CEO Tolpin. Like many of us who have moved from the valley to Central Oregon, it’s all about lifestyle. It’s beautiful. The sun shines. There are four seasons. It’s great.

“As we were meeting other business leaders in Bend, it was unbelievable. We got the energy and excitement about being welcome in Bend. Then we placed some ads to test the talent level in Bend. Who’s here and would actually want to work with us? It’s was pretty overwhelming the response we got. There are talented, educated people who have moved here on purpose because it’s such a great place to live.”

Behnke added, “The talent level and response in Bend was incredible.” Behnke moved to Bend about five weeks ago and Tolpin will soon make the move. Both are currently interviewing prospective employees. Both are bullish about Bend and happy to work and headquarter their business here, where sunshine is greater and rain is much less.

Tolpin says, “We’re excited about the future and we’re excited about Bend.”

A video summary can be viewed here:


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