(Photo | Courtesy of EDCO)
Held the fourth Thursday of every month, Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO) started the year off with a PubTalk event hosted by Worthy Brewing. These events are business oriented happy hours that focus on facilitating connections between different industries and professionals in Bend. These talks are a great opportunity to network, share new ideas and further the economic development of Bend and Central Oregon.
This PubTalk kicked off at 4:30pm, when guests arrived at the back bar area, near the Worthy Hopservatory and outdoor patio. Each PubTalk ticket came with a complimentary drink ticket, driving guests to the bar area. As the beer started flowing, so did the conversation. All across the room and outside, professionals of a huge variety of backgrounds and industries began to meet and connect one another with various opportunities.
Nicole Mcnew, the director of marketing and communications at EDCO, said that these events are important to the community because they provide connections between professionals that might not think to connect otherwise, while also helping to diversify the economy of Central Oregon. This is important to help strengthen the local economy against collapses by creating a diverse system of interconnected industries that all support each other.
As the Central Oregon economy continues to grow, there is concern over how locals are being included, or more specifically, excluded. Mcnew spoke about the importance of supporting local businesses and local entrepreneurs, stating that “it is so important to have this team that prioritizes local,” echoing EDCO’s goal in not just growing the Central Oregon economy, but to do so by supporting the creative and professional people who already call this place home.
This PubTalk had three main speakers scheduled, with smaller announcements throughout: Claude Ciocan and Matt New, co-founders of Uptech Studio; Crux Fermentation Project co-founder Paul Evers, and CEO/co-founder of Altitude Beverages Thomas Angel with an update on their nonprofit Cultivate Bend; and the keynote speakers of the night from Humm Kombucha, co-founder/culture angel Michelle Mitchell and co-founder Jamie Danek. The night was supported by a number of sponsors, including the EDCO MC sponsor, OSU Cascades.
Evers and Angel shared exciting news about the re-emergence and rebranding of Cultivate Bend, formerly known as the Central Oregon Food Cluster. A 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization, Cultivate Bend has the mission to create a vibrant ecosystem for the natural products or CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) sector throughout Central Oregon. The nonprofit will aim to meet the needs of CPG entrepreneurs, operators and leaders while also striving to represent the Central Oregon Community in terms of geographics, gender, race, ethnicity and culture.
Cultivate Bend is holding a launch event at The Haven Coworking on February 8 where guests can learn more about the mission of the nonprofit and how they will operate in the local community.
Ciocan and New, from Uptech Studio, then took the stage. Uptech Studio is a group of design, product and tech experts who partner with startups and rapid growth companies to build, launch and refine software products.
The duo took the stage to announce their newest venture, AppFit, an app that helps companies keep track of data metrics. Those metrics are then evaluated to assist the company in decision making and in defining future goals. AppFit simplifies the process by automatically pulling in data on a weekly basis, along with reminding teams to review the data and to discuss the metrics.
“We founded Uptech Studio with the goal of helping multiple startups build, launch and refine their products,” Ciocan said. “Over the years, we’ve noticed startups tend to struggle with data. From product analytics to marketing budgets, we help startups keep track of and analyze all of that confusing data.”
New added to this statement, saying that “the app is designed to pull data from a variety of sources so that it can be presented to your team on a weekly basis. What we’ve seen is that the best and most successful companies pay attention to these kinds of metrics”
The keynote speakers, sponsored by Barrett Business Services Inc., took the stage to talk about the history and founding of Humm Kombucha, making note of the ups and downs the company has faced and the marketing strategies they followed after their founding in 2009.
The two went on to tell the story of how Humm made it out of Mitchell’s kitchen, became the official kombucha of the NFL and made it onto the shelves of major supermarkets like Walmart, Target and more. Along the way, they discovered the hard way that not all growth is always good growth, and found themselves struggling to fulfill orders. Later on as things began to take off like a rocket, other kombucha competitors who learned from Humm’s early mistakes rose and kicked Humm off of the shelf in some areas, forcing the company to lay off some of their employees.
Both of the founders mentioned how much this hurt them, and how Danek couldn’t sleep properly for almost a year. This speaks to the community-nature of how Humm is run, and how deeply they feel a connection to the Bend community.
“We absolutely would not be here without a community backing us like Bend does.” Michelle said.
Businesses are often connected to the community through events like these PubTalks and more, hosted by EDCO. For more information on these events, sponsors, guest speakers and more, visit their website at EDCOinfo.com.