Portland’s appetite for food startups shows no signs of abating.
Here’s a look at three new entrants to the food and libations scene:
Jon Ewalt, 37, wasn’t always drawn to the humble bean. The Portland native and Princeton grad worked for a time for hedge funds, “where I learned a lot about systems and processes and saw how business logic could be codified into rule-based systems.”
A trip to Europe with his new wife, Danielle, was a game changer.
“We fell in love with local, sustainable food and small towns,” Ewalt says, “and convinced ourselves to make that combination our life.”
The couple purchased a cafe in a remote part of Wisconsin but in 2015 decided to move back to Oregon, percolating a new business idea.
“In my conversations with others in the industry, I knew there was a need for this type of software,” says Ewalt, who created the framework for RoasterTools while running the coffee shop in Wisconsin.
Launched in 2016, the software platform automates the weekly operations cycle for coffee wholesalers from order through production and delivery, saving roasters time and money, Ewalt says. He sells to customers throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe and is now focused on building out the team after spending the year as a self-funded enteprise.
“Coffee,” he says, “continues to grow at a rapid pace.”
Former bakery owner Christy Goldsby started Portland-based Honey Mama’s in 2012 from a booth at the Portland State University Farmers Market.
“I felt there was a niche waiting to be filled for a food that was naturally healing but as purely pleasurable and indulgent as a decadent cake or truffle,” Goldsby says.
She thought right. Honey Mama’s, a maker of raw, honey-sweetened cocoa treats, has grown to a $2 million company employing 28 and serving 600 stores — natural grocers like New Seasons, Whole Foods — in 30 states. The company relocated from a 3,000-square-foot manufacturing facility into a 12,000-square-foot building this past April, and aims to grow revenues to $8 million over the next few
Goldsby, 49, singles out the most rewarding aspects of entrepreneurship: gaining experience as “a positive and empowering leader,” as well as working with and meeting “inspired, dynamic and enlightened people every day.” The most challenging? “To assess and manage my skills in manufacturing, operations, sales — and to know when and how to ask for help and engage with others as mentors.”
Everyone loves ice cream—the fat, sugar and calories, not so much.
University of Oregon grads Chris Spencer, 26, and Gabrielle Sanders, 25, tapped into their inner frozen dessert lover — “ice cream was not only our nemesis; it was a nightly kryptonite,” Spencer says — to launch Upstar Nutrition, a healthy ice cream.
How healthy? Try 320 calories, 20 grams of sugar and 8 grams of fat per pint. Compare to the 1,000 calories, 100 grams of sugar and 64 grams of fat clogging the typical ice cream container.
Is there room for yet another ice cream purveyor? The team is optimistic. Upstar’s three flavors — Strawberry Sunrise, Mint to Be , and Vanilla Dream — will be available in New Seasons Market and Market of Choice starting in October. The startup also secured a partnership with Alpenrose Dairy, which will provide co-packing, distribution and warehousing. And five more flavors are on the docket for 2018. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., says Spencer.
A heart-friendly dessert can help make inroads into the problem.
“We have chosen to tackle this epidemic head on,” he says.