April 8, 2014 in Business

Startup Weekend a crash course in launching business

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Savorx Spice & Flavor Co. founders Heather Scholten and Pete Taylor are running a company that was formed after Taylor competed in an earlier Startup Weekend Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

Those attending this weekend’s Startup Weekend Spokane will get a crash course in figuring out how to start a business.

They’ll also hear that three area startups, so far, have been launched directly from earlier Startup Weekends in Spokane.

The three graduates of past events include Savorx, a spice retailer; Barters Closet, a social platform for trading apparel; and iCPooch, a hardware system letting dog owners stay in touch with their pet.

Two other Spokane startups have a Startup Weekend background, too, including Crowdswell, a social network to promote community projects; and BeardBrand, a retailer for the bearded. They were not pitched at the event, but took shape after team members decided to work together on the idea.

The top three winners get free office space for three months in a downtown building. The top finisher, chosen by judges, will be invited to present to the Spokane Angel Alliance.

The winner of the first local Startup Weekend, in April 2012, was Savorx, the spice-selling business developed by Pete Taylor.

Even after taking top prize, Taylor waited a year before quitting his job as chef at Cavanaugh’s Resort at Priest Lake.

By summer of 2013 he had taken on a business partner, Heather Scholten, who has been the creative force behind the food blog Farmgirl Gourmet.

Their work got an extra boost last year when Savorx raised $51,000 through a Kickstarter campaign.

Then two months ago they rebranded, changing the company name from Savorx to Spiceologist.com.

They have a two-prong strategy. They’re expanding the number of retail locations where people can buy their selections of spices and food rubs.

Starting in May they will launch sales of the Savorbox, a boxed set of spices and recipes that will be promoted by popular food bloggers. The plan is to create subscriptions for those products with customers looking for a regular supply of smart dishes and distinctive spices.

Taylor said Startup Weekend sharpened his business focus.

“I learned the lean-startup mentality. When you take that lean mentality and apply it, you are constantly evolving your business,” he said.

Also competing during the April 2012 first weekend was Connor Simpson, who took the idea he pitched — an online social-based bartering system — and launched Barters Closet last year.

The Barters Closet website and bartering system will have an official launch later this year.

Simpson, while only 22, has become a fully engaged CEO with an eye on the future. During last fall’s Startup Weekend, Simpson saw one team of students present a business idea for a startup called Dresser — an app that helps organize one’s wardrobe.

He liked it enough that he arranged for Barters Closet to buy the Dresser app.

The saga behind startup iCPooch is the steady inspiration of its founder, 14-year-old high school student Brooke Martin.

Martin, who was 12 when she pitched the Pooch idea at the second Startup Weekend in fall 2013, said she overcame the fear of failure and convinced others that the idea behind her company was solid.

With the help of her father, Chris Martin, they’ve raised Kickstarter money and the attention of notable business watchers, not to mention an interview this year on a Fox News business segment.

The iCPooch product is a web-connected kiosk that an owner can control via smartphone or tablet. The interaction can be simply verbal. It can also include the remote release of a dog biscuit from the base of the kiosk, controlled remotely.

The Martins showcased their product at the recent Global Pet Expo in Orlando. They expect to start selling the iCPooch device this year.


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