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The 'Shark Tank'-inspired competition gives winners mentorship and training, in addition to $25,000.

COURTESY: OREGON TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS CENTER - Winners of the annual Beaverton Startup Challenge received a total of $125,000 in cash convertible-note investment along with incubation services from the OTBC. Winners from left to right: Melanie Jenkinson, Howl at the Spoon; Rippy Kaur Singh, Khalsa Salsa; Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty; Jason Gorske, DIY; Todd Williams, CampsEZ; Casey Trujeque, Sport Source

Five businesses in Beaverton were awarded a combined total of $125,000 convertible note investments by the Oregon Technology Business Center as part of this year's annual Beaverton Startup Challenge.

OTBC is a Beaverton-sponsored startup incubator and is also the only incubator in Oregon dedicated to investing in and mentoring startups.

The "Shark Tank"-inspired competition is sponsored by the City of Beaverton in addition to 17 other individual investors. Winners receive a $25,000 cash convertible-note investment along with incubation services from the OTBC.

The five Beaverton/Portland-area winners this year were CampsEZ, DIY Bar, Howl at the Spoon, Khalsa Salsa and Sport Source. They were selected from a pool of 49 applicants.

Each startup demonstrated nimbleness during the pandemic and significant potential for growth, said OTBC executive director Jim McCreight.

"Investors are looking for startups that show that there is a validated market, and that people will pay for their product or service," he said.

The founders of the startups each will receive mentorship and training in addition to the $25,000 investment, McCreight said.

"We house them here in the incubator in Beaverton for a year and mentor them and help them grow and eventually find other spaces," he said. "We help them with not only their business plan, but securing additional funding to grow their companies."

The program's first 25 Startup Challenge companies — five per year from 2016 through 2020 — have gone on to secure more than $40 million in additional funding, according to OTBC officials.

About the winners

CampsEZ

CampsEZ is an online database meant to help families better navigate registering their kids for camps, activities and sports by eliminating the "search hassle" and "paperwork trouble."

Founder and chief executive officer Todd Williams said he got the idea after hearing some of colleagues complain about signing up their children for different programs and activities.

CampsEZ currently partners with 28 different camps across Oregon, Washington and California. Williams hopes to expand the search engine to even more camps in different states.

He said he hopes to use the $25,000 investment and training toward better software.

"Continuing to stay on the front edge of everything, as far as development and new database types of machine learning and AI is important to really stay competitive," Williams said.

Learn more by visiting www.campsez.com

DIY Bar

What happens when you combine a craft workshop with a bar? You get DIY Bar, which since the start of the pandemic has pivoted to also selling kits online to individuals and businesses for team-building.

Not just your typical drink menu, DIY offers a selection of craft projects like wallets, bracelets and various macrame novelties — alongside your choice of local craft beers and wines, of course.

But what enticed investors the most was DIY Bar's potential to cater to the "team-building" market.

"He's sold a number of products to corporations to then develop a team-building virtual event around putting his kits together," McCreight said. "Investors felt his application was potentially a really large market to go after, as well as the online sales, which wouldn't necessitate having more brick and mortar stores which are very expensive to maintain and rent."

Learn more by visiting www.diybar.co

Howl at the Spoon

Howl at the Spoon offers artisan sauces in small batches primarily meant for backpacking or travel.

Owner and founder Melanie Jenkinson notes on the company's website that she used to hoard condiment packs from take-away and delivery meals, saving money on groceries. She decided she wanted to create a healthier, environmentally friendly version of those single-serve sauce packets.

"The sauces are hand-crafted in small batches and are made with plant-based and organic ingredients," she wrote. "Whether you're heading out on a trail or simply can't escape your desk for lunch, these packs will empower you to save time in prepping your meals while having restaurant quality flavor."

Learn more by visiting www.howlatthespoon.com

Khalsa Salsa

Khalsa Salsa mixes Indian spices and ingredients with Mexican salsa to create a unique fusion of flavors.

COURTESY: SUKHDEV SINGH - Sukhdev Singh and Rippy Kaur were inspired to create Khalsa Salsa after immigrating to the United State from India and experiencing the rich culture and diversity of the Bay Area in California.

Married co-founders Sukhdev Singh and Rippy Kaur were inspired to create Khalsa Salsa after immigrating to the United States from India and experiencing the rich culture and diversity of the Bay Area in California, according to the company website.

"We began making fresh salsa at home and over time, started incorporating flavors inspired by the chutneys, spices and masalas of Northern Indian street food," they state on the company website. "As we built our life and raised our two daughters, our chatpata-inspired salsa became a hit with family, friends and coworkers. After two decades, we felt inspired to share our family tradition with the world."

Singh said in an interview that he hopes to use the money and resources from OTBC to better market the their product.

"We want to do customer outreach," he said. "Our product has been winning a lot of awards, but the problem is the consumer doesn't know about it."

McCreight said investors saw huge potential for catering to a wide range of consumers.

"They're attracting a really good amount of customers because they have a unique product that no one else is doing in terms of adding the Indian spices to a typical salsa," he said.

Learn more by visiting www.khalsasalsa.net

Sport Source

The Portland-based startup Sport Source recently launched an app that helps connect athletes to coaches, trainers, gyms and other places to train like basketball courts, volleyball courts, swimming pools, dance studios.

"We empower teams, athletes, dancers and any active individual to connect to spaces in their vicinity," the app description states. "Owners of active spaces can advertise their space with Sport Source to discover new clients and start earning money instantly from our simplified booking system."

The app is currently available for free at the Apple Store for iPhone only.

Learn more by visiting www.campsez.com


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