In the Umpqua Valley, young entrepreneurs are tapping into the power of the Internet to grow their businesses, in some cases beyond their wildest dreams.
Stories by Dick Baltus
Powered by Carrot
In just a few years, Trevor Mauch has used his marketing and real estate knowledge to build one of Oregon’s fastest-growing software companies.
No one ever accused Trevor Mauch of not having a vision. When his classmates at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls were scraping together enough money to buy Hamburger Helper or put gas in their cars, Mauch was buying real estate and starting businesses.
It wasn’t vision that was the issue, it was focus.
By the time the Klamath Falls native-turned-Roseburg-resident was in his mid-20s, his software company and other projects were pulling him in every direction but toward happiness.
“I was doing work that I was good at and making respectable money, but I was miserable,” Mauch says. “It was the worst feeling in the world to wake up to a job I created and not want to do it.”
During that period, one of Mauch’s good friends died, which painfully drove home the point that the young entrepreneur had been wasting his time chasing projects that weren’t meaningful or rewarding to him.
That’s when he sat down and wrote down five “non-negotiables” for any future endeavor. They were practical (“consistent financial growth”) and cultural (“have fun”), but if all five weren’t present in whatever Mauch was pursuing, it wasn’t worth pursuing.
Then Mauch set about divesting himself of every project that was consuming his time except his marketing consulting business. He turned his focus to building a software company that would help real estate investors rise above the online clutter, generate leads for properties and grow their businesses.
Google “selling a house fast” in the Roseburg area and the first two results lead to a website of local investors whose websites are powered by Carrot, the company Mauch founded in 2012.
“If you do that same search in virtually any decent-sized city in the U.S., you’ll find multiple Carrot clients dominating page one,” says Mauch. “We’re known for our performance and conversion rates.”
That reputation has fueled dramatic growth at Carrot. Mauch now employs 18 people full time in Roseburg and other U.S. cities and serves 3,500 members in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and other far-off destinations. Revenue has grown dramatically each year and will pass $6 million in 2018, according to Mauch’s pro forma.
That success was enough to land the 34-year-old on Portland Business Journal’s annual “40 Under 40” list of successful young Oregon entrepreneurs and executives.
While the vast majority of the other whiz kids on that list are from or near the Portland area, Mauch is perfectly content living in Roseburg and operating his business out of The Loft Entrepreneurial Space he founded downtown. He’s also the man behind the YES (Young Entrepreneurial Society) group, which gives local business people the opportunity to network monthly, hear dynamic speakers and share ideas for business success.
Mauch loves his adopted home and is an active participant in helping it grow, whether through YES, by mentoring other entrepreneurs or just continuing to build his own business.
He sees big things ahead for business in the Umpqua Valley, and now he has the razor-sharp focus to help bring them to life.
Evolution of the Ape
A year ago, Eric Andrews started selling clothing and lifestyle goods out of a unique retail space in downtown Roseburg. But it wasn’t until he ventured online that his business took off.
The name is memorable, but the shop is easy to miss in downtown Roseburg.
Distinguished Apes, a clothing brand and men’s retail shop, shares a subterranean space on Oak Avenue, half a block west of Jackson Street, with a graphic design studio and videographer. With no neon sign and no posters announcing HUGE SALE, it’s a subtle space for retail.
But owner Eric Andrews isn’t complaining. Walk-in business has been good enough to pay the rent and for now that’s good enough thanks to how successful Andrews has been moving his merchandise online.
While the San Diego native and jack-of-all-trades sells a variety of men’s “lifestyle goods” at Distinguished Apes, up to 90 percent of his revenue comes from online sales to buyers in England, Ireland, Australia, Iceland and all over the United States.
Take a quick stroll through Andrews’ shop and you’ll get a pretty good glimpse of what makes him tick.
There’s vintage clothing: “Growing up I always collected second-hand knickknacks and clothing,” he says. “When I moved up here I purged the knickknacks, but vintage is big in this area so I was able to start up again.”
There’s used vinyl: “In high school and college I had a show on a college radio station and managed a record shop. Eventually my love of music got me into DJ’ing.”
And there are T-shirts he designs himself: “I was always into art. I took a lot of design classes in high school, but I didn’t think of it as a career. I just thought it was a way to get out of math and science.”
In San Diego, Andrews produced events, developed his own design business (collaborating with artists like Shepard Fairey of Obey) and worked full time for a company that records large conferences. Andrews started out as a graphic designer, but later moved into the recording and logistics aspects of the company’s operations. After 14 years, he still works and travels for the company as needed.
Andrews’ ties to the Umpqua Valley date back to his youth when he would visit a former neighbor who moved to the area. Eventually his parents did as well. His visits increased following the death of his father, but he was still set on living in San Diego.
Then he married a woman with ties to Roseburg. In 2014, he and his then-wife left Southern California to be close to their family.
Andrews had started his Distinguished Apes brand the year before he moved. Once here, he got into jiu-jitsu, which inspired him to incorporate the sport into the brand’s urban lifestyle ethos.
His first break came when a company that sold boxes of products to jiu-jitsu enthusiasts (called subscription boxes) asked to feature his shirts – 400 of them.
Soon after, he landed a couple key influencers on Instagram when two mixed martial artists with large followings ordered shirts.
“Whenever they posted photos of themselves wearing their shirts, orders would pour in,” Andrews says.
This spring, Andrews will unveil a new website, where he will feature the local and national brands of apparel and accessories he stocks in his store along with new merchandise for his Distinguished Apes brand.
Despite his online success, Andrews is committed to making it work in town as well. “It’s more rewarding to see or hear about people wearing the brand locally than seeing photos online of people wearing them,” he says. “In this era of declining retail, and increasing corporate online stores, there’s a need for places where customers can try things on and have that in-store interaction.”
Hunt for a Black November
Late last October, Kody Kellom, Trent Fisher and the company they A, Born and Raised Outdoors, had one month’s operating expenses left in the bank. On Nov. 1, they hit “Play” on their YouTube series, and everything changed.
The video begins with a pre-dawn huddle and prayer interspersed with B-roll of hunters in camo stalking massive elk through forests. The prayer leader expresses his gratitude for being part of a project that will “change the lives of other people” and ends with a request to “keep us all safe.”
Thirty seconds later, Kody Kellom looks into the camera, says six words (“The coolest thing about this guys…”) and promptly falls on his fanny.
He coolly picks himself up off the forest floor and continues his sentence, barely missing a beat “…is this is general tag, public land…any one of you guys wants to do this, you can do it. This is what it’s all about. It’s about bow hunting, it’s about brotherhood, it’s about sharing our public lands.”
Thus begins Land of the Free, a YouTube series brought to life by Roseburg residents Kellom and Trent Fisher—with eye-popping results. The series documents the adventures of Kellom; his brother-in-law Fisher; Fisher’s brother, Treavor; and Steve Howard — bow hunting elk over 50 consecutive days in five states.
The series’ genesis was the founding of Born and Raised Outdoors (BRO) in 2007, which was intended, Kellom says, to “document bow hunting.” But soon BRO was taking a backseat to a second company Kellom started around the same time with another partner. When that company was sold last March, Kellom and Fisher turned back to BRO and started producing film content for DVDs and a TV show while planning for the Land of the Free series.
On Aug. 25, the five hunters and a film crew headed out into the woods of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. When the long hunt ended Oct. 10, Kellom and Fisher knew they had some great content, but BRO had little money and had no idea what to expect from the series once it was launched on YouTube.
“At the end of October, we had about a month’s worth of operating expenses,” says Kellom. “We didn’t know if we were going to have to go find different jobs or what.”
Kellom, who has lived in Roseburg since age 5, worked for North River Jet Boats for nine years after graduating from Oregon State University. He wanted to be his own boss, but if he had to work for someone else, he’d done it before and could do it again.
There would be no need for that. Land of the Free launched Nov. 1 last year and a new episode was added daily. Kellom watched in amazement as the viewing numbers took off.
“It got crazy,” he says. “When we were out there, we didn’t know if what we were filming was going to be watched by five people or 500 or 500,000.”
How about 5.5 million in just the last two months of 2017? The combined revenue from YouTube, brand deals, sponsorships and merchandise exceeded in just November and December what Kellom had projected for an entire year.
In 60 days, BRO shipped about 10,000 pieces of merchandise (shirts, hats, a custom elk call, etc.). You won’t find Kellom’s mugshot pinned up in the Roseburg Post Office, but he’s a marked man there just the same.
“Yesterday, I backed up a trailer full of merchandise to the loading dock for about the third time, and the guy looks at me and says, ‘You again?’,” Kellom says, laughing.
Outside the post office, Kellom and the BRO boys are even better known. They can’t walk through a sportsman’s show without getting stopped for autographs. To invite people to attend a podcast they scheduled in Kelso, Wash., all they did was post a YouTube announcement, and they sold out a 700-seat theater in 48 hours.
The BRO videos are still getting about 20,000 views every day. Fans send emails saying they binge-watch them.
Kellom finds it all a little surreal. Land of the Free’s goal was not to create celebrities out of the BRO friends, he says. It was to “break down the barriers that may be preventing someone from thinking they can do something like hunting. Our mantra is entertain, educate, inspire. That’s our why.”
Now it’s also their Wow.
Wizard of ‘Ahs’
He may be the best guitarist you’ve never heard, and if by chance you have heard Brian Auer you know we aren’t blowing smoke.
Auer made a name for himself locally with Lidless Eye and Freaks Unleashed, but except for the occasional gig he hasn’t spent much time on a stage lately.
Today, Auer’s teaching guitar, writing guitar instruction books and posting lessons on YouTube. What he is not doing is making much money off his online ventures, even though he has a large following, with one video approaching 1 million views.
Auer wrote a first-person account of his online experience that we posted on our website. Then we asked online guru Trevor Mauch to offer Auer some tips to help him monetize what he is mostly giving away.
You’ll find this bonus feature here.