Recent alumni land media coverage for entrepreneurial efforts
January 08, 2014
As their businesses begin to boom, two teams that competed in Lewis & Clark’s inaugural venture competition are gaining media attention for their entrepreneurial efforts.
This month, venture competition winner Portland Mushroom Company will expand production fourfold by moving some of their growing operation from a rented basement to a specially outfitted, 40-foot-long shipping container. The team of recent alumni—Ryan Bubriski B.A. ’12, Will Fortini B.A. ’12, and Zac Tobias B.A. ’12—grow oyster mushrooms that command up to $10 a pound from shoppers at farmers markets and chefs at some of Portland’s fine dining establishments.
According to a news story on Oregon Public Broadcasting, inspiration initially struck on a College Outdoors mushroom-hunting trip to Tillamook County, which led Bubriski to concentrate his studies in fungi. All three founders graduated with bachelor’s degrees in biology.
While the team hasn’t decided exactly how to spend the $20,000 competition prize, they do know it will go toward “getting everything more efficient so we can do it on a bigger scale.”
Venture competition finalist House of Tayo will launch into the retail world this spring, after generating considerable online buzz and being featured at Africa Fashion Week London. Currently, the line includes colorful bow ties and bold infinity scarves made from African textiles and fabrics produced by Rwandan tailors and artisans in Kigali.
The idea for House of Tayo began with Matthew Rugamba B.A. ’13, who was born in the United Kingdom and spent time in Uganda, Kenya, and his mother’s native Rwanda. After arriving at Lewis & Clark, Rugamba wanted to change perceptions about his family’s homeland that had been shaped by the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s.
With the help of team members Wade Higgins B.A. ’13 and Anthony Ruiz B.A. ’13, Rugamba continued to develop his line. He notes that in 2012, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Vivienne Westwood debuted Africa-inspired designs.
“Some people complain that they’re bastardizing our culture, but I think this is the window African designers needed,” Rugamba told Portland Monthly. “While the world’s paying attention, put your best foot forward.”