Do you know what’s been fun to watch? Bend’s outdoor product startup community gel and then just take off. No doubt that some fantastic companies including HydroFlask and RuffWear provided a solid foundation for this burgeoning cluster.

Then add in the intentional development of startups via the Bend Outdoor Worx accelerator, the creation of the Oregon Outdoor Alliance, the debut of the Venture Out Festival  and the collaborative energy between these growing companies and the more mature ones. It reads like a masters class in industry development. And that’s all happened with the last few years.

So it’s no surprise that Bend’s outdoor startups are garnering some attention, and the latest kudos comes from Forbes. Contributor Gretchen Fox, co-founder of Made To Order, a social media agency, discovered Bend’s outdoor startup community via her husband, who happens to be the founder of Ashland-based Fat Chance Bikes. That company is in the current class of BOW.

She writes:

To be totally honest, before my husband’s company Fat Chance Bikes was chosen for the 2016 Bend Outdoor Worx program (the only outdoor industry incubator in the country), the only thing I knew about Bend was that it was three hours north of my new town of Ashland and cold. A couple of visits later and my mind is blown; I’ll tell you why:

Bend is not just hot right now, it’s bubbling over. The cool coffee shops and craft breweries are full of young entrepreneurs talking feverishly about what’s happening in the town.

The story highlights several contributors to this development, including Gary Bracelin (BOW); Rob Little (Cairn) and more. In addition to the great work by Bend’s outdoor startup community, the thing that stood out to me is that the people quoted continue to highlight the friendliness, enthusiasm and collaborative nature of Bend.

Rob, from Cairn, in the story, says:

The supportive, collaborative, and friendly ethos of this community aligns with our company values.

Then Gretchen adds:

I would say that the Bend community is remarkably friendly and from everything I’ve seen, incredibly enthusiastic about the companies setting up shop in the growing outdoor market.

Small tangent: Lots of times in business, being friendly is underrated. But in the early days of entrepreneurship, the willingness of people to give — and not just take — of their time, guidance, advice, support, connections, shoot sometimes just a beer and a ‘yep, this is tough,’ is invaluable to the development of a startup community.

I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard from Bend entrepreneurs about the impact that someone else’s kindness has had on their business. Successful CEOs who have taken cold calls from founders looking for guidance. Entrepreneurs needing contacts overseas who reach out local companies, and get connected with exactly what they need. People constantly passing around resumes and keeping an eye out for opportunities for startups. Probably 50% of the coffee meetings happening at Stackhouse.

Simple friendliness is not just the glue that keeps the startup community together, it’s also the grease that helps Bend’s next generation of entrepreneurs and companies gain momentum. So on the day before Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the rising success of Bend’s outdoor and other startups and the friendliness this town has shown and continues to show everyday. It’s special and it’s something to celebrate and preserve.

Enjoy the holidays!


Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at or

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley