Fifty-five days on a cross-country bicycle trip gives a person a lot of time to think. Portland bike courier Dave Stoops thought about his paniers. The bags hanging on either side of his bike’s wheels did the job, he says, but he had a few ideas for improvements.

Back in Portland after that 2006 trip, Stoops found an old sewing machine in a free box. He recalled playing with his mother’s pin cushion as a toddler and sewing a pillow in middle school home economics and took the machine home. Soon, Stoops says, “I was messing around with the sewing machine pretty much every day for hours and hours.”

He made a backpack and used it for several months to commute thirty miles a day, by bike, to his job as a draughtsman for a Clackamas engineering firm. Then, Stoops says, “kind of all at once the thread started to fail on me. I had just used basic cotton thread. I didn’t really know better at that point.” He bought a heavier-duty machine, capable of sewing stronger, multi-strand thread. He moved production from his kitchen table into a spare room at a friend’s house and started calling his operation Black Star Bags.

Stoops’ creations caught on in the bike courier and racing communities in town, as he donated bags as prizes for events. “If you have someone who’s really fast,” he says, “and they’re wearing our gear, that’s gonna create some interest.” When the time came for his next summer trip, riding with seven friends down to San Francisco for the North American Cycle Courier Championships in 2007, he made the whole crew paniers. “I think the last day before the ride I sewed all the way through the night,” Stoops says. “I was definitely tired, those first couple of days, but it worked out.”

Back from San Francisco, Stoops focused on making more bags and moved into the back of an art gallery on Alberta. When the gallery moved, Stoops took over the space, renting parts to other makers on the cheap, out of appreciation for the help he’d gotten from friends as he started out.

Now, in a retail and production space on Hawthorne, Stoops employs three other sewers, a part-time material cutter, and a part-time office manager. Longtime associate Misia Pitkin, who makes biking caps as Double Darn, shares the space. Black Star is branching out from its durable, waterproof paniers, messenger bags, and backpacks to co-branded collaborations with other companies, including grocery totes for the Alberta Coop and accessories for the high-end Portland audio equipment firm ALO.

The Black Star team, Stoops says, has become a second family. “We hang out, we have potlucks,” he says. When there is a particularly thorny design problem, they all “stand in front of the bag and try to work it out together. I couldn’t do this without them. We just have a blast. It seems like it’s hardly work.”

Portland Made Branding

More and more consumers are valuing independently made, locally sourced goods. Let customers know you are Portland Made by branding your website and product packaging.

 

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GROWTH MEMBERSHIP

Designed for more established businesses who want their products seen and their story told, our Growth Membership offers the greatest online exposure, including products, related content, and links directing consumers back to your website. Showcase your products in our online Shop, include your photo in our Featured Maker Gallery, and add your logo to our Brand Gallery. Your Featured Bio tells your story, has a slider of your brand images, and highlights any related blog posts and products you may have on PortlandMade.com. Share your news, events, and product releases in our blog, newsletter and social media channels.

STARTUP MEMBERSHIP

Our Startup Membership includes a one on one session to check in about your business and get some free feedback to remove obstacles and/or develop your business. It includes your logo in our Brand Gallery, as well as your brand’s Bio Page, where others can see a brief overview of your business, and a link to your website, Etsy shop or Instagram account. Looking to show off your products or for added services? See our Growth Membership, and/or optional add-on services.

IDEA MEMBERSHIP

It all starts with an idea. This stage of membership is designed for those who have an inkling for what they want to do, but may be hazy on the details. Maybe you want to connect with other makers, or you need product photos or a business consultation to help get you to the next level.

Brand Bio

When visitors click on your logo in the Brand Gallery they are taken to your Brand Bio page. This page includes your logo, a product photo, brand story, and link back to your website or shop page.

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Maker Meetup

This monthly, one-of-a kind networking event is FREE for members; $15 for non-members. Crafted to be the most useful hour and half a maker can spend on their business each month, this event aims to: expose makers to new workshops, connect makers with each other, and learn from experts.

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For makers looking for greater exposure, your Featured Brand Bio includes your logo, a slider of images, your brand story, and link back to your website or online shop. As well, this featured page showcases products you have in Portland Made’s online Shop and any related Journal posts you may have on our site.

Visitors can navigate to your Featured Bio from the Brand Gallery and, for those with a professional photo included in Featured Makers, from this gallery as well.

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Inclusion in Featured Makers

Add your maker photo to our Featured Makers gallery. The most prominent page in the Discovery menu, this gallery highlights you as a Portland maker, shows your business name when hovering on your photo, and clicks through to your Featured Bio page where visitors can get an in depth look at your business and visit your personal website.

Portland Made membership perks

Complimentary Business Consultation

Meet for a one on one business consultation to assess the health of your business and identify areas for improvement. 

Jim Hassert, Portland

Preferred Creator Market Vendor

We’ve teamed up with WeWork to produce Creator Market, a semi-annual event hosted in their beautiful westside location. All Growth members can apply first (no application fee), and if you get accepted you vend for free as well.

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Show off your goods! This page is where consumers can see your goods in more detail. It includes a photo, description, and prominent link to your site where they can buy directly from you.

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