In late 2014, Kristin Luck’s career was at an inflection point.
The Oregon native and University of Oregon alumna had successfully sold her third marketing technology platform business. As she wound down her last venture, Decipher, Luck turned to a favorite exercise during times of transition: she wrote down a list of her passions.
“I made that list, and one of the things I realized was it wasn’t the starting of companies I really loved, but the scaling and growth,” Luck recalled. “I thought, if I could just work with other founders and executives all day long and help them scale their businesses, that’s what I’d be excited about.”
Luckily for Oregon businesses, Luck took a leap. And out of that writing exercise came ScaleHouse, a consulting business she launched in Bend to help companies’ scale up, turn around sluggish sales and marketing efforts and boost their value before an acquisition.
Luck had returned to Oregon more than a decade ago after starting her marketing career in L.A. Over the course of her time in both California and Oregon she had seen startup founders and executives eyeing profitable exits make decisions that weren’t always in their companies’ best interest.
“A challenge that founders and even private equity firms have on a day-to-day basis is that the people that are running companies tend to work in the business, instead of on the business,” Luck said. In other words, founders fail to see the full effects of their decisions on the value of their companies as they grow and, as a result, fail to position themselves correctly to be acquired by larger firms.
“A lot of times it’s super helpful to have an outside perspective, working with people who have done the work themselves,” she said.
ScaleHouse seeks to be that helpful voice. Luck has worked with dozens of early to mid-stage companies and private equity firms, acting in roles like strategic advisor, product launch consultant or as a sort of behind-the-scenes Chief Marketing or Revenue Officer, rebooting the sales and marketing efforts of companies that aren’t generating enough new business or are experiencing high levels of churn. One of her specialties is preparing growing firms to maximize their value one or two years before a larger company looks to acquire them.
Her clients include Oregon companies like Bend cannabis edibles firm Lunchbox Alchemy, kombucha maker Humm Kombucha, and Portland design studio Particle Design, as well as a diverse collection of out-of-state and international firms.
For Luck, working for clients like Humm Kombucha has highlighted the maturation of Oregon’s entrepreneurial landscape. Industries from food, beverage and consumer products to tech, as well as emerging industries like cannabis, have made the state a far more dynamic place to do business than when she moved back from L.A. 14 years ago.
“When I came to Bend, most of the startups there were pretty early-stage, and were just kind of getting their feet wet,” Luck said. “Now when you look at the startup ecosystem, not just in Bend but Eugene and Portland, I see an incredible number of companies on these fast-growth trajectories and in these transition periods where there are tremendous opportunities to help them scale quickly or achieve a really successful exit. The state as a whole has matured over time in terms of the startup community.”
As these companies have grown, so has Luck’s. Last year she brought on two partners, Boston consultant and business turnaround expert Jackie Rousseau-Anderson, and Michael Pazzani, who lives in Bend while working for the same New York investment bank as Luck, Oberon Securities. The team adds to Luck’s experience and widens ScaleHouse’s geographical footprint.
But growing the firm in her home state has been a particular source of pride for Luck, who has gone from accomplished entrepreneur to seasoned consultant, measuring her success by the achievements of the companies she has helped.
“It is nice to see this progression of firms that are able to get some tailwind and make some serious progress, which is super impressive,” Luck said. “And I’m always bullish. Oregon is an incredible state, and that community is one of many reasons I moved back. L.A. was a great place to jumpstart my career, but at the end of the day I’m an Oregonian. I want to be here contributing to the community in a meaningful way.”