It started with walking sticks. High-quality, handmade bamboo walking sticks for propelling hikers up mountains and through forests. Dan Sedlacek, founder of Uphill Designs, has spent most of his time trekking uphill – first as a hiker, now at the helm of a rapidly growing business.
Sedlacek, a 2014 graduate of the masters of material science and engineering program at the University of Washington, first experienced the Buerk Center while a competitor at the 2014 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC). He and his team brought a different idea to the table and walked away with no awards.
In the month-long gap between the EIC and the UW Business Plan Competition, the team decided to scrap their initial business venture and start anew with Dan’s own idea: crafting impeccably made walking sticks for long-distance hikers like himself.
Uphill Designs launched at the 2014 BPC. While they made it through the investment round and into the Sweet Sixteen, they walked away with nothing in hand but a start on their new venture.
Dedicated to the business, Sedlacek and his team members moved quickly. Rapidly progressing the business on their own, they applied to the Buerk Center’s Jones + Foster Accelerator, hoping their progression would be enough to get them into the highly competitive program. It was.
Now having gone through the Accelerator, Uphill Designs is much more than walking sticks. It’s also high-quality, handmade messenger bags and backpacks, made from an insider perspective (Sedlacek’s) about what you need to carry to summit mountains and trek through forests.
What’s next? Producing a round of Uphill Design’s newest products, then later, a craftsman’s studio where Dan and his team can focus on bringing their designs to life. With $20,458 of their $20,000 crowdfunding goal raised on Kickstarter, they’re on their way to getting there. And with their new designs starting up production soon, they’re still trekking uphill.