Valerie Trask has a dilemma: every time she thinks she’s out, the startup world pulls her back in. Sansaire, Trasks’ recent venture, set a Kickstarter record of $823,003 in 2013 for its Sous Vide Machine, making it the number one most-funded food product. Next May, Sansaire will bring to market its follow up, the Delta. Trask, 33, feels it could be a difference-maker for her in an entrepreneurial life that took off five years ago at the UW Business Plan Competition.
At the time, Trask was pursuing an MBA at Seattle University. She had graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in communication and comparative history of ideas, knowing she was destined to be an entrepreneur. Getting there would be the challenge. After some “pitiful” brainstorming sessions, Trask launched a digital loyalty app, Punchkeeper, with two friends who had experience in development and design. They took Punchkeeper to the 2011 BPC, where Trask says she learned about how companies evolve.
“Sometimes when you start out, the problem is not what you initially thought,” she said. “So you whittle it down until you have something concise and beautiful that tells a story.”
The Punchkeeper experience allowed her to step into the “wild world of startups” and led to her role as co-founder of Sansaire, alongside Scott Heimendinger, Lukas Svec, and Widad Machmouchi. The company’s $199 sous vide cooking tool became the first affordable option for home use after its initial Kickstarter. Distribution grew to 70+ countries in 2014, and major retailers like Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma started calling.
This year, the company’s Kickstarter for the Delta reached its $100,000 goal in just 17 hours on August 29, finishing with a haul of $256,804. Early adopters jumped at the chance to have one for as little as $99 instead of the $199 it would cost at launch. In the meantime, Trask noticed the marketplace had changed. Instead of zero competitors, Sansaire suddenly had several.
The hours began to add up, along with the stress. So she stepped away from daily operations in October. She remains financially vested, but has turned her focus to a coaching and consulting agency for women she founded called Masters of Moxie. The impetus was simple. “In my first couple of years with Sansaire, I had no meetings of significance with women,” she said. “Potential investors and partners were all men.”
Trask used that knowledge and “started reaching out to other female founders and found they had similar stories.” Now, as she told the Seattle Times, she hopes to bring more women into a Seattle startup culture that ranks 14th nationwide for cities with the most female founders.
“I’m still an entrepreneur,” she said. “But for now my focus is on women entrepreneurs who want to be more fearless.”