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Originally published March 29, 2014 at 8:02 PM | Page modified March 30, 2014 at 9:06 AM

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Top runner drops Nike, goes with Seattle apparel firm

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher will help raise Oiselle’s profile in women’s running. Also, Porch.com adds info on homes’ remodeling history, and Bellevue’s top official makes connections in Japan.


Seattle Times business staff

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Long-distance runner and two-time Olympian Kara Goucher has left her longtime sponsor Nike to sign on with a small women’s running-apparel company in Seattle — leaving behind a big paycheck for a chance to make a bigger impact on women runners.

As Goucher trains for the next two years to run in the 2016 Olympics, she’ll be sporting gear from Seattle-based Oiselle.

Sally Bergesen, founder and CEO of the 7-year-old Oiselle (pronounced wa-zell), says she hadn’t ever dreamed of signing such a top-tier runner until Goucher approached her.

“I couldn’t outbid the other companies’ offers,” Bergesen said.

Goucher, 35, was the 10,000-meter bronze medalist at the 2007 World Championships and represented the U.S. at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Last year she placed sixth at the 2013 Boston marathon, with a time of 2:28:11.

Details of the sponsorship were not released, but the move is a pay cut for Goucher.

She said the personal rewards of helping to build a young company make the financial hit worth it.

“Oiselle is there to empower women and be there for women,” she said. “I just wanted to be a part of that company and a part of that brand.”

Goucher gets a stake in Oiselle as part of her contract, making her a long-term business partner, Bergesen said.

“In the short term, yes, it is giving up money, but I believe in the brand and I think it is going places,” Goucher said.

Oiselle sales have already more than doubled since Goucher’s deal was announced, Bergesen said.

She would not disclose the company’s current revenue, saying only she expects sales to reach $10 million in a couple years.

Signing elite pro athletes to the Oiselle team of women is not new for Bergesen.

She signed pro runner Lauren Fleshman last year, and her company has been reaping the benefits of Fleshman’s connection to the women’s running community — and her 25,000 Twitter followers — ever since.

Revenue grew 114 percent after signing Fleshman in January 2013.

With Goucher came 50,000 Twitter followers and an even larger following of runners — which means more brand recognition for Bergesen’s company.

“We are such a young brand ... there are so many people that haven’t heard of us,” Bergesen said.

“Kara has a bigger brand than we do, so the sponsorship will be a partnership where the athlete lifts the brand and the brand lifts the athlete.”

Goucher’s role includes helping design Oiselle’s running gear.

She has years of experience, but during her 12 years with Nike she wore what she was told.

“With most companies it starts with an idea and the product works its way down to the athletes, but with Sally it starts with the athletes,” she said. “Sally asks: ‘What color do you like? What cut do you like? How can we help you train better?’ ”

Because Oiselle does not make shoes, Goucher is still looking for a shoe sponsor.

— Coral Garnick: cgarnick@seattletimes.com

Porch.com tool offers remodel data

Listings of older houses for sale often tout upgraded kitchens and baths, new furnaces and other major improvements.

Now, with a new tool from Seattle-based Porch.com, buyers may be able to discover the cost of those remodeling jobs and use the data to better estimate a home’s value before making an offer. Sellers may look up competing homes and identify contractors whose work they like.

This past week Porch.com and home-listings site realtor.com launched the Porch Home Report, a snapshot of a home’s remodeling history, the costs of those remodeling projects and statistics on remodeling projects in the neighborhood.

Users perusing listings on realtor.com will be able to enter their email addresses to receive a link to Porch.com’s report on homes with available remodeling data. The report contains a home-improvement history, which the company says is compiled from public permit records and private sources.

Sales of existing homes outnumber newly built homes, but sellers often must remodel their home to fetch higher prices and compete. About half of the Seattle metro area’s housing stock was built before 1980; a quarter before 1960, according to census data.

Porch.com now has cataloged 98 million projects from 1.5 million home-improvement professionals nationwide, said CEO Matt Ehrlichman. The Seattle startup is trying to establish itself in a niche that’s drawn competitors like Palo Alto, Calif.-based Houzz and Seattle-based Zillow.

“We have this deep insight to know which professional has done what project and at what cost,” Ehrlichman said. “You can see whom your neighbors have used.”

Professionals and homeowners alike can upload their remodeling projects’ details to Porch.com.

The pros must certify they have the homeowner’s permission to share their work on a house.

In January, Porch.com announced home-improvement retailer Lowe’s would refer customers to Porch.com for professional help with projects.

Real-estate agents say the remodeling history could help buyers understand the costs involved when they buy a fixer-upper.

“It could be very useful to the consumer,” said Sam DeBord, managing broker at Coldwell Banker Danforth in Seattle. “In the end it’ll all depend on the quality of this data that’s available to Porch.com.”

— Sanjay Bhatt: sbhatt@seattletimes.com

Bellevue official gets to know Japan

Bellevue acting city manager Brad Miyake checked an item off his bucket list this month, making his first-ever trip to Japan.

Miyake, a third-generation Japanese American, traveled with a 10-member Japanese American Leadership Delegation to connect with Japanese business, government, academic and cultural leaders. He was also one of three delegates selected to present at a symposium where he pitched what Bellevue had to offer.

“There are many opportunities to track Japanese business over here to Bellevue as we become a more diverse and international city,” Miyake said. “Bellevue is a great place to live with low taxes and great schools.”

This year marked the 14th such delegation to Japan, and for more than a decade it had a delegate from the Pacific Northwest. Tomoko Dodo, senior consul for the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, said Miyake’s participation put the focus more specifically on Bellevue.

The connections are many, and growing. Nintendo may be the best known; the latest is the Rockefeller Group, owned by Mitsubishi Estate, which this month filed detailed plans for a 20-story office tower at Northeast 8th Street and 106th Avenue Northeast.

Bellevue and Yao, a city near Osaka on the main island of Japan, are one of 35 sister-city pairs linking Washington and Japan.

The 17 U.S. Consulate-General offices as well as community leaders around the country nominate Japanese Americans for the annual delegation, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Miyake, who grew up in Seattle, was the Bellevue deputy city manager for seven years before becoming the acting city manager last year.

After two days in Fukuoka, Miyake spent five in Tokyo, where he met government officials and had discussions with leaders across many fields. He also visited Japan’s National Diet, the country’s legislature, and met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Miyake’s time in the country was not limited to work, though. He said the “organized chaos” and cleanliness of the dense city of Tokyo surprised him as he explored. He visited the fish market, rode the bullet train and ate traditional Japanese ramen, his favorite, he said.

“This fulfilled a lifelong dream for me,” Miyake said.

He’s already scheduled a meeting at the consulate here to discuss ways to strengthen further the ties between Bellevue and Japan. He’s also hoping some of the businessmen he met during the trip will visit Bellevue to see for themselves the possibilities of collaboration.

— Coral Garnick: cgarnick@seattletimes.com



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