Women of Influence 2011

Woman Entrepreneur of the Year: Sattie Clark, Eleek Inc. by Melody Finnemore

As one of Portland’s most influential business leaders, Sattie Clark hopes to teach and help others realize that their companies can be environmentally sound, socially conscious and financially successful at the same time.

Clark is co-owner and director of marketing and sustainability for Eleek Inc., a North Portland design and manufacturing business. Among its line of products, Eleek makes low-energy lighting, sinks, hardware, tiles and finishes from recycled and locally sourced materials. Eleek also provides lighting restoration and retrofitting. Since founding the company in 2000 with her husband and partner, artist and designer Eric Kaster, Clark has worked to build not only a nationwide customer base for Eleek but also craft its reputation as a leader in sustainable business practices.

“We’re constantly re-evaluating and adjusting how we do business based upon our growing understanding of sustainability and our personal sense of what is the right thing to do,” Clark said. “Our business is very aligned with our personal ethics and our own interest in sustainability, so that is a continual challenge and a continually fulfilling effort.”

Clark admitted that while she initially wasn’t sure Eleek was going to be a good long-term fit for her, she quickly came to appreciate the challenge of marketing a young, innovative company. Over the years, the growth of sustainability has kept Clark engaged because she is constantly learning new things.

Josh Billeter, development director for Portland’s Bamboo Revolution, which designs and manufactures bamboo products and provides building services, said he has been impressed by Clark’s business acumen and commitment to sustainability since he learned about Eleek several years ago.

Clark and Billeter were among the co-founders of Voice for Oregon Innovation and Sustainability, or VOIS. Established in 2009, the nonprofit alliance supports sustainable businesses through policy advocacy, education, leadership cultivation, civic interaction and community building.

VOIS emerged after the city of Portland pulled its financial support for PDX Lounge, a concept for a permanent space to promote sustainable services, products and resources that was supported by nearly 50 local companies.

“Sattie was the one who kept a lot of those businesses together, connected with the board members and kept the energy going for what is now VOIS,” said Billeter, who serves as the nonprofit’s secretary. “She really believes in the vision of the organization and the power of bringing businesses of all sizes together to promote green policies that make companies even better.”

In addition to serving as president of VOIS’ board of directors, Clark became one of the founding advisers for Multnomah County’s new advisory Council on Sustainability & Innovation. The council’s members are charged with recommending how the county should implement the 2009 Climate Action Plan and improve its sustainable operations through progressive technologies and business practices.

As the council begins its work, Clark said she hopes it is able to move beyond simply evaluating and discussing sustainability policies and pursue collaborative solutions that are daring, driving the county toward new levels of innovation that provide opportunities for businesses and citizens alike.

In her own work for Eleek, Clark continually strives to build a portfolio of sustainable business practices that includes certification as a B corporation, which means Eleek must meet rigorous standards for social and environmental performance.

“I hope we’ve inspired the business community that your personal ethics can be the center of your business; your business can be a vehicle to change the world and you can still be very successful,” Clark said.

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