Building a creative company

Small business owner and PSU alum Kayin Talton Davis transformed her creativity into a career.

When Portland native Kayin Talton Davis graduated from PSU’s mechanical engineering program, none of the jobs she was considering looked like they would satisfy her creative interests. So she hired herself.

Founded in 2001, Talton Davis’ creative company, Soapbox Theory, sells clothing and novelty items featuring her original artwork. Selling cards, tote bags, pillows, T-shirts, and much more, Soapbox Theory products are carried in boutiques both across the country and internationally..

The products featured at Soapbox Theory are colorful, bright, and feature positive images of black culture - from lunchboxes with smiling children of all shades saying “gifted” and “brilliant,” to superhero business cards.

Although owning a small business and working as professional artist may seem a world away from her training as a mechanical engineer, Talton Davis sees a connection between the skills she learned at PSU, and what she does everyday.

“Problem solving is what I like to do,” she says. “I went into engineering to be able to help people, and I do so daily.”

Since its founding nearly twenty years ago, Talton Davis has constantly grown and evolved Soapbox Theory in new directions. In 2017, she was the winner of Pitch Black, a pitch contest that gives black entrepreneurs a platform to connect with the region’s growing startup ecosystem. Soapbox Theory products have been featured by Essence magazine, Huffington Post, The Griot and Buzzfeed.

Standing among her colorful creations she looks proud, accomplished, and at home. "It is incredibly fun seeing kids react to my artwork," she says. "The moment they say, looks like me!' is when it is reaffirmed that I am doing the right thing."