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Articles - March 2012
Friday, March 02, 2012

Aim High Academy of Martial Arts

One of Daniel Sikkens’ 20 instructors at Aim High Academy of Martial Arts is also a stunt double for the filmed-in-Portland TV shows Grimm and Leverage. If ever that instructor gets a little too roughed up and needs a break, there’s always someone at Aim High who will gladly step up to fill the void.

“Everyone around here just works together all the time,” says Sikkens, executive director. “It’s like a family.”

A former Intel employee who founded Aim High in 2005, Sikkens has grown the academy into a large nonprofit teaching multiple martial arts disciplines to more than 500 students. He says the student-focused mentality and mission of the academy keeps all employees working together.

“There’s a lot of ego and pride in the martial arts industry,” says Sikkens. “We have some of that, but what really separates us is that we are 100% here for the students.”

Aim High makes a point to never turn a student away and to foster a welcoming, family atmosphere. Sikkens says that approach ends up bringing his employees that much closer together.

“We’re all very well bonded and work together as a family,” he says. “It’s the kind of approach that could work in anything. We could be selling donuts.”


In its first season, the comedy show Portlandia did a little send-up of Portland ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, following star Carrie Brownstein through an over-the-top labyrinth of W+K office parties, air guitar sessions and disc-golf flings.

Though the show may have exaggerated the agency’s notoriously cool vibe a little much, managing director Tom Blessington says kegs on the rooftop, morning yoga classes and nap rooms are indeed part of the picture for W+K’s nearly 600 Portland employees. But rather than just simple perks, such accents actually serve to stimulate the creativity W+K thrives on.

“I think they’re emblematic of the chemistry and culture here,” says Blessington. “Around here, we are obsessed about creativity, and those kind of things just add substance to all that we espouse.”

Because W+K isn’t publicly held, as many similar-sized agencies are, Blessington says employees here aren’t beholden to shareholders — and they enjoy that independence. He compares the W+K workplace to a Montessori classroom, and says that working for well-known clients and brands like Nike and Old Spice is an alluring part of the job.

“While we take our work seriously,” he says, “we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”



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