Love is in…Balmer Hall?

Several words come to mind when one thinks of Balmer Hall …dark, old, dreary, cold!

But romantic?

In fact, Balmer is where Dan Donohue (BA 2004) and Angela Pak (BA 2004, MBA 2009) met and fell in love.

Dan and Angela arrived at the University of Washington with similar goals.  They wanted to “make new friends, be involved in student activities, obtain some leadership roles and get a good job.”

Because of their passion for getting involved, it was no wonder they ended up in the same social circle.

Dan and Angela met when they were hired as peer advisers in the Undergraduate Programs Office at the Foster School in 2002. They also both held leadership positions in Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed professional business fraternity, and had many business classes together.  In fact, there was a two-year span where they saw each other almost daily.

After two years of getting to know each other, Dan stepped up his game. All it took was an invitation for a birthday drink and they have been inseparable ever since!

Angela, a marketing manager at Amazon, and Dan, a sales manager at Volvo Construction Equipment look back at their time in school with no regrets.  Not only did they meet and exceed all their initial goals but they managed to knock another biggie off the list too:  Dan and Angela are set to marry this summer, almost exactly six years after they graduated and started dating in 2004.

When asked if anything they learned at the Foster School has helped their relationship, Dan and Angela quickly responded with three key lessons:  Teamwork, communication and, of course, negotiations!

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 1

The UW Foster School of Business annual Multicultural Marketing and Business Development class is underway and that means local businesses owned by people of color and women will get hundreds of hours of free consulting from student teams, their advisors and mentors.

Through the Business and Economic Development Center’s Marketing 445 class, students are paired with professional consultants from Hitachi Consulting, Deloitte, Ernst & Young as well as senior executives through the Seattle Rotary Club to help minority business owners expand their businesses and improve their bottom lines.

In a series of videos on Foster Unplugged you can follow the five-member student team assigned to help Tempero do Brasil, a small restaurant at 5628 University Way Northeast, as the students experience the challenges and success of helping  this business with its accounting practices and market its unique hot sauce.

In this first installment, watch as Foster teams meet Tempero do Brasil owners for the first time on January 11. Check back to follow more of the student team’s efforts as the winter quarter class progresses (under Student Life blog category).

Turning green into $green: Market strategies for minority–owned businesses

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganQ:  What is green and white all over?
A:   It’s the green economy!

One of the primary purposes of this blog series is to introduce more color into the green economy. Just as the environmental movement has been comprised primarily of white middle-class people, so has the emergence of green businesses reflected that demographic.  While minority-owned businesses participate at about the same rate as white-owned firms do in the green economy, African American- and Latino-owned firms in the green economy are smaller in terms of revenue and number of employees than are Caucasian- and Asian/Pacific Islander-owned firms according to a 2008 survey by the UW Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). There are probably a lot of sociological reasons for this disparity, but the fact remains that there is a growing economic sector that is still untapped by many minority-owned businesses.

 There is no magic to becoming a successful green business, but here are four steps that can help minority businesses break into the green economy:

  • Develop your “elevator speech.”  Imagine that you only had time between the 10th floor and 1st floor to convince a venture capitalist to invest in your business. How would you describe your business model, its value and potential in three sentences or less? This is not an easy thing to do, but the discipline and creativity that you need to exercise in developing your elevator speech will help you hone your brand into a strong and memorable message.
  • Network with other green businesses. The enthusiasm and commitment of environmentally-oriented businesses and organizations is staggering. Organizations like Green Drinks have grown from low-key networking events into huge monthly celebrations of like-minded businesses. Over 400 people attended the Green Drinks event that PRR co-sponsored in October. Attendees included wind and solar power businesses, manufacturers of green office products, distributors of green office products—you get my point.  Even better, we were able to raise funds for our co-sponsoring non-profit, People for Puget Sound.
  • Get certified as a small business with the Small Business Administration as a DBE or MWBE with the State Office of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses or with the NW Minority Supplier Development Council. These programs will let you know about upcoming procurement opportunities, and can help provide technical assistance and low-income loans.
  • Join the BEDC’s Green Economy Initiative. We all get by with a little help from our friends. The mission of the Green Economy Initiative is to increase the number of minority-owned businesses that are generating profits from their involvement in the green economy.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Faculty podcasts: Brands that die and merger research

Two UW Foster School of Business faculty members gave lectures this week on research relevant to the financial crisis and our current economy: Brands that die and mergers & acquisitions. Missed the lectures? Listen to these 20-minute audio recordings.

Shailendra_JainMarketing Professor Shailendra Jain discusses groundbreaking research on consumer responses to brands that die—brand loyalty, weak vs. strong brands and PR backlash when brands are eliminated. Jain recommends managers should consider which are high or low priority brands, whether or not to add more brands, which brands to eliminate and how to do so effectively.

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Jarrad_HarfordFinance Professor Jarrad Harford gave an overview of 30 years of merger & acquisition research. Do buying or selling companies benefit from a merger? How successful are mergers & acquisitions over the long run? How much do CEOs vs. shareholders and investors gain or lose? Some results show that when mergers destroy stock value, CEOs still get wealthier.

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These lectures are part of Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, an opportunity for business leaders and faculty to share insights about current business topics and trends with other business leaders, alumni, students and the Foster School community.

Hopeful signs from small business growth

MichaelVerchotAs we all try to look ahead and see what the New Year has in store for this region’s economy there are some less visible but possibly more promising early signs of recovery. At the end of 2009 the UW Foster School Business and Economic Development Center celebrated the successes of small businesses from across the state at the 11th annual UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet. The 550+ attendees celebrated the incredible growth that minority-owned businesses have had in Washington.

  • When the awards program began in 1999 the 50 largest minority-owned businesses in Washington had combined revenues of under $1 billion.
  • This year, the 50 largest had combined revenues in excess of $3 billion. And for the first time there’s a minority-owned business, PetroCard Systems of Kent, which has revenues in excess of $1 billion.
  • As recently as five years ago, companies could get on the largest minority-owned business list with sales of as little as $750,000 and this year, the smallest of the 50 largest businesses had revenues in excess of $3.4 million.
  • The fastest growing minority-owned business this year (for the 5th time in 7 years) comes from the Spokane area. The Spokane Tribal Enterprise Corporation has grown its revenues by more than 760% in the last three years and has grown from just seven employees to nearly 50.
  • The 25 fastest-growing, minority-owned businesses in Washington have added more than 600 jobs in the last three years, despite the recession.

Prior to the 2009 awards banquet, we held our annual Minority CEO Summit. This invitation-only event drew 40 CEOs of million dollar plus companies and the strategies that these companies were employing to grow were impressive and proving to be very successful. Some companies were developing joint ventures with companies throughout the Pacific Rim. Others were acquiring competitors, and still other companies were developing business-to-business relationships with other minority-owned companies to grab market share and to do business with each other.

Also at the Summit, Foster School economics professor Alan Hess presented the Chicago Federal Reserve Index of economic activity which showed that the economic recovery is ahead of schedule when compared to an average of the six recessions between 1970 and 2001. This was a great encouragement to the CEOs at the Summit who are all anxious to make new investments as the economy turns around.

While these CEOs of some of Washington’s largest and fastest growing minority-owned businesses were not feeling like the good times were rolling yet, as they talked with each other at the CEO Summit and Minority Business of the Year Awards, they were optimistic about their opportunities in 2010 – something we can all celebrate.

By Michael Verchot, director of the UW Business and Economic Development Center

Uncovering real ppportunity at

Tom and Krista SeeryWhen Tom Seery graduated from the Foster School with his MBA in 2000, he went to Expedia, a Microsoft spin-out that was growing by leaps and bounds. The entrepreneurial Seery knew that he’d start his own company within a few years, but even he was surprised by the source of his inspiration—he launched in 2006 based on an observation made by his wife Krista. As she noted, it was far easier to use the web to research consumer opinion on hotels, electronics or restaurants than it was to get real insights into far more costly and potentially risky purchases of discretionary cosmetic procedures like laser skin treatments.

Since launching and receiving the backing by prominent Seattle and Bay Area angels, including Second Avenue Partners and Rich Barton (Zillow, Benchmark Capital), RealSelf has emerged into a category leader, helping millions of consumers get peer opinions and expert medical information on nearly 300 cosmetic procedures, everything from Botox to Invisalign braces to Mommy Makeovers.

Despite the down economy, 2009 was a particularly successful year for the RealSelf team. The community received over 50,000 answers posted by a national network of board certified medical specialists. These doctors “got social” by responding to consumer questions, uploading thousands of images and tweeting out their postings to followers. RealSelf also launched an industry-first “Worth It Index,” ranking cosmetic procedures according to actual patient input on whether a treatment was worth the results.

The company is looking forward to another year of growth , which Seery says will be driven in great part by “helping consumers find good doctors, and creating enhanced tools for consumers to navigate the always-popular before and after photo galleries.” [If you’ve had any cosmetic treatment, whether it be Lasik or Laser resurfacing or Latisse eyelash lengthening, RealSelf would love to hear about your experience!]

The power of three: LaunchPad teams are fearless

“This partnership with CIE is absolutely unique,” said Jim Roberts, the business development officer for UW TechTransfer’s LaunchPad. “We create teams of three:  an entrepreneurship MBA, a UW inventor and a TechTransfer manager. The job for the team is to assess potential applications for very early-stage technologies and develop strategies for taking them to market.  The results have been invaluable.”

The teams of three work very well. It all begins with the UW tech managers identifying research faculty/inventors who have developed technologies that could well move quickly into the marketplace. The descriptions of these projects are sent over to the CIE, which in turn advertises the 2-credit ENTRE 600 internship to second-year MBAs and other graduate students who have taken the entrepreneurship core courses. There are multiple deliverables for the internships, and CIE is very clear about the personality requirement: “fearless in conducting market research, talking with potential customers, making findings/recommendations presentations.”  Students must apply to specific technologies, relating their experience and interest in that specific project.  Not every project gets a student, not every student comes away with a project.

Once the pairings are complete, the real work gets underway. “What we’re seeing is that these teams have become very skilled at communicating the details and are developing trust in each other’s knowledge and experience,” said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, CIE director. “The results have been impressive—more  commercialization licenses and start-up companies. It’s a great practical experience.” The program launched in Fall 2008 with 14 teams and ramped up to 32 teams in Fall 2009.

Center funds $35,000 in clean-tech prototype development

A HydroSense sensor“We have funding available.” Those are four words that are bound to attract student attention. For the University of Washington’s Environmental Innovation Challenge, student teams define a clean-tech problem, design and develop a solution and produce both a prototype and a business summary that outlines the market opportunity. To aid in prototype development for the April 1 Challenge, the Center offered teams $35,000 in prototype funding. All they had to do for the free money was apply by December 11.  And apply they did.

Seventeen teams, with students from engineering, environmental sciences, business, computer science, arts and sciences and forest resources, submitted proposals requesting a total of $59,961. The review team examined each proposal for the credibility/novelty of the idea and its potential for impact. After that first cut, the reviewers looked at each team’s budget and whittled down the expenses. What did the team really need, what could they do without, buy on Craig’s List or find in a UW lab with faculty support? In the end, 14 teams received emails from CIE Director Connie Bourassa-Shaw, awarding them between $450 and $5,400.

The ideas for the 2010 UW EIC include automotive adaptations to save energy, new forms of solar products, thermal heating and cooling systems, products for households wanting to conserve electricity, energy solutions from biomass and wireless alternatives for energy distribution. Students have from early January to April 1 to use the funds and must provide receipts of their expenses. By accepting the prototype funding, teams agree to compete in the Challenge. The prototype dollars were provided by the UW College of Engineering and the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).

Symposium explores new research in technology entrepreneurship

Now in its seventh year, the West Coast Research Symposium and Doctoral Consortium in Technology Entrepreneurship draws faculty and doctoral students from around the globe to present their early-stage research to an audience of their peers. This year’s event, held September 10-12 at the University of Washington, saw a record 91 applications from doctoral students applying for 24 workshop spots. The 67 faculty and student attendees came from the United States, Europe, and Asia.

The first day of the conference is devoted to a workshop for doctoral students on developing a research agenda in technology entrepreneurship and completing and publishing a top-notch dissertation. The faculty are onstage during the next two days, presenting 23 papers. This year presentations were divided into seven sessions: knowledge creation and transfer; corporate venturing and innovation; optimism, risk, and intellectual property, selecting venturing partners; social ties and dynamic capabilities, technology—geography, topography, and legacy; and industry creation.

“The West Coast Research Symposium is an excellent conference for PhD students for so many reasons,” said David Gomulya, a fourth-year doctoral student from the UW. “The opportunity to meet leading scholars and fellow students in an intimate setting is second to none. Most importantly, the relaxed and collegial atmosphere of the conference is what makes it truly a conference to go to. As a student, you’re not afraid to ask questions, and you’ll get excellent and specific feedback.”

UW Professor Suresh Kotha, one of the co-founders of the conference, seconded that sentiment. “Feedback from your peers helps crystallize the research question you’re asking,” he said. “And the questions from the audience are insightful and constructive. Generally about a third of papers presented at this conference will be published in top-tier journals.”

The Conference partners include the center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (University of Washington), the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (USC), the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (Stanford), the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship (University of Oregon), and the Don Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (UC Irvine). The Kauffman Foundation provides additional financial support.

The Call for Papers for the 2010 WCRS will be in February 2010.

Past recipients renew a deep connection at Scholarship Breakfast

Always an occasion for inspirational stories and life-changing personal connections, the Foster School’s annual Scholarship Breakfast was the venue for an especially meaningful connection this year.

For Barbara and Walter Tomashoff, it was “exciting and thrilling, truly,” to discover that Angelo Ongpin (BA 2003), a past recipient of the scholarship named in memory of their twin son Conrad, had joined them at their table. The Conrad Tomashoff Endowed Accounting Scholarship was established to support an undergraduate accounting major and a twin when possible. Angelo and his twin brother, Victor (BA 2004), had received the scholarship in 2002.

“As we learned about what he has been doing and what he is doing and his plans for the future,” she said, “it was just wonderful. And the idea that he credits our scholarship in any way for his success was simply wonderful.”

Bringing scholarship recipients together with the families, individuals and companies dedicated to helping Foster students afford their education makes the breakfast one of the school’s premier events. This year, attendees celebrated the powerful impact of 273 Foster students receiving scholarships totaling $1.4 million.

For the Tomashoffs, the scholarship named for Conrad (BA 1986) is a constant reminder of the great impact their son was having on the world before he tragically died in 1994, just three weeks shy of his 30th birthday. Conrad, active in several non-profit organizations in addition to pursuing a successful career, had made the University of Washington the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. With counsel from Conrad’s twin brother Curtis, the Tomashoffs established the scholarship the year Conrad died.

“It’s a great feeling and comfort to know that we have been able to accomplish what we think our son Conrad had in mind,” Barbara said when reflecting on the many years Conrad’s scholarship has been improving the lives of Foster students.