The picture is of an empty and very long table on South bank in Melbourne. The organizers wanted to send the message that a lot of folks would go without a holiday meal if folks didn’t donate to help out. What a powerful symbol…empty table with lots and lots of seats needing to be filled.
The 2012 University of Washington Minority Business Awards honored ten top performing minority-owned ventures in the state of Washington.
The December 6 event, co-hosted by the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) at the UW Foster School of Business and the Puget Sound Business Journal, also unveiled an expanded partnership between BEDC and JPMorgan Chase, and welcomed back an old friend,
That would be Ali Tarhouni, the popular senior lecturer who famously left his post at Foster in early 2011 to serve as finance minister for the Libyan revolutionary government. Tarhouni, who has initially declined a run for the newly democratic nation’s prime minister, expressed his pride in the growth of this unique Center that he helped found in the early 1990s.
“The Foster School of Business has heart,” he said. “We teach our students how to create wealth, and that’s our primary responsibility. But I’m also proud to be associated with a school that subscribes to do the right thing—even though it doesn’t usually have an immediate reward… Doing what is right and creating wealth aren’t mutually exclusive.”
The long-term impact of BEDC in promoting a robust economic diversity across the state was evident in the range of 2012 awardees.
The William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year is Redapt, the Redmond-based provider of innovative data center infrastructure solutions.
Regional winners include:
King County Award – Jabez Construction/ST Fabrication and Radarworks
Northeast Washington Award – Spoko Fuel West Plains
Southeast Washington Award – RJS Construction
Northeast Washington Award – Gliding Eagle Marketplace
Southwest Washington Award – Sunmodo Corporation
Rising Star Award – C2S Technologies
Zones, the Auburn-based enterprise IT firm, received special commendation for reaching $1 billion in annual revenues. Accepting the award was Firoz Lalji, CEO and chairman of Zones, who noted that his company has become successful by serving businesses nationwide with expertise in all areas of IT, including systems and storage, networking and security, software, virtualization, procurement, logistics, any and everything tech.
Michael Verchot, founding director of BEDC, announced a transformational $600,000 gift from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the largest in the center’s 17-year history. Verchot said that the gift will allow the center to engage more students in consulting to small businesses in Seattle’s low- and moderate-income communities and to grow its faculty-led small business classes throughout the state. And, perhaps most significantly, the investment also will enable the center to build a regional and national network of business schools that follow the BEDC model to spark economic development in their own communities.
This newest investment brings Chase’s total support of BEDC over the years to more than $900,000. “At JPMorgan Chase, we believe in strengthening small business and creating jobs. And we believe that is critical to the progress of our country,” said Curt Fraser, Chase’s CEO of middle market banking for the Pacific Northwest. “We’re thrilled to partner with the UW Business and Economic Development Center in working to do just that.”
Recently, I traveled to Melbourne Australia for a series of lectures and short workshops on examining the total leadership system in organizations. By total leadership system, we mean examining leadership at all levels, looking down, peer to peer sideways, and where folks are leading up measuring a broad range of leadership styles (e.g., transformational, authentic, authoritarian, ethical, etc.) within and between levels and units in organizations. By examining the total leadership system, we hope to assess all of the key leadership elements that positively contribute to organizational change and transformation.
I found that before leaving the U.S., everyone who I told about the trip smiled and said something like, ‘that’s going to be a lot of fun’ or ‘what a great place to go.’ I told my Australian colleagues that we have serious Australian envy in my country. And when I said that, I didn’t realize that on this trip to Australia that my envy would only deepen as I learned that the Australians just have the best expressions.
Being in Australia also reminded me that one could be lured into a state of lacking self-awareness about cultural differences because Australians speak English and have a lot of common interests and history in line with those of us from the U.S. When I am in other cultures where the language is different, I am more keenly aware of observing and listening to make sure I understand the cultural nuances. In Australia one can get away with that for a while, until you realize that ‘conservative’ means ‘liberal’ in Australia and vice versa.
In one of the last workshops I was doing in Australia, someone said something that got me reflecting and I must admit I laughed out loud. At one point in the workshop, one of the participants said, “That guy just spit the dummy!” You can let those comments go by, and there were several such expressions, but I decided to stop on this one and ask, “What could spitting the dummy possibly be?” I learned that a dummy is what we would call a baby’s pacifier, and when you spit the dummy, all hell breaks loose. Throughout the remainder of the day, I tried to find every possible instance to use the term, spitting the dummy, or even better, you are a dummy spitter.
So, just when you think the folks you are with are familiar, they spit the dummy and all hell breaks loose!
Ray Risco is the President of Weyerhaeuser Solutions, a division of Weyerhaeuser that offers consulting and management services designed to help clients develop, manage and commercialize forest assets. He is a member of the GBC’s Global Business Advisory Board.
Tell us about Weyerhaeuser Solutions. What was it like to create a new business division for a company? Weyerhaeuser Solutions is designed to take our management, business and some IP systems and engage them with third parties outside of the traditional forest products space as part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development 2050 initiative. I worked with Bob Ewing, a colleague, in developing a business that manages natural resources and assists companies in transitioning to renewable energy supplies, such as electrical utility companies that are looking to co-fire biomass with coal as a green alternative in the UK, and specialty chemical companies looking for organic feedstock instead of traditional sources.
Creating a service division that provides consulting as well as operational management in a traditional products company presented some significant challenges. However, the timing of the idea linked to the 2050 initiative and the support of senior management along with the Board of Directors was a significant plus in successfully launching the business. From inception to official launch took 2.5 years. That may seem like a long period of time, but considering the radically different business model it was a remarkably quick process.
In your career, you’ve worked in accounting, finance, operational and divisional leadership, and new product/business development. Which was the most challenging, and which the most rewarding? Every role I have had has had its challenges and rewards from a personal and career perspective but one challenge in particular had the largest personal impact. In 2005 I took over the leadership of our Uruguayan operations and had the chance to transform a plantation project into a full blown operating company. My challenge was to set up the productive chain and to find the right people to staff all of the new departments we had just created and set them up for success. Although this was a significant personal challenge and rewarding for the whole team, the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride has come from seeing the immensely positive impact this project has had in the communities in which we operate.
What countries have you lived and worked in? I am originally from Peru and I have lived in 6 different countries since my childhood including living and working in the US, Germany, and Uruguay. Over my career, I have had direct responsibility for over 22 countries covering Asia, Europe and South America.
What would you tell students about the world of global business? The world may be getting flat but that doesn’t mean it’s the same – culture, history and tradition matter as one thinks of doing business at home or abroad. At the end of the day you are still dealing with people so respect matters. Be confident in what you know and never be afraid to admit what you don’t. More often than not you will get the help you need.
A few weeks ago, I was a part of an audience at the University of Washington that had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Gunnar Oom, the Swedish Secretary of trade, who discussed Sweden and the Euro Crisis. His role as the state secretary of trade is to promote Swedish exports.
Mr. Oom started by briefly addressing some Sweden’s economic advantages and disadvantages. He stated that more than half of Sweden’s GPD originates from its exports and about 70% of its exports go to the European Union (EU). In the future, he said, he would like to see more of Sweden’s exports go to developing markets. Mr. Oom mentioned that Sweden’s economy has suffered because of the housing market and other challenges, but was optimistic about the growth of the economy and stressed the importance of avoiding uncertainty in pushing the Swedish export industry forward.
Mr. Oom briefly addressed some of the solutions he would consider for Sweden’s economy. He suggested increasing investment in infrastructure as a way to build efficient and effective transportation networks, including new railroads. Sweden is consistently ranked in the top 3 most innovative nations based on the quality of its institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure and market business sophistication, and the results of innovations like patents and software, and Mr. Oom is committed to making sure that Sweden rises even farther to the top.
During the last half of his presentation, Mr. Oom addressed the current Euro crisis. He stated that without better policies, the worst could be yet to come, and recommended that the EU’s main focus should now be on evenly distributing the wealth of health care and social services. He concluded his presentation by saying, “More implementation, less talk. Instead of discussing what were going to do, we must take action now and do it.”
The student organization, Undergraduate Women in Business (UWiB), recently established an endowed scholarship–a monumental achievement. UWiB is the first student organization to establish an endowed fund and they raised $32,000 in a little over 2 years. Additionally, this initiative was completely student driven and a team effort.
Foster undergrads Amber Waisanen and Raychael Jensen started UWiB in 2005. They were inspired by a similar organization at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Their core mission in starting UWiB was to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders. They are very pleased with how the organization has grown and evolved over the past eight years.
“UWiB was founded on the premise of serving others and giving back, with an underlying mission to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders.
As founders, we feel extremely proud of how far UWiB has come. We are strong supporters of this fund and look forward to securing a long-term future for the organization.
For UWiB to reach an endowment status is truly a dream come true, as it was part of our list of things we hoped to accomplish one day. To see that goal come to fruition is a very rewarding and exciting opportunity for us, our members, the Foster Business School and the community at large.”
- Amber Waisanen & Raychael Jensen, Co-Founders of UWiB
The recipient of scholarship for the 2012/2013 academic year is Amanda Hamilton. She is junior at the Foster School pursuing marketing and a certificate in international business. According to Amanda, “The scholarship will help me further my international interests as I study abroad in Spain.” Last year Amanda served on the executive committee for UWiB as the fundraiser associate.
Guest post from Michael Verchot, Director of the Business and Economic Development Center at the University of Washington Foster School of Business
On December 6 we’ll formally announce a $600,000 gift from JPMorgan Chase Foundation that will mark a turning point in the life of the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). This gift will enable us to fully meet our goals of making a substantial impact on growing jobs where they are needed most by engaging students in learning that matters to them and to businesses. Fundamentally, this gift will enable us to do three things:
Increase the number of students engaged in hands-on work with small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities in the Seattle area.
Grow our faculty-led small business classes offered in Seattle, Everett, Yakima, Tri-Cities, and Spokane to reach up to 200 small businesses each year.
Build a NW regional and national network of business schools that enhance their student learning by helping small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities to create jobs.
We already know that more than 94% of students who participate in BEDC programs say the experience improves their job performance after graduation and 80% of small business participants report positive financial and performance gains following their work with us. We now have the opportunity to serve more students and business owners.
This is the largest gift the BEDC has received in its 17-year history and brings Chase’s total giving to the BEDC to more than $900,000. As we’ve worked with Chase over the last year in shaping our vision for the use of these funds, they’ve also challenged us to think beyond their gift to what’s next. Chase’s gift will be spent over the next three years which will bring us to our 20th anniversary. It’s time to set our sights on the future. Our overarching goals these next three years will be to:
Leverage Chase’s support to secure between $1 million and $10 million in endowment support to sustain the growth in programs made possible by Chase’s gift.
Double the number of students who are working with small businesses.
Create a self-sustaining series of classes for entrepreneurs and business owners at all levels of business growth.
All of us at the BEDC, students, faculty, staff, and business volunteers, are deeply grateful to Chase for this investment and we look forward to an exciting couple of years ahead of us.
Kyle Polanski eats dog food. So do his employees. In fact, he says, “It’s rare that we have a staff meeting and don’t taste some of the product.” A little strange, perhaps, but if you’re picturing them spooning up mouthfuls of that smelly canned stuff, you’ve got the wrong idea.
Polanski, MBA 2008, is the CEO of Blue Dog Bakery, a dog treat company headquartered in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. The bakery produces all-natural dog snacks made with the same kinds of ingredients you might find in your favorite cookie (minus the sugar and salt), and sells to retailers across the country.
Blue Dog Bakery was started in 1998 by Margot Kenly, who directed her passion for healthy, natural foods toward making natural dog treats with pure ingredients like whole wheat flour, molasses, oats, and peanut butter. Initially sold at Costco, the treats were a hit, and the bakery soon began receiving calls from other retailers like QFC, asking when they could get Blue Dog Bakery products on their shelves. By 2008 the company was distributing biscuits to Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Petsmart outlets throughout the Northwest and the Northeast.
At about this time, Polanski, an MBA student at the UW Foster School, established Halibut Flat Partners, a search fund backed by 12 investors who had agreed to finance his acquisition of a promising local company. His plan, once he found a company to purchase, was to use his business savvy to make it grow.
During his search, Polanski met Kenly, and spent several months doing a deep dive into Blue Dog Bakery. “There was clearly potential for expanding the company, evolving the brand, and scaling distribution to a national level,” he said. Polanski acquired Blue Dog Bakery in 2009 and the rush was on.
Since then, the bakery has grown its geographic and retail footprints (its products are now in 12,000 stores across the country) and increased sales (30% since the beginning of 2012 alone). The brand has become popular in stores like QFC and Safeway, and gained attention from the media, appearing in the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report. Blue Dog even won the 2010 Supermarket News Category Excellence award.
Polanski and his now 7 employees have expanded their product line to include items like Doggie Cremes and Bakery Bones, and redesigned their packaging. The company also started Pet Treat Pantry, a program that donates boxes of dog treats to animal shelters in five regions across the country.
As he looks ahead, Polanski is focused on competing in the national market, vying with billion-dollar brands for the attention of pet-owners and their pups. He believes Blue Dog’s all-natural products can go head-to-head with anything the competition throws their way. “People want healthy, natural, and affordable for their pets,” he said. “That’s Blue Dog.”
Entrepreneurs count on angel investors to provide seed-stage start-up funding, but very few entrepreneurship students ever get to set foot in an angel group as a member.
Enter CIE’s new MBA course: Angel Investing. Taught by Rob Wiltbank, the Foster School’s Neal Dempsey Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship and associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Willamette University, Angel Investing is a year-long course in which second-year MBAs learn about investing by participating as members in Seattle angel groups and making actual investments.
Wiltbank launched the course at Willamette University three years ago, and the class was recently included in Inc. Magazine’s list of the top 10 entrepreneurship courses in the country. But Wiltbank has long-standing ties to the University of Washington and Seattle. He earned his PhD in strategic management from the UW Foster School in 2005 and is a partner at Montlake Capital.
The class is clearly a departure from other MBA courses. “One of the good things about being in school is that you learn how things should be done. One of the bad things is that you don’t get to do them,” says Mark Partridge, a second-year MBA in the class. “It’s rare that you get actual experience doing something as extraordinary as angel investing.”
“It’s a great integration program,” says Wiltbank, who has students in Seattle’s Alliance of Angels, Puget Sound Venture Club, Northwest Energy Angels, Seraph, WINGS, and Keiretsu Forum. “Students watch and evaluate pitches, identify potential investment opportunities, and perform extensive due diligence.” Ultimately, the class will make two or three $25,000 to $50,000 investments in promising start-ups.
Sound exciting? Definitely! Sound easy? Definitely not. “There’s a vertical learning curve,” admits Wiltbank. “Much of the content is unfamiliar, and students who excel in this course must be true entrepreneurs—self-motivated, with a willingness to put themselves out there.”
Students spend the year with a group of intelligent, savvy investors. After the course, they will know a great pitch when they see one, and those who become entrepreneurs will know what investors are looking for. “Their ability to pitch is dramatically enhanced,” says Wiltbank, adding that having this experience on their resume will make graduates very desirable to future employers. In an interview, he insists, “it’s the ultimate closer.”
Mark Partridge is just one quarter into the course, but he agrees that the experience he is gaining is an investment in his future. As for whether it will help him close on a future job, he smiles. “I’ll let you know.”
You’ve seen the magazine covers (“Seattle’s Best Food Trucks 2012”) and read the headlines (“the mobile revolution has begun!”), but you need only look both ways on a busy Seattle street to see that we’ve got food truck fever.
In 2007 just a handful of sometimes-questionable mobile eateries roamed Seattle’s roads. Five years later, city regulations have changed, opening the door for a flood of high-quality food truck entrepreneurs. Food truck “pods” are popping up all over town – there’s one in South Lake Union, home to Amazon and its throngs of employees, and another recently opened downtown at Second and Pike. The food truck trend might lead you to think that food truck entrepreneurship is easy – roll out a truck, and watch the money roll in.
Not so fast, said Molly Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream. Neitzel, along with Josh Henderson of Skillet, Marshall Jett of Veraci Pizza, and Danielle Custer of Monte Cristo, were part of a panel on food truck entrepreneurship that took place during CIE’s annual ENTREWeek in October. Food trucks turned out to be one of the most popular features of the nine events offered during Entreweek 2012. Why so popular? CIE not only hosted foodie entrepreneurs, but their trucks as well. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to forgo the usual campus fare for wood-fired pizza from a clay oven on wheels or salted caramel ice cream from a gourmet ice cream truck?
Neitzel went on to say that after opening two successful ice cream stores in Seattle’s Wallingford and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, she thought it would be fun to add an ice cream truck to the family. It turned out to be a logistical nightmare. “Since the launch of the truck, I’ve opened three more shops,” she said, adding, “I’ll never open a truck again.”
Running a food truck is demanding, and owners face financial and logistical issues that don’t come up in a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Custer, the newest owner on the food truck panel, had opened her gourmet grilled cheese truck, Monte Cristo, just a week earlier. “We’ve had four lunch services,” she said, “and the truck has been in the shop four times.”
It’s clear that food truck ownership is not for the faint of heart. So why are so many jumping on the food truck bandwagon? Perhaps because mobile food entrepreneurs know that a food truck can place them on the road to success. Food entrepreneurs see opportunity in using trucks as PR vehicles: develop a fan base with mobile food and those fans will follow once you find a permanent home.
Skillet is a great example. Henderson began serving burgers and poutine out of his silver airstream trailer in August 2007. By the time he opened Skillet Diner in 2011, the Skillet brand was hugely popular. Further success followed, and the brand now boasts a second location, Skillet Counter, plus a cookbook, a second food truck for catering, and products like Bacon Jam. Skillet’s success can be attributed in large part to the dedicated following of devotees who got their first taste of Skillet’s food when it was only served street-side.
Like Henderson, Marshall Jett opened his brick-and-mortar pizzeria five years after introducing his mobile Veraci pizza oven to Seattle farmer’s markets. “By the time we built Veraci in Ballard, we had a huge following,” he said. He added that the pizzeria’s opening coincided with the financial crisis in 2008, and remarked, “If we hadn’t established our business the way that we did and developed the momentum we had with our customers and our product, we probably would’ve gone out of business.”
All this transitioning from mobile to mortar may make food entrepreneurs feel a bit more stable, but it doesn’t mean the food truck trend is going away anytime soon. Even those with restaurants still keep their trucks running. Sure, owning a food truck can be a headache, and it’s probably not the key to riches, but they’re a great way to test a concept, build an audience, and be part of Seattle’s rolling food revolution.