All posts by Christy Hansen

Giving back: BEDC alumna Stacy Nagata

StacyNagataStacy Nagata was one of the first participants in the Student Consulting Program (SCP) and experienced the start of what has become the BEDC’s signature program. As an undergraduate in the business school in 1999, Stacy had been president of the University Management Consulting Association and competed in a number of case competitions. She knew she wanted to go into consulting but didn’t have any experience. Participating in the Student Consulting Program (then known as the Business Assistance Program) gave her the real-world experience she needed to land her first consulting job at LEK.

From the start, Stacy felt that she was ahead of her colleagues: She had practical knowledge, tactical abilities and could see the big picture, skills she had learned through the Student Consulting Program.

Stacy also knew that the Internet was going to dramatically change business. She became fascinated with companies such as RealNetworks and Amazon that were just taking off when she graduated college in 1999. The power of technology in media and business became her passion and eventually led her to jobs in the entertainment industry, including West Coast Integration lead for the NBC Universal merger.

Key to her work at NBC/Universal was the question- how does technology impact the entertainment industry? Stacy worked to make content available digitally, helping launch the website Hulu, which involved creating an entirely new business model.  Helping shape the future of entertainment was exciting, but Stacy decided that she missed Seattle and knew that a move back to her hometown would give her the chance to give back to the community.

Stacy returned to Seattle in 2012 to work for Xbox. Her new role will be to take interactive gaming to the next level, and as a former gamer, she thinks she’s up to the challenge.  She also began to support several organizations that helped jumpstart her career.  She is a board member of the Seafair Foundation, where she served as an ambassador in High School. She’s also serving as an Alumni Mentor for the BEDC’s Student Consulting Program, helping the next-generation of business leaders.

Through mentoring student teams Stacy has realized that she can make a big difference in students’ lives. And she learns from the students, noting that they have a much higher level of sophistication than students of 14 years ago.  She has some advice for them too: “Just because you are young doesn’t mean you don’t have great ideas”.

And she is proud to see how much Foster has grown in 14 years. Programs such as SCP enable students to have experiential education and greatly enhance the classroom learning. “That’s the magic of Foster,” says Stacy. “There just isn’t enough time in the day for the many opportunities available.”

South Carolina Huskies

Not only are LaJuan Davis and her brothers Dwayne and Ricardo Ellison the next generation of leaders JBE Incorporated, they are also proud graduates of the University of Washington’s Minority Business Executive Program (MBEP) – which is saying something considering that they hadn’t really heard about the UW or this program 18 months ago. Following their graduation from MBEP last June, they each took back lessons they learned and they saw an immediate impact.

LaJuan, the company’s treasurer, took back three key lessons: That for small businesses “sometimes it’s important to sacrifice growth to insure liquidity,” empowering employees to make decisions is key to enabling the executive team to focus on the future, and that while you can’t always measure the impact of marketing expenditures these investments are key to long-term growth.

LaJuan Davis and her brothers Dwayne and Ricardo Ellison, graduates of the University of Washington’s Minority Business Executive Program (MBEP) .Ricardo, one of the company’s Vice Presidents, reflects on how he’s become a better leader because of what he learned at MBEP: “senior executives don’t need to be a part of every decision,” he says. He also noted that rather than focusing most of the company’s top talent on solving today’s problems, they are now “spreading talent around so they can focus on today and the future.”

Dwayne, another Vice President, says the program changed how he views the entire company. He’s become more acutely aware of the power of branding the company in moving the company forward. He’s learned that as a senior leader of the company he needs to “work on the business rather than work in the business,” and through this he’s able to empower others to make decisions.

These three siblings are confident that what they learned at MBEP will have a long-lasting impact on their company, but they’re also proud that, in part because of how they’ve changed their leadership of the business, JBE set a record last year by crossing the $40 million revenue threshold for the first time. They’ve also begun to directly manufacture products in addition to the assembly and supply chain management services they’d previously offered.

LaJuan, Ricardo, and Dwayne had the opportunity to attend MBEP because of their relationship with The Boeing Company. JBEP was founded to provide services to the automotive, paper, and textile industries. They began to court Boeing as a customer in 2008, and when Boeing selected Charleston as the site for final assembly of the 787 Dreamliner, the relationship took off. Last year Boeing invited JBE to be in their mentor-protégé program, which led to the offer to attend MBEP. While JBE was looking at similar programs offered on the east coast, when they learned about the Foster School’s year-around work to grow minority-owned businesses through the BEDC, they decided to accept Boeing’s offer.

To learn more about the 2013 MBEP, please join us at a Sampler and Information Session on Thursday, May 16 from 7:45 to 9:00 a.m.

Achieving the American dream

Exequiel Soltero, owner of Maya's (gentleman in orange shirt), stands with his UW BEDC Student Consulting group.
Exequiel Soltero, owner of Maya’s (front row, third from left), stands with his UW BEDC Student Consulting group and advisors.

Exequiel Soltero arrived in the U.S. from his small hometown on the southwestern border of Mexico determined to pursue the “American Dream” via the traditional culinary delights of his native Mexico.

A positive mindset, entrepreneurial spirit, and desire to provide for his family aided Exequiel to labor through the restaurant industry, beginning as a dishwasher and progressing to a waiter. By 1979 Exequiel had accumulated enough savings to open his own restaurant devoted to Mexican cuisine, Maya’s Family Mexican Restaurant in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood. Staying true to the restaurant’s name, and Exequiel’s initial motivations for opening a restaurant, each and every one of his siblings—nine sisters and three brothers—spent time working together to build a strong foundation for Maya’s.

Nearly 35 years later, Exequiel’s authentic recipes have lured a solid following, and allowed him to expand well beyond the original 850-square-foot restaurant. Maya’s brand now includes a full-service Mexican restaurant and a growing catering service.

As the trend of mobile food trucks is continuing to grow, Maya’s has launched a fleet of food trucks that will soon be located next to Seattle’s CenturyLink Field during Seahawks and Sounders FC games, as well as on Microsoft’s Redmond campus during weekday lunch hours. With growth, however, comes new challenges and Exequiel realized that success of Maya’s new division-based business hinged on seeking outside guidance.

Exequiel, who has been a long-time friend and partner of the Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC), turned to the BEDC’s to participate in our Student Consulting Program to help him reach his business goals:  “I was motivated to participate with the BEDC Student Consulting Program because I was interested in growing my business, and what better way to grow my business than to get the input from business students, teachers, mentors and advisors.”

The BEDC’s Student Consulting Program improves management and marketing skills of small business in under-served communities with the aid of teams comprised of of business students and faculty of the UW Foster School of Business, Foster alumni, and mentors drawn from the Seattle Rotary Club. Exequiel explained what he was hoping to gain from his participation with the Student Consulting Program:

 “I was hoping to receive a different perspective from my own. I have several ideas and visions for the restaurant and catering department, but I felt I needed to get the opinion from someone who has valuable input that could help change the way I do business.”

Through the Student Consulting Program, Exequiel, along with 14 other business owners, was provided advice from his student consulting team on how to strategically grow all divisions of Maya’s, including specially-tailored marketing strategies and financial/managerial guidance.

Now, as Exequiel’s interaction with his student consulting group concludes and he begins the process of actualizing the plans and goals presented with the continuing support of his BEDC mentors and advisors, he has great hope for his company’s future:

“I feel very positive about the future of my business, especially with all the recommendations the student team had to offer at the presentation [of their findings]. I learned the importance of sending out thank you notes to all catering customers upon completion of their event, [the value of] up-selling, tips to get my food cost and labor back to a respectable percentage, and that having someone managing our social media outlets would dramatically help with sales and customer retention.”

If you are business interested in being a part of the 2013-2014 Student Consulting Program, or if you have any questions about the Program, please contact Wil Tutol at wtutol@uw.edu.

Real-world strategies for success

Ken Denman & Andrew Lindsay In March, more than twenty Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC) undergraduate students temporarily pushed aside their group projects and studying for exams to think about career approaches following graduation while attending a BEDC-organized luncheon with Machine Perception Technology CEO, Ken Denman (MBA 1986), and Jawbone Chief of Staff, Andrew Lindsay.

Designed as an informal, personal setting for students to actively engage in discussions about career and entrepreneurship options, students questioned Denman and Lindsay and put forth their own questions for navigating the business world. Students who attended came seeking real-world advice. For instance, Diana Nguyen, a student of the Multicultural Marketing class and an executive member of the BEDC’s Leadership Team, arrived at the luncheon seeking to learn how Denman and Lindsay “knew that they were making the right choices” along their career paths, and “what advice…they have for [students] as [they] try to achieve [their] own goals today.”

Both Denman and Lindsay stressed the importance of accessing one’s own individual goals. “Think about how you want to live and what you want out of life,” said Denman. Passion for your work is critical, and one must be invigorated by what they do each day. “There are too many opportunities to do a job you don’t love waking up to every morning.” And, as Rai Huang, another student of the Multicultural Marketing class, pointed out, the importance of “seizing opportunities available in the business school environment” was another chief point made by Denman for current students.

Additional key takeaways from the luncheon were threaded around a theme of best practices for business consulting as a profession—notably one of the “fastest growing industries in today’s corporate world and one of the most popular career choices” for new graduates—and business strategies for start-ups. Denman and Lindsay said that, whether you are steering the choices of businesses in trouble or striving to be entrepreneur, the blueprint to a successful business is to solve a problem or provide a service of incremental value that the consumer market is willing to pay for. Denman asserted that finding new ways to provide incremental value to the marketplace is one of the greatest challenges for small businesses. Conducting introspective market research, appropriately predicting the future of one’s industry, and perusing a risk-adjusted approach are fundamental.

Undergraduate Students at Denman & Lindsay LuncheonStudents also expressed considerable interest in the benefits and challenges of consulting for small businesses versus large corporations. Denman and Lindsay agreed that, while working with large companies can be advantageous for gathering valuable skills sets and acquiring knowledge of proper consulting processes and policies, large corporations can be more resistant to revision and restructuring than small business. Small companies, on the other hand, are more nimble and open to change, and the result of alterations can be more quickly discernible, but the emotional investment on the owners’ part can be far greater. In turn, Denman and Lindsay recommend that the key to successful consulting is to deliver arguments for change with confidence, verified statistics and objective facts.

The hour-long luncheon was a time for students to reflect on their futures, and gain recommendations regardless of the career path they choose. Undergraduate Rai Huang recapped the event well:

“It reinforced my belief that, if a person chooses to follow their heart and keep moving towards that direction, they will eventually find success.”

The BEDC’s ability to connect students with business mentors depends on the generous contributions receive from individuals, corporations and foundations. Please donate to the BEDC to help us train future leaders.