Category Archives: Alumni

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Barry SchulmanBarry Shulman brings his “A” game to business, poker and life

Barry Shulman (BA 1967) is not a professional poker player.

Sure, he has a pair of championship bracelets from the World Series of Poker, 16 tournament titles, and 119 finishes in the cash—adding up to winnings in excess of $4.7 million. And he’s authored five books and a video on the game’s intricacies.

But it’s not how he makes his living. “People think I just played poker all my life,” says Shulman, whose inscrutable granite scowl at the card table is straight out of Central Casting. “That’s never how I paid my rent. My whole life I’ve worked, worked, worked.”

After graduating with a degree in accounting from the Foster School, Shulman started in his father’s wholesale liquor business.

Real money

But Shulman had his own ambitions. He began selling non-traditional securities in oil and gas and real estate—“anything that wasn’t stocks and bonds,” he says.

Throughout the 1980s his expertise in real estate was quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Businessweek, Fortune, Barrons and a host of other media.

He also developed real estate of his own. In the ’80s and early ’90s, Shulman bought, developed, managed and sold condominiums in 19 Northwest communities, usually with a trusted group of investors. The deals were conservative, and lined up before seeking capital. And he always had skin in the game.

“I never did deals that I didn’t have a big investment in,” Shulman says. “I wasn’t just making money by raising money. If it was going to make money for me, it had to make money for the other guys, too.

“No investor in any of my deals ever lost a penny.”

What happened in Vegas

Having accumulated a tidy nest egg—and zero debt—by the early 1990s, Shulman decided to retire to Las Vegas, travel a bit, and maybe play a little poker, a hobby back in his college days.

Retirement didn’t suit him, intellectually. But poker did. He studied the game voraciously. And he began winning money in progressively bigger tournaments.

Shulman couldn’t help but notice that interest in the game was exploding. The venues had gone upscale, a long way from the game’s smoky backroom past. There were more and bigger-money tournaments. And they were on TV. Plus, the Internet was just about to break.

“It was crystal clear to me to me that poker was going to boom,” Shulman says. “And I wanted to get in on the business.”

Ruling out a casino, he instead purchased Card Player Media with his retirement funds. With Shulman as publisher and son Jeff as president, Card Player has become a major force in the industry. Shulman & son are as responsible as anyone for poker’s continuing ascent.

The sweet life

At 67, Shulman remains the right kind of busy for one averse to retirement. He travels the world by cruise ship with his wife Allyn, and blogs about his experiences at JetSetWay.com. He’s the CEO of the Shulman Family Foundation, and keeps a hand in the real estate business with a few low-risk commercial properties.

He leads Card Player and plays a lot of cards, a hobbyist of the highest order. This makes Shulman patriarch of the “First Family of Poker”—Allyn is a champion in her own right (with more than $1 million in winnings) and Jeff is one of only three people this century to make the final table at two World Series of Pokers (2001 and 2009).

Reflecting on a still-vibrant career, Shulman believes that success in business and in poker comes from the same place.

“In business,” he says, “if you do the right things at the right times in the right places and with the right people, sometimes you get lucky. I’ve never won a poker tournament without getting lucky. I’ve also never won one where I wasn’t playing my best game. The two go together.”

The who, what, why, and Howe of Impact HUB Seattle

Impact HUB Seattle
Impact HUB Seattle

Impact HUB Seattle makes a great first impression.  It has that industrial chic thing down to a T: exposed brick, grand staircase, rustic wooden beams. There are Herman Miller chairs and 24” monitors at every desk, state-of-the-art meeting rooms, hot showers for bike commuters, and blazing fast internet, of course.   But the HUB is more than just a pretty face. It’s a space where entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and innovative start-up companies work side by side with the shared goal of making the world a better place.

“That’s Mark,” says HUB Seattle founder Brian Howe, waving at a young man through the glass walls of a sleek conference room.  “He’s the CEO of Moving World. It’s a for-profit start-up that connects professionals with vacation volunteer projects that match their skill sets.”  He turns and gestures in the other direction. “Two offices down,” he continues, “is the Seattle Good Business Network. They promote the benefits of buying and thinking local.” The HUB is filled with start-ups and nonprofits like these – organizations committed to treating contribution to the common good with the same reverence as financial gain.

Howe’s fascination with entrepreneurship began in law school, when he and an MBA student were assigned to help entrepreneurs in underserved communities with their business plans and legal issues. “It turned out I enjoyed the business side more than the legal side,” says Howe. So after getting his law degree, he set out to build his entrepreneurial expertise and earn what he calls a “poor man’s MBA,” competing in the UW Business Plan Competition with Safety Innovation, a company that produced protective garments for hospitals.

Impact HUB Seattle founder Brian Howe
Impact HUB Seattle founder Brian Howe

As Howe became more confident of his start-up skills and his law firm found its niche serving impact entrepreneurs, he found himself spending more time helping clients with introductions to investors, writing business plans, and polishing pitch decks. He was passionate about the work, but it did not match the billable hour model of a law firm. Howe asked himself, “Is there a business model that allows me to do the work that I love doing?” His answer: Yes, start an incubator.

Howe went looking for inspiration and came across the global HUB network, an ecosystem for social entrepreneurs. Started in London in 2004, the HUB network had grown to about 40 outposts worldwide, and one had just opened in San Francisco. “I fell in love with the energy of the space,” says Howe, of his visit, “and thought, this is it. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I need to bring this to Seattle.”

Roughly a year later, HUB Seattle has 500 members who use the space to work on their start-ups, hold meetings and workshops, and share ideas with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. The HUB’s “everything under one roof” model means that members can help each other with just about every aspect of running a start-up, from accounting to web design. HUB Seattle has built partnerships with organizations like Social Venture Partners and Bainbridge Graduate Institute, aopens its space up for community events like Startup Weekend, film screenings, and Tech Meetups.

So what’s next for HUB Seattle? Howe is thinking globally. “The HUB is arguably the largest network of impact entrepreneurs in the world,” he says.  He plans to develop a globally dispersed consulting network made up of HUB members who can share their talents, collaborate on ideas, and help each other change the world.

So fresh and so green

evergreens
Ryan Suddendorf, Hunter Brooks, Todd Fishman

Evergreens Salads has a sense of humor. Each item on the menu has a name that will make you laugh out loud (or at least smirk). One might order, for example, the “Pear-ly Legal” (Asian pears, caramelized onions, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese over romaine and baby spinach), “Dice-Dice Baby” (romaine, roasted turkey, salami, garbanzo beans, basil, cherry tomatoes, jack cheese), or “The Cobbsby Show” (a new take on a traditional Cobb). Evergreens t-shirts carry slogans like “kale me maybe” or “biggest bowls in town.”   This new “salad experience” located in the heart of downtown Seattle is all about fun, but don’t let the antics fool you.  Founders Todd Fishman and Hunter Brooks mean business, and they’ve done their due diligence to make sure this salad start-up succeeds.

After graduating from the UW, Fishman and Brooks both headed east to experience life in corporate Manhattan. It was there that the childhood friends reconnected, bonding over their shared history and love of salad bars. Yes, salad bars. Seems odd at first, but we’re not talking Old Country Buffet here. The East Coast boasts gourmet salad restaurants so popular there are lines around the block.  It was while waiting in one of these lines, remembers Brooks, that the guys said to each other, “This would be killer in Seattle.”

An idea was born and the time was right. “We’re both really entrepreneurial,” says Brooks.  “We’d both been in New York for a few years. We were both ready to move on from our corporate roles and head back home.” So the two friends got down to work – fast. “We spit-balled the idea last August [2012],” Brooks recalls, “quit our jobs in September, moved home in November, signed a lease in May, and now we’re having our soft open on Friday.” (That’s Friday, August 16, just a year from when their initial concept, for anyone who’s counting.)

Fishman, who’d competed in the UW Business Plan Competition in 2009 with Nanocel, took on the task of writing the business plan.  By the time Brooks and Fishman moved west in November and teamed up with restaurant manager Ryan Suddendorf, (another UW alum), they had an impressive business plan and were ready to pitch to investors. “We raised money in about three months,” says Fishman.

One of Evergreens’ major investors is Kurt Dammeier of Sugar Mountain Capital, Seattle’s Pasta & Company, Beecher’s Cheese, and other successful restaurant ventures. “He has opened a lot of doors for us,” says Fishman. “He believes in our concept, and thanks to him, we’re getting better pricing, and real estate opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have had.” Dammeier has been a great resource for the Evergreens team, but he’s not the only one. “I’d gone through several coaching rounds in the Business Plan Competition,” recalls Fishman, “and seen how much you can gain from mentors and advisors.” So Fishman and Brooks met with as many mentors as they could – 225 to be exact. “We’ve reached out to people, asked questions, and surrounded ourselves with people who are smart and successful,” says Brooks.

They’ve put that advice to use, making sure they have a strong business from the very beginning. “Lots of early-stage entrepreneurs don’t know how to come up with a model, stay on budget, and watch every dollar,” says Fishman. “The restaurant business is expensive, and has a high failure rate. You have to know what you’re doing.”

In the end, Evergreens Salads aims to be a restaurant people will want to come back to. “We’re catering to people who work in downtown Seattle.  They sit at a desk all day and they take maybe 30 minutes for lunch, and that’s sacred time,” says Brooks.  “The big takeaway,” says Fishman, “is that Evergreens is a great place for people to get a delicious, healthy meal, and have fun while they’re at it.”

Coffee, a start-up and Saudi Arabia

Yatooq Coffee MakerCoffee and start-ups might seem more Seattle than Saudi Arabia, but not to Lateefa Alwaalan (TMMBA 2011). Yatooq, founded by Alwaalan, makes it easier and faster to brew Arabic coffee, a blonde, spicy coffee central to all social gatherings in places like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Alwaalan came to Seattle to get her MBA after studying computer science, and working in IT and then banking in her home country of Saudi Arabia. While in the Technology Management MBA Program, she focused intently on gaining business and entrepreneurial skills. She competed in the Business Plan Competition with her idea for Yatooq. She also enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Certificate, offered by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at Foster. She said her experience at the Foster School, “Transformed me. I use everything I learned—from change management to supply-chain management to marketing.”

Upon returning home after graduation, her father offered her a job in his pharmaceutical company. Her first job was entering invoices, but that didn’t last long. She quickly moved up the ranks and became the general manager in less than two years.

In addition to working at the pharmaceutical company, Alwaalan has been working hard to launch Yatooq. The company started by selling ready-made blends of coffee, and had good results. The most successful aspect of the company, however, has been the introduction of its coffee machine. When made traditionally, Arabic coffee takes 20-30 minutes to prepare and requires over ten steps. Yatooq’s coffee machine dramatically reduces the time and effort required to make Arabic coffee. Within two weeks of launching the coffee machine in grocery stores and online, it sold out.

The start-up process hasn’t been easy—Alwaalan had to learn everything about how to manufacture and sell a consumer product. The hard work has paid off though. Yatooq currently has seven employees and needs more to keep up with demand. Alwaalan is also in the process of restructuring the pharmaceutical business so she can devote more time to Yatooq. Learn more about Yatooq.

Neal Dempsey’s advice for the class of 2013

The Foster School of Business was honored to have Neal Dempsey (BA 1964) speak at the undergraduate commencement ceremony this year. Dempsey is managing general partner at Bay Partners, focusing on enterprise software applications. Over the past 19 years he has guided more than two dozen start-ups to obtain highly successful outcomes—either through an IPO or by acquisition. He recently made Forbes’ 2013 Midas List of top tech investors. In 2012 he had three companies go public and three others get acquired.

Dempsey gave an animated and insightful send off to the class of 2013. His three secrets for success in the real world: accept failure, embrace change and give back. Below is an excerpt from his blog and video of his speech. Congratulations to the class of 2013!

Re-posted from Dempsey’s blog:

I had the honor of being asked to give the commencement address for the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business undergraduate class this month. As many of you know, the University of Washington is my alma mater and near and dear to my heart. It was a real treat. To prepare for the speech, I spent some time with about 25 of this year’s graduating class. I wanted to know their hopes, dreams, and worries for what’s ahead. After all, these are some difficult times for new college graduates. I must say I was surprised and impressed with the caliber of these students. Most have jobs and all are prepared and ambitious. I expect to see great things from this group of students in the future.

This is not your ordinary commencement speech, so get ready for more than a few surprises. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed giving it. Congratulations to the class of 2013!

See more from the Foster School’s graduation ceremonies.

Authentic ramen receives rave reviews

Guest post by Christopher Comley, CISB French Track student

Kukai Owners, Brandon Ting and Nuri Aydinel The first time Foster School alumni Brandon Ting (BA 2009) and Nuri Aydinel (BA 2009) met in class, they didn’t even talk. However, both joined the U.S. track of the Certificate of International Studies in Business program (CISB), and from there began the conversations that would lead to close friendship and a thriving business.

Along with Jessmin Lau, (UW BA 2010), the two are owners of Kukai Ramen and Izakaya, a Japanese noodle restaurant that opened in Bellevue in December and has already garnered widespread praise.  Seattle Magazine recently featured the restaurant in its “Best Restaurants” issue.

“We enjoy when our customers tell us dining in Kukai is the best ramen experience they have had,” Ting said.

It is the first U.S. location of the Kukai Ramen franchise, which has several other locations in Japan.

The restaurant is on a mission to provide “really good ramen to Americans,” Ting said.

The owners first became interested in ramen when they saw how popular it was becoming around the world.

“People are getting to know ramen and are becoming huge fans of it. We saw that the ramen fans in Seattle (and most of the U.S.) don’t get to enjoy a bowl of authentic ramen,” Ting said.

Facing such a culinary deficiency, the owners began preparations to satisfy the ramen needs of the Seattle area. They traveled to Japan several times, searching for the perfect ramen to bring back, and eventually came across Kukai. Media publications claimed customers who didn’t normally like ramen liked the ramen from Kukai.

“That got us curious so we went to try it,” Ting said.

The owners discovered Kukai had a special cooking method for the ramen, which made it more palatable to the Japanese market and potentially the American one as well. After deciding which ramen to use, the owners began preparations to open a franchise in the U.S., a process which took two years. In reaching its goal to provide authentic ramen to the American market, the owners needed authentic ingredients, but they encountered several FDA obstacles. Under FDA regulations, all ingredients have to be from a certified manufacturer. Originally, Kukai’s ingredients were not FDA approved, but the owners decided the authenticity was worth the price.

“We actually got the manufacturer certified under U.S. standards in order to import the ingredients,” Ting said.

Ting attributes the success of the restaurant to the lengthy planning process.

“We had several changes to our plan, which involved a lot of analyzing and calculating. The long and thorough planning and preparation process was the real key to our ‘rapid’ success,” Ting said.

With plans to open up 30 to 50 more Kukai restaurants across the country, Seattleites won’t be the only ones enjoying warm bowls of authentic ramen.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

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.

Artie Buerk: the networker’s effect

Artie BuerkCatalyst of ventures and connector of people, Artie Buerk has financed the future of entrepreneurship at the University of Washington.

It began with a gift. An investment, really, in an idea that had yet to be so much as scribbled on a cocktail napkin.

In 1990, Artie Buerk (BA 1958) and his wife Sue (BA 1974) pledged $100,000 to support entrepreneurship at the UW Business School. The problem? There was no entrepreneurship to support. No center, no program, no business plan competition, not even a single class.

A vigorous catalyst of new ventures, Buerk insisted that this deficiency be addressed. Immediately.

“My whole life has revolved around startups and small businesses, the engines of the Northwest economy,” he says. “I felt the UW should have a program to educate future entrepreneurs.”

Buerk found a small cabal of faculty with similar leanings. Most prominent among them was Borje “Bud” Saxberg, then chair of the Department of Management, who had noted the region’s uptick in entrepreneurial activity. “The answer was there,” recalls Saxberg, “waiting for action.”

Artie equaled action. He helped Saxberg’s task force sketch the original Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and taught them how to raise the capital to launch it.

That was the seed. From it has grown a veritable dynamo of entrepreneurial education and activity, centered at the Foster School of Business but increasingly reaching across the University of Washington. Now that dynamo has been renamed the Arthur W. Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, in honor of the Buerks’ recent $5.2 million gift to finance its future.

“Artie always says that there’s no shortage of ideas. But we need leaders who can take those ideas and turn them into something valuable,” says Jim Jiambalvo, dean of the Foster School. “With the Buerks’ support of our entrepreneurship center—the Buerk Center—we’ll create more entrepreneurial leaders, and we’ll extend our reach to discover those young people who don’t yet realize they have the entrepreneurial DNA.”

Startup

Buerk realized it early on. His first business was a Seattle Times paper route in his childhood neighborhood north of Matthews Beach.

He studied business at the UW, served as a supply officer on a destroyer in the US Navy, then earned an MBA at the Harvard Business School. Several years with big corporations convinced him that he was meant to build from the ground up.

One of Buerk’s first entrepreneurial challenges came, ironically, back at the UW. In 1968, he was hired to direct its fledgling alumni fund and development office. The bare-bones operation was raising a paltry $40,000 a year. “We were 25 years behind other public universities and 200 years behind the Ivy League Schools,” he says. “To me, it was a real opportunity.”

Buerk studied the field’s best practices, modernized the alumni database and department infrastructure, and increased the donor base exponentially—on his own and with a crackerjack staff. His early hires included Marilynn Dunn, the UW’s influential first vice-president of development, and Robb Weller, the legendary King of the Yell Squad, who could single-handedly light up a crowd of 70,000.

Buerk’s team of strivers got the private support flowing. By 1977, his operation was raising nearly $20 million a year (a legacy that has climbed to an annual $320 million today).

“It was entrepreneurial, something I had a real passion for,” Buerk says. “I’ve never had a job that was more fun.”

Back in business

Buerk’s expertise in raising money became a valuable asset. In the late ‘70s a couple of old friends, Chuck Barbo and Don Daniels, recruited him away to help finance their odd-lot portfolio of small businesses—among them Christmas tree farms, raw land, horse arenas, and a self-storage business.

As president—and an investor—Buerk convinced the founders to focus on the storage businesses, to be renamed Shurgard. And he helped Barbo and Daniels methodically build a nationwide brand, raising $750,000,000 for the expansion through a vast constellation of brokered deals.

Buerk spun off a successful records management company called Intermation and helped take Shurgard public in 1994 before moving on.

His investment had grown exponentially. And now the money was liquid.

So Buerk put it to new work. He founded the Seattle School Fund for Excellence (now the Alliance for Education). And, with a group of partners—“A who’s who of the Foster School’s Advisory Board”—he turned a 401K division of Washington Mutual into Northwestern Trust (acquired by Harris Trust).

In 1997, he co-founded the private equity firm of Buerk Craig Victor, now Montlake Capital. It was the heyday of the Internet boom, when capitol gushed toward anything with a .com suffix. But Buerk was a skeptic. He chose to invest in firms that demonstrated solid fundamentals—proven products/service, realistic projections, genuine leadership. Over the next decade-plus, he opened a new branch of legacy, molding growth companies and mentoring their leaders—from Door to Door Storage to Blue Dog Bakery, from HaloSource to SOG Knives.

People person

Whatever the business, Buerk’s true business has always been people. His vast personal network is legendary, and ever growing.

“Artie knows everyone, and everyone knows Artie,” says venture capitalist Neal Dempsey (BA 1964), a fellow founding champion of entrepreneurship at the UW.

It is, perhaps, because Buerk takes networking more personally than most. He had to. “My father died when I was 11, and it was just my mom and me,” he says. “If I was going to have a family, I knew I was going to have to build it out of friends and relationships.

“And that’s the way I look at it: not just a network, but my extended family.”

It’s a philosophy with a long-term perspective.

“Some people think of networking in terms of what they can get out of it,” says Kris Lindquist (MBA 2011), the director of strategic business development at Amazon.com who met Buerk through Foster’s MBA Mentorship Program. “But Artie gives twice as much as he takes. He pays it forward.”

He’s the consummate connector of people who show intelligence and initiative.

“If you want to know who to talk to in an industry or about a specific topic, Artie will typically know someone off the top of his head,” adds Sara Weaver (BA 1991, MBA 2001), a Buerk Center advisor who once worked at Buerk Craig Victor. “And he is very generous with his contacts and resources. He takes a real interest in helping people grow and succeed.”

“Building and maintaining relationships makes your life a lot more successful and valuable,” adds Buerk. “The greatest thing, to me, is to see the success of someone you’ve helped.”

Bow Down to Washington

Artie BuerkMost of Buerk’s connections seem to triangulate with the UW. He splits allegiances with the Harvard Business School (he’s been a dedicated class secretary for 50 years). “But my blood is purple and gold,” he confirms.

It’s a loyalty forged during busy, happy days as an undergrad. Bussing in to Roosevelt High School from Seattle’s northern frontier left little time for involvement. So Buerk resolved to engage in the life of the UW in every possible way. He studied business in the classroom, but learned to lead all over campus. Managing the Husky football and basketball teams. Training with Naval ROTC. Running the campaigns of the student body president and vice president. Serving as senior class officer, president of the Oval Club and member of Fir Tree.

Buerk was named “Outstanding Senior Man.”

He graduated, but never really left. After his decade as the UW’s first professional fundraiser, Buerk was a trustee of the UW Foundation and chair of the UW Development Fund. He taught personal finance through UW Extension for years. He’s a past president and board chair of the UW Alumni Association. He serves on the advisory boards of the Information School and the Foster School, having chaired the Foster board through the final years of the last capital campaign. He’s also mentored for years at Foster, and is on the board of the UW Angel Fund.

For these many decades of service—multiplied by the thousands he inspired to do the same—the UW honored Buerk with its 2007 Gates Volunteer Service Award.

The recipient claims he has got more than he’s given: “I’ve never had any association with the U that hasn’t been fun and successful,” Buerk says. “It’s hard to replicate that record in any other element of life.”

Center of attention

And few UW touchpoints have been as satisfying or successful as the mature, innovative center that has grown from Buerk’s somewhat speculative investment two decades ago.

To a brand building expert, “Buerk Center” has a nice ring to it. It certainly says something about the institution.

“There’s no one more deserving to have his name atop the center than Artie,” says Neal Dempsey, whose own name graces the building that houses it. “It’s a hugely meaningful gift, and a hugely meaningful name. Artie is the best there is.”

True to form, Buerk wants the center—already in the Entrepreneur top ten—to be the best there is. He applauds the work of director Connie Bourassa-Shaw and her staff to elevate the original vision to an incredible vibrancy of practical activity and education. And he hopes this new infusion of resources from the naming gift fuels the center’s ongoing expansion throughout the UW system.

“The UW brings 45,000 brilliant people to a 640-acre spot to work every day,” Buerk says. “Our job is to turn that brain power into businesses that will be good for their founders, good for the university, and good for the Northwest economy.

“If we can integrate entrepreneurship into the fabric of the University, engage all kinds of students and faculty in the process, get them thinking of great ideas as potential businesses, we will have something that’s very powerful.”

Power is what the Buerks have provided the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

“A naming gift is the best endorsement,” says Bourassa-Shaw. “It’s an amazing vote of confidence. It says, I so believe in you that I’m proud to have my name associated with you for decades to come. It says, I’m betting money on your future. It says, I trust the center to do the right thing for students, for the UW, for Seattle. This is Artie’s legacy.”

The latest and greatest of many.