Eddie Bauer CEO Michael Egeck is guiding the legendary Seattle outdoor-clothing retailer back to the summit
On June 5, 2012, outdoor-clothing company Eddie Bauer named Michael Egeck (MBA 1983) as president and CEO. In the press release, Egeck is noted as a “highly respected industry leader” with “a proven track record of building leading apparel and outdoor brands.” It might seem a strange career path for a guy who accepted a position with Rainier Bank after graduating with his MBA, until you learn he never showed up for his first day on the job.
The weekend before he was supposed to start at the bank, Egeck attended a party hosted by Richard Lentz and Steve Ritchey who had recently launched Union Bay Sportswear. “They were so passionate about what they were doing that they talked me into going to work for them,” says Egeck. “One of the things they said, and I still find it to be true, is ‘there’s a certain thrill in making stuff.’ To see somebody in your jacket, your shoes—making real, tangible consumer products is very gratifying.”
The thrill in making stuff led Egeck on a leadership trajectory that has included oversight of some of world’s most recognizable brands, including 7 For All Mankind, The North Face, Vans, True Religion and Columbia Sportswear. But the thought of leading Eddie Bauer was never too far out of sight.
“In 1992, I wanted to work here. I could see them going off track. I applied for a position and didn’t get it. Then I went to work for Columbia Sportswear. In 2006, I tried to purchase Eddie Bauer with some investors and was turned down again,” says Egeck. A couple of years later, the company filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by Golden Gate Capital. They approached Egeck, then CEO of Hurley International, with the offer. “I wasn’t looking, but I have a long history with this brand. And, I felt I was 0-for-2, so to get the opportunity to finally work with it, I couldn’t resist.”
Bauer from birth
Egeck was born and raised in Seattle. His grandfather, father, and great uncles were all Seattle firefighters and outdoorsmen, and so is his brother. Eddie Bauer was a brand with which he grew up.
“I remember my first Eddie Bauer Skyliner jacket. It was a hand-me-down from my dad. I wore it all the way through college,” says Egeck, smiling. “I also slept in an Eddie Bauer sleeping bag when I lived in a houseboat on Lake Union during college because it had no heat.”
Having accepted the job, Egeck conducted brand research with current and lapsed customers and with people who had never purchased from Eddie Bauer. The results were the same. All viewed it as an authentic, Northwest, outdoor company, something Egeck says the company had veered away from.
When asked early on what his turn-around strategy would be, Egeck says it was an easy answer. “I said, ‘We don’t have any choice. We have one strategy available to us. The consumer is giving us one path to walk down and we’re just going to go down it while executing on the highest level possible.’”
That path has included an overhaul of messaging and design, and a concentrated effort to produce cutting-edge new products, all while being consistently and passionately outdoor-focused.
A look at their Facebook page or a glance in a store window is reflective of that spirit. So are the recent product awards and accolades coming from sources like Field & Stream, Men’s Journal and Outside.
When asked about his first year with Eddie Bauer, Egeck is measured. “One of the members of the board was remarking about all of the things going well (profit will more than double this year). I told him that inside the company we say it’s ‘directionally correct.’ We’ve got a long way to go and lots of things to work on, but we’re headed the right way, and we will reach our goals.”
No surprise, that direction has included a reintroduction of the classic Skyliner jacket.
Thao Hong has made a grand life and living in service of global economic development
Barely a decade out of school, Thao Hong (BA 2001) has made enviable progress on a world-class bucket list.
Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Check. Study pastry in Paris. Check. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Check. Learn to Tango in Buenos Aires. Check.
Call it a perk of her itinerant years in the US Foreign Service—the job, itself, a significant item on Hong’s life to-do list.
“I always wanted to work in diplomacy,” she says. “Not only to engage in political discussions, but also to build the cultural and economic ties that support peace around the world—and preempt situations like the one my parents found themselves in.”
That was the War in Vietnam, from which they were displaced for years before finding their way to the US. Without money, connections or a word of English, they made careers in social work and built a decent life for their two daughters in Federal Way.
In Thao, they inspired a profound sense of mission.
Shooting at the moon
Hong came to believe that diplomacy and international trade represented the most direct path to prosperity and peace. If an international posting with the State Department was her “shoot-at-the-moon” goal, she bet that studies in finance and international business at the Foster School would be a suitable preparation.
They were. After getting her start working at Nordstrom and Expeditors International, she landed a job in the Foreign Service and entered its economic track.
Hong trained in Washington, DC, and then served in Taipei, Taiwan, and Shanghai, China. Her first role was in consular work, but she quickly advanced to representing US interests in trade negotiations with government officials and business leaders in the areas of currency, banking, transportation and textiles.
Hong—who speaks fluent English, Vietnamese, and Mandarin, and basic French and Japanese—relished the immersive experiences. “That exposure has made me appreciate how important it is to understand the context of foreign cultures,” she says. “The world is not so US-centric any longer. And trade is a vibrant force that pulses with or without us. I still believe it’s what facilitates peace around the world.”
The job also has been her ticket to see that world. “In the Foreign Service you end up with a network of friends who have sweet places to live across the globe,” she says. “If you can get there, you can enjoy them like a local, almost.”
After Shanghai, Hong completed the Advanced Economic Studies Program at the Foreign Service Institute, capped by an externship with the Boeing Company. When Boeing offered to retain her, she decided it was time to come home.
A new mission
Hong found an excellent fit in Boeing, America’s largest exporter whose fastest growing markets are international. “We live in an increasingly interconnected world,” she says. “And it’s wonderful to be a part of this great company that helped facilitate international travel, trade and diplomacy. We’re philosophically aligned.”
Hong began as director of international strategy, leading a team of functional experts to chart the enterprise global strategy of Boeing Commercial Airlines, Boeing Defense Space & Security, and Engineering Operations and Technology.
Now she is being groomed to lead the next generation of Boeing sales, and learning the aerospace industry from the wheels on up.
“Boeing is a genuine American icon,” Hong says. “I see why people are so proud and get so emotional about the company and its products. It’s contagious.”
Though her scope is global, Hong is tied to the Foster School, mentoring students as they work toward a Certificate of International Studies in Business and dream of their own role in the global economy.
Make home out of wherever you are. Check your ego and learn from the people you meet. Learn the local language. And have a curious mind. “That’s how you find yourself on Kilimanjaro or the Inca Trail or cooking in Paris,” Hong says. “I was curious and wanted to try it out.”
The legendary 1958 Husky crew – powered by four Foster grads – beat the world-champion Soviets in Moscow.
The Russians had a habit of jumping the start.
Not that they needed any more advantage. This was the vaunted Trud Club of Leningrad, the world champion men’s eight-oared crew. A juggernaut on the water, intimidating to the man, Trud held the edge in size, age and experience against almost any competition. And on this gusty July day in 1958, they would be racing before a partisan Moscow crowd, against a team of college kids from the University of Washington whom they had beaten soundly at the Henley Royal Regatta two weeks prior.
But that jackrabbit start at Henley had raised the hackles of their young challengers. “The whole boat was pissed about that,” recalls Chuck Alm (BA 1958), captain of the Husky eight. Pissed, and ready. The start in international rowing is called out in French: Êtes-vous prêt? Partez!
“We were prepared this time,” says coxswain John Bisset (BA 1958). “When the Russians shot out of the stake boats on Êtes, we went too. The race was on.”
It would be the race of their lives.
Intro to Rowing
In fall of 1954, a promising group of strapping young freshmen turned up at the Husky Crew House to try their hand at this ancient sport that had brought generations of glory to the UW.
Among them were four business majors who would someday be enshrined in the Husky Hall of Fame: Alm, Bisset, and Roger MacDonald (BA 1958) from Seattle’s Roosevelt High School, and Andy Hovland (BA 1958) from Ballard High.
Their class would rarely ever lose, at any level, over the next four years.
But in 1957, the NCAA imposed sanctions on the Husky football program for rules violations. A two-year ban on post-season play extended to all varsity sports, including rowing. This meant the class of 1958 would have no chance to vie for a national title at the IRA regatta their junior or senior years.
Legendary coach Al Ulbrickson pledged to his seniors that if they finished the regular season without defeat, they would enter the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta in England, where the fastest crews on the planet came to duel.
The Huskies did just that, sweeping meets against Cal and Stanford, then besting a University of British Columbia crew stocked with Canadian Olympians.
“Henley,” says Alm, “was a tremendous reward for sticking it out those two years without a chance to compete for a championship.”
On to Henley
Henley also represented uncharted waters for the Huskies. And a trip of significant cost.
But rowing, in those days, was a marquee sport in Seattle, drawing tens of thousands of fans to Lake Washington on race days and dominating the local sports pages throughout the spring season. “Husky rowing wasn’t the only game in town,” recalls MacDonald. “But it was one of only a handful.”
The wrongfully punished Husky rowers became a local cause celebre. “On To Henley” became a battle cry.
Husky boosters stepped up their support. And hundreds of students—recruited and deployed by Artie Buerk (BA 1958)— raised thousands of dollars by selling $1 “On To Henley” buttons on the streets of Seattle.
In July, the Huskies arrived at Henley to compete for the Grand Challenge Cup. In the first round of the match-racing format, they drew the formidable world champions from Leningrad. In torrential rain, the Soviets jumped to a quick lead on the Thames, and the Huskies could not recover. Trud Club won by one and a quarter boat lengths, then went on to claim the Cup without serious challenge.
Despite their gaping disadvantage in age, size and experience, losing at Henley was a major disappointment for the Husky eight. “We did not row to our capability,” Alm says. “And this Russian national crew really took it to us.”
“They rowed a good race at Henley and we got beat,” agrees Bisset. “What can you say?”
A second chance
Unbeknownst to the oarsmen, the US State Department had brokered a potential cultural exchange that would send the varsity eight to Moscow for a rematch against Trud. “The consensus among the guys was that if we had beaten the Russians at Henley, we would never have received an invitation,” Bisset says. “It was clear that they wanted to beat us again in front of their home crowd.”
Whatever the intent of their hosts, the Huskies accepted. They flew to Moscow, the first American athletes to compete behind the Iron Curtain.
As they traveled the streets of the Russian capital, it became clear that this was not just another race. Posters promoting the event did not tout “Washington vs. Trud Club,” but rather “USA vs. USSR.”
“It was the Cold War era. The Soviets and Americans were at odds, competing for superiority in technology, manufacturing, weaponry and athletics,” says Alm. “That gave it a political significance that we never contemplated, and added a surreal quality to the experience.”
On the bus ride to train one day, the team drove by a massive state-inspired protest at the American embassy in response to US troops entering Lebanon to quell a communist uprising.
But the oarsmen received nothing less than VIP treatment in Moscow. They were fed Russian delicacies and bused to the Bolshoi Theater, Red Square, Moscow University and several museums. They even viewed the open tombs of Lenin and Stalin. “I remember feeling a little embarrassed,” recalls MacDonald, “because there was a line a half-a-mile long, and they took us right to the front.”
Back to business
But Ulbrickson, a no-nonsense coach known as “the Dour Dane,” soon got their minds on the business at hand.
He drilled them up and down the Khiminskoe Reservoir on a new strategy.
News coverage of training for the Moscow event.
The Huskies were accustomed to the three-mile distance of collegiate racing. But in Moscow, as at Henley, they would row the international sprint distance of 2,000 meters, a six-minute burst at full throttle that demanded more than a little urgency.
Ulbrickson directed his men to shorten their stroke and ratchet up the cadence. Their confidence grew with each pull of the oar.
“We trained for ten days on the reservoir with the Russians right next to us,” recalls Alm. “And we could just feel it coming back together. We knew we were going to perform better than at Henley, but it remained to be seen how much better.”
One thing’s for sure: they all had their sights on redemption. Says MacDonald: “We all relished the opportunity to have another crack at those guys.”
A young reporter named Keith Jackson—destined for several sportscaster halls of fame—had convinced his bosses at Seattle’s KOMO-TV that he should attend the race and broadcast it live on the radio. It would be the first such airing of an athletic event from inside the Soviet Union.
On race day, July 19, the Huskies were surprised to learn that they would be competing against four Soviet crews. The Red Army, Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Kiev joined the Trud Club at the start.
But the UW men were focused. “We weren’t thinking about political ramifications of the event, or who else lined up at the stake boats,” recalls Bisset. “This was between two crews. We hadn’t lost a race in four years, practically. We knew we could do better. And that feeling coalesced. Right before the start, there was a confidence throughout the boat that this was going to be a whole different race.”
Following the hair-trigger Trud, the Huskies shot to the fastest start of their lives and steamed ahead at a furious clip. “I was later told they had never been beaten off the line like that,” MacDonald says. “I think that rattled them.”
At 1,000 meters, the Huskies had a boat length lead. At 1,500 they were pulling away. As they crossed the line nearly two lengths of open water ahead of Trud and the rest, Bisset jumped up from his coxswain seat in euphoric celebration.
“It was incredibly satisfying to win—and even more so to win so decisively,” Bisset says. “I think we proved our point.”
“It was kind of a boys-against-men situation,” Alm adds. “But we were too young, maybe, to realize that it wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.”
By all reports, the vanquished Russians were gracious in defeat. “I was really impressed by their demeanor,” says MacDonald. “These guys were pros, and they didn’t expect to lose, much less lose badly. It had to be a bitter blow for them, but they handled it with class.”
Parting gifts were exchanged—the Huskies left their victorious Pocock shell Swiftsure behind as a gesture of goodwill to their hosts. And they returned home heroes.
But local heroes only.
In those days before cable TV and the Internet could make even the most obscure athletic drama ubiquitous, the Huskies’ historic—and politically charged—victory over the Soviet world champions went largely unnoticed outside of Seattle and its environs.
But the event made huge headlines at home. And left indelible memories.
Keith Jackson, the legendary sportscaster, still considers the Huskies’ comeback win over Leningrad Trud his greatest memory in sports. George Meyer, the longtime sports editor of The Seattle Times, counted it as his favorite moment in his final column.
At the 2010 Seattle Sports Star Awards, the Huskies’ upset victory in Moscow was named the top story of the past 75 years, beating out the Sonics’ ’79 NBA championship and UW’s ’91 NCAA football title.
The 1958 varsity boat that beat the Soviets—John Bisset (cox), John Sayre (stroke), Andy Hovland (7), Louis Gellermann (6), Chuck Alm (5), Phil Kieburtz (4), Roger MacDonald (3), Dick Erickson (2), and Bob Svendsen (bow)—has been enshrined in the Husky Hall of Fame, along with their coach Al Ulbrickson, whose final race was that moment in Moscow.
It also was the final collegiate race for the four seniors who graduated that spring from what would become the Foster School of Business.
Hovland embarked on a long career at Boeing. MacDonald continued to row locally and eventually settled into a long career with Pacific Northwest Bell (later US West), then managed a printing business before retiring. Alm joined the Army and rowed in the 1960 Rome Olympics, then served as director of the UW Alumni Association in the 1960s before a long run as vice-president of Olympic Stain. And Bisset went on to coach the Husky freshmen before serving as head coach of UCLA’s nascent crew program, director of the UWAA (after Alm’s tenure), and finally as president of a package travel company called Alumni Tours in Chicago.
But wherever life has taken them, the men who stunned the Soviets say they’ve always felt a deep sense of satisfaction, of pride, of kinship born in shared endeavor.
“In a way, it was a lucky break to lose that race at Henley,” reflects Alm. “It gave us, without any equivocation, the greatest rowing experience of our lives to go in there and pull that off.”
The sport of rowing—when it’s good—provides richer awards than medals or fame.
Bisset recently read “The Boys in the Boat,” the acclaimed account of the equally legendary Husky crew that beat the Germans in front of Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
“That book really captures the essence of rowing, and what it means to be with a group of brothers who go through hellfire to achieve something great,” he says. “I could relate it very easily to our group of guys. We’re just bonded together. When we see each other, we just pick up where we left off as undergraduates, practically. It’s a unique thing, and I feel very blessed.”
SOG CEO Jerry Heinlen has a mission: to increase awareness of a brand that got its start in covert operations.
If you’re not an aficionado of specialty knives and outdoor tools, or the kind of person who pages through Outdoor Magazine’s seasonal gear guides, you might not know about SOG Specialty Knives and Tools. CEO Jerry Heinlen (MBA 1987) is counting on a career managing top brands, and a talented team, to help change that.
The SOG story begins in Vietnam, where members of a highly classified US special ops unit—known as MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group)—carried a bowie knife greatly admired for its form and function. That knife would later inspire a young designer named Spencer Frazer to found SOG Specialty Knives and undertake a reproduction of the fabled bowie knife. That single commemorative model became Frazer’s starting point for designing a full line of innovative tools.
Meanwhile, the story of Jerry Heinlen’s career begins during his undergraduate years at the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. Upon graduation, he served as a deck officer aboard vessels operated by the Military Sealift Command.
“I had little knowledge about the maritime industry before I entered Kings Point,” says Heinlen. “I grew up as the fifth of six children in a family that valued education—both of my parents were educators. I chose Kings Point because it offered an excellent education, and it was at the academy that I developed a love of the sea—but my plans had always included graduate school and a career ashore.”
Heinlen pursued his MBA at Foster in order to broaden his focus and equip himself for transitioning between industries. He specialized in both marketing and finance, and although he considered a job with Hewlett-Packard in finance after graduation, he took the marketing path, joining the Ore-Ida Foods divisions of H. J. Heinz to learn consumer packaged goods (CPG) marketing and brand management.
“The CPG arena was, and still is, a fantastic training ground for young marketers and business people of all disciplines, and five years working on brands including Weight Watchers frozen foods, Ore-Ida, and Steak-UMM sandwich steaks gave me an excellent business foundation,” says Heinlen.
After leadership positions at big brands, including Waterloo Industries (manufacturers of Craftsman), Dremel, and Skil power tools, he returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2006 to lead Yakima Products, Inc. in Portland, Oregon. Yakima was owned by private equity investors and Heinlen’s role was to turn the iconic brand around and expand internationally. Mission accomplished, he transitioned the business to new owners in 2011.
Cut to SOG
“I wanted to stay in the Northwest, and networking led me to the opportunity to be CEO of SOG,” says Heinlen. Since joining SOG in January, he’s already forged ahead with a goal to double the company’s current size over the next four to five years. “We are off to a great start and expect to grow at a healthy double-digit pace in 2013. Long-term, our goal is to continue to establish SOG as a market-leading brand and company in the outdoor products space.”
Certainly Heinlen’s deep understanding of brand management will play a large role in meeting SOG’s goals. But he believes that an environment of open communication ultimately fuels high-performance teams. “I encourage everyone to speak up about challenges early enough to enable others to help with a solution before a deadline arrives, to over-communicate during times of complexity, and to be unafraid of articulating what they know—and what they don’t know—about an issue. Good communication is the oil that keeps a team’s engine running smoothly.”
And great leaders have a passion for on-brand communication that never dulls.
Barry 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 ,” 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 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.
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!
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!
Guest post by Christopher Comley, CISB French Track student
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.