Category Archives: Consulting

Leadership Team: aiding students advance their professional careers

Guest post by Charissa Chin, Vice President of the Leadership Team

Each quarter, the Leadership Team (a student organization that partners with the Consulting & Business Development Center) offers a Flagship Consulting Program, where students provide consulting services to local businesses. During these seven-week projects, students work in teams and receive guidance from professional advisors from Ernst & Young.  This spring, our students gathered research and developed recommendations for The Seafair Foundation, Sealaska Corporation, and The Skin Firm.

The Seafair Foundation, which is part of the organization that hosts Seattle’s Seafair Festival, focuses on charitable services through its scholarship programs and community outreach. The student team’s goal was to expand brand recognition for the Foundation and other programs in their portfolio. Besides providing recommendations on how to increase membership for Seafair’s Ambassador Program, the student team also created an event, Inspire Seattle, which projects to attract more than 500 participating high-school students.

Sealaska Corporation, a $275 million dollar Alaska Native Corporation, with subsidiary operations in various industries, tasked their student team with researching potential markets where Sealaska could gain market share and increase profits, while still maintaining their company’s core organizational values. The team identified various industries such as athletic apparel, green retrofitting, deconstruction, and niche recycling as attractive markets where the company could potentially flourish.

The Skin Firm is a Seattle-based company that offers high-quality skin care products and services. The primary objective for their student team was to develop a marketing strategy to grow their customer base by 4% monthly. In order to reach this goal and increase overall revenue, the team recommended strategies to strengthen the firm’s local advertising, social media campaign, and service packaging.

Our consulting students came away feeling extremely accomplished as they learned how to apply their classroom knowledge in real-world business situations and helped small business owners become more successful.  Students gained insight into what consulting is and had the opportunity to expand their network with Ernst & Young professionals. Through the Flagship Consulting Program, students improved their analyzing, problem-solving, time-management, and teamwork skills.

Personally, I was most excited to see how this experience has helped our students grow and ultimately advance their professional careers.  In fact, this experience has already helped several Flagship members acquire various internships and job offers.  As Vice President of the Leadership Team, I’ve had the pleasure of managing these projects for three consecutive quarters.  It was not only rewarding, but allowed me to grow personally.  Learning how to manage 17 students this quarter has helped me develop my organizational, decision-making, and leadership skills.  It’s a wonderful program and I encourage every student at the UW Foster School of Business to join!

Collaborating for increased opportunities: A new BEDC partnership to further develop minority-owned businesses nationwide

Michael Verchot, Director of the UW BEDC (left), stands with NMSDC President Joset B. Wright (center) and Shelley Stewart, Jr., the Vice Chairman of the NMSDC Board of Directors.
Michael Verchot, Director of the UW BEDC (left), stands with NMSDC President Joset B. Wright (center) and Shelley Stewart, Jr., the Vice Chairman of the NMSDC Board of Directors.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc.® (NMSDC®) and the University of Washington’s Business and Economic Development Center (UW-BEDC) announced a partnership agreement to further the development of minority-owned businesses across the US on May 22nd at the NMSDC’s annual Minority Business Leadership Awards Dinner Dance in New York City.

This partnership joins together the nation’s premier organization committed to the growth and development of Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American-owned companies with the nation’s most comprehensive business school center dedicated to the growth of minority-owned firms and businesses in low- and moderate-income communities.

“This agreement will provide minority business enterprises a new opportunity at one of the country’s leading institutions that supports minority business development,” said NMSDC President Joset B. Wright. “It will allow us to enhance MBEs’ ability to meet the needs of their customers. We are delighted with our new relationship, and we look forward to many years of success for NMSDC, for the University of Washington, but most importantly, for our certified MBEs.”

Jim Jiambalvo, Dean of the UW Foster School of Business, expressed similar excitement about this partnership. “We recognize the NMSDC’s pioneering role in growing minority-owned firms across the US. The work of the council and its member corporations has done more to create opportunities for business growth and wealth creation in communities of color than just about any organization in the last 40 years. We’re proud to be partnering with them so that collectively we can do more than either of us could do independently.”

The partners will begin their collaboration by growing the Foster School’s six-year-old Minority Business Executive Program. This Program has a track record of success in growing minority-owned businesses from across the U.S. JBE Enterprises, an NMSDC-certified firm based in South Carolina, participated in the 2012 Minority Business Executive Program. Richard Ellison, the company’s Vice President and a graduate of the Program attributes its ability to cross the $40 million revenue threshold in part to what firm representatives learned in this Program.

NMSDC and the Foster School will launch a pilot program in June. NMSDC corporate members will select a few MBEs to participate in the program. Ms. Wright will be the commencement speaker at the University’s 2013 graduation ceremony on June 21 in Seattle.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council advances business opportunities for certified Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connects them to corporate members.  One of the country’s leading corporate membership organizations, NMSDC was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes. The NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 36 Regional Councils across the country. There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America’s largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned NMSDC companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The Regional Councils certify and match more than 16,000 minority-owned businesses with member corporations that want to purchase their products and services.

Seeking enlightenment: a Business Certificate Program graduate’s reflections

Guest post by Jeffrey Chon, graduate of BEDC’s Seattle Business Certificate Program

The Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC)’s Seattle Business Certificate Program (BCP) has recently wrapped up after six weeks of educational coursework and with over sixty graduates. We have invited graduates from the BCP to reflect on their experience of the Program; this is the first in the series written by Jeffrey Chon, Sole Proprietor of Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club in Seattle.

chonI’ve always been a passionate martial artist and my goal is to never work a day in my life. You see, I’m not “working” if I love what I do. Coming from a family of martial artists, deciding to open my own studio was a breeze. However, after four years of operation, I’m ready to grow my business so that I could focus on teaching instead of worrying about money.

I’ve been a student of kung fu since I was eight. I’m a secular disciple of the Shaolin Temple, and a gold medalist in three different countries. Now I’m able to teach the discipline and philosophies that I’ve learned through Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club. Through Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club, students attain better health and fitness by learning the importance of both physical and mental strength through sports and meditation.

Auspiciously, a longtime friend directed me to the Foster School’s Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC), where I participated in their Business Certificate Program.  Held once a week for six weeks, professionals from all fields would come together to give lectures, covering everything from marketing to liability. My classmates, who are professionals themselves, were able to share their experiences, lead class discussions and propose insightful questions. Those questions and concerns were met with direct and in-depth answers. In short, all professionals who seek further knowledge and education can benefit from these seminars.

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”  ~Sun Tzu

As a small business owner, sometimes we do things for the business with the idea that it will be beneficial, but without the understanding of “why.” During every class I would say to myself, “That’s what I do!” and I began re-applying what I’ve been already doing, but with a deeper understanding of the fundamentals. Within two weeks, I was able to bring nine new students to my business.

To me, it was the missing piece to the puzzle. These classes take what we do as business owners and provide us with the skills to further expand our minds and better our businesses.  Simple questions such as, “Does it work? Why or why not? What are other people doing? What do customers respond to?” helped me understand what areas I need to improve on. Sometimes finding success can be as simple as asking the right questions.

As business owners and professionals, we are always keeping long-term and short-term goals in mind. These classes allow you to re-calibrate what’s important and focus on future goals; not only for your business, but for your life. The professors help you ask the right questions, fellow classmates provide you with networking opportunities, and the synergy created in the class paves the way to endless ideas. I know that the Business Certificate Program will be a priceless and lasting benefit to my business.

You have to prepare yourself for when you’re blessed with an opportunity. As Sun Tzu once said, “opportunities are multiplied as they are seized!”

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.

Business Certificate Program – Seattle

The Business Economic Development Center’s Business Certificate Program will begin in April at UW Seattle campus. The six-session course teaches business fundamentals through a series of six three-hour classes. BCP will be offered in Spanish (Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. starting April 2) and in English Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 pm starting April 17.

blog_BCPWho should attend? Any small business owner or manager who is interested in learning or refreshing their knowledge of sales and marketing, finance and accounting, leadership and management, and legal topics.  Students come from every industry- from construction companies to restaurants to medical clinics. And to due to the diversity of participants, the classroom is a great place to network with fellow business owners.

The class also offers students to learn from award-winning University of Washington faculty including Mike Eguchi, lecturer of sales and marketing. With over 30 years of sales experience, Eguchi shares proven strategies and tactics in his class session Developing a Sales-Oriented Company. Student Pratish Brady relays how she used what she learned, “I used the guidelines [from class] to write my mission and vision statement for my website emphasizing benefits and value of my product; people are complimenting me on them.” And “ I spoke by phone with a new customer I had sent a sample too.  He liked the product, but it was the wrong size.  I used the term “how so” and kept him talking so I could understand more clearly what he wanted. Our conversation ended with a new order for a smaller size product and he wants to distribute my product to his customers not only in the US but in Europe.  A definite win-win.”

Learn how to make your business win with proven business fundamentals from the Business Certificate Program.  Course registration fee is $200. To sign up please visit our website. You can also be a program supporter by sponsoring a student.

Student Consulting Program – student perspective

Guest post by Rai Huang, Foster undergraduate

BEDC Student Consulting ProgramI initially enrolled in the BEDC Student Consulting Program without really understanding what consulting means; my impression was that consulting is the dream job of many of my peers at the Foster School of Business, yet it wasn’t something I particularly cared for.

I expected to walk away from the class with experience in conducting market research and formulating online marketing/public relations strategies, which is related to my dream career after graduation. And I liked the idea of working with a team; the communication skills learned would prepare me for work in any field. The fact that it would look good on my resume didn’t hurt either.

My team’s assignment is to formulate online marketing and social media strategies for our client, Concourse Concessions, who currently operates a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchise in the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. A newcomer in the Seattle market, they wish to grow brand recognition through traditional and non-traditional public relations methods as they expand to locations outside of the airport within the next year. It was an exciting task to take on, as the overall business environment and market for coffee in Seattle is very saturated, and would require creative thinking to accomplish the mission.

The first step for our team was to identify the strategy and comparative advantage of the franchise.  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has only been in operations for about three months, and there was lack of substantial data for us to analyze. Challenged by our advisers and mentors, we were able to take a step back and look at the project from a wider perspective. We learned to think in terms of what is most valuable for the client every step of the way. With the support of our mentor and advisors, we came up with a framework in which every question raised had to be answered in a way that would help the business.

During the research phase of the project we gathered survey data and took a close look at local competitors such as Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Uptown Espresso, Espresso Vivace and Café Vita. We examined how they are utilizing social media and promotion strategies to maximize brand equity. Marketing concepts we’ve seen play out in real life include: how social media is being utilized for Customer Relation Management; how Search Engine Optimization is becoming increasingly intertwined with social media; why it’s essential for all business owners and managers to understand the marketing concept; how to really use a business’ competitive advantage; and how to communicate through interaction with the consumers.

As we come near to the end of the project, I now understand what consulting really comes down to is communication. It is important to practice the art of listening to your client and really hearing their needs, and finding resources and formulating recommendations with your team to create value for them. Through the process of tackling the different obstacles, my team and I have bonded together and grown both professionally and personally.

I look forward to applying the skills I’ve learned to a future career in Public Relations. I now understand what it is like to work with a real client, how to identify their wants and needs, and strategically come up with solutions that would benefit the client and heighten awareness of the brand. The Student Consulting experience is not just a line on my resume, but truly a real-world experience I was fortunate to have as an undergraduate student.

Learn more or become involved in the Student Consulting Program as a client or volunteer advisor.

BEDC grad students provide consulting for Ketchikan Indian community

BEDC Alaska MBA StudentsThe BEDC is again working to support small business growth in Southeast Alaska. A team of four UW Foster MBA students has spent winter quarter working with the Ketchikan Indian Community in an effort to grow local business and tribally-owned enterprises. The students taught entrepreneurship classes over the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend for 30 current and aspiring business owners. Ketchikan, the southernmost city in Alaska, has an economy based on tourism and fishing; and many of the new business ideas will cater to tourists from cruise ships or independent tourists.

Since the entrepreneurship classes, the MBA students have been working with outdoor adventure, culinary training, historic tourism, clothing retailer, and construction companies.

MBA student Jennifer Yanni believes she learned as much or more as her clients did “I had never written a business plan before so this gave me some real-world experience to put on my resume. It also helped me think about how you sell new ideas to an existing market.”

This is the 15th project that the BEDC has completed for a Native American Tribe or Alaska Native Corporation and we’re already looking for our next projects. If you know of a tribe that would like a MBA team please contact Michael Verchot.