Category Archives: Diversity

It’s not all about the money!

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

This month’s innovation blog focuses on an organization: Craft3. Craft3 is an old organization with a new name. Once known as Enterprise Cascadia, Craft3 is a financial institution that operates as a non-profit, lending capital to help businesses, communities, and consumers unable to secure regular financing.

Since 1995, Craft3 has invested $233 million in over 2,800 business and individuals in Pacific Northwest communities. Based in Ilwaco, Craft3 also has offices in downtown Seattle, Port Angeles, Astoria and Portland. In 2013, Craft3 will open new offices east of the mountains in both Washington and Oregon.

“This means that Craft3 can more effectively serve both rural and urban customers,” says Sue Taoka, Craft3’s Executive Vice President in Seattle. “In urban areas, we are more focused in helping targeted areas, like depressed neighborhoods and communities of color. With our strategy to expand in rural, regional centers, Craft3 will serve broader areas that have a potential for growth.”

Pippa's Real Tea
Pippa’s Real Tea, a Craft3 project

As a “triple bottom line” organization, Craft3 measures its success in terms of economic, social and environmental outcomes. Its mission, to “strengthen economic, ecological and family resilience in Pacific Northwest communities,” is great news for those who have suffered during this economic downturn.

Craft3 fulfills this mission by offering loans to entrepreneurs to start or grow their business, and conservation organizations to acquire sensitive lands and restore habitat. It also makes loans to individually-owned tribal businesses, tribal enterprises, tribal government and non-profit organizations. Energy efficiency retrofit loans are available to homeowners and small businesses in Seattle and Portland.

And it doesn’t stop there. Craft3 also provides support to its customers by referring them to other sources, and making connections. For example, Craft3 was able to help a Quinault fisherman connect his caviar products with an urban store that also benefits from Craft3 services. Craft3 financed an Oregon organic creamery so that it could place its products in urban markets. Craft3’s loans to The Freshwater Trust, helped to plant trees along the Rogue River, to cool industrial effluent.

“We make loans to innovators of all kinds, to those who have difficulty getting loans from a for-profit financial institution,” says Sue. One of her favorite success stories? In the late 1990’s few babies were being born in the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. Most were stillborn. Craft3 helped fund a new health clinic, and when Sue visited 18 months ago, a healthy baby had just been born.

Small business entrepreneurs, small industry, human service agencies and farmers have all benefited from Craft3. And so has the environment, the community, and our future. For more information, go to www.craft3.org.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle, one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series monthly. Previously, she covered green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Transformational gift from JPMorgan Chase

Guest post from Michael Verchot, Director of the Business and Economic Development Center at the University of Washington Foster School of Business

On December 6 we’ll formally announce a $600,000 gift from JPMorgan Chase Foundation that will mark a turning point in the life of the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). This gift will enable us to fully meet our goals of making a substantial impact on growing jobs where they are needed most by engaging students in learning that matters to them and to businesses. Fundamentally, this gift will enable us to do three things:

  • Increase the number of students engaged in hands-on work with small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities in the Seattle area.
  • Grow our faculty-led small business classes offered in Seattle, Everett, Yakima, Tri-Cities, and Spokane to reach up to 200 small businesses each year.
  • Build a NW regional and national network of business schools that enhance their student learning by helping small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities to create jobs.

BEDC Celebrates JP Morgan Chase GiftWe already know that more than 94% of students who participate in BEDC programs say the experience improves their job performance after graduation and 80% of small business participants report positive financial and performance gains following their work with us. We now have the opportunity to serve more students and business owners.

This is the largest gift the BEDC has received in its 17-year history and brings Chase’s total giving to the BEDC to more than $900,000. As we’ve worked with Chase over the last year in shaping our vision for the use of these funds, they’ve also challenged us to think beyond their gift to what’s next. Chase’s gift will be spent over the next three years which will bring us to our 20th anniversary. It’s time to set our sights on the future. Our overarching goals these next three years will be to:

  • Leverage Chase’s support to secure between $1 million and $10 million in endowment support to sustain the growth in programs made possible by Chase’s gift.
  • Double the number of students who are working with small businesses.
  • Create a self-sustaining series of classes for entrepreneurs and business owners at all levels of business growth.

All of us at the BEDC, students, faculty, staff, and business volunteers, are deeply grateful to Chase for this investment and we look forward to an exciting couple of years ahead of us.

2012 Minority Business Award Winners

Minority Business Awards Eight Washington businesses will be recognized for their achievements at this years’ Minority Business Awards on December 6. All of these companies have demonstrated exceptional management and revenue growth and are examples all businesses can emulate. We hope you will join us at the awards banquet to congratulate these outstanding businesses from across the state of Washington. Purchase tickets now.

William D. Bradford Award
REDAPT
Redapt offers integrated IT solutions as an innovative data center infrastructure provider and hardware reseller. Their clients range from local start-ups to Citibank and game-developer giant Zynga. Recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal as the No.1 Eastside Private Fastest-Growing Company for 2012, Redapt’s revenue has increased six-fold to $147 million in 2011, from $23.5 million in 2009.

King County Awards
JABEZ CONSTUCTION/ST FABRICATION
They are a full service design-build general contractor and a structural steel fabricator. They have contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in the private sector. Jabez Construction has a unique approach to their clients: the owners emphasize that while they are selling physical products, what makes them stand out is their excellent customer service. In the last 10 years their revenue has increased from $2 million to $9.6 million, while employees have increased from 6 to 35 people.

RADARWORKS
With offices in Seattle and Los Angeles, Radarworks is a creative agency that delivers integrated marketing solutions in advertising, graphic design, interactive marketing strategies, and events services. Their clients include several big corporations, including Microsoft, Sony, and AT&T. They’ve more than doubled the size of their firm in the last two years, hiring 30 additional employees and increasing revenue from $7.5 million in 2010 to $8.3 million in 2011.

Northeast Washington Award
SPOKO FUEL WEST PLAINS
Managed by the Spokane Tribe of Indians, Spoko Fuel is the second largest convenience store in Washington State. With revenues of over $27 million in 2011, they are more than just a profit-generating mechanism; they create positive influence on the youth by providing business opportunities and jobs for the local community members.

Southeast Washington Award
RJS CONSTRUCTION
Located in Yakima Valley, RJS is a general service contractor ran by Native American women. RJS has been in business over 22 years performing commercial, industrial, and residential contracts throughout the Pacific Northwest. Their revenues grew from $1.5 million in 2010 to an expected $2.5 million in 2012, and the growth will continue as they are expanding from the private market to government sector. Client satisfaction is the primary goal of RJS and the cornerstone of each project is quality of workmanship and production.

Northwest Washington Award
GLIDING EAGLE MARKETPLACE
Operated by the Port Gamble Development Authority, Gliding Eagle Marketplace is an enterprise of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. The convenience store/gas station serves the Tribal Reservation as well as the communities of Kingston, Hansville, Port Gamble, and Poulsbo. Profits are given back to the Tribe, providing funds for education, health care, mental health services, police, and transportation. Gliding Eagle Marketplace has experienced significant growth in the last three years and their 2011 revenues were $18.9 million.

Southwest Washington Award
SUNMODO CORPORATION
SunModo, a solar panel mounting company, was founded in 2009 with the mission to provide the best value racking and mounting solutions for solar power systems. SunModo has established itself as the provider of affordable, high-quality solar mounting products. The company excels at installing rooftop and ground mounted systems. One of their most successful product lines is their patented EZ roof mount systems, which accounted for over 50% of their sales in 2011. Their revenue has increased exponentially from $0.2 million in 2010 to an expected $5 million in 2012.

Rising Star Award
C2S TECHNOLOGIES
C2S Technologies located in Bellevue, WA is the winner of this year’s Fastest Growing Business award. A Minority owned Business Enterprise (MBE) technology and consulting company founded in 2005, C2S empowers strategic change in a broad range of industries and consultant specialties by constantly adapting capabilities. The company maintains a focus on agility, regularly adding new core competencies and personnel to keep ahead of the ever-evolving demands of the market and the needs of clients.

BEDC director authors chapter on diversity in global supply chains

Michael VerchotThe Business and Economic Development Center’s national influence is extending beyond supporting the launch of business school programs based on the BEDC model to one on corporate business diversity practices. At the end of October the Billion Dollar Roundtable (BDR), an association of 18 Fortune 500 corporations that spend at least $1 billion annually with minority- and women-owned businesses, released a book entitled Supplier Diversity Best Practices that includes a chapter on diversity in global supply chain management written by the BEDC’s director Michael Verchot. The chapter reports on research conducted by the BEDC on strategies that minority-owned businesses use in serving global corporate clients.

While in Denver Verchot also attended the annual conference for the National Minority Supplier Development Council. The NMSDC is a network of major corporations seeking to increase the number of minority-owned businesses that are part of their global supply chains. The conference provided an opportunity for the BEDC to meet with corporate partners in the Minority Business Executive Program. This program, for minority-, women- veteran-owned and other small businesses is held each June and draws 25-30 business owners from across the US.  One of just three of its kind in the US, and the only one in the Western US, the program will enter its 6th year in 2013.

To get a copy of the Supplier Diversity Best Practices visit the BDR’s web site and to learn more about the Minority Business Executive Program contact Michael Verchot.

Building economic bridges in South Park

Since the South Park Bridge closed for renovation in 2010, Raymundo Olivas has felt shut off from the surrounding city, as if on an island. But he’s not on an island. Olivas does business in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle, a sliver of commercial and residential land wedged between the Duwamish River, I-509 and a green bluff rising to Highland Park.

The South Park bridge provided the primary access to the neighborhood’s commercial district. Since its closure, businesses have suffered.

Something had to be done. Olivas, a member of the South Park Retail Merchants Association (SPRMA), decided that the association needed to do more outreach to community businesses and customers. He contacted the UW Business and Economic Development Center and requested a team of student consultants to come up with a plan to bring customers and businesses to South Park.

Student Consulting ProgramThe BEDC Student Consulting Program helps small businesses grow while providing hands on consulting experience to students. All under the guidance of expert advisors like Parker Montgomery, a 2005 graduate of the Foster School and current candidate in the UW Masters in Public Administration program. While an undergrad, Parker was a student consultant with BEDC. He has mentored student teams for the past four years.

“I’ve learned a ton from the program about small businesses in the community,” he says.

Beginning in January 2012, Parker offered this experience to the student consulting group tasked with reviving small businesses in South Park.

The students developed a neighborhood plan to attract new businesses to South Park. They identified the area’s needs, zoning issues, and market power to encourage potential business investors to consider it a viable location for their businesses.

Among the neighborhood’s unmet needs was for a grocery store. Through their research, the BEDC students met the founders of Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery, second-place winners at the 2011 UW Business Plan Competition, who were considering opening their first permanent location in South Park.

In August Stockbox opened its store in South Park. Business has been good and the community has appreciated having access to fresh, healthy food in their neighborhood.

While businesses and customers are starting to come to South Park, the neighborhood is looking forward to the bridge reopening in early 2014. Until then, Olivas and the Retail Merchants Association will continue to encourage economic development in South Park.

Parker says an ideal career for him, after finishing his MPA, would be working in economic development in the community. It’s a virtuous cycle.

SunModo’s M.O.

The UW Minority Business of the Year Awards, launched in 1999, recognize outstanding achievement by minorities in building and sustaining businesses in Washington State. This year’s winner of the Southwest Washington Award is SunModo, a solar panel mounting company. The company was founded in 2009 by Tony Liu with the mission to provide the best value racking and mounting solutions for solar power systems.

SunModo Condo Project Liu, also the company’s president, brings over 20 years of product development and manufacturing experience to SunModo. Prior to founding SunModo, he served as the senior mechanical/thermal engineer at Intel and also worked for Danaher and Credence to develop electronic power supply systems for fighter jets.

SunModo has established itself as the provider of affordable, high-quality solar mounting products. The company excels at installing rooftop and ground mounted systems. One of their most successful product lines is their patented EZ roof mount systems, which accounted for over 50% of their sales in 2011.

SunModo has produced a number of improved solutions and new products for the market by leveraging their mechanical and structural engineering capabilities and working with major installation companies. Its competitive advantages include easier installation due to fewer parts and detailed guidelines, lower installation and maintenance costs, and the ability to quickly respond to the market’s and customers’ needs.

According to the Minority Business of the Year Awards selection committee, “SunModo understands the business they are in and has developed innovative products that differentiate them in the market.” They are located in Vancouver, WA and sell their products across the U.S. and are exploring expansion to Canada. They employ nine people and expect to earn $5 million in revenue in 2012.

UW Minority Business of the Year Awards is on December 6 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Seattle. It is hosted by the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center. The awards program will highlight the impact of minority businesses on the state’s economy and support the growth of the next generation of minority entrepreneurs. Learn more about purchasing a ticket or sponsoring a table.

Native American Trading at the River

Guest post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

On April 19-20, 2012, the Oregon Native American Business & Entrepreneurial Network, otherwise known as ONABEN, will be hosting its 10th annual Trading at the River conference and tradeshow at the Embassy Suites Hotel near the Portland Airport. Native American enterprises from every sector and of every size will be gathering to learn, partner and promote their businesses.

Tom Hampson, ONABEN’s executive director, says that the focus of the Trading at the River conference is really about what he calls Indianpreneurship. He says, “The challenges facing Native American small business owners is a litany similar to any you would see for a small biz owner, such as insufficient capital, equity and debt caps, and a lack of markets, especially in rural areas with more limited markets.” Since ONABEN’s start in 1991, it has continued to help Native American businesses grow by providing information and technology so they can manage a business in the current environment. ONABEN provides these services in a way that takes into account cultural context. Hampson says it is, “how to marry traditional values with contemporary business principles. Our entrepreneurs are literally walking in two worlds.”

Today, ONABEN’s reach extends throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It has touched hundreds of Native American businesses in reservations and urban areas. In addition to offering business support and training, it partners with CRAFT3, a community development lender focused on providing technical assistance to nascent Native financial institutions and needed capital for business growth.

Hampson points out that trade flourished among the tribes before European contact. “Indians operated sustainable economies for over ten thousand years. We had elaborate monetary and bartering systems, but the web of commercial relations was disrupted by European contact, acts of war and genocide.” The system that replaced it values the accumulation of wealth by individuals above the overall wealth of the community.

Trading at the River bills itself as a celebration of the spirit of Native American innovation and a showcase for Native American enterprises of all shapes and sizes. Over a two day period, participants will engage in community discussions, workshops and symposia, as well as have an opportunity to gather at the Trading at the River marketplace of ideas, products and services.

ONABEN, and all those who participate in the Trading at the River conference, are focused on reestablishing a more inclusive definition of prosperity. “If one has access to resources and the support of community,” says Hampson, “commerce can proceed apace. Everyone can benefit.”

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle, one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series monthly. Previously, she covered green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage. Her current blog topic focus is on innovation.

Foster team wins national minority MBA case competition

An MBA team from the University of Washington Foster School Business and Economic Development Center took first place at the 2012 National Minority MBA Case Competition held at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University.

The team of first-year Evening MBA students, Brent Bauslaugh, Ben Lapekas, Ksenia Karpisheva and Rakesh Saini, beat out teams from 18 other business schools from around the US including University of California Los Angeles, Carnegie Mellon, Indiana University and Boston College. The grand prize for Foster’s Evening MBA students? $7,500. Additionally, Lapekas was recognized as the best presenter and Bauslaugh won first place for best question and answer session.

All 18 competing teams had 20 minutes to provide a solution to a case dealing with strategic choices for third party commercial loan servicing business at Key Bank. “Our students’ ability to handle ambiguity of the case and yet provide firm recommendations backed up with hard data were ultimately what differentiated them from the rest,” says team advisor Geraldine Rodriguez, assistant director at the UW Business and Economic Development Center.

EJ Burke, Key Bank’s head of real estate capital and corporate banking services adds, “The University of Washington team’s presentation represented a thorough understanding of a very complex and difficult case. Their recommended solutions were actionable and thought provoking.”

A team from the UW Business and Economic Development Center has placed in the top three teams nationally for the past four years for this diversity competition.

Each fall, the Business and Economic Development Center hosts a UW Foster School of Business internal Diversity in Business Case Competition in order to select the team of MBA students who represents Foster at the national competition.

Architect Donald King: determined to build

Guest post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

Architect Donald King has received much recognition for his lifetime achievements in his chosen field. He was elected an AIA Fellow in 2000 and, of approximately 2200 AIA Fellows, Mr. King is one of about 50 living African American fellows. His buildings have earned scores of national and local design awards. We see his work through the greater Seattle region—the Urban League at Colman School, the new and green Asian Counseling and Referral Service, transit centers, clinics, schools, libraries, public housing. His career has been satisfying and fulfilling as an architect and as an entrepreneur.

But his journey was not a path well-travelled.

Donald King knew he wanted to be an architect when he was only 12 years old, but “in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was hard to say you wanted to be an architect if you were young, black, working class and poor,” he said. Many people discouraged him from pursuing architecture, including his guidance counselor. “I overcame discouragement because of my stubbornness. Every time I was told I couldn’t be an architect, it would make me want to disprove that person. I was not the best student in high school, and I had to go to community college to get caught up and improve my GPA. Working full time and going to school part time, it took me 11 years from the time I started undergrad to complete college with my masters in architecture at UCLA.”

After moving to Seattle in 1980, it was very difficult for King to find work. Most firms were only interested in having him work on projects in the black community. He eventually obtained a position as principle architect for the non-profit Environmental Works Community Design Center. And it was because of the encouragement of Sea Mar Community Health Centers Executive Director Rogelio Riojas that he ventured forth in 1985 to start Donald King Architects (DKA).

After nearly 27 years, and over 400 projects, King has become known for his strengths as a planner, programmer, and designer, and noted especially for his collaborative design approach. Although primarily focused on community facilities, DKA has weathered several economic downturns by being flexible enough to move back and forth between public and private sector contracts. This last economic downturn has had the greatest impact because activity has slowed in both the public and private sectors, and competition is tighter. “The big firms got hit, and they have started moving into the markets that we have served.” Despite the success of DKA, King believes there is still a “glass ceiling” for black architects.

“Success can be a double-edged sword,” he notes. If you grow, you need to “feed the beast.” He advises minority entrepreneurs to understand that things are going to be a little more challenging than you might think. “You need to be flexible, ready for changes in the economy and market. You can’t rest on your laurels,” he said. “There are a lot of rewards, but you have to love what you do to sustain your commitment.”

Today Donald King is practicing his craft, working on an ownership transition for DKA, and teaching at the University of Hawaii. He is currently working with the university to set up a non-profit Community Design Center in Honolulu which will support community building needs in Hawaii’s low-income neighborhoods. Still not resting on his laurels, still stubborn, still serving the greater good.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle, one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series monthly. Previously, she covered green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage. Her current blog topic focus is on innovation.

2011 minority business of the year awards

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

Each year the UW Foster School of Business recognizes exceptional performance by minority-owned businesses throughout Washington state. On December 8, seven businesses were honored. They hail from throughout Washington, and are owned by Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latino Americans. They come from services, construction and sales. They are local, national and international.

They range from small to large. Some, like Sister Sky who produces natural bath products inspired by Native American herbal wisdom on the Spokane Indian Reservation, expects 2011 revenues to be $600,000. Others like Sam & Jenny of Bellevue is one of the largest waste paper exporters in the US, with anticipated 2011 revenues of over $70M, exporting 300,000MT of waste paper each year to South Korea and China.

The youngest company, Macnak Construction of Lakewood founded in 2007, has grown their revenues by 375% since it was founded—without borrowing any long term debt. They expect $6M in revenues in 2011. Indian Eyes, a Pasco business specializing in equipment logistics and construction management founded in 2005, expects $20M in revenues in 2011. Revel Consulting, a Kirkland-business management consulting firm founded in 2005, expects $26M in revenues this year. The Hughs Group of Tacoma, a logistics contract management company, anticipates sales of $8.1M. Everett-based Del Sol Auto Sales in operation since 2002 expects revenues of $5.5M this year.

“All seven businesses have proven that they have what it takes, even during this challenging economy, to survive and thrive,” says Michael Verchot, director of the Business and Economic Development at the UW Foster School. Since 1999, the Minority Business Awards program has given much-due recognition to high-performing, minority-owned businesses. Congratulations are due to:

  • Sam & Jenny (William D. Bradford Award)
  • Del Sol Auto Sales (NW Washington Award)
  • Revel Consulting (King County Award)
  • Hughes Group (SW Washington Award)
  • Sister Sky (NE Washington Award)
  • Indian Eyes (SE Washington Award)
  • Macnak Construction (Rising Star of the Year)

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle, one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series monthly. Previously, she covered green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage. Her current blog topic focus is on innovation.