Category Archives: Diversity

Urban Enterprise Center: advocating for multiculturalism AND sustainability

Guest post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWhether you belong to the Urban Enterprise Center (UEC) or not, you benefit from its programs and vision. Established in 1993 as the multicultural business arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, its focus is to build and nurture cross-cultural economic relationships for the benefit of all.

At the UEC sustainability is considered as an ethical and systemic response to the type of fragmented thought in the “old” culture that traditionally allowed people to marginalize and abuse resources without considering impacts on the whole planet.

The UEC applies this holistic thinking to business and economic development with educational resources, job skills training, business literacy, multicultural marketing, cross-cultural business development, policy advocacy and personal development.  “We can help folks to focus on specific job skills, training and knowledge for a career or to establish a green-oriented business,” says Dr. Skip Rowland, executive director.

Dr. Rowland explains, “The whole civil rights issue is about reducing the marginalization of people, because doing so damages our whole society. We need to also think about how marginalized thinking damages our air, water and land.”

The UEC has formed strategic partnerships with scores of organizations that include Enterprise Seattle, Prosperity Partnership, and scores of multicultural organizations.  UEC makes connections by raising awareness of minority-owned businesses and helping businesses expand their customer bases to multi-cultural markets.  Currently, the UEC has about 12 committees of volunteers who focus on a range of issues relevant to communities and businesses of color.

“The act of being green reminds us of a way of thinking about how life on the planet is meant to be lived,” says Dr. Rowland.  “Green is where the economy must go to sustain our planet.” For more information about the Urban Enterprise Center, call 206.389.7231.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is 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 twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

The ABCs of LEED

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganIt is almost impossible these days for there to be a discussion about building or development that does not include discussion of LEED, an internationally-adopted third party certification of environmental excellence in metrics related to energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to impacts.

LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” was initiated by Robert Watson in 1993 to:

  • Define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement
  • Promote integrated, whole-building design practices
  • Recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
  • Stimulate green competition
  • Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
  • Transform the building market

Although it is not the only certification system for sustainability, it is certainly the best known. With the broad-based efforts of the US Green Building Council, LEED has become the global sustainability certification standard for everything from building design to interiors to whole neighborhoods.  And, oh yes, for people, too! 

Increasingly, public agencies are requiring or incentivizing compliance with LEED standards in new construction. In addition, many believe that LEED accreditation of buildings and neighborhoods offer a real market advantage for people who want to live and work in healthy, environmentally-responsible settings.

Individuals can become accredited as either LEED Green Associates or LEED APs through a program administered by the Green Building Certification Institute. The Institute offers educations and seminars, and certifies environmental expertise through a testing program. 

LEED certification can open doors to the green economy for minority entrepreneurs in architecture, construction, planning, engineering or design. It represents official recognition of expertise in sustainability from the industry, and it is a way for you to become current with state-of-the-art business practices in the new green economy.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is 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 twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Greenlining: how can we make it work for the Northwest?

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganMost of us know about “redlining,” the historic practice of disinvestment by banks, insurance companies, and other institutions of communities of color and low income people.  In the 60’s and 70’s, there were a flurry of corrective actions at the national level, such as the 1968 Fair Housing Act and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act.

The concept of “greenlining” was invented to turn redlining on its head by reinvesting in low-income, minority and disabled communities. A multi-ethnic Greenlining Coalition was formed in California in the mid-1970’s. In 1993, they established the Greenlining Institute, a multi-ethnic public policy research and advocacy center. The Institute’s programs range from leadership training to policy advocacy to a Green Assets program supporting sustainable businesses in communities of color.

A recent Green Assets publication, Greening Our Neighborhoods: a Carbon Metric for All, makes a case for block-by-block “whole house” energy retrofits that target low-income neighborhoods that can benefit the most from energy savings. In the process, jobs are created and carbon is reduced. Their case study of 36 homes in Census Tract of Richmond, California documented significant energy and economic benefits from a range of weatherization, conservation and appliance replacement actions.

Funds becoming available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for energy retrofits and green programs can benefit the triple bottom line for natural, economic and social environments. Organizations like the Greenlining Institute are working to position businesses and communities of color to access these opportunities. Their experience and business model offers promising lessons for emerging businesses in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is 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 twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 4

Click on the image above to play video.

On March 13, 2010 the minority-owned restaurant Tempero do Brasil received its final recommendations and a few accounting tools from undergraduate business consultants assigned to help the Seattle restaurant improve its bottom line. The students and their advisors were working with Tempero as part of the UW Foster School Business and Economic Development Center’s annual winter quarter Multicultural Marketing and Business Development class.

In this last installment of our video series following the students, the team members detail in real business terms how Tempero’s business can be improved. The teams had a bevy of advisors over the quarter project from Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company; PNC Mortgage; and the international communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton.

See the entire 4-part series.

Featured minority business: Mundiali

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganFeatured Minority Business: Mundiali
Bellevue, WA

Mundiali means “The World.” for Alex Agudelo it means a business vision that helps traditional business models move to innovative and environmentally-conscious ways of doing business. His business philosophy will inspire minority entrepreneurs who share his passion for the green economy.

He founded Mundiali in 2008 as a “triple bottom line” business that helps other businesses address their impacts on the environment while adding to their return on investment. Agudelo got the idea for his company several years ago when he first became aware of innovations in renewable energy, biofuels and water quality. “I knew instantly that this is the future for the economy—where business needs to go and grow,” said Agudelo.

Today, Mundiali’s  group of ten consultants help clients that include anything from technology companies to farmers—anyone who wants to make the transition to sustainability through energy consumption or other business practices. “Our assessments are refined, scalable and provide a great deal of intellectual property and wealth for clients,” said Agudelo.

The company’s biggest challenges have been developing a market presence and in obtaining financial backing. “It’s a fact that brand and name recognition is critical—people need to recognize the name and understand the value we bring before engaging us. Access to capital support is necessary to take our business to the next level. The Stimulus Package has yet to filter down to businesses like ours!”

Despite these challenges, he believes there is tremendous opportunity for minority-owned businesses to access opportunity in the green economy. “There is an abundance of opportunity for anyone who wants to play in the green economy,” said Alex. He adds, “You cannot waiver from your initial and original goal. Don’t give up. Forge forward. We are diving into a new economy and the field is yet to mature.”

Want to learn more? Visit www.mundiali.com.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is 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 will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

First legislative visit: a student’s perspective of minority business policy

Guest blog post by Caroline Gabriel, Foster undergraduate student

Caroline Gabriel at WA State CapitolLegislature.  Am I the only one who cannot correctly pronounce the term? I looked it up and found it is pronounced “lej-is-ley-cher,” courtesy of dictionary.com. I mention this word for a reason. I am a student assistant at the UW Foster School Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). Since coming to the University of Washington, I have had many amazing experiences.

One memorable experience transpired the morning of March 3 when I journeyed with my boss and BEDC Director Michael Verchot to the marble steps of the state’s capitol to attend a hearing of the Washington State Legislature Community & Economic Development & Trade Committee. Here, Michael gave a speech on Washington small minority-owned businesses. He drew attention to some startling data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—that while Caucasians have dealt with increasing rates of unemployment, minorities have dealt with outstandingly high rates for many years. With African-American unemployment rates at 7.8% in 2006 to 12.9% in 2009 and the Caucasian unemployment rate at 4.9% in 2006 and 8.8% in 2009, it represents a stark contrast. This fact seems to have been swept under the table of economic affairs recently. One thing the BEDC director was trying to convey was how existing policies address the problems of Caucasian businesses, such as high taxes and regulation red tape, but have failed to subscribe policies to the more prominent and recurrent problems within minority businesses.

Friendly legislators

Sitting from left to right were representatives Parker, Orcutt, Smith, Kenney (madam chair), Maxwell and Chase.  All dressed in business attire, some appearing happier than others. I always imagined representatives, any politicians really, to be boring, dry shells of government policy. I was proven wrong as I saw Representative Smith chatting away with a broad smile. Perhaps I had a misguided opinion of the people in power. It was interesting to listen to, after Michael’s presentation, a number of representatives quickly responding with very intellectual questions. I suppose you have to be intelligent and likeable to be a politician, but I was surprised by their excellent speech, even their perkiness.

Not-so-friendly questions

They asked very direct, yet sometimes infuriating questions. It was disheartening to hear them inquire why some data was not present and if BEDC could include it in its next report. The truth is that the economy, as the statistics describe, affects everyone. As a result, BEDC does not have enough funding to conduct such extensive surveys as the legislature would have liked. It seems meetings such as these would be more efficiently spent if the representatives asked beforehand what exactly they were looking for as far as numbers and statistics were concerned, rather than reprimanding the presenter about limited information after they have put much time and effort into their presentation.

Okay, I am done venting. As for the whole meeting, it was conducted with civility; everyone addressed each other formally, never interrupting, and everything else went very smoothly. I had the pleasure of sitting at the presenter’s table and was recognized for collecting and analyzing the data, and was able to get an up-close-and-personal view of committee procedures and protocols.

Despite going to a university, I have met some really naïve people. People who cannot pronounce “legislature” or do not know how to get to UW’s Red Square are just victims of naiveté. I would be one of them. The only way to cure this is to experience more of what is right at our fingertips. I encourage you to sit in on a committee meeting. It was both educational about government policies and eye opening to glimpse everyday tasks of policy-making.

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 3

In this installment of our video series following student business consultants from the Foster School, the UW Business and Economic Development Center team members discuss the biggest challenges they face in improving the bottom line of a small Brazilian restaurant. This is the third in the series on Foster Unplugged where you can follow the five-member student team assigned to help Tempero do Brasil, a restaurant at 5628 University Way Northeast. Check back to follow more of the student team’s efforts as the winter quarter class progresses (under Student Life blog category).

Many shades of green

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganThe National Smart Growth Conference held in Seattle in early February featured a track on social justice. Various speakers discussed the challenges of integrating people of color into the green movement. One need only go to any gathering of environmental activists to observe the reality of this demographic homogeneity.

Is green the “new white?” Does this “unintentional exclusion” translate into fewer economic opportunities in the emerging green economy?

Communities of color have a strong stake in environmental quality. Our communities are typically more likely to experience disproportionate environmental impacts from urban development. Furthermore, many of our traditional cultures are steeped in sustainable practices such as urban agriculture, conservation, reuse and high transit usage.

Putting aside the fact that these practices are usually driven more by economic need than environmental ideology, one could argue that communities of color are true pioneers of sustainability. Sustainable behaviors are integrated into every aspect of our cultures as a way of life, rather than as a political statement. Sustainability is not simply about the environment, but also embraces the need for economic and social sustainability. Communities of color offer receptive markets and traditions of environmental behavior that are ideal opportunities for the green marketplace.

Our challenge as minority entrepreneurs is to embrace and expand on this integrated view of sustainability. How can we bring green technologies to help our people save money on energy? How can we make it easier to grow healthy crops that nourish our families without the risk of pesticides? How can we educate our young people to choose quality of life over quantity of goods?

Green economy opportunities abound in our own backyards.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is 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 will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 2

Watch the second installment of our video series following student business consultants from the Foster School as they help a small Brazilian restaurant improve its bottom line and sell its hot sauce. Undergraduate students visit the restaurant for the first time on January 12, sample the food and hot sauce, and finalize their consulting contract with the business.

This is the second of a series of videos on Foster Unplugged where you can follow the five-member student team assigned to help Tempero do Brasil, a restaurant at 5628 University Way Northeast. Check back to follow more of the student team’s efforts as the winter quarter class progresses (under Student Life blog category).


The team was organized through the UW Business and Economic Development Center‘s Marketing 445 class. During winter quarter, dozens of students join teams and are paired with professional consultants from Hitachi Consulting, Deloitte, Ernst & Young as well as senior executives through the Seattle Rotary Club to help minority business owners expand their businesses and improve their bottom lines.

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 1

The UW Foster School of Business annual Multicultural Marketing and Business Development class is underway and that means local businesses owned by people of color and women will get hundreds of hours of free consulting from student teams, their advisors and mentors.

Through the Business and Economic Development Center’s Marketing 445 class, students are paired with professional consultants from Hitachi Consulting, Deloitte, Ernst & Young as well as senior executives through the Seattle Rotary Club to help minority business owners expand their businesses and improve their bottom lines.

In a series of videos on Foster Unplugged you can follow the five-member student team assigned to help Tempero do Brasil, a small restaurant at 5628 University Way Northeast, as the students experience the challenges and success of helping  this business with its accounting practices and market its unique hot sauce.

In this first installment, watch as Foster teams meet Tempero do Brasil owners for the first time on January 11. Check back to follow more of the student team’s efforts as the winter quarter class progresses (under Student Life blog category).