Category Archives: Minority Business

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.

Consulting as career catalyst

Guest post by Melon Feleke, Foster alumna

Melon FelekeMy name is Melon Feleke and I am a first generation immigrant. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and moved to Seattle with my family when I was ten years old. After attending Roosevelt High School I stayed true to my NW roots and attended the University of Washington.

For much of my childhood I was determined to be a doctor –despite the fact I fainted at pretty much every hospital visit and had no tolerance for watching pain or blood. Luckily my parents recognized my other strengths and encouraged me to consider business. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs; from my grandmother in Mettu to my parents here in Seattle; my mother owns a 7Eleven store in Mountlake Terrace. While in high school and college I managed inventory over the weekends and when my mother decided to take a vacation back home I took on the acting manager role for the store.

During my junior year at UW a classmate told me about the Business & Economic Development Center at the Foster School, specifically a program where students work with local minority business owners to improve their businesses. I thought it would be great to give back to my community in a very practical way. My client was the Theater Off Jackson, a unique minority-owned theater in the heart of the International District.  The theater was looking to relocate because of increased property costs. Our team of five students and a professional advisor worked with the clients to identify their core target market, conduct location analysis, surveying clients and ultimately making a recommendation for their new location. Our clients were facing a very real business challenge and our team brought to them meaningful business knowledge and human capital.

My BEDC experience gave me a very real sample of a career in consulting and I loved it! First and foremost I loved helping my client – this was a real problem, and if the issues weren’t resolved the owners and employees would not have a paycheck to take home to their families. I especially like that there was a beginning middle and end to the project… an end with a real result. I entered the program thinking it would be a good chance to give back to my community, but what happened along the way is I discovered the career of consulting.

The BEDC offers a two way success story –businesses succeed and students receive real and meaningful experiences that shape their careers. Fast forward three years and I am now a consultant at Accenture Consulting.

I invite you to help the BEDC create more success stories, for students like myself, and for small businesses. Make a gift to the BEDC today.

 

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.

UW Minority Business Awards honor top ventures, announce expanded partnership

The 2012 University of Washington Minority Business Awards honored ten top performing minority-owned ventures in the state of Washington.

The December 6 event, co-hosted by the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) at the UW Foster School of Business and the Puget Sound Business Journal, also unveiled an expanded partnership between BEDC and JPMorgan Chase, and welcomed back an old friend,

Ali TarhouniThat would be Ali Tarhouni, the popular senior lecturer who famously left his post at Foster in early 2011 to serve as finance minister for the Libyan revolutionary government. Tarhouni, who has initially declined a run for the newly democratic nation’s prime minister, expressed his pride in the growth of this unique Center that he helped found in the early 1990s.

“The Foster School of Business has heart,” he said. “We teach our students how to create wealth, and that’s our primary responsibility. But I’m also proud to be associated with a school that subscribes to do the right thing—even though it doesn’t usually have an immediate reward… Doing what is right and creating wealth aren’t mutually exclusive.”

The long-term impact of BEDC in promoting a robust economic diversity across the state was evident in the range of 2012 awardees.

The William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year is Redapt, the Redmond-based provider of innovative data center infrastructure solutions.

Regional winners include:
King County Award – Jabez Construction/ST Fabrication and Radarworks
Northeast Washington Award – Spoko Fuel West Plains
Southeast Washington Award – RJS Construction
Northeast Washington Award – Gliding Eagle Marketplace
Southwest Washington Award – Sunmodo Corporation
Rising Star Award – C2S Technologies

Zones, the Auburn-based enterprise IT firm, received special commendation for reaching $1 billion in annual revenues. Accepting the award was Firoz Lalji, CEO and chairman of Zones, who noted that his company has become successful by serving businesses nationwide with expertise in all areas of IT, including systems and storage, networking and security, software, virtualization, procurement, logistics, any and everything tech.

Minority Business of the Year Awards 2012Michael Verchot, founding director of BEDC, announced a transformational $600,000 gift from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the largest in the center’s 17-year history. Verchot said that the gift will allow the center to engage more students in consulting to small businesses in Seattle’s low- and moderate-income communities and to grow its faculty-led small business classes throughout the state. And, perhaps most significantly, the investment also will enable the center to build a regional and national network of business schools that follow the BEDC model to spark economic development in their own communities.

This newest investment brings Chase’s total support of BEDC over the years to more than $900,000. “At JPMorgan Chase, we believe in strengthening small business and creating jobs. And we believe that is critical to the progress of our country,” said Curt Fraser, Chase’s CEO of middle market banking for the Pacific Northwest. “We’re thrilled to partner with the UW Business and Economic Development Center in working to do just that.”

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.

Students taking charge of improving our community

BEDC Leadership TeamThe Business and Economic Development Center Leadership Team is a student organization with a mission to provide students with opportunities to improve their professional growth outside of the classroom. The organization also helps advance the work of the Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC) in developing businesses in underserved communities.

This self-governed student club uses business to improve the community. “It’s important for students to learn the significance of giving back,” said Alyssa Arinobu, a senior majoring in accounting. “Not only can students improve their skills, but they also learn how these skills can help better the community.”

“One of the programs that we’re most proud of is our Foster School Week of Service” said Simran Kaur, a senior majoring in information systems.  “This program rallies together Foster School student organizations to work with several charities across King County. For example, each year the Leadership Team volunteers at the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club, where we work with young kids on business problems and also play games and have a fun time.”

Simran is also the president of the Leadership Team. “Students realize that they can make an impact in the community by participating in this week of service.” Last year, nearly 20 student organizations assisted 11 charities. “It is a fun and easy way for us to make time to meet people in different organizations and also make a difference.”

Each year, the Leadership Team also offers a Flagship Consulting Program (FCP), where members work as business consultants for local companies and nonprofit organizations. Charissa Chin, a senior studying marketing and international business, serves as the vice president of the Leadership Team. “The FCP provides students an opportunity to gain hands-on consulting experience and make a difference in a local company or non-profit organization. It’s a win-win.”

Through this program, the Leadership Team works with a different client each quarter of the academic year. “This fall, we’re working with Explorer West Middle School to help them increase their student enrollment. This includes evaluating the school’s public perception and recommending effective marketing methods to reach appropriate target markets.”

It’s through programs like these that students grow, and learn the importance of civic service. Learn more about how you can sponsor student programs.

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.