Category Archives: Minority Business

Expanding cosmos—women in leadership study tour

Guest post by Melanie Sharpe, Foster MBA 2011 with a global business focus

BananaLeafIn the pre-trip brief just hours before we left for India, our professor Cate Goethals made a preparatory comment I’ll always remember as I weave my way through the world: “Becoming cosmopolitan means expanding and pushing the current boundaries and edges of your world.”

The trip to India expanded my cosmos in that very way. It exposed me to a diverse array of Indian leaders that redefined my perspective of business leadership as a woman—an aspect of business school that is largely overlooked and one I admittedly had not taken the time to consider prior to the transformative trip.

Inspiring women entrepreneurs

We encountered a colorful gamut of inspiring women. From workaholic bankers to avant-garde filmmakers to powerful lawyers and wealthy philanthropists to arguably the most influential female spiritual guru in the world to rural tree harvesters—all incredibly ambitious and driven women who seemed to have something very profound in common: They all seemed to be working to uplift others around them.

Call it social entrepreneurship or call it a compulsion to help better their community or family. Sometimes this innate desire compelled them to work 16-hour days to allow their fatherless children to have a better future. Sometimes that internal murmur told them that funding clean water was the only way to ensure the success of future generations of Indians. Sometimes that calling told them to hold and convey love to thousands of people everyday. In each instance, the evidence of that desire to give was palpable and tremendously inspiring.

TajThe pinnacle of the trip was hearing Rohini Nilekani, wife of the Infosys founder, speak at her clean water non-profit, Arghyam. Her profound statement: “Your generation no longer has the luxury of pessimism” was galvanizing. No longer can we absentmindedly guzzle water from plastic bottles or live in first-world luxury flushing away our waste with fresh water without considering the ramifications to the earth or other members of the world community. Her CEO Sunita Nadhamuni was an example of such awareness. Nadhamuni and her husband had reinvented the American business school dream of Silicon Valley wealth, prominent management positions and a constant search for “more” by transitioning their careers to work that directly helped communities of people have access to clean water.

Globally interconnected economy

The trip to India opened my world to the interconnectedness of the global economy. Imagine Dharavi: Asia’s largest slum, prominently featured in the blockbuster film “Slumdog Millionaire” as an impenetrable, crime-filled, filthy dystopia. The reality? The living conditions were certainly difficult: On average there is 1 toilet per 1,500 people! But the families inside the neat and tidy (albeit tiny) apartments were hardworking, entrepreneurial and contributing to global economic epicenters of recycling and clothes dyeing. In fact, many of the raw materials that we consume in the United States are sourced straight from Dharavi.

I left India transformed. The trip confirmed what I had suspected for my own career path: My own compulsion to serve was an innate calling that could be aligned with both business ideals and women’s leadership. Arriving at this realization completed the goal of the trip. My cosmos is expanded forever.

Melanie is an MBA student participant in the University of Washington Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

Jai Elliott wins 2010 UW diversity and community building award

Jai2Jai-Anana Elliott, associate director of diversity and recruitment at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, won the 2010 UW Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity Community Building Award.

Elliott manages the recruitment process for undergraduate business students at the UW Foster School and oversees the school’s diversity programs and undergraduate scholarship process. Elliott received Foster’s 2009 Staff Excellence Award and was a two-time recipient of the Staff of the Year Award. She was also presented the UW Brotman Diversity Award in 2002.

“Jai is constantly retooling and envisioning what the Foster School can do in terms of diversity, recruitment and community building,” said Vikki Day, assistant dean for Foster’s undergraduate programs. “If there is a project she feels is important and contributes to the diversity of Foster, she will figure out a way to make it happen, in spite of staffing and funding constraints. She is truly a leader in thought and action for diversity efforts.”

Diversity accomplishments

Elliott envisioned and implemented Young Executives of Color (YEOC), a community outreach program targeting underrepresented high school students. She initiated and now directs Foster’s participation with the Alliances for Learning and Vision for Underrepresented Americans (ALVA), a Boeing intern program for underrepresented high school seniors entering their freshman year. Most recently, Elliott created a bridge program for incoming UW freshmen which launched in the summer of 2010. Elliott’s efforts do not end with recruitment—she also serves as advisor for the Association of Black Business Students and works closely with the Hispanic Business Students Association as well as other UW organizations, helping students connect to the business school.

The 2010 Diversity Award for Community Building will be presented at the Multicultural Alumni Partnership Bridging the Gap Breakfast on Sat., Oct. 16 in Haggett Hall (Cascade Room) from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.

The award recognizes a University of Washington student, staff or faculty member whose efforts toward positive change on campus have resulted in multicultural community building. Foster School’s Michael Verchot, director of the Business and Economic Development Center, won the award in 2008.

Let Climate Solutions be part of your business solution

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWe all know the song, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Building a business is all about relationships.  The conundrum of many minority-owned businesses is how to build those relationships with people for whom there is no history of social interaction. 

What do you have in common with successful and established business people in the emerging green economy? Plenty. Fundamentally, you share a mission and a commitment to a better and healthier planet. This provides a common cause that can only strengthen with broad and diverse support. Many of the most exciting companies in the local clean energy economy are minority-owned or have key managers from the minority community. And there are opportunities for every type of business.

It’s easier than you think. 

I recently had a chance to chat with Ross Macfarlane who is the senior advisor for business partnerships at the Seattle-based organization Climate Solutions. He observed that, “Global warming is a fundamental issue of our time. The transition from dirty energy to clean energy is happening.  It is now not a question of whether we will make this transition, but whether Northwest businesses can lead in attracting jobs and finding profitable opportunities.” He added, “We are working with businesses, environmentalists, government and public interest groups to lead that transition.”

Climate Solutions offers a range of educational, business support and policy advocacy programs.  They also work with other coalitions to advance the fight against global warming. He offered some interesting tidbits of information:

  • The “Business Leaders for Climate Solutions” network of more than 800 business executives and entrepreneurs is a way for those who share a common mission to lead rather than follow to engage on policy, education and networking.  Membership is free, and the Climate Solutions website posts a calendar of events of interest.
  • Many other great organizations partner closely with Climate Solutions and also provide opportunities.  For example, NW Energy Angels provides opportunities to network with potential  investors and get additional tips about how to get financing. Local businesses should also check out the Clean Energy Committee of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, which is working to boost participation by minority businesses in these opportunities. 
  • Climate Solutions authored a report that highlights many of the most important opportunities in this sector: “Carbon Free Prosperity 2025.” This report identifies some of the  most promising business-development opportunities that will be in the fields of energy-efficient green building design,  smart grid and information technology, advanced biofuels and biomaterials and clean energy.  A statewide effort, the Clean Energy Leadership Council, will be completing a report later this fall that highlights key sectors and outlines an action plan for making this a more robust part of our economy.

In the meantime, Climate Solutions continues to advocate on the policy side for new financing options, revolving loan funds and stimulus-related resources for green businesses.  It wants to hear from businesses what will help create jobs and drive investment in this sector.

The key to success?  Make sure that you are providing as much to your business relationships as they provide to you. Climate Solutions provides an opportunity for you to contribute by helping lead the way to a 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.

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).