Category Archives: Sustainability

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.

Foster students return to Panama for spring break

This spring break roughly 29 University of Washington students, most from the Foster School, will descend on a mountain village in Panama to help the villagers there improve their farming business and hopefully rise a little further above subsistence-level farming.

The trip was set up by the Global Business Brigades, a nationwide student-led organization with a UW chapter. A dozen students are also getting course credits for the trip through the Foster School. The lead UW student organizers—Foster students David Almeida and Blake Strickland—said the team plans also to revisit a coffee plantation where 18 Foster students spent the 2009 spring break. Almeida’s group will evaluate the impact the students had on the coffee plantation and find out if the farmers have put into practice the team’s recommendations.

“All 29 of us are extremely excited for this chance to make a real and positive impact in the lives of people living in Machuca,” Almeida said. “Through working with the farmers, living in the village, embracing their culture, and making a difference, the next week will be sure to change our lives as much as theirs.”

This year, the team will spend most of their spring break on the Machuca Farm located in the Cocle province, roughly three hours from Panama City. The farm is a 25-minute hike from the end of the nearest roadway. The community has about 800 inhabitants, but the farm group that the students are focusing on has 14 members and supports roughly 35 people. The farm grows yucca, plantain, rice, beans, corn and other crops and also raises chickens, goats and fish in a pond.

In the team’s trip preparations, the undergraduates identified four main areas where they hope to have an impact—processing chickens, bread making, goat milk products and organic products.

Almeida and several other team members plan to post updates on this blog. Stay tuned.

3 teams win high honors for global solutions to poverty

gsec-nuruGrand Prize of $10,000

The 2010 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition winning team was Nuru Light, also winner of the People’s Choice Award and Investor’s Choice Award, for their affordable, clean, safe alternative to kerosene as a light source in Rwanda. Nuru lights can be recharged quickly via the world’s first pedal generator. Team Nuru consists of students from Adventist University of Central Africa and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Photo (L-R): Charles Ishimwe, Bill Gates, Sr., Max Fraden

 

gsec-touchhbGlobal Health Grand Prize of $5,000

UW Global Health’s largest prize went to TouchHb, an affordable, prick-less anemia scanner used by low-skilled village health workers in rural India that measures, helps diagnose, monitors and screens for anemia. Team TouchHb consists of two doctors from the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences.

 

 

 

gsec-maloJudges’ Choice Prize of $3,000

Judges this year created a spontaneous award and personally pitched in a total of $3,000 for an on-the-fly Judges’ Choice Award which went to Malo Traders for their business plan that provides technological consultation that minimizes risks of post-harvest losses for small-scale rice farmers in Mali. Team Malo consists of two brothers who grew up in Africa and are now pursuing degrees—one is a PhD student in political science at Purdue University and the other a business student at Temple University.

The Global Business Center at the UW Foster School of Business puts on the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition each year – when international student teams are coached, critiqued and judged by Seattle-area business leaders. A record number of applicants (161) from around the world applied for the 6th annual event with innovative ideas to help solve global poverty. Watch the video.

Nuru wins People’s Choice Award at Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition

gsec-3936

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Washington Foster School’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition is underway this week and 11 semi-finalist teams are competing for a chance to win over judges and beat out other innovative business ideas to combat global poverty.

At a trade show this week, the People’s Choice Award went to a team with an idea called “Nuru Light: a Solution to Africa’s Lighting Crisis” which provides affordable, renewable, clean lighting to replace kerosene in households. One of the team members traveled outside of Rwanda for the first time in his life to pitch this business idea along with a medical student from Massachusetts Medical School.

Winners will announced at tonight’s GSEC Award’s Ceremony which will also feature keynote speaker Bill Gates, Sr.

Good luck to the 11 teams and 5 finalist teams – part of a record-breaking number of applicants who chose to solve poverty with business innovations.

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.

Turning green into $green: Market strategies for minority–owned businesses

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganQ:  What is green and white all over?
A:   It’s the green economy!

One of the primary purposes of this blog series is to introduce more color into the green economy. Just as the environmental movement has been comprised primarily of white middle-class people, so has the emergence of green businesses reflected that demographic.  While minority-owned businesses participate at about the same rate as white-owned firms do in the green economy, African American- and Latino-owned firms in the green economy are smaller in terms of revenue and number of employees than are Caucasian- and Asian/Pacific Islander-owned firms according to a 2008 survey by the UW Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). There are probably a lot of sociological reasons for this disparity, but the fact remains that there is a growing economic sector that is still untapped by many minority-owned businesses.

 There is no magic to becoming a successful green business, but here are four steps that can help minority businesses break into the green economy:

  • Develop your “elevator speech.”  Imagine that you only had time between the 10th floor and 1st floor to convince a venture capitalist to invest in your business. How would you describe your business model, its value and potential in three sentences or less? This is not an easy thing to do, but the discipline and creativity that you need to exercise in developing your elevator speech will help you hone your brand into a strong and memorable message.
  • Network with other green businesses. The enthusiasm and commitment of environmentally-oriented businesses and organizations is staggering. Organizations like Green Drinks have grown from low-key networking events into huge monthly celebrations of like-minded businesses. Over 400 people attended the Green Drinks event that PRR co-sponsored in October. Attendees included wind and solar power businesses, manufacturers of green office products, distributors of green office products—you get my point.  Even better, we were able to raise funds for our co-sponsoring non-profit, People for Puget Sound.
  • Get certified as a small business with the Small Business Administration as a DBE or MWBE with the State Office of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses or with the NW Minority Supplier Development Council. These programs will let you know about upcoming procurement opportunities, and can help provide technical assistance and low-income loans.
  • Join the BEDC’s Green Economy Initiative. We all get by with a little help from our friends. The mission of the Green Economy Initiative is to increase the number of minority-owned businesses that are generating profits from their involvement in the 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 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.

What is the green economy?

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganThe increased demand for green products and services comes from more than the consumer sector. Federal and state agencies, non-profits and major corporations have adopted process management standards and procurement policies that can have a significant cumulative impact on our environmental health. Businesses all over America are tripping over each other to prove their “greenness.” Many have sponsored Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that proclaim a commitment to a triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic outcomes.

It is true that many CSR programs are more inclined to salute the green flag than to follow it—sometimes for purposes of public relations or to preempt the possibility  of stronger environmental regulation. Among the most egregious examples of green-washing has been the push by nearly every oil company in America is to reinvent itself as environmental business. British Petroleum (BP) has gone so far as to spend millions to rebrand as “Beyond Petroleum.” Does this mean that these oil companies no longer rely on a business model driven by fossil fuels?

But the green economy is real—the result of growing market demand and the sobering need to drastically change consumer habits to save our planet.

Market opportunity for minority businesses is manifest in many ways. There is a growing need for products and processes that:

  • Move away from petroleum-based products such as plastic bags and Styrofoam
  • Make creative reuse of materials and substances
  • Allow for better stewardship of our air and water
  • Provide non-toxic garden care and cleaning products
  • Promote more environmentally-friendly packaging
  • Can help businesses and organizations adopt green practices

Communities of color have historically done more with less because of economic necessity. Now it is an environmental necessity for all of us.

The opportunity to push your business concept in the direction of environmental responsibility has never been greater. The effort can, in fact, give you a competitive marketing and branding advantage by adding value that has priceless benefit for the health of our planet and future generations.

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.

Minority community must mobilize today for green economy

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWhat do solar energy, non-toxic cleaners, bio-plastics and alternative fuels have in common?  More than meets the eye.

All are obviously outgrowths of the emerging green economy—big business, about to get even bigger. But here is something else these industries have in common: All are enterprises owned and managed primarily by Caucasian Americans.

The growth of the green economy reflects growing public demand for products and services that reduce our carbon footprint and help the planet.  More and more, people are asking questions about what products contain, how they are manufactured and their impacts on human health.

The need for green goods and services is of particular relevance in communities of color, whose health and safety are more likely to be threatened by environmental impacts such as water and air quality, toxic exposure and hazardous working conditions.

Green jobs for minority communities
Many organizations that include non-profits, labor unions, community colleges, and the federal government have worked hard to promote “green jobs” for people of color.  These are jobs that give training and job skills in areas such as weatherization, solar panel installation, and green building.

This is a good thing, but it is not enough.  Green jobs may produce skilled laborers who can get family wage jobs.  These programs will not bring as much sustainable prosperity to communities of color as would a solar panel factory or a business that distributes environmentally-friendly products.  After the government funding ends, then what?

Businesses that are owned and managed by people of color are more likely to hire people of color, and more likely to return wealth and investment in their communities. What will be the opportunities for minority-owned businesses to play an early and formative role in the emerging green economy?

Scott Oki, a University of Washington MBA, who conceived and built Microsoft’s international operations, once said, “Preemption is worth its weight in gold.”  The sooner minority-owned businesses can establish a toe-hold in the green economy, the more likely they will be to establish a strong market presence.

For minority-owned business owners and leaders: In coming posts, we’ll discuss the tools and resources that minority-owned businesses need to get established in the world of green business—capitalization, market intelligence, networking, policy support and more.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, and we will marshal the resources to help you get what you need.

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.