It’s not every day that the president of a billion-dollar company hands out his email address to a group of undergrads. But not every company president is like Blake Nordstrom.
On April 30, Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom, gave a brief presentation and answered student questions in an undergraduate retailing course. He began his presentation with a wide smile and disarming honesty. “We have a motive here; we’re hoping some of you will come work for us,” he said.
After a little backstory on the humble beginnings of both the man (who started in the stockroom of the shoe department) and the company (which started as a Seattle shoe store), Nordstrom launched into a discussion on the impact of company culture. “Fashion changes, values do not,” he said. Over the course of the presentation Nordstrom emphasized his company’s commitment to both their customers and employees. He attributed much of their success to an inverted pyramid model where customers are at the top, followed by the employees who work most closely with customers, and management is at the bottom. “Our business works when we live that pyramid,” he said.
Nordstrom elaborated on his company’s commitment to customer service and customer experience. “It’s all about making the customer feel good,” he said. He underscored the importance of making the customer feel empowered, as if it were their name, not his, on the door. Online shopping is one part of that customer empowerment strategy. “Ecommerce helps customers shop on their terms,” he said. On the subject of the retailer’s liberal returns policy, he stated believing in the customer creates trust, which in turn creates sales volume.
Next, Nordstrom talked about the importance of employee growth. “We really believe leadership development is grounded in experience,” he said. He emphasized the company’s practice of promoting from within and how they strive to give managers hands-on training, citing that most managers cut their teeth on Nordstrom Rack stores before moving to full-line stores. He then discussed the company’s commitment to social responsibility—embodied by the Nordstrom Cares project and its motto, “leave it better than we found it.” Nordstrom emphasized importance of having workers who want to be associated with the company and its values. He stated job seekers should make sure a company’s principals align with their personal principals.
Nordstrom ended the presentation by discussing the company’s internship program—and its 80% retention rate—before opening up the floor for questions. Students asked questions ranging from potential international expansion to the impact of social media. On the subject of social media, Nordstrom discussed their success in creating excitement and energy. “We’ve got to try new things. If it doesn’t work, we learn from it quickly and move on,” he said.
36 student-led startups from colleges and universities across Washington state gathered at the University of Washington today to compete in the Investment Round of the annual UW Business Plan Competition. This years’ teams, selected from a pool of 92 applicants, demonstrated innovation and inspiration across sectors—solar energy, wearable technology, public health and safety, even sauerkraut! After four hours of pitching to 300+ judges—entrepreneurs, lawyers, investors, and other top professionals—the sixteen top-scoring teams were announced. These teams will move on to the next round of the 2014 BPC, and a chance to win the $25,000 Grand Prize. Stay tuned!
Congratulations to the 2014 UW BPC Sweet 16:
Aurora Plasmonics(University of Washington) Blood clots are a major problem during dialysis—an average of 400,000 de-clotting procedures take place each year in the U.S. Aurora Plasmonics has developed cost-effective, non-invasive therapeutic and diagnostic technologies for de-clotting procedures. These technologies offer reduced procedure times and costs, improved outcomes, and increased patient comfort.
ChooseVets.com(University of Washington – Tacoma) ChooseVets.com is a web based, peer-to-peer market through which customers can hire local military veterans for common or specialized tasks, jobs or errands. ChooseVets will charge a brokerage fee for connecting its customers with its military veteran independent contractors. ChooseVets’ contractors can perform a diverse range of personal services and labor, ranging from landscaping to remodeling houses. Through ChooseVets, businesses and individuals can not only find reliable, skilled people to get needed tasks accomplished, they can show their support for America’s veterans and help them reintegrate back into their local communities.
FastBar (University of Washington – Bothell) Everyone hates long bar lines, and payment processing at pop-up bars—temporary bars for special events that don’t have built-in point of sale systems —can mean especially long wait times. FastBar provides a simple, high-speed payment solution for pop-up bars that uses RFID wrist bands.
FDCARES (University of Washington) Fire departments use up valuable time and money dispatching Emergency Medical Service in response to non-urgent 911 calls—up to 40% of fire department medical responses are for non-emergencies. FDCARES saves fire departments millions of dollars and improves their 911 response efficiency by integrating a Non-Emergency Medical Service division into their operations.
Flu Finder(University of Washington) Current flu diagnostic tests are unable to achieve effective early diagnosis for most flu-infected individuals. Flu Finder has created a flu test that is accurate, inexpensive, and can be administered by anyone, anywhere, with results in less than 20 minutes.
Innovii (University of Washington) The Innovii Challenge is an extracurricular 10-day challenge where teams of high school students compete to create innovative, profitable micro-ventures with startup capital of only $20. Throughout the 10-day event, Innovii provides unique workshops and coaching strategies to help students execute on their business plans.
IonoMetal Technologies (University of Washington) Gold-plated surfaces used in computer chip testing wear down with repeated use and must be replaced. Each test board costs upwards of $40,000, and there is currently no available cost efficient repair option that satisfies industry standards. IonoMetal Technologies has developed technology that lowers the costs of manufacturing new gold-plated test boards by 10x.
Korvata (University of Washington) Korvata Inc. creates cutting edge alternative chemistry products that enable companies to mitigate their environmental impact. Korvata, a Delaware Corporation, received the top award at the 2014 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC). Its patent-pending technology enables customers in the food & beverage and CPG industries to significantly reduce their carbon footprints.
Loopool (Bainbridge Graduate Institute) The textile and apparel industry is facing resource scarcity and significant economic loss through an inefficient supply chain. Loopool is both a technology and a philosophy for the management of a sustainable textile and apparel supply chain ecosystem. It is a process used to reclaim textile and apparel waste and convert it into high quality bio-based fiber for the creation of new textiles and apparel. Loopool is a holistic closed-loop garment recycling system and a business model representative of the new era circular economy.
Mobile Foam(Washington State University) 1.6 billion people worldwide live in substandard housing. Humanitarian organizations are trying to address this by building more homes, but construction is often low-quality and lacks energy efficiency. Mobile Foam empowers humanitarian organizations to build higher quality homes with their building kit: floor-plans, consulting, and the necessary chemicals and portable molds to produce polyurethane blocks on-site.
NOVA Technologies (Western Washington University) NOVA Technologies is changing the way the world views solar energy by manufacturing commercial windows that produce solar power. Intended for large-scale commercial applications, this radical concept takes advantage of a building’s surface area, rather than being limited by the square footage of its roof.
OlyKraut (Bainbridge Graduate Institute) OlyKraut combines local produce, the magic of fermentation, and delicious original recipes to create sauerkraut that’s more than a condiment–it’s a health tonic, a kick in the tastebuds, and an investment in the local food system.
OpsMagic(University of Washington) OpsMagic combines off-the-shelf cameras and advanced computer vision to automate observational studies, empowering businesses to tune operations to consumer demand. By building software intelligence and analytics on top of everyday video infrastructure, we solve the pain of a person using a stopwatch and some paper to measure business processes. Instead, we enable businesses to quickly understand customer demand, rapidly iterate on continuous improvements, and immediately see cause and effect. OpsMagic solves a major hassle in business operations measurement by tapping into new source of big data in video.
Projected Talent(University of Washington) Projected Talent is an online marketplace that connects skilled undergraduates to businesses on short, meaningful, paid projects. This allows students to gain valuable, relevant work experience and businesses to find and audition the best talent while accomplishing important tasks. By lowering the time, space, and financial commitment, more companies than ever are now able to connect with students.
Spectral DNA(University of Washington) Our always-on, highly mobile and energy-demanding world does not cannot continue to operate using wired technology. Spectral DNA is solving this problem by developing smart fabrics that generate ubiquitous power and sensor functionality for the wearable technology, automobile, and housing industries.
Trestle (University of Washington) Trestle converts your smartphone into a touchscreen interface for your Wi-Fi router. With Trestle, complicated configuration tasks are automated making your home network a breeze to set up, and your internet security and speed are continuously optimized. It’s so easy that even your grandma can do it!
Want to know more?
Follow the progress of the 2014 BPC on Twitter: #UWBPC2014
Join us for the Final Round: Thursday, May 22, 1-4:30pm, Dempsey Hall.
Four students representing four different universities and three continents made up the ‘Global Team’ that took home the trophy in the 16th annual Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) on Saturday, April 12th.
Each of the twelve student teams that competed in GBCC spent 48 hours analyzing a business case on Nike’s sustainability and labor practices. The students were asked to identify three countries where Nike should shift its production. Teams had to justify their choices by explaining the advantages and tradeoffs of candidate countries in terms of sustainability and labor practices, as well as costs and other competitive factors. They also had to address ways in which Nike could implement traceability of its supply chain for collegiate apparel.
Of the four teams selected to move on to the final round, the judges chose the ‘Global Team’ as this year’s Champion. Unlike the other competing teams who came from just one university, the ‘Global Team’ was made up of one student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Florida State University, NHH Norwegian School of Economics, and the University of Washington. They met for the first time just days before their final presentation.
Multicultural teams are now a reality of both the classroom and the professional environment. The Global Business Center began the ‘Global Team’ tradition eight years ago to bring students from around the world together to work as a team. The judges said that the team’s final presentation clearly benefitted from their diverse backgrounds and experiences. In eight years, the Global Team has placed in the finals four times, and now they are GBCC Champions!
The Global Business Center would like to acknowledge the hard work of our GBCC Student Leadership Team who spent countless hours organizing this event. Co-chairs Lisa Dang and Connor Harle were exceptional leaders for over 100 students that were involved this year.
Finally, GBCC would not be possible without our major corporate sponsors: The Boeing Company, Costco Wholesale, F5 Networks, Fluke Danaher Corporation, Russell Investments, Starbucks Coffee International, and Wells Fargo.
Guest post by Marissa Freeman, UW undergraduate and VP of public relations, UW American Marketing Association
Over 150 students and professionals gathered in PACCAR Hall in February for a full day of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, a case competition and a career fair as part of the first annual UW American Marketing Association Regional Marketing Conference. The conference’s theme was “Vision 20/20: A Clear Vision into Marketing in the New Millennium,” and it was sponsored by Eddie Bauer. Foster’s EY Center for Undergraduate Career Advancement and the UW American Marketing Association co-facilitated the event.
Professionals from 4th Avenue Media, KeyBank, Razorfish, Eddie Bauer and Edelman participated in the conference and students from UW, Seattle University, Pacific Lutheran, University of Montana and Western Washington University attended the conference. During the breakout sessions, marketing professionals led students in discussions about how to stand out in the marketing industry. The breakout sessions covered how marketing in a digital world means understanding the language of a digital market. Mel Carlson, founder of Delightful Communications, shared his take on how social media is more than a way to flood people with information, but rather a way to begin discussions with customers. He made the point that conversations online have shared the B2C dynamic for the better.
Keynote speakers included Lucas Mack, founder of 4th Avenue Media, and William Boucher, senior vice president of marketing at KeyBank. Mack opened up the conference with encouraging our attendees to understand “the why” behind their actions and how it fits into their larger story. Standing out in the marketing industry means finding creative ways to tell a story. Story telling is at the core of the marketing world, as suggested by Mack, and helps marketers connect with their audiences like never before. Adding the story telling element to any marketing campaign allows for the target audience to understand why they should look more into a product or idea. Mack also shared his personal mantra: “Discover truth through story, discover story through truth.” This helped attendees see how crucial it is to be open and excited about advertising and marketing so the truth behind the product or idea’s story comes to life.
Students shared that the conference as a whole was worth the early wake-up call. While marketing classes teach the core ideals of the industry, nothing can compare to hearing from professionals in a more casual, intimate setting. The UW AMA’s Regional Marketing Conference created an environment for students to raise their hand and open up a discussion between marketers in Fortune 500 companies and aspiring marketers.
The buzz throughout PACCAR Hall was one of excitement, intellect and passion. There was an excitement for conversations, the intellect of those professionals in attendance and students’ passion to learn. The UW AMA and EY Center for Undergraduate Career Advancement are proud to have hosted the first annual Regional Marketing Conference and look forward to organizing this event again next year.
The annual UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC), now in its sixth year, challenges interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates the commercial viability of their product, process or service.
23 teams were selected to compete in the 2014 UW EIC. Each of these teams proved that students have the potential to address our most pressing environmental needs—alternative fuels, recycling, solar power, water treatment—with novel solutions that have market potential. After pitching their innovations to a group of 170+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors—the six teams with the highest scores were awarded up to $10,000 in prize money. Congratulations to this year’s winners:
$10,000 Grand Prize
Korvata (University of Washington) Korvata has created a cutting edge alternative energy product that allows companies to mitigate their environmental impact by replacing the use of nitrous oxide as a whipped cream propellant. (sponsored by the UW Center for Commercialization)
$5,000 Second Place Prize and $5,000 Clean Energy Prize
NOVA Solar Window (Western Washington University)
NOVA Solar Window combines the power producing capabilities of a solar panel with the utility of a traditional window. The utilization of transparent solar energy technology allows solar windows to provide renewable energy where traditional solar panels cannot.
(sponsored by Puget Sound Energy the UW Clean Energy Institute)
$2,500 Honorable Mentions
Loopool (Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Seattle Central Community College, University of Washington)
Loopool is reinventing the garment industry business model by creating a closed-loop supply chain, transforming reclaimed cotton garments and textiles into high-quality, bio-based fiber. (sponsored by Starbucks)
Salon Solids (University of Washington)
Salon Solids reduces the amount of plastic waste and hazardous chemical consumption that occurs with most hair products. Its six-ingredient shampoo and conditioner comes in solid form, eliminating the need for the preservatives necessary for a product with water in it, and its packaging is recyclable, biodegradable and does not contain plastic, further reducing waste. (sponsored by Fenwick & West)
Ionometal Technologies (University of Washington)
Ionometal Technologies has created a metal plating technique that allows for precise metal-on-metal deposition which can be used to repair gold test boards. The Ionometal printer prints metal plates that are smaller than can be seen with the naked eye.
(sponsored by WRF Capital)
Check out what guests, judges, and teams had to say about the 2014 UW EIC on Twitter: #UWEIC2014
Imagine going to a meeting and finding out that you and your team must write, film and produce a commercial for a client within a few hours. How do you think you’d do? This is exactly what Young Executives of Color (YEOC) students were tasked with during their January session. Upon arriving to campus, students were separated into groups, paired with a mentor and presented with iCreate. According to Korrie Miller, YEOC Program Manager, “iCreate allows students to create their own commercial for a client that follows their branding, strategy and business goals.” The client in this case was APLUS Youth, a non-profit based in Washington state that focuses on character development and education through sports. “APLUS Youth is launching a new running program and asked the YEOC students to act as consultants and create not only commercials (on our YouTube Channel), but also fresh ideas for their program,” says Miller. Watch the session video below:
February: Information Systems This session’s business activity was inspired by the ABC Show “Shark Tank.” When describing the project, Miller says, “On the show, investors called “sharks” consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product. At YEOC, students decided on a problem they wanted to solve and came up with creative solutions involving technology. Each team presented their product in front of the sharks, who were professionals from EY (YEOC sponsors).” Students also heard lectures on social image and online correspondence and information systems. Watch the session video below (and don’t miss the Seahawks gear!):
This blog post is a part of a series focusing on monthly YEOC student activities. Visit the YEOC page to learn more about the program.
Seattle City Light has been trying to shine a light on the issue of how to derive 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. This deadline based on state legislation presents a clear goal, but not a clear solution. The utility is actively debating how to most effectively balance between hydro-power, wind and solar energies while being mindful of the interests of their various stakeholders. The Foster School of Business partnered with City Light to put teams of students to work on innovative solutions to this issue through the strategic management course.
This required capstone course for all graduating seniors features a customized case competition. Instructors and case writer Alex Murray, a Foster PhD student, worked closely with senior leaders at Seattle City Light to understand this strategic question. Using publicly available research, the case was created and then analyzed by nearly 250 students in 46 competing teams.
The teams were charged with providing recommendations as to what Seattle City Light’s strategic position(s) should be regarding solar energy, including whether the utility should actively promote and develop its use or invest in other renewable energy sources; and how to most effectively market and price various solar projects, including a viability analysis of an existing Community Solar program.
The case study focused on short-term and long-term strategies to satisfy key stakeholders, encourage supporters and overcome detractors. As a publicly owned utility, Seattle City Light operates as a non-profit organization that must balance environmental, financial and social considerations in its decisions. The complexities of the case required a great deal of research and a thoughtful approach.
“The most challenging aspect (of the case) was hashing out with my team what view we were going to take,” case competition participant Cara Haas said. “(Many) of our meetings were solely focused on researching and discussing alternatives before we decided on our approach.”
Her team’s solution: a marketing program, Solar|Sea, to build awareness and support amongst the community and important constituents. The YDC Consulting team members Ken Luginbuhl, Ryker Young, Erin Hoffinger, Julia Kuhn, and Cara Haas attribute their success to the synergies they found in their ideas and team dynamics.
Hoffinger found the most valuable takeaways from the case competition experience centered on knowing “how to speak and pitch ideas to members of the executive board… and being able to think on your feet about (responses) with concrete numbers and analysis in order to answer questions.” These skills she and her peers will surely be able to put to good use as they enter the workforce in just a few short months.
The case competition proved to be another win-win for Foster School of Business students and a local organization. “Seattle City Light was pleased to partner with the Foster School of Business to examine one of the most complex and important issues the utility faces in the medium to long-term,” general manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said. “It’s also an issue that confronts the industry as a whole. We were excited by the fresh ideas and perspectives the students brought to the table.”
An Alaska Airlines jet soared overhead as a group of four Foster School seniors emerged from the Customer Services and Innovation team headquarters last Friday. Spirits were soaring too as Jordan Barr, Mackenzie Meier, Kenny Thompson and Tyler Waterer had just presented their recommendations on how to make Alaska Airlines the “easiest airline to fly” to a senior leadership team. The students landed the opportunity to present their ideas to the Customer Innovation team because they outperformed 33 teams of their peers (161 participants) in the fall 2013 Foster Strategy Development case competition.
The competition has been described as the capstone experience to a capstone course. All graduating seniors are required to take strategic management, a course designed to assimilate and apply academic theory to real business issues. The goal is to provide students with practical experience prior to launching into their careers. Offered in the fall, winter and spring and summer, the course draws between 150-300 students per quarter.
Beginning in the fall of 2012, undergraduate program faculty, staff and administrators had the vision of bringing valuable case competition experiences to all Foster School of Business students. Initially, the case competition was optional, done in lieu of a final exam. During the first fall quarter, about 100 students in 25 teams (80% of total class population) participated. Quickly, the value of this experience was recognized by all stakeholders.
According to Clay Schwenn, case competition coordinator and assistant director of student leadership and development, a key learning for students is to be “able to take the theoretical knowledge they have acquired over the years and create something concrete. They generate a set of recommendations to people who could actually implement them.” This is powerful for the students and for the client companies.
Course coordinator Rick McPherson, a veteran of the telecom business for over 25 years, knows the importance of how to “sell” ideas to executives. He sees incredible benefit not only to the students in terms of richness of learning, but also for the companies. McPherson noted “particularly with the presentation to Alaska Airlines you saw how a well thought-out analysis and recommendations were really attractive to a company. Our students demonstrated that they can come up to speed to understand an industry and a business opportunity and create realistic ideas that a business can pursue.”
At Alaska Airlines Customer Innovation headquarters, the moment the students began their pitch, the dozen company leaders in attendance began taking notes, and then asking questions and soliciting the student’s perspective on wide raging issues from the usability of their web interface to competitive market analysis. Student team members Mackenzie, Kenny, Jordan and Tyler’s polished presentation skills left a strong impression on the leadership team. Their confidence, depth of knowledge and ability to respond quickly and thoughtfully to challenging questions will translate well to job interviews and future executive level presentations. From Jordan Barr’s perspective, “the most rewarding aspect of making our pitch to the Customer Innovations team at Alaska Airlines is the thought that our solution could be implemented in the company. It clearly shows that Alaska Airlines didn’t just do this to say they were involved—they did this because they truly want to innovate and do something different. It is an incredible feeling to know that they will be using our advice moving forward in their solutions—and it doesn’t hurt that they want to hire us.” Tyler Waterer commented, “Without Foster’s partnership with Alaska Airlines, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have this kind of learning experience (while) still in college.”
The success of the case competitions has focused on sourcing local businesses (past case companies have included: Microsoft, Amazon and Seattle City Light) and creating forward-looking cases on current issues the company is tackling. This approach of what should a company DO, not what they should have done creates urgency for the issue and maximizing the impact the students can make. Stay tuned to see student ideas take flight in other businesses.
Foster undergraduates Madeline Down and Natasha Tieu share their thoughts on the Second Annual Women’s Breakfast, which was organized by the Foster School’s EY Center for Undergraduate Career Advancement.
The Second Annual Women’s Breakfast was a success. The attendance from both employers and students was impressive. Women from many companies attended, including Wells Fargo Bank, Deloitte, Concur Technologies, Grant Thornton, KPMG, EY, PwC, West Monroe Partners, Eddie Bauer, The Boeing Company and Liberty Mutual Insurance.
A highlight from the event was the keynote speech by Mary Knell, CEO of Wells Fargo, Washington and Western Canada. She spoke about the challenges and benefits of being a woman in business, and her experience at Wells Fargo and in other positions. Knell shared that there are many challenges related to family and work life, and the social expectation that women should not be the ‘bread-winner.’ However, society is changing and it is an extremely exciting time to be a woman in business. Knell is proof that all women are capable of having a successful career and a family at the same time. She definitely inspired me to keep working towards my goals, and not to let any adversity deter me from reaching them.
At the breakfast, it was amazing to see a room full of women, ranging from freshmen to professionals, getting together to discuss topics unique to women in business. You could feel the tremendous support we had for one another. As a woman in the business school, I look forward to attending next year and creating new contacts and connections within the professional world.
Foster Week of Service was a tremendous success, and we want to thank everyone within the community for making this possible. Because of your participation, we had a total of 805.5 volunteer hours dedicated to helping organizations across many different philanthropic causes.
Giving back to our community has always been an important aspect of the Foster School, and we hope to continue this event for years to come. Below are some highlights from a great week of service work. There were a wide range of events, surrounding causes such as environmental, health, education, diversity and global aid.
Alpha Kappa PsiRho Chapter worked to raise money for cancer research and patient support. Their team was able to raise more than $9,000 in concession sales at the Alaska Airlines Arena, of which $900 will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
StartUp UW teamed up with Mercer Island High School to host an entrepreneurial challenge. Groups were given a $20 bill and went out to create their own ventures. After a week of hosting various fund-raising events, teams were able to raise $609, of which $549 will be donated to The Sophia Way.
Market Driven Investors worked with the Rainer Chamber of Commerce to procure items for their annual auction fundraising event. Students spent the week reaching out to potential donors and working directly with the chamber to strategize a successful procurement process.
Business Leaders in Healthcare worked with the Lifelong Aids Alliance on packet stuffing for the AIDS Action & Awareness (A3) Day.
Business Impact Group volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Renton Skyway, working with students on their social venture project, Marketplace. They also spent time talking with students about college preparation and playing gym games.
The Montlake Consulting Group organized a Foster Community Street Clean with students through campus and the University District.
AIESEC and CISB hosted a raffle fundraiser for disaster relief to donate proceeds to the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
Delta Sigma Pi and ALPFA co-hosted a dodgeball tournament to donate all proceeds to UNICEF for typhoon relief efforts.
The 2014 Foster Week of Service was generously sponsored by UPS and Target.
- Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.