Category Archives: Undergraduate

In the spotlight: John Castle and Creating a Company

Guest post by Matt Wastradowski, Communications & Media Editor, Alumni Relations, UW Alumni Association

JohnCastleEvery year, Creating a Company, as the course is dubbed, becomes less a class than a crash course in entrepreneurship. Groups of eager students team up, form a company, apply for a $1,000-$2,000 loan from the Foster School of Business, and spend the next few months hawking their product or service to the wider world.

Past companies have sold goods ranging from Husky apparel to glass jars of cake mix; other companies have launched art galleries and driven students to the mountain passes for a day on the slopes.

At the heart of it all is lecturer John Castle, who has taught the class for the past 12 years – and who will retire at year’s end.

In 2001, Castle had stepped down as CEO from Cantametrix, a music software company he helped found, when a neighbor and former UW professor approached him about inheriting the Creating a Company course. With more than 40 years of business acumen, Castle didn’t lack experience: Before joining the UW, he had served as CEO of Hamilton-Thorn, a medical electronics and diagnostics company; cofounded Seragen, a biotechnology company; and was a partner in Washington Biotechnology Funding, a seed venture capital fund specializing in medical technologies.

Since then, he’s drawn on that extensive experience as would-be CEOS have created and developed dozens of companies. Castle’s only rule in approving companies and dispersing loans is “Do no harm,” meaning that students can’t, say, promote underage drinking by selling shot glasses to fraternities and sororities on campus. (This actually happened.)

When the class ends, students return any profits to the Foster School and can buy their company for $1 to keep it going. Few companies have outlived their academic years, but Castle knows the experience will remain long after grades are posted. “Whether or not they learn how to do it well, they will learn whether or not they want to start their own business.” Castle said. “This is as realistic of an experience of entrepreneurship as we can make it.”

Read on for a look back at some of the most memorable products and services offered by students during Castle’s tenure.

The path less traveled in Shanghai

Guest post by Tim Anderson, Foster School and Certificate of International Studies in Business alumnus

Tim AndersonAfter graduating with degrees in business administration and Japanese linguistics as well as completing Certificate of International Studies in Business’s (CISB) Japan track program, I honestly didn’t think I’d end up living in Shanghai, China for the past nine years. However, ending my undergraduate studies on the eve of a burgeoning recession in the U.S., and a full-blown recession in Japan, it seemed like the path I’d set myself up for wasn’t so clear cut anymore.

At first, I was considerably lucky and managed get a nice job working in the marketing department at an international PR firm located downtown by the Pike Place Market. The experience was great and taught me a lot, but as good as it was, it still wasn’t what CISB and the Foster School of Business trained me to do: be a truly international entrepreneur.

About a year into that first real job, I was given an opportunity to help start up a language school in the city of Shanghai. Admittedly I was nervous about taking the offer because although I had spent time in Japan and a couple other parts around Asia as a student, I had no idea what to expect of China. In the end though, my love of Asia proved to be overwhelming so I packed my bags for a new life in a new place with a new language to learn.

The people I’ve met and business challenges I’ve overcome in the past nine years has made my decision to live here well worth it. Since moving here, I’ve found my place amongst the locals as well as the expat community, and have really been able to put my business studies to work. I’m currently managing the marketing operations for an international clothing brand that is trying to break into the China mainland market. The business environment in China is fast-paced and filled with unforeseeable challenges, yet extremely rewarding if know how to play your cards right.

I can’t thank CISB and the Foster School of Business enough for preparing me for the wild journey my life has taken this past decade. I hope many future graduates will be inspired to challenge their comfort zone and follow the path less traveled as I and other alumni have done. In the end, it’s especially gratifying to know I am part of a community of CISB and Foster graduates who are also experiencing what I am experiencing, connected by a common bond.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

It’s about the journey in Granada

Guest post by Sam Mutty, Foster senior and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

GranadaThroughout my life I’ve been blessed with opportunities to travel the world, from the rural towns of Ecuador to the city of Novosibirsk, still recovering from the fall of the Soviet Union. With each trip abroad I’ve been given a new perspective on the world, how I relate to those around me and ultimately how I define myself. However, after all the experiences I’ve had around the globe, nothing has been comparable to the time I’ve spent and what I’ve learned in Granada. A picturesque city nestled in the rolling hills of Andalucía; the whitewashed houses of Albayzín stretch up toward the sky on one side and the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada on the other. There’s life everywhere in the city and a vibrant, optimistic attitude despite the current state of the Spanish economy. A quick stroll through the streets is like walking through an urban art gallery, from the ultra detailed murals of “el niño de las pinturas” to the political graffiti claiming that student scholarships are equivalent to the mythical unicorn. Yet, even though the city itself has so much charm about it, what I’ll take away most from my experience here can’t be captured in photographs.

I’ve gone through the typical ups and downs of traveling abroad, the initial excitement to the bout of homesickness and ultimately realizing just how blessed I am to have this opportunity. Overcoming the language and cultural barrier to really connect with people is by no means an easy task, but through it I’ve gained a new understanding of cultural differences and how they affect interactions between people. At first glance I don’t appear particularly different than any Spaniard, and have even been mistaken for one a few times, but there’s no doubt that differences—from the songs we learn as children to our native language—have left me feeling like an outsider on more than one occasion. However, rather than try to avoid these instances, I’ve learned to actively seek them out. I live in an apartment with three Spaniards, spend my siestas eating lunch and drinking coffee with Spaniards and go out with Spaniards. While I miss the occasional joke, and am often the brunt of them, I wouldn’t dream of trading my experience for a more Americanized one. Not only has my Spanish vastly improved but I’ve had a glimpse of the time and energy it takes to fully assimilate into a foreign culture.

The experience I’ve had in Granada has made me much more open to different cultures and viewpoints. I’ve learned that when communication and common ground can be hard to come by, sometimes a smile or quick joke is all it takes to make a connection. No matter where we come from or what experiences we’ve had, we all share a basic human nature and are social beings. Whether we’re in school, at work or walking down the street, the differences between us shouldn’t drive us apart, but be appreciated and celebrated. All it takes is one person taking the initiative. I encourage anyone interested in studying abroad or exploring other cultures to take that first step and see where it takes you. The old cliché, it’s not the destination but the journey, couldn’t apply more to this type of experience. Open your mind, put yourself out there and see what you can learn about the world and yourself.

Sam is studying abroad through the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) Program.

Mad about Montpellier

Guest post by Kelly Nealson, junior and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Kelly Nealson
Kelly is second from the right.

When the clock struck midnight on January 1, I found myself ringing in 2013 somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on a one way flight to Montpellier, France. Despite the fact that I had been planning to study abroad before I knew which university I was going to attend, I was nervous. Would six years of French, countless hours in the UW International Programs and Exchanges office, and months of mental preparation be enough to survive six months of living and learning in a foreign country? Would I ever be able to feel at home where I was headed? I can remember sitting on that plane, alone and a bundle of apprehension.

Now, over two months into my study abroad experience, I can say with confidence, while I doubt I could have ever been fully prepared for what awaited me, I could not be having a more incredible experience abroad. I can’t say it’s been easy to jump into taking five classes entirely in French or that navigating the French university and government administrations has been simple for me. I can say, however, that I have made so much progress with my French, made great friends, and most of all, made this city my home. Living in Montpellier has given me the chance to improve my language skills, expand my horizons, and ultimately have a much better perspective on what I want to do in the global business world.

Learning and living my day to day life in French has given me the opportunity to see and experience the world in a different way. The French way of life is slower and calmer than the American style I am used to. It is much more focused on taking time to enjoy the little things, like starting the day with petit dejeuner (breakfast) in a café or sitting in a park in the sun with friends in the afternoon. At this point in my experience, I am surprised now and then how everyday life in France has become so normal. The four of us UW students who are here for spring semester all live in the student dorms, cook our own meals and live and go to school like any other French student. Though dorm life is not exactly glamorous, living so independently in France has really helped me feel like I can more fully integrate into the culture. We have had the opportunity to travel around France during so many of our long weekends and, most recently, spent our break traveling around Spain.

I cannot emphasize enough how glad I am that I took advantage of the study abroad experiences UW provides. Being a part of the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program (CISB) gave me the opportunity to more easily build studying abroad into my academic plans and I am grateful for it. Spending the second half of my junior year abroad has turned out to be just what I needed to take a step back from the UW business environment and gain some perspective by spending some time in other cultures. It has shown me I ultimately want to steer my career path so I can work abroad someday. I’ve definitely come a long way since getting on the plane to come to France, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

Apple products in cars?

On March 8, 2013 Foster undergraduate students competed in a case competition, which also served as the students’ capstone experience for strategic management—a required course for all Foster undergraduates. The case, “Apple Inc. in 2012,” was developed by Harvard Business School. The premise: Apple, like other firms in technology, has a number of successful products, but they also need to remain competitive. The students had to determine whether Apple can innovate on current products well enough to survive and prosper or whether they need to create new products to remain competitive.

The students had two weeks to analyze the case and develop their recommendations for what Apple should do. In the competition the students presented their analysis of the company, discussed the various paths Apple could take and made their recommendations.

Twenty teams competed and five made it to the final round. The final round teams made varying recommendations for Apple. Several suggested Apple should improve Apple TV, one of its current products. The winning team, however, presented a completely different solution. They recommended Apple create an integrated mobile device for cars, similar to the Ford SYNC® from Microsoft.

Case Competition Winners
Winning team: Shaun Maurer, Cory Scancella, Alex Auerbach, Hadis Ali, and Ben Peven

According to the team, “We compared the various strategies and decided the car system strengthens what Apple already offers, and it stays within one of their core competencies, which is producing disruptive technology. The problem with TV isn’t the set-top box, it’s that the cable companies own all the content.”  They felt Toyota would be an ideal initial partner due to shared corporate values between the two companies. The judges appreciated the team’s comprehensive analysis. Jeff Barden, assistant professor of management said, “They carefully considered the user experience, where people would use the product, and absolutely picked the right partner in Toyota.” Winning team members were Hadis Ali, Alex Auerbach, Shaun Maurer, Ben Peven, and Cory Scancella.

The second place team recommended innovating on Apple TV by focusing on making content available to consumers by forming a strategic alliance with Comcast. They felt a key improvement to the current situation would be to allow customers to consume TV content à la carte. The judges were impressed with how this team tailored their solution to the market. Team members were Gwendolyn Moruzzi, Aaron Dentler, Katie Emoto, and Rachna Hajari.

Rick McPherson, lecturer in management at the Foster School, added the case competition to the strategic management course last fall. He said, “It is an enrichment of the course to give the students real life experiences of analyzing and making recommendations to an upper management team.”

Foster team wins Intercollegiate Marketing Competition for third time

Jordan Barr, Marnie Brown, Elliott Klein, and Leta BeardOn February 23, 2013 Foster students won the Intercollegiate Marketing Competition held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. This is the third time Foster students have won the competition. The case was about Modo, a Vancouver co-op that offers a car sharing program. The students had three hours to read the marketing case and prepare a solution. At the competition they had 20 minutes to present their solution and 10 minutes for Q&A with the judges.

The judges commented on how professional the team was and how they were the only team to “understand the total picture” of the problem and address the main issue Modo is facing.

The team was comprised of Jordan Barr, Marnie Brown and Elliott Klein, all are juniors at Foster and members of the UW American Marketing Association (AMA). They, along with Leta Beard, their faculty coach and lecturer of marketing at Foster, traveled to Vancouver to compete in the competition. Barr is president of AMA and studying marketing, Brown is studying accounting and Klein is studying marketing. The three were selected from a pool of applicants from the UW American Marketing Association.

“I am extremely proud of this team. They worked very hard on their case practice sessions and took the initiative to learn as much as they could before heading up to Vancouver. The judges came up to the team after the announcement and commented on how well they did and said they were anxious to implement some of the team’s suggestions,” said Beard.

The American Marketing Association is a national organization comprised of marketing professionals and students of marketing. The UW AMA is a student run organization at the Foster School of Business.

Leadership Team teaches STEM lesson to local middle school students

Guest post by Jackie Nguyen, Foster undergraduate

Being the founders of the annual Foster Week of Service, the Business and Economic Development Center Leadership Team members were excited to volunteer at the Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club for the third year in a row. This year, LT members were challenged with a new task in educating 5th to 8th graders about careers and opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). However, being primarily business students, the LT members put a fun spin on educating the kids about STEM by tying business into the concept of STEM.

Each LT member was assigned to a team of four to five students. The LT helped guide the teams in researching and creating a short presentation about their company. The focus of this activity was to help the kids think outside of the box and see that there are a great variety of jobs in companies that are not as obviously STEM related.
blog_LT_FWSTeams researched companies including Target, McDonalds, Nestle, and Microsoft. The activity helped the students see that having skills in STEM and business could open a lot of doors to fun jobs; from being a pharmacist at Target, a game-designer at Microsoft, a food scientist at Nestle, or a social media manager at McDonalds.

After the learning activity was over, it was time for the kids to be kids and enjoy what they do best: play! LT members had a great time hanging out afterwards to play Dance Central and Fliers Up on the playground. Overall the event was a success and the BEDC LT members are looking forward to returning to the Boys and Girls Club for the next Foster Week of Service. Learn more about the BEDC Leadership Team.

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.

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship awards $170,000 to eight student-led start-ups

Haiti Babi Blanket
Haiti Babi

When Katlin Jackson returned from her second trip to Haiti in January 2012, she was a woman on a mission. After spending time in a Haitian orphanage, she’d discovered that a good number of the children there weren’t orphans at all. Their parents were simply too poor to care for them. Within months, Katlin, along with UW junior Kari Davidson, cofounded Haiti Babi and entered the 2012 Business Plan Competition.

Haiti Babi now employs four Haitian mothers to knit and crochet high-quality, incredibly soft baby blankets and accessories that are sold to moms in the United States. In 12 months, Katlin and Kari have taken an idea, defined a mission (Moms helping Moms), and created a start-up company that is making real headway. They have a well-thought-out brand, fashionable products, and a detailed operations plan. Their Indiegogo campaign brought in double their fund-raising goal, pre-orders for their first blankets surpassed all expectations, and Haiti Babi has been featured in Seattle Magazine, Social Good Moms, and Disney Baby.

Much of Haiti Babi’s success can be attributed to the intelligence, drive, and dedication of its founders, but they’ve also had great help along the way. They were admitted into the Jones Milestones/Foster Accelerator in July 2012.

The JM/FA at the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship is a TechStars-like program that provides a milestones-based framework, monthly coaching from Seattle entrepreneurs and investors, and connections that help student teams make the transition to start-up companies.  From July 2012 to February 2013, 10 teams worked to recreate their teams, develop their technologies or get product to market, and raise early-stage funding. On February 13, eight teams were awarded between $10,000 and $25,000 for their efforts.

  • PatientStream, a cloud-based electronic patient-tracking system for hospitals, licensed its technology from the University of Washington and secured a $500,000 investment from the W Fund.  Ben Anderson (TMMBA 2012) is the founder, and brought in Keith Streckenbach as COO and co-founder to drive sales. Anderson quit his day job at UW Medicine/Harborview in October.
  • Haiti Babi provides mothers in Haiti with employment to keep their children out of orphanages. As part of their “Moms helping Moms” mission, Haiti Babi’s mothers knit and crochet high-quality, incredibly soft baby blankets that are sold in the United States. Co-founders Katlin Jackson and Kari Davidson (BFA 2014) raised funding through an Indiegogo campaign, pre-orders for blankets surpassed all expectations, and Haiti Babi has been featured in Seattle Magazine and Disney Baby.
  • LumiSands was awarded a $150,000 National Science Foundation SBIR Phase-I Grant and a $50,000 gift from the Washington Research Foundation for the development and manufacture of its silicon-based alternative to rare-earth phosphors used in LED lighting. Co-founders Ji-Hao Hoo (PhD 2013) and Chang-Ching Tu have negotiated an agreement with the University of Washington, and are still in the technology development phase.
  • JoeyBra, “the first sexy and comfortable fashion bra with a pocket,” closed a successful angel investment round, produced a new, quality sports bra with a waterproof pocket in a full range of sizes, and has been featured by Forbes, MSNBC, and CNN.  Mariah Gentry (BA 2013) and Kyle Bartlow (BA 2013), the co-founders, have contracted with a former Miss America as a spokesmodel and will launch their product nationwide in April 2013.
  • Microryza, a KickStarter-type site for smaller science and research projects,was admitted into Y-Combinator in October and moved to the Bay Area. Cindy Wu (BS 2011) and Denny Luan (BS 2011) have raised more than $170,000 and their site has funded projects from tracking Magellanic penguins to sustaining native bees and student-designed electric racecars.
    Update: March 28, 2013 – Microryza was named one of the top 5 Y-Combinator start-ups to watch by Inc. Magazine.
  • Strideline sold more than 60,000 pairs of their signature city skyline crew socks in 2012. Co- founders Jake Director (BA 2013) and Riley Goodman (BA 2013) have organized a national sales team, are now selling in Nordstrom and Zumiez, and were the subject of a UW TV short feature
  • SuperCritical Technologies has designed and will build compact modular power plants that provide up to 5MW of clean, reliable electricity for heating and/or cooling. Chal Davidson (MBA 2012) is the CEO, with Max Effgen (MBA 2012) as a co-founder. The company raised $200,000 in angel funding to complete the conceptual design and establish supplier relationships, and is currently fundraising to build the prototype.
  • UrbanHarvest is an urban farming company that grows high-value hydroponic lettuces and herbs within feet of where they’ll be consumed. The brainchild of Chris Bajuk (MBA 2011) and Chris Sheppard (MBA/JD 2012), UrbanHarvest is currently negotiating with a large SoDo corporation to build a rooftop greenhouse.

So what’s next? The work certainly doesn’t stop here. As any entrepreneur knows, it takes more than six months to grow a thriving business. And that’s what the JM/FA ultimately provides at the end:  additional runway.  This follow-on funding is a testament to the companies’ hard work so far, and an investment in what we know they can become.

The Jones Milestones/Foster Accelerator is funded by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation and additional private donors who, like us, believe in the ability of student entrepreneurs.

Students present business strategy in Chinese

Business Language Competition - Kanghee Jeon, Alex Birch, Benjamin ChowCase competitions are an incredible skill builder for undergraduate business students – they require students to work as consultants on a real company and business challenges, they are given limited resources and time to create a solution, and then they are asked to present these solutions to a panel of corporate judges. Now, imagine doing this in a second language. This Fall, three Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students studying Mandarin as a second or third language competed in the Chinese Track of the BYU Business Language Case Competition.

Kanghee Jeon, Alex Birch, and Ben Chow spent two weeks studying a case written in Chinese on Pepsi Company and preparing their presentation and executive summary all in Chinese. The team considered three countries in which Pepsi Company might expand. After assessing various economic factors, their solution was to enter the Chinese market. Their plan was to “penetrate not only beverages but also the food market which could be Pepsi’s competitive advantage over Coca Cola Company,” said Kanghee.

The team competed in three rounds at Brigham Young University, and they received outstanding feedback from the judges about the depth of their analysis and solution. Judges commented that they “loved how the presentation started with recommendations instead of analysis,” and that the students had a “great understanding of Chinese culture and financial environment” as well as “great leverage on business terms.”

One of the UW student competitors, Kanghee Jeon, said “I was very excited to do the case competition in a second language (or third for me).  Even though I was worried about my Chinese language skills, while preparing for the competition, I learned lots of new vocabulary and phrases. I am a lot more confident in speaking in Chinese after the competition. Additionally, it was a great opportunity for me to meet judges and other students from different schools.”

Kanghee would highly recommend participating in a business language competition to other students: “This is such a unique experience … You will get to build your teamwork, problem solving, time management, leadership, and language skills. It was challenging, but very rewarding!”