Category Archives: Undergraduate

Friends + baseball tickets = an epic idea

Scott Barrows and James Kimmel, co-founders of Epic Seats.
Scott Barrows and James Kimmel, co-founders of Epic Seats.

If you’re dying to go to the sold-out Lady Gaga concert or get a seat on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl, a Seattle start-up has your back. Epic Seats helps clients buy and sell tickets to all major concert, sporting and theater events throughout North America, and specializes in hard to find tickets, premium locations and sold out events. But what’s more epic than the seats is the company’s commitment to providing exceptional service.

While living in Chicago, Scott Barrows (BA 2000) maintained his Cubs habit by buying extra game tickets and reselling them on eBay. As luck would have it, his longtime friend and fellow CIE alum James Kimmel (MBA 2005) was doing the same thing with Mariners tickets in Seattle. The two decided to pool their assets—two $10,000 credit cards—and started Epic Seats together in 2003. Two years later they competed in the UW Business Plan Competition, making it to the Sweet 16. In a marketplace that included hundreds of other companies selling the same product, Barrows and Kimmel knew they’d need to differentiate themselves early on and focus on their core competencies: customer service and innovation.

“Our number one goal has always been to be the most customer-centric company in our industry,” says Barrows. “Many companies choose profits over clients, and we’ll always do the opposite.” Kimmel echoes that sentiment. “Any brand equity we have as an organization is directly attributable to our customer base and what they say about us to their friends and associates. For seven years we have relied on referrals and positive word of mouth as our primary form of marketing,” says Kimmel. One need only do a quick search for Epic Seats online to see their strategy is working; customer after customer raves about what great customer service they’ve received.

Case in point: about a year after going into business, Epic Seats purchased 16 ticket packages through a travel company for the BCS title game between the Texas Longhorns and USC Trojans and resold 12 of them for a nice profit, holding on to four for themselves and a couple of friends. When they arrived at the hotel, they found the travel company had oversold the packages and was cancelling them, simply telling people they’d refund their purchase price. Rather than do the same to their clients who had brought their families to Pasadena for the game, Barrows and Kimmel scrambled to find new hotel rooms and plenty of tickets so their clients could all go to the game. “We ended up losing $20,000 and had to stay in a dumpy motel and watch the game at Hooters, but we just decided that was going to be who we are,” says Barrows.

Epic Seat’s other core value is to always be innovating and with two life-long entrepreneurs at the helm, it’s easy to see where that comes from. In recent years, the company expanded to include Epic Inventory Management, providing back-end operations—everything from customer service to order processing and shipping—to small and medium-sized ticket brokerages around the country. Epic is also gearing up to launch TicketsThatGive in June, a new venture that will allow charities and foundations to raise money via a promotional code for any ticket sales generated by their constituents.

Kimmel’s advice for young entrepreneurs is to “follow your passion and if you can make a living doing what you love, it’s well worth the risk of striking out on your own.” Barrows echoes that point, adding that entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to fail. “I’ve had probably 11 start-ups, and this is the first one that’s been successful. I just knew that if I kept at it, eventually I’d be successful.”

Woodworth International Scholar Award

Hoss_WoodworthCertificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) student Jennifer Hoss was happily surprised when she was called into Faculty Director Debra Glassman’s office one afternoon in spring quarter 2011. There, she found out she had been selected to receive the inaugural Woodworth International Scholar Award.

Funded by Bob Woodworth, emeritus faculty member in Management and Organization and former CISB Faculty Director, the $1,000 award, which comes with a globe-themed trophy, goes to a high-achieving student who excels academically, demonstrates bilingual/bicultural skills and has high potential to contribute to the U.S. balance of trade.

Jennifer was a sophomore entrant into the CISB program and served as Spanish Track Co-President in 2010-2011. She studied abroad in Granada, Spain in summer 2009, followed by a marketing internship at Cosmen and Keiless in Madrid in autumn 2009. After graduation in June, 2011, she traveled through New Zealand and Australia before beginning a job in the Product Marketing Department of Physio-Control, where she is Associate Product Manager.

Jennifer says, “This award was really a special surprise. The money allowed me to extend my travels and see even more of Australia and New Zealand. And the globe sits on my desk at my new job where I already have the opportunity to work on international projects. I can’t thank Mr. Woodworth enough for such an extraordinary honor.”

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Students connect with professionals

Costco Field TripThe Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) tracks have been exploring out-of-classroom activities by organizing field trips to local internationally-focused businesses. Many of these trips have been set up by partnering with CISB alumni. Not only is this a great way for alumni to get involved, it also allows current students to see where a CISB certificate can take them, and is a great way for them to learn more about some exciting local companies. Here are a few highlights:

Spanish Track:
In February, 2011, the Spanish track went on a trip to the Starbucks headquarters, where they met with CISB Spanish Track alumna Julie Anderson, Ethical Sourcing Manager in the Department of Global Responsibility, along with a colleague of hers. After being given a tour of the office, students were taken to the tasting room where they learned about the process Starbucks uses when choosing coffee beans to be used in production. They even got to sample some different coffee roasts for themselves! Students were then shown a short presentation highlighting the C.A.F.E. program for Ethical Sourcing, which ensures an overall ethical cultivation, distribution, and selling process.

Japanese and Chinese Tracks:
In January 2011, the Japanese and Chinese tracks had the opportunity to tour the new Seattle Amazon.com campus and learn more about this internationally-focused company. Carson Chu, a CISB Japanese track honorary alumnus, has worked at Amazon for six years and is now manager of the Shares Services Asia Department. He showed the students around the facility and talked about the company’s current activities and future vision. The students heard about Amazon’s current developments in the China market and how skills learned as a CISB student can be applied in the workplace.

After the trip, Carson invited two of the Japanese track members, both candidates for Amazon Financial Analyst positions, to meet with him and do mock interviews to prepare for the official job interviews.

The Japanese track also met informally with Costco CEO Jim Sinegal during a field trip to the company in May, 2011.

German Track:
Bob Vollbracht, Regional Director, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, hosted the German track at the Auburn, Washington facility in October, 2010. The students witnessed cross-dock transloading operations, got an up-close look at various trucks, containers, cargo and equipment, and received an explanation on warehouse inventory management.

Students Ashley Matsumoto and Darcy Lloyd said, “We are grateful for the many benefits that CISB provides, not only in preparation for international business jobs and careers but in helping us connect with our amazing alumni and local international companies.”

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Video: Richard Tait on entrepreneurship and Cranium

Cranium co-founder Richard Tait discusses his passion for entrepreneurship, the inspiration behind Cranium and his latest business venture, Golazo. He considers himself an inventor and at the top of his game when combining invention with entrepreneurship. Interviewed by UW Foster School of Business student Vance Roush (BA 2011), Tait offers inspiring insights about his leadership philosophy and how he captures trends to start new ventures.

“Entrepreneurship is about galvanizing teams of people around a mission. …the development and pursuit of a passionate dream,” says Tait. “I’m driven by a fear of failure rather than the glow of success. For me, it’s not about the prize, it’s more about the journey.”

Tait also believes everyone has a creative spirit and while society sometimes squashes that, it is in all of us.

This video is part of a series of entrepreneur interviews conducted by University of Washington undergraduate students who are involved in the UW Foster School of Business Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program.

Entrepreneurship in action: Lavin class of 2011

Lavin 2011 GraduatesThe Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program prepares a select group of entering University of Washington undergraduates for careers as entrepreneurs and is graduating its first class of students in 2011. Our first class is headed out into the world to put what they learned at the UW into action.

The Lavin Program exposes students from business and other disciplines to the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship—all in a safe environment. Students graduate with a comprehensive understanding of entrepreneurship in its various forms, including experience in starting and running their own company, and a summer internship in an early-stage firm. The Lavin Program integrates students into the local entrepreneurial community by providing networking opportunities and experienced mentors.

A common trait among Lavin students is the degree to which they have been involved in the program and in the educational process as a whole. Lavin students tend to be the cream of the crop, and the 2011 graduates all demonstrate that trait. Keep your eye on them—we’re certain you’ll see these names again.


Denise Ching
graduated at the end of fall quarter from the Foster School of Business in marketing and entrepreneurship. Ching did her Lavin internship at Dry Soda in Seattle and is now working for Google in California. She has her eye on eventually launching an events management business.

Sohroosh Hashemi graduated from the Foster School of Business in entrepreneurship. Sohroosh did a study-abroad program in Spain and recently presented student-designed products at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. He interned at PhotoRocket in Seattle, a photo-sharing start-up, where he is currently employed.

Christy Loftus graduated from the UW College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in communications. She worked in small start-ups along the way and decided to do her Lavin internship at Wunderman, a major international marketing agency in a digital media division. Now employed by MediaEdge Marketing, Loftus’ dream is to someday open her own marketing company.

Vance Roush graduated from the Foster School of Business in marketing and information systems. Roush studied abroad in Italy and South Africa. He did his Lavin internship at 16 Copenhagen, a Seattle design company, where he honed the skills he needed to create a lasting legacy with the Lavin Program. Roush developed the Entrepreneurship Video Project which has spawned the creation of six videos of students interviewing local entrepreneurs. The over-arching theme of “Entrepreneurship is…” has provoked answers such as “art,” “a good team” and “a passionate dream.” The project will continue over the next several years. Roush will work for Google in California starting in August.

Natasha Tyson graduated from the Foster School of Business in marketing and entrepreneurship. She studied abroad in Hong Kong on a direct-exchange program. Tyson did an internship at Chempoint and another at FounderDating, a Seattle organization that works to match technology and business founders. She is joining Teach for America.

The program’s namesake, Leonard Lavin, attended UW in the late 1930s on a basketball scholarship. In the 1950s Leonard and his wife, Bernice, founded Alberto-Culver and took Alberto V05 Conditioning Hairdressing to the consumer marketplace using innovative advertising and marketing strategies. Alberto-Culver was bought by the Unilever Group last year for $3.7 billion. Leonard and Bernice Lavin created the Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program in 2007 to produce a new generation of successful entrepreneurs from the UW.

PotaVida purifies water, wins $25K Grand Prize at UW Business Plan Competition

A demonstration of the PotaVida water purifier.The numbers say it all: 891 teams. $1.08 million in seed funding. 2,768 students from 21 colleges and universities. Those are just a few of the stats we’ve racked up in the 14 years of the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition.

During his keynote speech at the awards dinner, T.A. McCann, CEO of Gist, spoke about courage, persistence and failure — three cornerstones to life as a successful entrepreneur. “To be an entrepreneur takes a tremendous amount of courage. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to continue to dust yourself off when you fail. And failure happens in every entrepreneurial company almost on a daily basis,” he said. But with that uncertainty comes the reward of being part of a supportive and inspiring community of entrepreneurs in the Northwest. “You’re fortunate to have UW, to have each other, to have the advisors, mentors…and all the organizations that are here. You’re incredibly fortunate to be part of this community. I’ve been in Seattle now about 15 years and I think it’s only getting better. I think we’re on the cusp of becoming one of the top entrepreneurial communities anywhere. Period.”

A record 104 teams entered the competition this year from nine colleges and universities around Washington. Nearly 400 judges and mentors—entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors and supporters from the community—gave their time and energy to be part of the competition during the various rounds. Beginning in early April, the teams where whittled down, first to 37 after the screening round, then to the “Sweet 16” after the investment round.

At the end of the day on May 26, five teams were left standing but only one would take home the $25,000 grand prize. After one more round of presentations from the finalists, the judges made a unanimous decision on the winning teams:

$25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Grand Prize: PotaVida, UW
Provides a low-cost, reusable tool that takes the guesswork out of solar disinfection of water, for use in disaster relief and areas lacking potable water.
Tyler Davis, PhD Evans School of Public Policy; Damon Gjording, EMBA; Charlie Matlack, PhD electrical engineering; and Jacqueline Linnes

$10,000 WRF Capital Second Prize: Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
A mini grocer tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container, to provide fresh produce and basic staples in urban food deserts.
Michael Brooks, MBA; Carrie Ferrence, MBA; Jacqueline Gjurgevich, MBA; and Eliza Michiels, MBA

$5,000 Blue Box Group Finalist Prize: Solanux, WSU, University of Idaho
Produces patented potato food ingredients with high amounts of resistant starch which help lower a person’s glycemic index response, improve insulin levels and lower fat and cholesterol levels.
Gaylene Anderson, EMBA; Anna Hansen, accounting; and Jacob Pierson, JD law

$5,000 Fenwick & West Finalist Prize: LodeSpin Labs, UW
Manufactures tracers for Magnetic Particle Imaging, a new medical imaging technology capable of replacing CT and MRI for imaging patients with heart disease and cancer.
Dave Shivang, PhD bioengineering; Matt Ferguson, PhD materials science; Amit Khandhar, PhD materials science; and Garrett Leischner, MBA

The Best Idea prizes were created to reward teams for their exceptional work in several different categories. Teams that participated in the Investment Round were eligible for these awards, regardless of whether they advanced to the Sweet 16 or not. This year six $2,500 Best Idea Prizes were awarded to the following teams:

UIEvolution Best Technology Idea: Aqueduct Neurosciences, UW
Gist Best Consumer Product Idea: Tripbox, UW
Perkins Coie Best Innovation Idea: PotaVida, UW
DLA Piper Best Service/Retail Idea: Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
Synapse Product Development Best Clean-Tech Idea: Static Flow Analytics, UW
Sensors in Motion Best Sustainable Advantage Idea: Urban Canopy, UW

For teams that made it to the Sweet 16, the fun’s not over yet. Each of the semifinal teams is eligible to receive additional seed funding through the Jones Foundation Milestone Achievement Awards. Five teams will be selected to spend the next six months participating in the program where they will work with CIE staff and a special advisory committee made up of CIE board members and past winners of the Business Plan Competition to draw up a short list of “realistic but measureable” milestones they can reach within that timeframe. And with a lot of hard work on the part of the teams (and a little luck), we’ll share all their great success stories with you again this time next year.

Canada wins 2011 Global Business Case Competition

GBCC2011April 16, 2011 was an eventful day as the Global Business Case Competition hosted its 13th annual undergraduate case competition.  We were proud to host the entire competition in Foster’s new building and show off our new state-of-the-art home to visiting teams.

Each of the twelve Global Business Case Competition teams presented their analysis on how to make a water purification business in Tanzania profitable and how to expand the business to other African cities.  After a competitive preliminary round, four teams were selected to move on to the final round: University of Washington, Western Ontario University (Canada), Thammasat University (Thailand) and the University of Auckland (New Zealand).

With over 200 people from around the world in attendance, the final round of presentations was exciting to watch. In the end, judges chose University of Western Ontario (Ivey School of Business) as this year’s champion.

Congratulations to Foster School students on the University of Washington team for landing a spot in the final round: Kyle Bartlow, Jessica Henrawidjaja, Venkat Rao, and Melanie.

Foreign market strategy project

Guest post by Mike Lawrence, Foster BA 2012 and Certificate of International Studies in Business Student Custom/Italian Track

2011 Forign Market StrategyBoeing Market Outlook Report was the focus of 2011 Foreign Market Strategy Project. Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) tracks competed in the fourth annual Foreign Market Strategy Project in winter 2011. Made possible by the Boeing Company with CISB alumna Ya-Han Brownlee-Chen as project manager, the project tasked students with examining Boeing’s Current Market Outlook Report and looking for both general and region-specific improvements that could be made to the report. In addition, it challenged students to improve the usefulness of the report to Boeing’s numerous supply chain partners around the world. CISB students had approximately five weeks to complete their research and then present their findings to a panel of judges which included Boeing Company representatives, Associate Dean Steve Sefcik and CISB alumni.

At the suggestion of Ya-Han, a coach from Boeing, Helly Hansen and Samskip IcePak were brought into the tracks to provide an industry perspective and guidance to the teams. Tracks got a lot of help and advice from the coaches. One student said, “Not only was our coach extremely helpful, but she invited us to tour her workplace this spring.”

All of the presentations were a delight to see, with each group bringing unique and often very creative ideas to the table. In the end, there were three awards distributed among the eight presenting groups. The Chinese team (Chinese Track) received the Grand Prize for Best Recommendation, while the Middle East (Custom Track) team received the reward for Best Presentation, and the Europe (German Track) team for Best Teamwork. In all, the project was an excellent experience for CISB students and Boeing alike, with Boeing receiving some quality ideas on how to improve their report.

The Chinese track presented their strategy to senior management and campus recruiters at Boeing on April 8. They also went on a VIP tour of the Everett facility,  met with recruiters at a networking lunch and had the privilege of meeting with Ian Chang, VP, China Operations and Business Development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Have an idea for a future strategy project? If so, please contact CISB at cisb@uw.edu.
Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

$22,500 awarded to clean technology winners

Teams who won the 3rd annual University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge invented solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Wind energy. Electric car improvements. Biomass energy. Water purification. Algal biofuel efficiency. The 2011 event also had a range of other clean-tech innovations with 17 teams from Washington state universities (UW, WSU, WWU and SPU) competing. Undergraduate, graduate and PhD students from engineering, business, economics, philosophy and a number of other disciplines joined forces to tackle the environment.

VoltaicGrand Prize of $10,000 = Voltaic

A group of UW undergraduate engineers and business students created an electric vehicle modular drive train that can replace drive trains of gas-powered engines in existing models. The electric module can be customized to fit inside any car and the team displayed a Honda outfitted with its prototype electric engine to show how it powers the car.

2nd Prize of $5,000 = PotaVida

This UW PhD team (an electrical engineer, bio-engineer and policy analyst) created a device that measures water quality with a reusable, solar-powered electronic indicator for monitoring solar disinfection of drinking water. Their inexpensive indicator won a $40,000 design award last year and will be field tested in Bolivia this summer. PotaVida is advised by experts at PATH and Microsoft as well as UW professors.

Three honorable mention prizes of $2,500 each went to other UW interdisciplinary teams. Pterofin invented an affordable, more versatile alternative to wind turbines; the new device is lighter than current wind technology and harnesses wind energy at lower wind speeds. BioTek has a patented and patent-pending suite of tools to help optimize and scale the growing algal biofuel industry; their instruments and software are low-cost and field-ready. C6 Systems created a novel system to turn woody biomass into charcoal (or biochar) at forestry sites; their biochar can be sold to heating/electric plants or used as soil enhancement.

Starbucks VP of Sustainable Procurement Sue Mecklenburg, one of many business, science and venture capital judges at the event, said, “It just gets better every year.”

“The Environmental Innovation Challenge is supposed to be more than a university-level science fair. The goal is to be able to take these ideas into a real, revenue-generating business,” said James Barger, UW undergraduate mechanical engineering student who serves as VP of finance for Voltaic.

The UW Environmental Innovation Challenge is sponsored by the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UW College of Engineering, UW College of the Environment and UW Center for Commercialization.

Lights, camera, entrepreneurship!

Guest post by Vance Roush, undergraduate student at the UW Foster School of Business

A couple years ago, as a sophomore in the UW Foster School of Business and Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program, I was fortunate enough to interview Leonard Lavin when he visited the University of Washington. Mr. Lavin is a brilliant businessman, racehorse owner and most notably founder of Alberto-Culver Company which he recently sold to Unilever for $3.7 billion. From my interview with Mr. Lavin, I took away three key ideas that have driven my success in the business school and prepared me for my future career and entrepreneurial ventures: greatness can arise from obstacles and conflict, it’s what you have inside of you that matters, and be a risk-taker and pursue your passion.

That meeting with Mr. Lavin shaped my life, and because of that, I thought to myself, “How much more insight can be filtered to students, and how many more lives can be positively impacted if someone were able to capture entrepreneurs’ best insights and keys to success?”  That was the inspiration for the  Lavin Video Project and the “Entrepreneurship is…” video series.  This video series will bridge the gap between the Seattle entrepreneurship network, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and the outside community.  More specifically, our goal  is to connect Lavin undergrad students to entrepreneurs in the local community in an engaging way to create meaningful relationships and tangible productions. The story behind the “Entrepreneurship is…” series is as follows:

Often times people can’t even spell the word “Entrepreneurship”, let alone fully grasp what it means. Lavin students quickly realize that there is not just one definition, but many different meanings. Our vision is to capture a wide array of perspectives on the topic by going out into the field and interacting with the business owners, serial entrepreneurs, VCs, and other thought leaders in the Seattle community in hopes that they will chime in with their thoughts, experiences, and wisdom.

The first interview in the series is with Michel Brotman, CIE’s Entrepreneur in Residence and a serial entrepreneur involved in Costco, Garden Botanica, Sweet Factory, Play Network and the Chocolate Box. Brotman believes that entrepreneurship is a very creative process and that it’s all about selling your story. He is emphatic when he states, “Entrepreneurship is art!”

The Lavin students will be unveiling other videos throughout the year with such influential local entrepreneurs as Lon McGowan of iClick, restaurateur Tom Douglas, Kay Smith-Blum of Butch Blum, and Rob Salkowitz, author of Young World Rising.We hope you follow our journey and are inspired to learn more about entrepreneurship, start your own endeavor, or become involved in the entrepreneurial scene!

Vance Roush is a senior information systems and marketing major in the UW’s Foster School of Business Honors Program. He is a Lavin student and serves as the president of the Foster School’s Business Economic Development Center. Vance plans to extend his entrepreneurial endeavors after graduation when he begins his career with Google in Mountain View, CA.