Guest post by Matt Wastradowski, Communications & Media Editor, Alumni Relations, UW Alumni Association
Every 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.”
Guest post by Tim Anderson, Foster School and Certificate of International Studies in Business alumnus
After 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.
Guest post by Tom Jensen, co-founder of Enterprise Futures network who helped source mentors for GSEC 2013, and mentor to Grand Prize winning team Jorsey Ashbel Farms.
Last week, 15 people including investors, entrepreneurs, consultants and non-profit executives joined students on 14 teams that competed in the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) in Seattle – either in person or virtually, to finalize their business plans and presentations for a winning social enterprise. The teams from Africa, Asia and the U.S created business plans to address health and economic development problems in developing countries and competed for prizes.
After mentoring and judging in university competitions for the past 12 years, I know what it takes for a university to make a competition successful. UW’s Foster School’s Global Business Center did a great job making the experience very rewarding for the teams, judges, coaches, student ambassadors, mentors and sponsors. An organization that I am a co-founder in, Enterprise Futures Network (www.enterprisefutures.org) , is the Competition’s Mentorship Partner and has helped source mentors for two years.
GSEC’s mentors are located in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, and from Europe, particularly Denmark. Each mentor donates about eight hours of his or her time over a six week period to help the team prepare before the competition and then several more hours during the week of the competition if possible. While about half of the mentors have mentored for GSEC before, the other half experienced this competition for the first time this year.
One of those new mentors for this year was John Locher, who co-founded internet companies Classmates.com and Redweek.com. He thoroughly enjoyed mentoring his team from Bangladesh with his co-mentor Mike Siemion, a co-founder with John at these companies, and plans to be back next year. John and Mike were joined by Norm Bontje, George Economy, who co-mentored with Linda Long, Merrill Grogel, Greg Free, Michael Gilson, Thomas Jensen, Nils- Michael Langenborg, John Raabo Nielsen, Søren Therkelsen, Rick McPherson, Kim Nelson, Carol Sanford, Craig Bruya, Michael “Luni” Libes and Pete Peterson.
The teams also got coaching on their presentations from other volunteers that UW’s Foster School of Business engaged during the week of the competition (February 25-28th).
UW made our job to provide and train mentors to support the competition very easy. The GSEC team led by Deborah Wolf and Kirsten Aoyama had a great plan and executed it flawlessly. They were responsive to the needs of the mentors and made it possible for mentors to participate in very meaningful ways, including networking with other mentors at a mentor breakfast EFN and UW organized.
UW created the right environment for successful mentoring, including educating the teams and mentors on the benefits of a mentor based program, and by creating clear expectations for both mentees and mentors. UW and EFN shared helpful tips and examples of best practices, maintained regular communications and gave mentors the opportunity to share ideas to improve the process throughout the mentoring period. While all competitions that engage mentors do it somewhat differently, certainly UW’s well organized and straight forward approach makes it easier for mentors to engage compared to institutions that, for example, only facilitate informal mentor-team matching without framing mentoring expectations for participants (e.g., such as inviting mentors and teams to events where they can self-match).
Tips that really helped the teams included encouraging mentors to ask teams for a specific milestones schedule to complete their plans and pitches. This tool served as a roadmap from which the mentees and mentors could work from. From my experience mentoring Jorsey Ashbel Farms (JAF), a scalable chicken production venture in Nigeria that won the grand prize, the framework and expectations that UW created mentoring made the process more efficient, allowing JAF and me to focus on the hard work of validating assumptions and developing a scalable business model.
On a personal level, working with JAF’s co-founders, Mene Blessing and Ayuba Ashbel from the Nigeria was a tremendous pleasure, because of their commitment to the venture, professionalism and sincerity. I look forward to visiting with them in April when they will compete in the finals for the Global Social Venture Competition in Berkeley, California.
I was very impressed that most of the local mentors attended the finals and even the preliminary round to coach their teams. Many non-local mentors worked with their teams remotely until the preliminaries or finals. Greg Free, who mentored Breathsuite, a UW based team that invented a respiratory diagnostic application delivered through mobile phones, viewed the Foster School’s “live stream” of his team in the final round when he could not be there in person. Greg, a non-profit director and sales and software executive, told me that “over the time I spent with them, I dropped lots of suggestions and was left somewhat uneasy about whether they were landing. They got it – in spades – and did an outstanding job of transforming what they started with into a pretty darned good presentation.”
Carol Sanford, an author, consultant and speaker on responsible business, shared her thoughts about mentoring for this competition over the past three years. “I’m getting better at it; knowing how to help my team meet challenges and to ask them to focus on what judges look for”. She loves to help teams pivot their businesses “to improve and to think bigger about what they can do.” Carol’s team, Social Cops, won the competition’s ICT prize sponsored by Microsoft.
I hope that people who attended the events (and read this article!) will be inspired join the fun next year and chose to mentor or coach a team or become a judge. Take my word for it, future mentors will find this experience extremely rewarding and a great opportunity to engage with entrepreneurs changing the world. If you would like to apply to serve as a mentor next year, please apply! http://www.enterprisefutures.net/mentorappl.html.
The Business Economic Development Center’s Business Certificate Program will begin in April at UW Seattle campus. The six-session course teaches business fundamentals through a series of six three-hour classes. BCP will be offered in Spanish (Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. starting April 2) and in English Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 pm starting April 17.
Who should attend? Any small business owner or manager who is interested in learning or refreshing their knowledge of sales and marketing, finance and accounting, leadership and management, and legal topics. Students come from every industry- from construction companies to restaurants to medical clinics. And to due to the diversity of participants, the classroom is a great place to network with fellow business owners.
The class also offers students to learn from award-winning University of Washington faculty including Mike Eguchi, lecturer of sales and marketing. With over 30 years of sales experience, Eguchi shares proven strategies and tactics in his class session Developing a Sales-Oriented Company. Student Pratish Brady relays how she used what she learned, “I used the guidelines [from class] to write my mission and vision statement for my website emphasizing benefits and value of my product; people are complimenting me on them.” And “ I spoke by phone with a new customer I had sent a sample too. He liked the product, but it was the wrong size. I used the term “how so” and kept him talking so I could understand more clearly what he wanted. Our conversation ended with a new order for a smaller size product and he wants to distribute my product to his customers not only in the US but in Europe. A definite win-win.”
Learn how to make your business win with proven business fundamentals from the Business Certificate Program. Course registration fee is $200. To sign up please visit our website. You can also be a program supporter by sponsoring a student.
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. Teams 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.
I 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.
The BEDC is again working to support small business growth in Southeast Alaska. A team of four UW Foster MBA students has spent winter quarter working with the Ketchikan Indian Community in an effort to grow local business and tribally-owned enterprises. The students taught entrepreneurship classes over the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend for 30 current and aspiring business owners. Ketchikan, the southernmost city in Alaska, has an economy based on tourism and fishing; and many of the new business ideas will cater to tourists from cruise ships or independent tourists.
Since the entrepreneurship classes, the MBA students have been working with outdoor adventure, culinary training, historic tourism, clothing retailer, and construction companies.
MBA student Jennifer Yanni believes she learned as much or more as her clients did “I had never written a business plan before so this gave me some real-world experience to put on my resume. It also helped me think about how you sell new ideas to an existing market.”
This is the 15th project that the BEDC has completed for a Native American Tribe or Alaska Native Corporation and we’re already looking for our next projects. If you know of a tribe that would like a MBA team please contact Michael Verchot.
Increasing protein-based food in Nigeria, promoting coffee in Rwanda, reducing indoor air pollution from cooking in Bangladesh, building a wheelchair out of bamboo—these are a few of the ideas presented in the 2013 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition. The competition, which was hosted by the Foster School’s Global Business Center, had 14 semi-finalist teams from Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and the U.S.—including one UW team—competing in Seattle for over $30,000 in prizes. The winners were announced at a celebration dinner on February 28, 2013.
Grand Prize $12,500 = Jorsey Ashbel Farms
Jorsey Ashbel Farms turn mango seeds into livestock feed. This tackles the poverty issue of protein-energy malnutrition, which affects millions of disadvantaged people in Nigeria, particularly women and children. They have already generated $31,000 in revenue, proving their business model works. When Mauricio Vivero from the Seattle International Foundation announced the winning team he said, “The final judges noted that the winners proved the model worked, which was fundamental, and also that the business plan thoughtfully and fully addressed the social good.” Blessing Oritseweyinmi Mene from National Open University in Nigeria and Ashbel Ngalabak Ayuba from Ahmadu Bello University presented the idea at GSEC. The other team member is Godson Chizurum Ogumka from Abia State University. This prize was sponsored by the Seattle International Foundation and Microsoft.
Information & Communication Technology Prize $10,000 = Social Cops
Prukalpa Sankar and Varun Banka from Nanyang Technological University launched Social Cops so ordinary citizens could easily report civic issues such as uncollected trash, potholes, leaking water pipes, etc. to local government officials with their mobile phone in their home country India. The civic reporting platform will begin a pilot this summer in Delhi. This prize was sponsored by Microsoft.
Global Health Prize $10,000 = LifeChair
LifeChair produces a wheelchair made of bamboo and rickshaw wheels. It is significantly less expensive than the wheelchairs currently available in Bangladesh and is designed and built to be used in rural areas. Makame Mahmud and Naseef Us Sakib from University of Dhaka created this company to help handicapped Bangladeshis become active members of society. This prize was sponsored by the UW Department of Global Health.
Rotary Prize for Social Impact $1,500 = Coffee Promo Co.
Coffee Promo Co. was started by Jean-Christophe Rusatira and Candide Mujawayezu, two medical students from the National University of Rwanda. Their goal is to install washing stations right at the coffee farm so the farmers can sell their beans already sorted and processed and get a much higher price, as well as improve yields by providing more training to farmers and planting better coffee trees. Once the farmers and workers make more money from coffee bean production, they will have more money to spend on healthcare and education to improve their communities and living standards. This prize was sponsored by the Seattle Rotary.
National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance E-Team Prize $5,000 and a Venture Lab Workshop = Disease Diagnostic Group
Disease Diagnostic Group uses the low-cost Rapid Assessment of Malaria (RAM) device to provide a handheld diagnosis for malaria in one minute at very low cost. This team also won the Investor’s Choice Award at the 2013 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition Trade Show.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn spoke at the beginning of the celebration dinner. He said that while the people who proclaimed Seattle as a city of the future 50 years ago didn’t get everything right, they were right in a few areas. “They did get it right that it is appropriate, it is right to be innovative, creative, and idealistic. It is right to think about others and that’s how we’re going to keep working to build a city of the future.”
The keynote speaker at the award banquet was Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, owner and CEO of Vestergaard Frandsen, which produces products for prevention of infectious diseases such as malaria. The company’s LifeStraw® water filters were named one of the best inventions by Time and one of the best innovations by Esquire and also won the Saatchi & Saatchi Award for World Changing Ideas. Frandsen, however, said of accolades LifeStraw® has received, “None of this matters unless it’s in the hands of the people who need it most, and that’s where the real innovation is.” He covered three kinds of innovation required to solve global health issues: innovation around creativity of new tool development, innovation around the deployment of new tools, and innovation around financing.
Guest post by Jene Etheridge, Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) Ambassador, Foster undergrad and President of UW Social Entrepreneurship Club
Entrepreneurs, students, engineers, and investors filled Anthony’s Forum in Dempsey Hall on the UW Campus with excitement and curiosity as teams from all over the world prepared to present at the 2013 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition’s Trade Show. The evening began with one-minute pitches from each team which highlighted their solutions and resulting benefits for social issues. The issues ranged from problems of respiratory disease and unclean water to accessible housing and resources.
Volunteer judges from the Seattle business, education and nonprofit community joined community members and host families—all of whom were given a hypothetical $1,000 to invest in the teams, culminating in an “Investor’s Choice” and “People’s Choice” Prize awarded at the end of the event. Judges included representatives from the Evans School of Public Affairs, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Sophos Law Firm, Ness Consulting, and various UW departments.
When I talked to Brijesh Sharma, a first-time GSEC attendee and a Hubert Humphrey Fellow, he emphasized his intrigue in the range of ideas and innovative solutions. “The hardest part is choosing who to invest in,” he said, “but it’s an opportunity to test the teams’ ideas and helps build confidence for them.” An emphasis on high social impact instead of profit is something that an undergraduate business student isn’t used to hearing, but for this week the lens is re-focused through GSEC, which defines success by social impact.
I was curious as to how some of these companies even started, and was interested in Prukalpa Sankar’s story about where the idea came from for Social Cops, an open web and mobile platform where citizens, councils and corporations come together to solve civic problems. “We didn’t want to go corporate when we studied business.” She mentioned that they were inspired to start Social Cops because of the social movement, India Against Corruption. Not only are these social movements creating catalysts for change, but also urging members in their communities to mobilize and take action into their own hands.
Although some in attendance were major players in the business world, I realized they were there to find a cause they believed in that had the right people to carry out a solution with a positive social impact. I knew my fellow ambassadors would leave the trade show inspired to make change in our own communities. When I talked to Joyce Tang, a student ambassador for the livestock provider Jorsey Ashbel Farms, she emphasized even more student involvement for events like GSEC. “You meet the world here!” She told me as we watched the teams attentively answering questions from judges. “I think people forget that business can be used to benefit others too.” GSEC is somewhere to get inspired, because we see how social entrepreneurship is even more important to the founders of these companies. They’re passionate about these innovative solutions because they have grown up with these issues firsthand.
Troy Hudson, one of the participating investor judges, added a new perspective to the group as an immigrant from Guyana and Seattle business executive. “It’s important to use these business
skills to solve social problems and reinvest the profit back into a sustainable solution,” he said. The judges, along with fellow students and members of the Seattle community, offered a great opportunity for dynamic discussion on past projects and international travels, as well as innovative resources.
It seemed like the two hours had been only minutes when the announcements were made for the Investors’ and People’s Choice Awards. For the first time in GSEC history, each team received votes from the investor judges. The deliberation was so difficult the People’s Choice Award was presented to two teams: Eco-Chula from University of Dhaka in Bangladesh and Coffee Promo Co. from National University of Rwanda. The Investors’ Award was presented to one of the U.S. teams, Disease Diagnostic Group from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Congrats everyone!
Guest post by Kelly Shen, Foster undergrad and Certificate in International Studies in Business (CISB) student
She is a Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) ambassador to Team LifeChair from Bangladesh.
Around noon on Monday, the Douglas Forum slowly filled up as teams from all across the world staggered in to attend orientation for one of the most prestigious competitions for university-level students. Amongst the crowd this year were engineering students from India and business students from Bangladesh, community members from the area, UW professors and students. For some, this was their first time traveling outside of their home countries; for others, their first time in America and for some, their first time in Seattle.
Each year, the Global Business Center hosts the week-long Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition on the University of Washington campus and brings together undergraduate and graduate students driven by the common goal of creating sustainable, positive solutions to the issues they face in their home countries and around the world. Unlike case competitions, participants of the GSEC come to the competition knowing what they are competing on—a solution for a challenging social issue. For many of the participants, this week is a chance for them to showcase their months, and even years, of hard work.
The majority of the teams arrived over the weekend. Armed with heavy coats and umbrellas, they took on sightseeing in Seattle during the day. One team, from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India told me about their Seattle exploration. When I asked if they went to the first Starbucks and Pike Place Market, one team member replied “Too many people!” and his teammate laughed, “Too many fish!” When I asked if there was anything in particular they wanted to see in Seattle, the team told me that anything would be fun since they were too busy preparing their presentation before their trip to even look up what to do in Seattle. This just shows the passion these teams have for bettering society.
At night, these teams are up all night working—partially because of jet lag but mostly by their drive to deliver the perfect presentation. When I first met the LifeChair team from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, they told me that they had been up since 1:00 a.m. working. It was 1:00 in the afternoon. As you can imagine, most of these teams have traveled more than halfway across the world, boarding flights which last more than 10 hours. One team, FastTrack House, even told me about how they rode camels on their 20 hours layover in Dubai. But none of this stopped them—despite the jet lag and adjusting the change in environment, the teams persevered to deliver their elevator pitches and presentations to coaching round judges Monday afternoon.
Each year since GSEC first began in 2005, the scale of global issues and scope of solutions competition participants bring to the table have greatly increased. This year, GSEC is honored to invite 34 students from 9 nationalities and 12 universities in the United States, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Singapore. For these teams, getting to Seattle was no easy feat either. This year, the teams beat out 91 other competitors from 67 universities in 29 countries to get a chance to pitch their idea to the judges on Thursday. So if you see them around campus this week, congratulate them! Great job, GSEC teams and I can’t wait to see what this week has in store for you!