AJ Ghambari, 2007 University of Washington Foster School of Business alumnus, has owned Seattle Bagel Bakery since October 2010. The previous owner was ready to give the business up in the midst of financial hardship and Ghambari took this opportunity to turn the bakery around. This summer, he enlisted the help of a student consultant through the Business & Economic Development Center’s (BEDC) Summer Internship Program to identify ways to strategically grow his business.
“I’m a big fan of the leadership at the BEDC. I want to surround myself with people I want to be like…They are good people doing positive things in the business environment,” said Ghambari. As an undergraduate studying at the Foster School, he “loved the opportunity to collaborate with small business owners, mentors…learning problem solving, consulting…real world stuff…the BEDC really gave that.” Ghambari wanted to play a role in getting students involved and applying their classroom knowledge to the real world.
Since taking over Seattle Bagel Bakery (SBB), Ghambari has continued to deliver a high quality product – “old school kettle-boiled bagels.” But it’s not only the product that is prospering; SBB prides itself on the relationships it builds with their suppliers, customers and employees. All the employees have been with the company from five to 15 years. “We instill a strong sense of ownership in our employees – they feel empowered to do what they’re good at. And that really comes out in the product.”
Ghambari said he hopes to double sales revenue of SBB in the next three to five years, and “not just to make a quick buck, but sustainable growth.” In order to do this, he emphasized how SBB needs to look at its strategy and how it is growing. “We need to grow smarter, not harder,” he said. The BEDC Summer Internship Program is providing this. Student consultant Cynthia Chiou has been creating a “clearer, more focused strategy on growing business outside of the state of Washington,” said Ghambari.
“Everything the student and BEDC said they would do, they have done…they walk the walk,” said Ghambari. He recommends this program for “any small business looking for mentoring and guidance, a second opinion. It’s a great group of people to bounce ideas off of.”
Twelve businesses participated in the summer intern consulting program. Learn more about the companies.