MBA transformers: Todd Dennett

Once: Advance man, The White House

Now: Consultant, Tiller/Dennett & Company

Todd DennettTodd Dennett (MBA 2004) has always made things happen.

So it was no coincidence when the go-to guy landed an internship in the White House press room while studying international affairs and communications at George Washington University. This kicked off a dizzying five years orchestrating events and travel for Vice President Al Gore, followed by a job as protocol officer at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and, later, heading operations for Howard Dean’s meteoric presidential campaign.

But Dennett felt he needed to strengthen his management skills. So, home to the Puget Sound and the Foster School he went.

His unique organizational experience and expanded management portfolio got the attention of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which hired him to organize its founders’ activities and maximize their influence. It was a job that took him around the world.

Still globetrotting today, Dennett runs a niche consulting firm, with clients that include the Gateses, the Obamas and the Olympic Games. As ever, he’s the consummate organizer, making things happen to perfection. “It’s always been my passion,” he says. “The work is not so different, but the Foster MBA helped me do it on my own.”

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

MBA transformers: Teresa Demel

Once: Traveling Science Teacher, Pacific Science Center

Now: Product Marketing Manager, Adobe Systems

Teresa DemelTeresa Demel (MBA 2011) rocks. Literally.

She plays guitar and sings with “Another Perfect Crime,” a band that formed shortly after she moved to Seattle seven years ago.

Not that she’s quit her day job(s). At first, Demel put her biology degree to work as a traveling educator in the Pacific Science Center’s renowned Science on Wheels Program, followed by a gig managing heart health outreach through UW Bioengineering.

Then her destiny turned on a reading of What Color is your Parachute. “I realized that what I had been doing—and loving— was really product development and marketing,” she says.

She wanted to learn more. The Foster MBA provided “a combination of great professors who gave me strategic frameworks that I use every day, and fabulous career counselors who shaped my transformation.”

Unsure of where she’d fit in the for-profit world, Demel embraced their advice to view a first job like a medical residence—a skills-building step toward a dream career.

“As an avid user of Photoshop, I had always had a crush on Adobe,” she says. “Now here I am, product marketing manager for Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.”

And rocking it.

Update: After two years at Adobe, Demel moved on from her long-time crush to take on a larger role as Director of Marketing at A.R.O., Inc, a technology company dedicated to leveraging the power of context. Her band continues to rock on.

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

MBA transformers: Charlie Berg

Once: pro skier, the Rockies, Alps, Sierra Nevadas, Cascades

Now: associate product line merchandiser, Eddie Bauer

Charlie BergCharlie Berg (MBA 2011) downplays his characterization as a former professional skier. “Aspiring,” he qualifies.

Sure, he worked seasonal jobs and as a mortgage broker to pay the bills. But for eight years he lived to ski, in the mountains of Washington, Colorado, California and Switzerland. He notched several first descents in the Cascades, competed in extreme skiing competitions across North America, was featured in several skiing films.

But the dream was unsustainable. Berg needed a career, preferably within a business that shared his passions. Entering the Foster MBA Program, he identified outdoor apparel as a potential target.

“Foster is a jumping off point,” he says. “It gives you time to plan, puts you in a great position to try new things. And the internships are totally designed for that purpose.”

Berg fit right in at Eddie Bauer, an apparel company reconnecting with its roots as an outfitter for extreme endeavors. He manages the firm’s technical product line, deciding what clothes and accessories to make and how to market them to people like him.

Good work. And he still skis, “every chance I get.”

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

CISB students intern with Pacific NW Advisors

Pacific NW AdvisorsCameron Geisler, Carl Mars and Matt Sink, Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students, recently completed internships with the Latin American Division of Pacific Northwest Advisors, an international network of global business advisors. Stephen Murphy, senior advisor for Latin America, said it was “a pleasure working with these talented students.”

As an intern, Geisler created a slide presentation concerning Mexico, NAFTA and CAFTA. He conducted extensive research, including research to ascertain who the business “movers and shakers” are in Mexico. He also investigated which international firms and Washington state organizations have invested in Mexico. He presented his findings to the Board of Directors of the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce (Seattle) where he received much critical acclaim as well as feedback. He also presented to a group from Seattle University that were going to visit Mexico on a service trip.

Mars worked on a presentation about “Doing Business in 21st Century South America,” in which he emphasized the nuances of business in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina. He presented to the international team of the Washington State Department of Commerce and the Marine Resource Group of Saltchuk, Seattle’s largest private equity firm.

Sinks’ work focused on Brazil, including a presentation about the future of Brazil which highlighted infrastructure, business and investment opportunities for Washington state firms. He presented at Skagit Valley College’s “Global Fest 2013.”

Learn more about the Foster School’s Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

Students present to Allrecipes

Guest post by Lisa Anton and Travin Keith, Foster School and CISB Custom Track students

AllrecipesAfter winning the grand prize in the 2013 CISB Foreign Market Strategy Project, the Foster School’s Certificate of International Studies in Business Custom Track students presented their case at the office of Allrecipes on April 11. The students presented in front of a large number of Allrecipes employees and successfully defended their presentation for about an hour, earning compliments from the audience. Their performance was even compared to that of consultants who have presented in the past.

The prize for best teamwork went to the Japanese Track and prize for best presentation to the U.S. Track/Australia team.

Their proposal was to form a strategic alliance with Homeplus, the second largest retailer in South Korea, to provide their content as an additional service to their already-existing E-commerce. Users would be able to look up recipes online provided by Allrecipes and be able to purchase the ingredients on the same page from Homeplus with Allrecipes getting a percentage of the revenue. They also suggested that Allrecipes perform joint marketing projects with Homeplus in order to promote the service.

In addition to presenting to Allrecipes, the Custom Track also received an office tour from VP Patricia Smith and Senior Product Manager Vasantha Kostojohn. This experience was really enjoyable, as the office seemed more like an open community center than the headquarters of a major international recipe site. The décor was open and colorful, adorned with national flags, sticky notes from different team projects, and fun posters with cute animals and motivational quotes. The atmosphere was personal, warm, and mirrored the positive attitude that radiated off all of the staff members present. The track was also able to get a sneak peek of a mobile app that Allrecipes is gearing to launch next year and learned from the lead project manager about its development.

Overall, the Allrecipes office was as colorful and creative as its website, and it was a truly great experience to be able to go behind the scenes of such an innovative company.

Learn more about the Foster School’s Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

Authentic ramen receives rave reviews

Guest post by Christopher Comley, CISB French Track student

Kukai Owners, Brandon Ting and Nuri Aydinel The first time Foster School alumni Brandon Ting (BA 2009) and Nuri Aydinel (BA 2009) met in class, they didn’t even talk. However, both joined the U.S. track of the Certificate of International Studies in Business program (CISB), and from there began the conversations that would lead to close friendship and a thriving business.

Along with Jessmin Lau, (UW BA 2010), the two are owners of Kukai Ramen and Izakaya, a Japanese noodle restaurant that opened in Bellevue in December and has already garnered widespread praise.  Seattle Magazine recently featured the restaurant in its “Best Restaurants” issue.

“We enjoy when our customers tell us dining in Kukai is the best ramen experience they have had,” Ting said.

It is the first U.S. location of the Kukai Ramen franchise, which has several other locations in Japan.

The restaurant is on a mission to provide “really good ramen to Americans,” Ting said.

The owners first became interested in ramen when they saw how popular it was becoming around the world.

“People are getting to know ramen and are becoming huge fans of it. We saw that the ramen fans in Seattle (and most of the U.S.) don’t get to enjoy a bowl of authentic ramen,” Ting said.

Facing such a culinary deficiency, the owners began preparations to satisfy the ramen needs of the Seattle area. They traveled to Japan several times, searching for the perfect ramen to bring back, and eventually came across Kukai. Media publications claimed customers who didn’t normally like ramen liked the ramen from Kukai.

“That got us curious so we went to try it,” Ting said.

The owners discovered Kukai had a special cooking method for the ramen, which made it more palatable to the Japanese market and potentially the American one as well. After deciding which ramen to use, the owners began preparations to open a franchise in the U.S., a process which took two years. In reaching its goal to provide authentic ramen to the American market, the owners needed authentic ingredients, but they encountered several FDA obstacles. Under FDA regulations, all ingredients have to be from a certified manufacturer. Originally, Kukai’s ingredients were not FDA approved, but the owners decided the authenticity was worth the price.

“We actually got the manufacturer certified under U.S. standards in order to import the ingredients,” Ting said.

Ting attributes the success of the restaurant to the lengthy planning process.

“We had several changes to our plan, which involved a lot of analyzing and calculating. The long and thorough planning and preparation process was the real key to our ‘rapid’ success,” Ting said.

With plans to open up 30 to 50 more Kukai restaurants across the country, Seattleites won’t be the only ones enjoying warm bowls of authentic ramen.

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

Entrepreneur reading list

Throw these in your beach bag! Emer Dooley and Jacob Colker recommend the following summer reads:

The Startup Owners Manual (Steve Blank)
Teaches you the big picture of how to do customer development and why its important, also goes through the business model canvas.

The Lean Startup (Ries)
Teaches you how to do smart, fast, targeted tests to disprove hypotheses.

Paul Graham’s Essays (founder of Y-combinator)
Read every single one!

Business Model Generation (Osterwalder)
Teaches you how to think about the business model in the context of the whole company.

Hey Whipple! Squeeze This! (Sullivan)
Best book out there for how to write smart and funny copy, which ends up being super important for web, emails, investor decks, etc. Writing is key to everything.

Solution Selling (Bosworth)
If you ever have to sell anything, this book helps. A lot.

Rework (Fried)
Smartest book out there for how to run a team efficiently.

Getting to Yes (Ury)
Best negotiation book on the market.

Art of Innovation (Kelley)
Great thoughts on innovation.

Learning with – and from – Classmates

Often new Evening MBA students are surprised how much they learn from their classmates in the program. At the start, the program’s staff takes care to form study groups that allow students with diverse strengths to share their knowledge and get each other through challenging course material. Fellow students often develop strong and lasting friendships as well, and form a whole new career network for each other, representing most of the Seattle area’s major employers. Evening MBA students Olga Shapiro, Etta Mends and Tom Clendenin describe how their fellow students add value to the Evening MBA Program.​​​

Collaborating for increased opportunities: A new BEDC partnership to further develop minority-owned businesses nationwide

Michael Verchot, Director of the UW BEDC (left), stands with NMSDC President Joset B. Wright (center) and Shelley Stewart, Jr., the Vice Chairman of the NMSDC Board of Directors.
Michael Verchot, Director of the UW BEDC (left), stands with NMSDC President Joset B. Wright (center) and Shelley Stewart, Jr., the Vice Chairman of the NMSDC Board of Directors.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc.® (NMSDC®) and the University of Washington’s Business and Economic Development Center (UW-BEDC) announced a partnership agreement to further the development of minority-owned businesses across the US on May 22nd at the NMSDC’s annual Minority Business Leadership Awards Dinner Dance in New York City.

This partnership joins together the nation’s premier organization committed to the growth and development of Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American-owned companies with the nation’s most comprehensive business school center dedicated to the growth of minority-owned firms and businesses in low- and moderate-income communities.

“This agreement will provide minority business enterprises a new opportunity at one of the country’s leading institutions that supports minority business development,” said NMSDC President Joset B. Wright. “It will allow us to enhance MBEs’ ability to meet the needs of their customers. We are delighted with our new relationship, and we look forward to many years of success for NMSDC, for the University of Washington, but most importantly, for our certified MBEs.”

Jim Jiambalvo, Dean of the UW Foster School of Business, expressed similar excitement about this partnership. “We recognize the NMSDC’s pioneering role in growing minority-owned firms across the US. The work of the council and its member corporations has done more to create opportunities for business growth and wealth creation in communities of color than just about any organization in the last 40 years. We’re proud to be partnering with them so that collectively we can do more than either of us could do independently.”

The partners will begin their collaboration by growing the Foster School’s six-year-old Minority Business Executive Program. This Program has a track record of success in growing minority-owned businesses from across the U.S. JBE Enterprises, an NMSDC-certified firm based in South Carolina, participated in the 2012 Minority Business Executive Program. Richard Ellison, the company’s Vice President and a graduate of the Program attributes its ability to cross the $40 million revenue threshold in part to what firm representatives learned in this Program.

NMSDC and the Foster School will launch a pilot program in June. NMSDC corporate members will select a few MBEs to participate in the program. Ms. Wright will be the commencement speaker at the University’s 2013 graduation ceremony on June 21 in Seattle.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council advances business opportunities for certified Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connects them to corporate members.  One of the country’s leading corporate membership organizations, NMSDC was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes. The NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 36 Regional Councils across the country. There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America’s largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned NMSDC companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The Regional Councils certify and match more than 16,000 minority-owned businesses with member corporations that want to purchase their products and services.

– Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.