Transformational gift from JPMorgan Chase

Guest post from Michael Verchot, Director of the Business and Economic Development Center at the University of Washington Foster School of Business

On December 6 we’ll formally announce a $600,000 gift from JPMorgan Chase Foundation that will mark a turning point in the life of the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). This gift will enable us to fully meet our goals of making a substantial impact on growing jobs where they are needed most by engaging students in learning that matters to them and to businesses. Fundamentally, this gift will enable us to do three things:

  • Increase the number of students engaged in hands-on work with small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities in the Seattle area.
  • Grow our faculty-led small business classes offered in Seattle, Everett, Yakima, Tri-Cities, and Spokane to reach up to 200 small businesses each year.
  • Build a NW regional and national network of business schools that enhance their student learning by helping small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities to create jobs.

BEDC Celebrates JP Morgan Chase GiftWe already know that more than 94% of students who participate in BEDC programs say the experience improves their job performance after graduation and 80% of small business participants report positive financial and performance gains following their work with us. We now have the opportunity to serve more students and business owners.

This is the largest gift the BEDC has received in its 17-year history and brings Chase’s total giving to the BEDC to more than $900,000. As we’ve worked with Chase over the last year in shaping our vision for the use of these funds, they’ve also challenged us to think beyond their gift to what’s next. Chase’s gift will be spent over the next three years which will bring us to our 20th anniversary. It’s time to set our sights on the future. Our overarching goals these next three years will be to:

  • Leverage Chase’s support to secure between $1 million and $10 million in endowment support to sustain the growth in programs made possible by Chase’s gift.
  • Double the number of students who are working with small businesses.
  • Create a self-sustaining series of classes for entrepreneurs and business owners at all levels of business growth.

All of us at the BEDC, students, faculty, staff, and business volunteers, are deeply grateful to Chase for this investment and we look forward to an exciting couple of years ahead of us.

The sweet sniff of success: Kyle Polanski finds great potential in dog treats

Kyle Polanski
Kyle Polanski and Havana

Kyle Polanski eats dog food. So do his employees. In fact, he says, “It’s rare that we have a staff meeting and don’t taste some of the product.”  A little strange, perhaps, but if you’re picturing them spooning up mouthfuls of that smelly canned stuff, you’ve got the wrong idea.

Polanski, MBA 2008, is the CEO of Blue Dog Bakery, a dog treat company headquartered in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. The bakery produces all-natural dog snacks made with the same kinds of ingredients you might find in your favorite cookie (minus the sugar and salt), and sells to retailers across the country.

Blue Dog Bakery was started in 1998 by Margot Kenly, who directed her passion for healthy, natural foods toward making natural dog treats with pure ingredients like whole wheat flour, molasses, oats, and peanut butter. Initially sold at Costco, the treats were a hit, and the bakery soon began receiving calls from other retailers like QFC, asking when they could get Blue Dog Bakery products on their shelves.  By 2008 the company was distributing biscuits to Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Petsmart outlets throughout the Northwest and the Northeast.

At about this time, Polanski, an MBA student at the UW Foster School, established Halibut Flat Partners, a search fund backed by 12 investors who had agreed to finance his acquisition of a promising local company. His plan, once he found a company to purchase, was to use his business savvy to make it grow.

During his search, Polanski met Kenly, and spent several months doing a deep dive into Blue Dog Bakery. “There was clearly potential for expanding the company, evolving the brand, and scaling distribution to a national level,” he said. Polanski acquired Blue Dog Bakery in 2009 and the rush was on.

Since then, the bakery has grown its geographic and retail footprints (its products are now in 12,000 stores across the country) and increased sales (30% since the beginning of 2012 alone). The brand has become popular in stores like QFC and Safeway, and gained attention from the media, appearing in the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report. Blue Dog even won the 2010 Supermarket News Category Excellence award.

Polanski and his now 7 employees have expanded their product line to include items like Doggie Cremes and Bakery Bones, and redesigned their packaging. The company also started Pet Treat Pantry, a program that donates boxes of dog treats to animal shelters in five regions across the country.

As he looks ahead, Polanski is focused on competing in the national market, vying with billion-dollar brands for the attention of pet-owners and their pups. He believes Blue Dog’s all-natural products can go head-to-head with anything the competition throws their way. “People want healthy, natural, and affordable for their pets,” he said. “That’s Blue Dog.”

Angel Eyes: MBAs view entrepreneurship through an angel investor lens

Entrepreneurs count on angel investors to provide seed-stage start-up funding, but very few entrepreneurship students ever get to set foot in an angel group as a member.

Enter CIE’s new MBA course: Angel Investing. Taught by Rob Wiltbank, the Foster School’s Neal Dempsey Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship and associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Willamette University, Angel Investing is a year-long course in which second-year MBAs learn about investing by participating as members in Seattle angel groups and making actual investments.

Wiltbank launched the course at Willamette University three years ago, and the class was recently included in Inc. Magazine’s list of the top 10 entrepreneurship courses in the country. But Wiltbank has long-standing ties to the University of Washington and Seattle. He earned his PhD in strategic management from the UW Foster School in 2005 and is a partner at Montlake Capital.

The class is clearly a departure from other MBA courses. “One of the good things about being in school is that you learn how things should be done. One of the bad things is that you don’t get to do them,” says Mark Partridge, a second-year MBA in the class.  “It’s rare that you get actual experience doing something as extraordinary as angel investing.”

“It’s a great integration program,” says Wiltbank, who has students in Seattle’s Alliance of Angels, Puget Sound Venture Club, Northwest Energy Angels, Seraph, WINGS, and Keiretsu Forum. “Students watch and evaluate pitches, identify potential investment opportunities, and perform extensive due diligence.” Ultimately, the class will make two or three $25,000 to $50,000 investments in promising start-ups.

Sound exciting? Definitely! Sound easy? Definitely not. “There’s a vertical learning curve,” admits Wiltbank. “Much of the content is unfamiliar, and students who excel in this course must be true entrepreneurs—self-motivated, with a willingness to put themselves out there.”

Students spend the year with a group of intelligent, savvy investors. After the course, they will know a great pitch when they see one, and those who become entrepreneurs will know what investors are looking for. “Their ability to pitch is dramatically enhanced,” says Wiltbank, adding that having this experience on their resume will make graduates very desirable to future employers. In an interview, he insists, “it’s the ultimate closer.”

Mark Partridge is just one quarter into the course, but he agrees that the experience he is gaining is an investment in his future. As for whether it will help him close on a future job, he smiles. “I’ll let you know.”

Keep it rolling: adventures in food truck entrepreneurship

Ice cream lovers line up for a taste of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream

You’ve seen the magazine covers (“Seattle’s Best Food Trucks 2012”) and read the headlines (“the mobile revolution has begun!”), but you need only look both ways on a busy Seattle street to see that we’ve got food truck fever.

In 2007 just a handful of sometimes-questionable mobile eateries roamed Seattle’s roads. Five years later, city regulations have changed, opening the door for a flood of high-quality food truck entrepreneurs. Food truck “pods” are popping up all over town – there’s one in South Lake Union, home to Amazon and its throngs of employees, and another recently opened downtown at Second and Pike. The food truck trend might lead you to think that food truck entrepreneurship is easy – roll out a truck, and watch the money roll in.

Not so fast, said Molly Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream. Neitzel, along with Josh Henderson of Skillet, Marshall Jett of Veraci Pizza, and Danielle Custer of Monte Cristo, were part of a panel on food truck entrepreneurship that took place during CIE’s annual ENTREWeek in October. Food trucks turned out to be one of the most popular features of the nine events offered during Entreweek 2012. Why so popular? CIE not only hosted foodie entrepreneurs, but their trucks as well. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to forgo the usual campus fare for wood-fired pizza from a clay oven on wheels or salted caramel ice cream from a gourmet ice cream truck?

Neitzel went on to say that after opening two successful ice cream stores in Seattle’s Wallingford and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, she thought it would be fun to add an ice cream truck to the family. It turned out to be a logistical nightmare. “Since the launch of the truck, I’ve opened three more shops,” she said, adding, “I’ll never open a truck again.”

Running a food truck is demanding, and owners face financial and logistical issues that don’t come up in a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Custer, the newest owner on the food truck panel, had opened her gourmet grilled cheese truck, Monte Cristo, just a week earlier. “We’ve had four lunch services,” she said, “and the truck has been in the shop four times.”

It’s clear that food truck ownership is not for the faint of heart. So why are so many jumping on the food truck bandwagon? Perhaps because mobile food entrepreneurs know that a food truck can place them on the road to success. Food entrepreneurs see opportunity in using trucks as PR vehicles:  develop a fan base with mobile food and those fans will follow once you find a permanent home.

Skillet is a great example. Henderson began serving burgers and poutine out of his silver airstream trailer in August 2007. By the time he opened Skillet Diner in 2011, the Skillet brand was hugely popular. Further success followed, and the brand now boasts a second location, Skillet Counter, plus a cookbook, a second food truck for catering, and products like Bacon Jam. Skillet’s success can be attributed in large part to the dedicated following of devotees who got their first taste of Skillet’s food when it was only served street-side.

Like Henderson, Marshall Jett opened his brick-and-mortar pizzeria five years after introducing his mobile Veraci pizza oven to Seattle farmer’s markets. “By the time we built Veraci in Ballard, we had a huge following,” he said. He added that the pizzeria’s opening coincided with the financial crisis in 2008, and remarked, “If we hadn’t established our business the way that we did and developed the momentum  we had with our customers and our product, we probably would’ve gone out of business.”

All this transitioning from mobile to mortar may make food entrepreneurs feel a bit more stable, but it doesn’t mean the food truck trend is going away anytime soon. Even those with restaurants still keep their trucks running. Sure, owning a food truck can be a headache, and it’s probably not the key to riches, but they’re a great way to test a concept, build an audience, and be part of Seattle’s rolling food revolution.

Watch the ENTREweek 2012 Food Truck Panel video
Read another food truck blog post: Apricots, creativity, and food trucks.

 

Sludge, China, and the Freshman Direct Track winning team

The 2012 Holland America Line Global Case Competition involved 48 hours of intense analysis of sludge, soil remediation, and joint ventures in China. The case for the November 17th competition was Phase Separations Solutions (PS2): The China Question, and over 60 Foster School undergraduates teams were asked to recommend a course of action regarding PS2’s opportunities in China.

Teams were asked to tackle difficult questions in the charge and even more challenging ones from the panels of corporate and faculty judges:  Which JV option should they pursue? What challenges are posed by partnering with the government? What about intellectual property theft? What are the bankruptcy laws in China?

Among these teams were sixteen Foster School Freshmen Direct students. They made up their own track in the morning rounds and competed for a $500 prize. The panel of judges for the Freshman Direct Track was impressed by the ease with which these teams presented and the depth of their research and analysis after only a few months at the Foster School.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the winning team of the Freshman Direct Track about their experience. Here is what the winning team members Tim Kim, Barrett Stapleman, Erik Meister, and Ben Hagen had to say:

 What did you learn? Lots of different business terminology; how to prepare, conduct research and how to play the role of a consultant; we learned what a real business presentation looks like, and how to creatively think on our feet.

What did you take away from watching the upperclassmen presentations in the Final Round? Teams need to know everything inside and out – the numbers, the strategy, the facts. The organization of their PowerPoint presentations was impressive, and the team members all presented in a professional tone that was very direct, clear, and to the point.

What was the most challenging part? Time management, researching obscure aspects of the case, and the formulation of the actual presentation – how to include relevant content without overwhelming the slide – were all difficult.

What would you tell other students? Even if you don’t have any background in case competitions, it is a good learning experience to throw yourself into this difficult situation. Just attack it. You will learn skills that will prepare you for the future like time management, presentation skills, and teamwork. Just go out and get involved.

Will you compete again?  Yes!

The Global Business Center would like to give a special thanks to our sponsor of this year’s competition Holland America Line. To learn more about the Holland America Line Global Case Competition, visit the Global Business Center website.

Entrepreneurial Energy

Foster alum and faculty fellow Emer Dooley has a passion for pushing boundaries

Emer Dooley

How does a North Pole marathon winner become one of TechFlash’s top 100 tech women in Seattle? For Emer Dooley—engineer, PhD, entrepreneurship lecturer, angel investor, advisor—it’s easy. Dooley pushed boundaries long before her career began.

Her first broken barrier? Becoming an electrical engineer, a field dominated by men.

“In Ireland when growing up, I wanted to be a science teacher. That’s what girls did. My dad talked me out of it. He persuaded me to do electronic engineering. That changed my life,” says Dooley.

After working as an engineer for seven years, Dooley circled back to her original passion. “I’ve always wanted to teach. I sort of knew I wasn’t really an engineer in my heart.” She earned an MBA (1992) from Foster, worked as marketing manager for Seattle start-up Mosaix, came back to earn her PhD (2000), and taught at UW through 2011.

“I thought that doing an MBA in Seattle would be high-tech nirvana,” says Dooley. “I’m also a huge outdoor person. I like to ski, climb, water ski, run, bike. I just love Seattle. I never applied anywhere else.” At the UW, she launched a high-tech speaker series, software entrepreneurship class and co-taught with various UW computer science professors, including Oren Etzioni, founder of Farecast and Decide.

Her first guest speaker? Venture capitalist Mike Slade, a Microsoft and Apple veteran and entrepreneur. Dooley continued to bring in heavyweight guest speakers year after year.

“It was using the community to change the way that the old classes had been taught,” says Dooley. A memorable speaker was Tom Burt who led the Microsoft defense in the antitrust lawsuit. He shared the reality of being sued. “During discovery, they had so many documents piled up in the corridors that they were cited by the Redmond fire department.”

After 11 years of teaching entrepreneurship to business, engineering and computer science students, Dooley now serves as strategic planner, board member and faculty advisor for the Foster School’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. She successfully launched a $3 million fundraising campaign to move the center into a new building and open a new innovation lab.

Dooley also manages a $4.4 million fund at Alliance of Angels and is setting up an angel fund for UW students and a visiting professor to invest in start-ups.

She sees companies bootstrap in ways inconceivable to previous generations of entrepreneurs. “After the big dot com crash, nobody would fund anything. It used to take $30 million to get a company to market. And now with the advances in the tools, people can start companies from nothing. It’s just incredible to me that if you’re really savvy about social media, there’s still opportunity there to run rings around the traditional companies.”

The other pivotal change she’s witnessed in the last 10 years in Seattle is start-up expertise from second-generation entrepreneurs. “It used to be all Microsoft start-ups. Now there’s Expedia, Amazon, Real Networks. That’s really changed the level of talent in the area.”

One of the few women in the angel investing community, Dooley hopes to encourage her kids to push boundaries themselves. She and her husband, also an Ireland native, choose to raise their daughters in Seattle to expand their opportunities.

“I love the abundance of opportunity for women here, and the incredible role models like Bonnie Dunbar that my daughters get to see and meet in the community.”

Speaking of incredible role models… Dooley won the 2010 North Pole Marathon in a blizzard and finished second in the 2011 Antarctic Ice Marathon. “My goal is to run a marathon on every continent.”

Watch Emer Dooley’s TEDx talk: Entrepreneurship education – an oxymoron?

Leadership in Peru

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

Recently on a trip to the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, I was asked, “how does one lead when they are not sure where they are going?” Many might say, just watch our U.S. politicians if you want to see how! More seriously, the more dynamic environments become, the more likely leaders are going to need to lead not knowing exactly where they are headed. As I thought about this question I went back to a recent trip I had taken to Peru. Peru is one of those South American economies that is shedding its past – recent past in terms of military dictatorships – and growing at a healthy clip, at least for the more educated class in places like Lima. Peru has a rich history that dates back well before many of the world’s other well-known societies, starting with the Incas which are considered one of the modern ‘older’ civilizations. There are two civilizations that pre-dated the Incas going back at least 5,000 years.

As Peru accumulates wealth, it is now able to invest in discovering its past. It is not an overstatement to say the Inca culture, traditions, food and history are becoming an economic force in Peru. Just see Machu Picchu and you will understand what I mean. This is one of the most amazing cities built by the Incas high atop a mountain that is one of the true wonders of the world. Going to Peru and its many historical Inca sites, taught me a lot about how advanced this society was. For example, the Incas knew which foods to eat that had low cholesterol, they knew how to build structures to withstand earthquakes, and they knew how to do brain surgery. And the answer to that question posed to me in London, Ontario lies in how the Incas built buildings. They built buildings by seamlessly integrating them into the rock upon which they were built. The Incas saw mountains as sacred. Rather than dig a big hole and then build the foundation, they built the building into the existing foundation, which took more time and care, but as we can see, lasted longer. This was the case for all buildings throughout Peru, ranging from temples to residences for Inca workers.

How does the Inca foundations help me answer the Ivey question? One must build an authentic foundation for leadership on which the rest of the structure can be created. We see organizations that have no ‘firm or genuine’ foundation, no core values and therefore no solid basis to lead into an unknown future. Many times we have to go backwards in order to move forwards and answer where we are going, which in this case is into the unknown. And I promise I will avoid writing a pop book “7 glorious Inca Principles of Effective Leadership.”

Learning how to lead

Guest post by Staci Stratton, Evening MBA 2014
She attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications.

Colleen Brown shared her thoughts on leadership and her personal journey to becoming CEO of Fisher Communications. She talked about how we are a combination of both predisposition and learning how to be a leader. She also said in many cases leadership arises out of necessity. For Brown, she was the eldest girl in her very large family and took on responsibilities like grocery shopping and laundry very early on. She said these experiences helped her to develop a “get it done” attitude she still has today.

She also shared her four important characteristics of leadership:

  1. Character: understand who you are and why you are who you are.
  2. Resilience: develop, if you haven’t already, the ability to get back up after rough periods, mistakes, etc.
  3. Commitment: be committed to who you are and what you believe in. It has the effect of being contagious to others.
  4. Continuity: develop consistency and continuity in your behavior, as this helps your people to know what to expect from you-no surprises.

Brown feels the most important decisions you make on a day to day basis are about PEOPLE, which is why it’s so important to know yourself and be consistent in your behavior.

Watch highlights from Brown’s talk. Here she covers the importance of consistency, Aristotle’s leadership insights, and how to minimize office politics.

The next speaker is Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks, on December 6. Learn more.

Foster MBAs score internships with major employers

For most full-time MBA students, a summer internship can be a major turning point in the program – and in their career. For students, it’s an opportunity to apply newly acquired knowledge and skills, test a new career path, audition for an employer, and (with luck) line up a great job after graduation. Employers get an opportunity to try out a promising recruit, see what the intern can contribute, and determine where he or she will fit best in the organization, if hired. Whether or not an internship results in an offer of employment after graduation, a student can learn a lot about possible career paths, organizational cultures, and types of roles in which he or she is likely to succeed.

It’s not easy to gain access to prime internship opportunities. Foster MBAs are fortunate to have support from the staff at MBA Career Services to aid in the search. The ability to reach out to a large network of alums in major corporations, including Starbucks, Boeing, Amazon.com, Nike, Microsoft and T-Mobile — and in the consulting arms of companies such as Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers – is also a major advantage.

View the videos to learn how nine Foster Full-time MBA students from the class of 2013 lined up internships with major employers and made the most these opportunities.

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