Launching a new business division: a conversation with Ray Risco, President of Weyerhaeuser Solutions

Ray Risco is the President of Weyerhaeuser Solutions, a division of Weyerhaeuser that offers consulting and management services designed to help clients develop, manage and commercialize forest assets. He is a member of the GBC’s Global Business Advisory Board.

Tell us about Weyerhaeuser Solutions. What was it like to create a new business division for a company?
Weyerhaeuser Solutions is designed to take our management, business and some IP systems and engage them with third parties outside of the traditional forest products space as part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development 2050 initiative. I worked with Bob Ewing, a colleague, in developing a business that manages natural resources and assists companies in transitioning to renewable energy supplies, such as electrical utility companies that are looking to co-fire biomass with coal as a green alternative in the UK, and specialty chemical companies looking for organic feedstock instead of traditional sources.

Creating a service division that provides consulting as well as operational management in a traditional products company presented some significant challenges.  However, the timing of the idea linked to the 2050 initiative and the support of senior management along with the Board of Directors was a significant plus in successfully launching the business.  From inception to official launch took 2.5 years.  That may seem like a long period of time, but considering the radically different business model it was a remarkably quick process.

In your career, you’ve worked in accounting, finance, operational and divisional leadership, and new product/business development. Which was the most challenging, and which the most rewarding?
Every role I have had has had its challenges and rewards from a personal and career perspective but one challenge in particular had the largest personal impact.  In 2005 I took over the leadership of our Uruguayan operations and had the chance to transform a plantation project into a full blown operating company.  My challenge was to set up the productive chain and to find the right people to staff all of the new departments we had just created and set them up for success. Although this was a significant personal challenge and rewarding for the whole team, the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride has come from seeing the immensely positive impact this project has had in the communities in which we operate.

What countries have you lived and worked in?
I am originally from Peru and I have lived in 6 different countries since my childhood including living and working in the US, Germany, and Uruguay. Over my career, I have had direct responsibility for over 22 countries covering Asia, Europe and South America.

What would you tell students about the world of global business?
The world may be getting flat but that doesn’t mean it’s the same – culture, history and tradition matter as one thinks of doing business at home or abroad.  At the end of the day you are still dealing with people so respect matters.  Be confident in what you know and never be afraid to admit what you don’t.  More often than not you will get the help you need.

 

A visit from Mr. Gunnar Oom, Swedish State Secretary of Trade

Guest post by Ludomir Wanot, Foster undergraduate

A few weeks ago, I was a part of an audience at the University of Washington that had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Gunnar Oom, the Swedish Secretary of trade, who discussed Sweden and the Euro Crisis. His role as the state secretary of trade is to promote Swedish exports.

Mr. Oom started by briefly addressing some Sweden’s economic advantages and disadvantages. He stated that more than half of Sweden’s GPD originates from its exports and about 70% of its exports go to the European Union (EU). In the future, he said, he would like to see more of Sweden’s exports go to developing markets. Mr. Oom mentioned that Sweden’s economy has suffered because of the housing market and other challenges, but was optimistic about the growth of the economy and stressed the importance of avoiding uncertainty in pushing the Swedish export industry forward.

Mr. Oom briefly addressed some of the solutions he would consider for Sweden’s economy. He suggested increasing investment in infrastructure as a way to build efficient and effective transportation networks, including new railroads. Sweden is consistently ranked in the top 3 most innovative nations based on the quality of its institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure and market business sophistication, and the results of innovations like patents and software, and Mr. Oom is committed to making sure that Sweden rises even farther to the top.

During the last half of his presentation, Mr. Oom addressed the current Euro crisis. He stated that without better policies, the worst could be yet to come, and recommended that the EU’s main focus should now be on evenly distributing the wealth of health care and social services. He concluded his presentation by saying, “More implementation, less talk. Instead of discussing what were going to do, we must take action now and do it.”

Student-funded scholarship is a first

UWiBThe student organization, Undergraduate Women in Business (UWiB), recently established an endowed scholarship–a monumental achievement. UWiB is the first student organization to establish an endowed fund and they raised $32,000 in a little over 2 years. Additionally, this initiative was completely student driven and a team effort.

Foster undergrads Amber Waisanen and Raychael Jensen started UWiB in 2005. They were inspired by a similar organization at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Their core mission in starting UWiB was to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders. They are very pleased with how the organization has grown and evolved over the past eight years.

“UWiB was founded on the premise of serving others and giving back, with an underlying mission to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders.

As founders, we feel extremely proud of how far UWiB has come. We are strong supporters of this fund and look forward to securing a long-term future for the organization.

For UWiB to reach an endowment status is truly a dream come true, as it was part of our list of things we hoped to accomplish one day. To see that goal come to fruition is a very rewarding and exciting opportunity for us, our members, the Foster Business School and the community at large.”

– Amber Waisanen & Raychael Jensen, Co-Founders of UWiB

The recipient of scholarship for the 2012/2013 academic year is Amanda Hamilton. She is junior at the Foster School pursuing marketing and a certificate in international business. According to Amanda, “The scholarship will help me further my international interests as I study abroad in Spain.” Last year Amanda served on the executive committee for UWiB as the fundraiser associate.

You can learn more about UWiB by visiting their website: http://uwuwib.com/

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?

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