Tag Archives: Lavin Program

Why Seattle breeds young entrepreneurs

Professor Nouriel Roubini, the respected NYU economist sometimes called “Dr. Doom,” is known for his predictions of the real estate meltdown, oil shock and recent recession. So it was a ray of sunshine poking through the gloomy November morning in Seattle when a Wall Street Journal article (Nov. 12, 2011) co-authored by Roubini noted that of major world economies, the long-term future appears brightest for the US. Why? We are still the leader in the cutting-edge technologies that expand a nation’s potential, including renewable energy, medical devices and nanotechnology.

If the U.S. is to lead the way, Seattle was noted as a city that contributes its share. The November 2011 issue of Seattle Business Magazine lays out reasons why Seattle provides the perfect hothouse atmosphere to encourage the start-up ambitions of younger and younger entrepreneurs.

Seattle has a reputation for a strong venture capital/angel community and a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Recognizing the increasing numbers of high-potential students, University of Washington and Seattle University have expanded their reach toward younger students. The UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at the Foster School of Business recruits students directly out of high school into its Lavin Entrepreneurship Program.

At the age when most teen bands are breaking up, many students already have business experience. Connie Bourassa-Shaw, CIE  director notes, “Of the undergraduates we’ve admitted, nearly half started their first companies in high school.”

Young people who start companies have less risk and smaller opportunity costs. Lack of experience may work in the favor of young entrepreneurs. As Bourassa-Shaw says, “They don’t know what they don’t know, but they make up for it in sheer motivation and determination.”

Sunny days are ahead.  Meet some of the entrepreneurs, educators and investors who are making the future brighter in Seattle Business.

Video: Richard Tait on entrepreneurship and Cranium

Cranium co-founder Richard Tait discusses his passion for entrepreneurship, the inspiration behind Cranium and his latest business venture, Golazo. He considers himself an inventor and at the top of his game when combining invention with entrepreneurship. Interviewed by UW Foster School of Business student Vance Roush (BA 2011), Tait offers inspiring insights about his leadership philosophy and how he captures trends to start new ventures.

“Entrepreneurship is about galvanizing teams of people around a mission. …the development and pursuit of a passionate dream,” says Tait. “I’m driven by a fear of failure rather than the glow of success. For me, it’s not about the prize, it’s more about the journey.”

Tait also believes everyone has a creative spirit and while society sometimes squashes that, it is in all of us.

This video is part of a series of entrepreneur interviews conducted by University of Washington undergraduate students who are involved in the UW Foster School of Business Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program.

Entrepreneurship in action: Lavin class of 2011

Lavin 2011 GraduatesThe Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program prepares a select group of entering University of Washington undergraduates for careers as entrepreneurs and is graduating its first class of students in 2011. Our first class is headed out into the world to put what they learned at the UW into action.

The Lavin Program exposes students from business and other disciplines to the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship—all in a safe environment. Students graduate with a comprehensive understanding of entrepreneurship in its various forms, including experience in starting and running their own company, and a summer internship in an early-stage firm. The Lavin Program integrates students into the local entrepreneurial community by providing networking opportunities and experienced mentors.

A common trait among Lavin students is the degree to which they have been involved in the program and in the educational process as a whole. Lavin students tend to be the cream of the crop, and the 2011 graduates all demonstrate that trait. Keep your eye on them—we’re certain you’ll see these names again.


Denise Ching
graduated at the end of fall quarter from the Foster School of Business in marketing and entrepreneurship. Ching did her Lavin internship at Dry Soda in Seattle and is now working for Google in California. She has her eye on eventually launching an events management business.

Sohroosh Hashemi graduated from the Foster School of Business in entrepreneurship. Sohroosh did a study-abroad program in Spain and recently presented student-designed products at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. He interned at PhotoRocket in Seattle, a photo-sharing start-up, where he is currently employed.

Christy Loftus graduated from the UW College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in communications. She worked in small start-ups along the way and decided to do her Lavin internship at Wunderman, a major international marketing agency in a digital media division. Now employed by MediaEdge Marketing, Loftus’ dream is to someday open her own marketing company.

Vance Roush graduated from the Foster School of Business in marketing and information systems. Roush studied abroad in Italy and South Africa. He did his Lavin internship at 16 Copenhagen, a Seattle design company, where he honed the skills he needed to create a lasting legacy with the Lavin Program. Roush developed the Entrepreneurship Video Project which has spawned the creation of six videos of students interviewing local entrepreneurs. The over-arching theme of “Entrepreneurship is…” has provoked answers such as “art,” “a good team” and “a passionate dream.” The project will continue over the next several years. Roush will work for Google in California starting in August.

Natasha Tyson graduated from the Foster School of Business in marketing and entrepreneurship. She studied abroad in Hong Kong on a direct-exchange program. Tyson did an internship at Chempoint and another at FounderDating, a Seattle organization that works to match technology and business founders. She is joining Teach for America.

The program’s namesake, Leonard Lavin, attended UW in the late 1930s on a basketball scholarship. In the 1950s Leonard and his wife, Bernice, founded Alberto-Culver and took Alberto V05 Conditioning Hairdressing to the consumer marketplace using innovative advertising and marketing strategies. Alberto-Culver was bought by the Unilever Group last year for $3.7 billion. Leonard and Bernice Lavin created the Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program in 2007 to produce a new generation of successful entrepreneurs from the UW.

Lights, camera, entrepreneurship!

Guest post by Vance Roush, undergraduate student at the UW Foster School of Business

A couple years ago, as a sophomore in the UW Foster School of Business and Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program, I was fortunate enough to interview Leonard Lavin when he visited the University of Washington. Mr. Lavin is a brilliant businessman, racehorse owner and most notably founder of Alberto-Culver Company which he recently sold to Unilever for $3.7 billion. From my interview with Mr. Lavin, I took away three key ideas that have driven my success in the business school and prepared me for my future career and entrepreneurial ventures: greatness can arise from obstacles and conflict, it’s what you have inside of you that matters, and be a risk-taker and pursue your passion.

That meeting with Mr. Lavin shaped my life, and because of that, I thought to myself, “How much more insight can be filtered to students, and how many more lives can be positively impacted if someone were able to capture entrepreneurs’ best insights and keys to success?”  That was the inspiration for the  Lavin Video Project and the “Entrepreneurship is…” video series.  This video series will bridge the gap between the Seattle entrepreneurship network, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and the outside community.  More specifically, our goal  is to connect Lavin undergrad students to entrepreneurs in the local community in an engaging way to create meaningful relationships and tangible productions. The story behind the “Entrepreneurship is…” series is as follows:

Often times people can’t even spell the word “Entrepreneurship”, let alone fully grasp what it means. Lavin students quickly realize that there is not just one definition, but many different meanings. Our vision is to capture a wide array of perspectives on the topic by going out into the field and interacting with the business owners, serial entrepreneurs, VCs, and other thought leaders in the Seattle community in hopes that they will chime in with their thoughts, experiences, and wisdom.

The first interview in the series is with Michel Brotman, CIE’s Entrepreneur in Residence and a serial entrepreneur involved in Costco, Garden Botanica, Sweet Factory, Play Network and the Chocolate Box. Brotman believes that entrepreneurship is a very creative process and that it’s all about selling your story. He is emphatic when he states, “Entrepreneurship is art!”

The Lavin students will be unveiling other videos throughout the year with such influential local entrepreneurs as Lon McGowan of iClick, restaurateur Tom Douglas, Kay Smith-Blum of Butch Blum, and Rob Salkowitz, author of Young World Rising.We hope you follow our journey and are inspired to learn more about entrepreneurship, start your own endeavor, or become involved in the entrepreneurial scene!

Vance Roush is a senior information systems and marketing major in the UW’s Foster School of Business Honors Program. He is a Lavin student and serves as the president of the Foster School’s Business Economic Development Center. Vance plans to extend his entrepreneurial endeavors after graduation when he begins his career with Google in Mountain View, CA.

Mentors do matter

Students at Lavin Entrepreneurial Action ProgramTake just a minute and ask yourself: Who’s the person who has played the most influential role in your career?  Chances are it was someone who listened to your ideas and gave you feedback—but left the real decision up to you. Or someone who encouraged you just at that point when you were about to give up on your plan. Or someone who made a few key introductions that opened a huge door for your start-up.  A mentor. And mentors REALLY matter when you’re a young entrepreneur.

The Center’s Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program, named for Alberto Culver’s Leonard Lavin, admits freshmen to an “honors program” in entrepreneurship. No, it’s not based on the students’ GPA or SAT scores, but rather on their level of entrepreneurial drive. Many of these students started their first companies in high school, and most them are already thinking about their next start-up.

Part of the Lavin Program’s promise is matching the students with entrepreneurial mentors, and CIE’s 28-person Advisory Board volunteered to be the “first line of mentors.” At the Center’s winter board meeting, director Connie Bourassa-Shaw moderated a discussion on mentoring, which elicited comments and stories from both board members and students. The group then began “mentor speed-dating,” with 10-minute intervals for striking up new conversations.  “I’d expected the students to be a little reticent, a little shy,” said Lisa Hjorten, the founder of Informia, “but there was none of that. The Lavin students had business cards ready to hand out. And had come to the meeting knowing which of us they wanted to meet. I never could have done that as a sophomore!”

There are now 20 mentor-student pairings going forward, with more on the way. Read more about the Lavin Program.

Undergrad field trip to Seattle start-up

By guest blogger Dmitry Muzechuk, UW sophomore

I joined the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program as a freshman (the program is geared for freshmen interested in entrepreneurship). I’m also a student assistant at the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and am passionate about starting companies.

The Lavin Program is one of the great gateways to entrepreneurship that is offered at UW (I might be a little biased since I am in the Lavin Program, but consider that an inside tip). Most recently we Lavin students visited an amazing product development firm in the heart of Seattle called Synapse. This is not your ordinary engineering firm with employees galore in white lab coats hunched over crazy looking machines. These guys know how to lure in the biggest names, including Philips, Nike, Apple, GE, etc., and do it in style. Synapse started with four partners who were employed at a dot com business that went belly up. So, in the birth story, Scott Bright (CEO and Founder), explained, “Finding ourselves out of work, we hung up a shingle and called ourselves consultants.” Now Synapse is a thriving firm in its eighth year. During our tour, Scott explained one of Synapse’s mottos exclaiming the reason Synapse is able to bring in such high profile clients is simply, “Give us a chance and we will rock your world, and if we don’t–don’t pay us!”  In addition, Scott explained that “the strategic advantage of Synapse is to make our people happy” which is obvious in the open work environment infused with graffiti art, game tables, half of a skate vertical and half of a rock wall.

At the end of the tour, after shaking hands and repeating countless thank yous, I walked out of Synapse and couldn’t help but think – “Wow, with the right formula, engineering businesses don’t have to be boring.” In other words, they don’t have to be appealing to only those amazed by the complexity of computer science and molecular physics. Now that I’ve learned what it’s really like to work at Synapse, maybe physics isn’t that bad after all.