Tag Archives: small business

Helping businesses reach their potential: Business Certificate Program

Ryan Mathews, principal at Fulcrum Environmental Consulting based out of Spokane and Yakima, Washington, reflects on the value of the Business Certificate Program offered by the Consulting & Business Development Center.

At the heart of Fulcrum’s values are our people. Our staff is our key asset, and our people are one of the most important things our company can invest in. This is the message driven home by the instructors of the six-week Business Certificate Program here in Yakima. Instilling trust and developing our staff, and how we lead teams or promote teams from behind, is very critical to our business success.

Business Certificate Program

Fulcrum Environmental Consulting consists of nine staff based out of our Yakima office and seven in our Spokane location. Our objective as managers is not to pit one of our offices against the other; rather, we term our company as a team to encourage performance. It’s us as an organization that is successful as we service our clients, as we try to provide answers to a school district who is experiencing flooding issues, or to a client who is just embarking on a construction project and realizes that they have all the wrong materials. We are about solving problems, and we achieve success as a team. Our team is developed to go out and solve these problems together. So, as you look at your staff, this is one of main ideas I encourage you to take away from this course. Success is about building your team to solve your clients’ needs more effectively.

The Business Certificate Program has provided us with the fundamentals and methodologies to unlock our company’s potential. For instance, our Board of Directors met recently to discuss our service area’s needs. One of the services Fulcrum offers is testing paint for the presence of lead—a serious health issue, especially for small children whose cognitive development can be severely harmed by lead poisoning. A new technology has been developed to assist in detecting lead paint, and we knew that investing in this technology was vital. Knowing we would need to spend about $20,000 in equipment costs and another $20,000 in training expenses, we reviewed the fundamental tools in the decision making process the instructors of this program taught us. Tools such as anchoring and framing our biases, helped us position our arguments on whether we needed to purchase this technology based on what are competitors are doing and what we could lose if we did not invest in this market. We conducted a financial analysis on this technology purchase to ensure it was a viable and profitable decision for our company, comparing cost vs. lease perspectives and even discussed abandoning the service area. Following our decision, we began to examine the ways in which we could improve our marketing plan to reach our target market and differentiate ourselves from our competition.

The Business Certificate Program is not only for business owners. The program can provide the management skills your staff needs to achieve your company’s growing goals. I am the sixth person from Fulcrum to attend the UW Business Certificate Program, and access to this type of continuing education will be the key to our company’s success.

Learn more about the six-week Business Certificate Program courses offered in Seattle, Yakima, the Tri-Cities, Spokane and Everett year round in English and Spanish.

Seeking enlightenment: a Business Certificate Program graduate’s reflections

Guest post by Jeffrey Chon, graduate of BEDC’s Seattle Business Certificate Program

The Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC)’s Seattle Business Certificate Program (BCP) has recently wrapped up after six weeks of educational coursework and with over sixty graduates. We have invited graduates from the BCP to reflect on their experience of the Program; this is the first in the series written by Jeffrey Chon, Sole Proprietor of Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club in Seattle.

chonI’ve always been a passionate martial artist and my goal is to never work a day in my life. You see, I’m not “working” if I love what I do. Coming from a family of martial artists, deciding to open my own studio was a breeze. However, after four years of operation, I’m ready to grow my business so that I could focus on teaching instead of worrying about money.

I’ve been a student of kung fu since I was eight. I’m a secular disciple of the Shaolin Temple, and a gold medalist in three different countries. Now I’m able to teach the discipline and philosophies that I’ve learned through Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club. Through Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club, students attain better health and fitness by learning the importance of both physical and mental strength through sports and meditation.

Auspiciously, a longtime friend directed me to the Foster School’s Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC), where I participated in their Business Certificate Program.  Held once a week for six weeks, professionals from all fields would come together to give lectures, covering everything from marketing to liability. My classmates, who are professionals themselves, were able to share their experiences, lead class discussions and propose insightful questions. Those questions and concerns were met with direct and in-depth answers. In short, all professionals who seek further knowledge and education can benefit from these seminars.

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”  ~Sun Tzu

As a small business owner, sometimes we do things for the business with the idea that it will be beneficial, but without the understanding of “why.” During every class I would say to myself, “That’s what I do!” and I began re-applying what I’ve been already doing, but with a deeper understanding of the fundamentals. Within two weeks, I was able to bring nine new students to my business.

To me, it was the missing piece to the puzzle. These classes take what we do as business owners and provide us with the skills to further expand our minds and better our businesses.  Simple questions such as, “Does it work? Why or why not? What are other people doing? What do customers respond to?” helped me understand what areas I need to improve on. Sometimes finding success can be as simple as asking the right questions.

As business owners and professionals, we are always keeping long-term and short-term goals in mind. These classes allow you to re-calibrate what’s important and focus on future goals; not only for your business, but for your life. The professors help you ask the right questions, fellow classmates provide you with networking opportunities, and the synergy created in the class paves the way to endless ideas. I know that the Business Certificate Program will be a priceless and lasting benefit to my business.

You have to prepare yourself for when you’re blessed with an opportunity. As Sun Tzu once said, “opportunities are multiplied as they are seized!”

BEDC grad students provide consulting for Ketchikan Indian community

BEDC Alaska MBA StudentsThe BEDC is again working to support small business growth in Southeast Alaska. A team of four UW Foster MBA students has spent winter quarter working with the Ketchikan Indian Community in an effort to grow local business and tribally-owned enterprises. The students taught entrepreneurship classes over the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend for 30 current and aspiring business owners. Ketchikan, the southernmost city in Alaska, has an economy based on tourism and fishing; and many of the new business ideas will cater to tourists from cruise ships or independent tourists.

Since the entrepreneurship classes, the MBA students have been working with outdoor adventure, culinary training, historic tourism, clothing retailer, and construction companies.

MBA student Jennifer Yanni believes she learned as much or more as her clients did “I had never written a business plan before so this gave me some real-world experience to put on my resume. It also helped me think about how you sell new ideas to an existing market.”

This is the 15th project that the BEDC has completed for a Native American Tribe or Alaska Native Corporation and we’re already looking for our next projects. If you know of a tribe that would like a MBA team please contact Michael Verchot.

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.

Grow smarter

Seattle Bagel BakeryAJ 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.

Seattle Metropolitan Chamber expands support for multicultural and small businesses

Guest post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has expanded its support for small and minority-owned businesses with a new executive position. Since February 2012, small business owner Regina Glenn has served as the Chamber’s vice president of multicultural and small business development.

The new position will integrate the functions of the Urban Enterprise Center (UEC) into the operations of the Chamber. Established in 1993 as an affiliate of the Chamber, the UEC was charged with helping grow minority-owned businesses. Last spring, UEC and Chamber leaders convened a task force to determine how best to serve this mission. Their top recommendation was to create a Chamber executive role that would build on the UEC’s work while taking better advantage of the Chamber’s small-business services. These programs include networking events, professional development workshops, policy advocacy and employee benefits like health insurance and 401(k) plans.

Regina Glenn, Seattle Chamber of Commerce VP of multicultural and small business development

“The Chamber is quite the resource if you know how to use it,” says Glenn. She brings to this position her decades of commitment to advancing diverse businesses. She first moved to Seattle in the late 1970s as Mayor Royer’s director of licensing and consumer affairs. In the early 1990s she began a consulting practice, Pacific Communications Consultants, that specialized in diversity training and contracting outreach to minority-owned businesses. At the same time she published Diversity Business News from 1990-1994.

Glenn’s hands are full. She is busy establishing partnerships with organizations such as the Tabor 500, the Northwest Minority Supplier Development Council, Filipino Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest, King County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others.

She is also launching a number of new initiatives that will help multicultural and small businesses take full advantage of the Chamber’s business services such as:

  • An online resource for small businesses with information such as how to access capital.
  • A “how to do business with…” series to help smaller businesses form ongoing relationships with larger corporations.
  • A business growth and development series starting this winter, featuring successful business speakers.
  • A business accelerator program that will match established minority businesses with a major corporation in the region, starting in fall 2013.

“This is not a social service,” says Glenn. “We are about increasing profits for multicultural businesses and integrating them into all aspects of the Chamber’s programs and policy advocacy.”

We will be announcing the Chamber’s new multicultural programs as they come on line. It promises to be a great resource for minority entrepreneurs.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle, one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series monthly. Previously, she covered green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage. Her current blog topic focus is on innovation.