It’s that time of year again, when 2nd year students in the MBA Program start digging in to work on their Strategic Planning Projects (SPP’s). The two-term projects allow us to work hand-in-hand with organizations to gain real world experience while providing consulting services and tangible results to the client (for free!). From now until June, my teammates Dominique Christiansen, Mikaela Hicks, and KJ O’Grady and I will be working with Sprout! a regional food hub and neighborhood development group based in Springfield. The primary goals of our project will be to help Sprout! develop business opportunities that provide the revenue, social impact, and growth needed to support sustainable agriculture, healthy eating habits amongst low-income and challenged communities, and budding entrepreneurs. I don’t want to bog you down too much with the details, but there are a variety of business startup support services, a weekly farmer’s market, and a for-rent commercial kitchen that we will be utilizing in order to grow revenue and foster a productive environment for food-based businesses.
The project is really a fantastic combination of everything it means to be part of the Oregon MBA. While we are excited of course about the opportunity to apply our classroom knowledge and conduct some break-even analyses, we also get the chance to give back by working with a community development organization that supports sustainable agriculture and new enterprise. We are primed to take full advantage of the recently formed Business Innovation Institute (BII) of the MBA program, since Dominique and KJ are members of the entrepreneurship center, while Mikaela and I are both part of the sustainable business center. The mix of skill sets and areas of interest should allow us to attack the project from a holistic perspective and provide work that is truly beneficial to Sprout!.
And did I mention that we’ll be working with an OMBA alum? Micah Elconin was a member of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship just last year, and is now a Program Supervisor for Sprout! He will be our primary contact for the next few months, which is especially useful because he understands the SPP process, and how everything works from our end of the relationship. Last Friday, Micah gave us a comprehensive tour of the Sprout! facilities, and we can’t wait to get to work. The marketplace was abuzz with excitement as consumers were dazzled by local produce and goods, the kitchen space was spacious and pristine, even under construction, and office spaces were beautiful. Already, it’s easy to see how the space could work, and how Sprout! could accomplish their mission and drive development from within.
To get some delicious locally grown food (produce AND foodcarts!), support community development, and have a good time with some live tunes and great people, check out the Marketplace@Sprout!, every Friday from 3pm-7pm, at 418 A Street in Springfield. Find out more about Sprout! and NEDCO.
Congratulations to Ramsen Golpashin, Matthijs Reinders, and Daniel White, the three most recent graduates of the Oregon MBA program! We wish you the best of luck in everything that you do, and we look forward to keeping in touch with you as you progress through your careers. Congratulations on a job well done!
Venture Investments in Social Enterprises: Balancing Social and Financial Returns was a panel session featuring speakers from several funds. The funds all occupied a different space on the financial returns/ social impact matrix. One of the speakers represented a Private Equity/ Venture Capital firm (DBL) that aimed to get a high financial return while making some social impact. The speaker argued that all companies have an impact on the world around them and that his funds leverage the assets of the companies in their portfolio to create an even greater impact. He used online music service Pandora as an example. Pandora insisted on keeping its headquarters in Oakland rather than moving to another city. As Pandora grew, they continued to give back to the city and helped to revitalize the area. The company makes it a point to source as much as they can locally. Pandora has also arranged for music to be taught at inner-city schools in the Oakland area. These schools would otherwise not have had the budget to provide music classes for their kids.
The two other funds (Calvert foundation, Nonprofit Finance fund) aimed for high social impact while settling for below-market financial returns. These funds see providing capital to companies that do not have access to commercial capital as their main purpose. By doing this, they hope to set a precedent, thereby creating new markets. The capital they provide is patient capital, but the goal is to eventually put a company in a position where it can get access to commercial loans. When asked about career opportunities for MBAs in this industry the panel noted that their are career opportunities on both the finance/investment side as well as on the operational side. Especially the impact-first funds do a lot of hand-holding with their clients to make sure they have sound financial, management, and governance practices. As a result, these funds tend to have fairly large departments that offer advisory services.
Finally, there seems to be a trend of seasoned professional investors moving into the impact investing space. As a result the (perceived) risk of impact investments has decreased.
Matthijs Reinders, Sustainable Business Practices, Class of 2012
This post is part of a series from the UO Net Impact student group that traveled to Baltimore for the 2012 Net Impact Conference. The UO Net Impact Blog can be found at http://www.uonetimpact.org/
I’ve been poking around the Keen Footwear website tonight in advance of a visit to their Portland HQ next month with fellow MBA classmates affiliated with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. I found this video on the company’s You Tube Channel and was initially surprised that Ford Motor Company was one of the sites chosen for Keen’s Project ReBoot Campaign. What in the world is this environmentally minded company doing partnering with gas-guzzling pickups?
Then I told myself to dig deeper.
These two companies actually have a lot in common:
- Domestic manufacturing. Keen’s Portland manufacturing facility has taken CEO James Curleigh all the way to the White House. The Ford F150 is manufactured in Dearborn, MI.
- Target Markets. Ford F150s and Keen’s line of utility footwear probably appeal to the same kind of people. If we believe the video, those people are hardworking, blue collar, salt-of-the-earth Americans. The kind Mick Jagger drinks to.
- Function vs. Form? Ford F150s and KeenUtility footwear are designed to work. While Keen and the Ford employees in this video might have us believe their products are a thing of beauty, let’s face it, these aren’t Tesla Roadsters or Louboutins we’re looking at.
So, while perhaps not immediately obvious, Keen’s end result is a clever brand association which highlights desired aspects of the particular line as part of its strategy to gain a foothold (har har) in an existing market the company is new to. And, don’t you know those third-shift Ford F150 line workers were bummed when they heard everyone on the first shift got new shoes!
Sustainable Business Practices
University of Oregon
MBA Candidate 2012
Just another week in the life of a first-year MBA student. We started off the week where we spent the previous one, taking midterms. Monday was the last of five midterms for the first year students. I can report that we all survived, and no matter what the results, I think we are all happy to have that week behind us. This experience has left a lasting impression on us to avoid taking five classes a term at all costs. Now we will just be working towards finals week.
The week ended for the first years with an interesting presentation by Dr. Bettina Cornwell, one of Oregon’s faculty who focuses her research on sponsorships and is one of the Warsaw Center’s best. This was one of my first in-depth forays into the world of sponsorship, as my prior work experience was in finance. I speak for all of us when I say it was extremely interesting and we all learned a lot. She led us through three of her research projects. The projects examined moving activation online, evaluating a sponsorship, and sponsorship ambushing and its effects. Personally, I look forward to learning more, and it was a great way to end the week for the Warsaw students.
With midterms over, and the calendar turning entering November, that can only mean one thing for the Warsaw Center…mustaches. For those of you who are unaware, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of mustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world with the goal of raising funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG. As part of the campaign, schools have begun competing to see who can raise the most money for the cause. Once again this year, the University of Oregon Movember campaign is being primarily organized by Warsaw students Steve Acampa and Mike Miller. The month starts with participants shaving off all of their facial hair and proceeding to grow their mustache for the month. So far the campaign has been a huge success, as we have over 130 registrants and have raised over $3,000 campus wide. As an MBA program we have 39 participants so far with over $1,400 raised over the first week. There is still time to sign up and take part in the cause by registering at www.movember.com. Last year we raised over $9,000 and had 234 participants, so we still have a ways to go to meet our goal of surpassing those numbers!
Throughout the week, we saw more and more Movember participation which culminated with the Sigma Nu Kickball Tournament with all proceeds going to Movember. The tournament was a blast, and I’m proud to report that the MBA program completed a full sweep in the Co-ed division winning both first and second place. Most of the participants hailed from the Warsaw Center so we will be bringing two trophies home to the center. The second-year team took first, while us first-years took second and had to admit to defeat twice to our elders. All in all it was a great time, and the Women’s division also had some spirited games. A great time was had by all, and we raised money for a great cause. Enjoy some action shots from the tournament below. Until next time…
-Matt Van Wyen – James H Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, Class of 2013
Andy Behl here, I am a 2nd year in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center currently on an internship in Singapore. I am here working with the government’s sports ministry on the Vision2030 project. The Vision2030 project is a comprehensive plan to chart a course for the development and promotion of sports in Singapore over the next 18-20 years. You can find out more about the project at www.vision2030.sg. Working in sports development here has been an incredibly interesting experience full of unique opportunities and challenges. One question I am asked often is, “What is the key to our sports culture in the U.S.?” Our goal is to develop strategies to growing the sports culture in Singapore.
I will be in Singapore until early December and then head to the Caribbean to run a series of grassroots track and field development camps and street competitions in the island nation of St. Lucia. Before coming to Oregon, I worked with the Peace Corps in St. Lucia with a focus on track & field development.
Over the next few months, I will be sharing insights about my experiences Singapore and in the Caribbean. If anyone has specific questions about my experience over here, or would like to get involved with these projects in the future, shoot me an email.
Andy Behl, Warsaw MBA ’12
The Oregon MBA opens the door to some great summer internship opportunities. We have a strong network in the Pacific Northwest that spans across the country and around the globe. Our students land internships at many of the top companies in technology, sustainability, finance, and sports. Explore our internship map to discover the diverse range of places and companies where Oregon MBA students have interned.
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Charles Smith, the head of the Shanghai Rolex Masters, the 2009 and 2010 ATP Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year, treated the Warsaw Center to an in-depth Q&A (and some tennis trivia) at the tournament’s immaculate tennis center in Shanghai during our second week in China. Charles is in a situation that is a bit different from that of many other industry leaders with whom we met because they work for privately-owned agencies or properties, while the Rolex Masters tournament and venue is actually owned by a state-owned group, enabling Charles to have fewer governmental obstacles when it comes to ideas and changes he wants to enact at the center. The Rolex Masters is one of only eight Masters events in the world, and Charles explained that a study in the late 90’s showed that Chinese people viewed tennis as the most “aspirational” sport in China. To that end, Charles and his team were dedicated to making the tournament become an “aspirational” event. They signed only sponsors they considered brands people would aspire to have: Rolex; Mercedes Benz; and Heineken, among others. With partners that fit exactly what the tournament was aiming for, the tournament quickly became one of the hallmarks of China’s sports landscape.
This initial description of the tournament was followed by Charles’ insights into how they are improving the public’s knowledge of the game. Charles first explained how his group is trying to build interest among people who haven’t necessarily grown up with tennis and don’t play it recreationally or for leisure. To that end, Charles and his team are doing a few things to try and increase the audience for tennis in China. One endeavor is to get more people playing the game through efforts such as tennis camps and clinics. Another is putting a focus on the media because the more that Chinese journalists know about the game, the more inclined they will be to write and report about it. With this in mind, Charles and his team taught different members of the Chinese media how to play tennis and also helped them to get visas to travel to other countries so they could cover foreign tournaments.
Charles, who is also on the board of the ATP, concluded the visit with the Warsaw Center by discussing a hot topic in tennis, and sports in general, these days: gambling and who owns the data that gamblers bet on. Tennis is the second most bet-on sport in the world (in terms of gross figures), yet the ATP was not seeing a dime of that gambling money, even though sports betting is legal in most countries throughout the world. The tennis being played is under the ATP’s rules, being played in the ATP’s tournaments, and the data (i.e. points, faults, wins, and losses) are all considered to be proprietary for the ATP. In order to capitalize on its information being used by millions of people to bet billions of dollars, the ATP asserted its claim over its own data, and effectively sells the data to a re-sale company, who then sells the data to betting houses (i.e. Bet365 in England) throughout the world. This means that the ATP controls who gets the information from a tennis match, determines when they get it, and how they get it. It is a unique and newer business model putting money back in the ATP’s coffers.
The visit to the Rolex Masters was one that won’t soon be forgotten. It provided all of us with some incredible insights into how a world-class event is run, while leaving us trying to decipher how sports, betting, and data might one day be an issue that is just as relevant in the United States, as well.
- Bill Zachry, Warsaw MBA ‘12
Everyone has heard stories about the working conditions of overseas factories used by global brands such as Nike and Adidas. We recently had the chance to tour a production facility of NC Accessory, a full service headwear manufacturer in Shanghai, China. While there is tremendous reliance on human capital we also saw evidence of technological and mechanical investment by NCA. As a result increases in the cost of production coupled with increases in labor costs are leading to lower and lower margins for the manufacturer. The increase in production costs must be passed along the supply chain. Company representatives believe that this will ultimately lead to an increase in retail prices that will hit consumers’ wallets. The so called “China Price”, born from years of cheap labor costs, will disappear. Even as the production costs in China increase it is an ideal place for manufacturing based on the readymade infrastructure currently in place. Even with all this said currently it costs more to ship most goods from China that it does to produce them there.
NCA’s clients consist of firms with competing product lines. This complicates life for the manufacturer when a single production line can be making both Nike and Adidas hats. When clients visit the factory for quality control inspections NCA must ensure that none of the competing product lines can be seen by the visiting client. Another hot button issue that often comes up when discussing the Chinese economy is intellectual property. Because this can be so problematic for companies extreme security and caution is used to protect client’s brands. For each order place by the client they provide NCA with the exact number of product tags to fill the order. NCA cannot procure more that the allotted amount and for this reason constantly monitors the product tags and keep them under lock and key. Employees are searched upon leaving the facility to ensure theft of intellectual property does not occur. It will be interesting to see how these issues coupled with the trend of increasing production costs shape large multi-national companies’ strategy of where to produce goods moving forward.
A monstrous ‘O’ shaped building reminiscent of the University of Oregon logo looms over the crowded skyline of Beijing. A beacon of China’s modernization and technological advancement, the complex is the newly completed high-speed rail transportation hub. Cars, buses, metro and train all converge at the Beijing South Rail station. Our tour guide, smartly dressed much like an airplane stewardess, regaled us with many technical facts and figures about the station, building’s construction, and train operation. The roof area is over 940,000 sqm (over 10 million sqft). The train travels up to 380 km/hr (236 miles/hr). The ticket check systems are electronic. First class passengers have a special VIP Lounge with wifi access.
While the presentation may have been a bit dry, our passage on the train from Beijing to Shanghai was thrilling. We departed the city, gaining speed as we entered the countryside. The elevated track afforded great views of villages and agricultural fields. The smooth ride gave you the sensation of floating.
- Lauren Schwartz
Sustainable Business Practices
University of Oregon
MBA Candidate 2012