It’s been a very busy Spring Term here in the Oregon MBA. First year students are reaching the halfway point in their MBA careers, and finding internships for the summer, while our second year and accelerated students rapidly approach graduation and their return to the work force. Here are a few highlights from each of the four centers this term:
- Center for Sustainable Business Practices: After a fantastic trip to the Bay Area to learn about sustainability at a variety of startups (including Facebook), CSBP students finished off the month of April with a series of great events and guest speakers during Earth Week. In the classroom, courses such as Impact Investing and Advanced Strategy (with Professor of Practice, Michael Crooke) have continued the dialogue about responsible business and continue to prepare students for the ever-evolving landscape of impact business.
- Finance and Securities Analysis: FSAC also enjoyed the opportunity to visit the Bay Area, and reaped the benefits of some really impactful meetings with Wells Fargo and Equilibrium Capital. A recent update of the Emerging Markets Fund has shown growth in the portfolio since last quarter, and the group continues to identify new investment opportunities as second-year students mentor first-years in the EMF process.
- Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship: Spring has been especially hectic for LCE students, as they have volunteered at the perennially successful New Venture Championship, visited San Francisco with their CSBP and FSAC classmates, and competed in a variety of venture-launch competitions. Of particular note is the (well documented) success of Red Duck Ketchup, who have entered production and launched a KickStarter campaign to help raise capital for future operations.
- Warsaw Sports Marketing Center: The Warsaw Center celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and once again hosted an incredibly successful Women in Sports Business Symposium that focused on branding athletes in the digital age. First year students visited San Francisco during the first week of the term, and as we speak, the second year students are working to finalize their two-term Strategic Planning Projects for their clients.
Check back soon to see what else is going on within the program!
After a busy day of business meetings, we had the wonderful opportunity to spend the evening in great company with business leaders at the Century Club in San Francisco, hosted by Mark and Martha Greenough. The evening opened with drinks and appetizers providing ample opportunity to introduce ourselves to our hosts (and other guests) and begin learning more about their various business ventures. The variety of our guests gave us insight into small business management, financial advising, capital investment, entrepreneurial startups, and general business advice.
The evening continued to the dining room where our first course and main course were served over more intimate conversations between the students and our business guests. Topics of conversation ranged from football allegiances to work-life balance and entrepreneurial advice, to name a few. We students were then offered the opportunity to introduce the guests at the table to the entire group, giving everyone a chance to see the great talent, success, and achievements made by those in our company.
As we made our way upstairs for drinks and dessert, Mark Greenough prepared a networking activity to offer additional time for small groups to ask questions and glean as much as we could from our guests before the evening drew to a close. In small groups, we spoke with 2-3 guests about their great achievements, biggest challenges, and highest aspirations. The intimate setting provided for a honest discussion of the highs and lows of business, focusing on how the journey is the exciting part, not the destination.
To say the least, the evening was motivational as we had the honor to hear about real world business success from the mouths of those who achieved it. The variety of personalities and careers afforded us a myriad of examples of what success really looked like and how it could be achieved. As young men and women at the beginning of our career adventures, this dinner provided us a unique look at the paths taken of those who were once in our shoes. The Oregon MBA is grateful for the following guests, especially Mark and Martha for offering us their time, energy, and wisdom:
- Mark Greenough (Greenough Consulting Group)
- Martha Greenough (Independent Bookkeeper)
- Joshua Greenough (Capital One Innovation Center)
- Brian Connolly (Connolly Advisors)
- Ben Keighran (Chomp)
- Lauryn Agnew (Seal Cove Financial)
- Geoff Dolan (Makani Power)
- Claire Herminjard (Mindful Meats)
- Robert Simon (IDC Ventures)
- Ken Pearlman (Oceanshore Ventures)
- Eli Janin (Capital One Innovation Center)
- Bob Komin (TicketFly)
Last Thursday, the Warsaw Center hosted the 17th Annual Women in Sports Business Symposium (WSBS). The purpose of the annual conference is to provide a forum for students and practitioners to connect and discuss current industry topics and trends. The emphasis of this year’s event was branding of athletes in a digital age. WSBS attendees had the opportunity this year to interact with noteworthy experts in the sports industry including:
- David Higdon, Managing Director of Integrated Marketing Communications for NASCAR,
- Rachel Epstein, Director of Business Strategy and Operations for espnW,
- Lauren Fleshman, Professional Track Athlete and Co-Founder/Brand Director of Picky Bars,
- Lauren Westendorf, Manager of Women’s College Basketball for Nike Sports Marketing, and Emily Lamunyan, Director of Marketing for the Portland Timbers.
The event also came during a time of celebration for the Warsaw Center itself, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Warsaw Sports Marketing Center was founded in 1993 by James H. Warsaw, a pioneer in the sports industry who led a company that was the NFL’s first licensee. Jim Warsaw’s integrity and authenticity in his interactions with students, alumni, and sports industry leaders were well renowned, and the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center carries forth that legacy with a close-knit community in which mutual respect, honesty, and fairness are paramount.
Co-chairs of this year’s symposium, Jessica Zutz and Jenny Swaim (both WSMC Class of 2013) remarked that the event was a “tremendous success, and a really enjoyable event with great networking opportunities”. For additional information and updates, check out the WSBS Facebook page!
The second day of the combined FSAC/LCE/CSBP trip to the Bay Area began with chocolate. A factory FULL of chocolate. We visited the Guittard Chocolate Company at their HQ and manufacturing facility in Burlingame. After a great discussion about quality control and the importance of sustainable agriculture to their supply chain, we were fortunate to be able to take a tour of the factory and see exactly how chocolate is made. The production floor was hot and it didn’t always smell like fresh chocolate, but our perseverance paid off in the end as we were all sent home with a massive box containing a variety of amazingly delicious treats!
Next, we were off to visit 500 Startups, which is a business incubator/accelerator (with heavy focus on mobile applications) located in Mountain View. The laid back environment was completely open, and focused totally on allowing new ideas to flourish and develop into potential businesses. Everything seemed acceptable here, as evidenced by the sign on the front door that read “Warning: Ninjas and Pirates and Lasers and S[tuff]“. Unfortunately our time here was a bit limited by our schedule, so we asked a lot about the current tenants and the funding structure (the incubator provides seed funding and guidance, and maintains relationships with larger organizations in the area) before heading to our much anticipated meeting with Facebook.
Looking at the campus from afar, you’d barely be able to distinguish Facebook from a series apartment buildings, until you spotted the gigantic “Like” button right outside the driveway entry. At Facebook we met with Lyrica McTiernan. Lyrica is a Sustainability Program Manager at Facebook, which means that a great deal of her time is spent analyzing the performance and developing programs for the company’s data centers. Because of their massive energy demand, data centers make up very large portion of Facebook’s environmental impact, and have dedicated team that works tirelessly to balance maximum reliability and minimal energy usage. While the discussion of energy efficiency and green building practices was interesting, I think it’s safe to say that most of us were a bit preoccupied trying to get our names on the signature wall (Shaq’s autograph is obviously at the very top) and take in the beauty and eccentricity of our surroundings (complete with a mural of Yoda!).
After “checking in” at the Facebook HQ, we moved north again on US101 to visit Pinnacle Engines. This was another short visit, but allowed us the opportunity to observe an engine durability test in progress, and learn about a potentially massive upgrade in fuel efficiency for internal combustion engines. Using Pinnacle’s patented and innovative engine design, small vehicles (mopeds, motorcycles, cars) can experience over 50% more efficient use of fuel. Pinnacle’s VP of Marketing and Special Projects, Tom Covington, explained the importance of selecting the right markets for initial adoption, and outlined the company’s plans to build a strong customer base in emerging markets such as India and China, where sensitivity to fuel prices and an abundance of smaller vehicles combine to create favorable market conditions.
The last visit of our trip was at Stanford Hospital with the Executive Director of Emergency and Medicine Services, Janet Rimicci, and a panel of Stanford Hospital executives. Our discussion here was centered on the important role that logistics can play in a hospital that continually needs to move patients in and out of various services, as well as sustainability at a facility that requires redundant systems and constant access to electricity to support its systems. Overall it was a great visit that provided a nice finale to our busy trip to the Bay Area!
The following was written by FSAC Student, Ryan Strub, a member of the Class of 2014
The Finance and Securities Analysis Center’s trip to San Francisco began with a visit to one of the most influential banks in the country, Wells Fargo. There, Erik Bidenkap and Mike Niedermeyer, a University of Oregon alumnus, were kind enough to host our group for an informative discussion which touched on a variety of banking topics. Mr. Niedermeyer began with a brief overview of the company and detailed the different segments that the firm is comprised of. He also explained how they have grown since their acquisition of Wachovia, which doubled the size of Wells Fargo.
Perhaps even more interesting to a group of debt-stricken students was Mr. Bidenkap’s synopsis of internships and careers at Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo is an active recruiter of business students at the University of Oregon and has programs set up to train and develop employees so they can reach their maximum career potential. The list of prominent UO alumni also includes Mark Myers who leads over 1,000 employees in the bank’s real estate lending services group.
Mr. Niedermeyer then opened the floor up for students to ask any questions they had pertaining to investments and banking. With a diverse composition of industry backgrounds, the questions ranged from information on energy markets to impact investing and real estate finance. We also got an informative update on how Wells Fargo has adapted to a post-recession era, and light was shed on some common misassumptions related to lending in this new environment. A big thank you goes out to both Mike Niedermeyer and Erik Bidenkap, who proved to be excellent hosts for our program and started our journey through the Bay with a positive attitude!
Our trip to the Bay Area last week was action packed, to say the least. After a long drive from Eugene to San Francisco, we had an evening to rest up before our first day of business visits. FSAC split from the main group to conduct their own visits (look for another post soon!), LCE and CSBP hit the ground running with the executives from Ticketfly. CFO Bob Komin is a relatively new addition to the Ticketfly team, but as a UO undergrad alum, he was more than happy to share his experience with our group, and give us advice on how to maximize the power of our MBA.
Klout was second on our agenda, and provided us with a fantastic visit that helped us understand what it’s like to be part of the San Francisco startup scene. Students enjoyed learning about Klout’s mission of “empowering every person by unlocking their influence.” During our visit, we also learned about the company’s formation, and its goals for the near future. Students also learned about the importance of social media in today’s society and the influence each Facebook and Twitter user can generate through sharing content. The reward-based gamification of social media via Klout was also very interesting, as it provides incentive for individuals to target their online interactions in order to achieve personal gain.
The next startup on our schedule was Dropcam. At Dropcam, we observed a great example of “recognizing business opportunities”, as the co-founders explained how they sort of fell into their company by initially trying to help out their parents. They then went on to explain the challenges of ensuring that their product could add value for their customers, and the difficulties they faced as they tried to segment markets, and straddle the line between producing hardware and providing software for their customers.
After Dropcam, we visited Equilibirum Capital, a visit that has been highlighted in detail here. Then we were off to the Capital One Innovation Center for an interactive group exercise with Josh Greenough, another UO alum. Josh focused a great deal on the innovation that is taking place nowadays with the increasing prevalence of mobile technology and transactions. He also discussed the role his team plays at Capital One, which is intriguing because they serve as an incubator inside of a much larger banking entity– two groups with very different levels of risk tolerance.
Although our first day was not finished yet (still on the docket was a wonderful dinner at the Century Club), our official business visits were complete. And in spite of the hectic scheduling, I think that everyone felt stimulated by the fast pace and excitement of San Francisco and its rapidly evolving tech environment, and hungry for more (and also that dinner at the Century Club!).
Students from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Finance and Securities Analysis Center found common ground last Thursday in a visit to Dave Chen at Equilibrium Capital’s San Francisco office. Back in September, we visited Dave at his Portland office, and he has been a wonderful host on both occasions. He is full of wisdom and speaks eloquently on all matters of finance, something not easily accomplished.
Dave’s firm, Equilibrium Capital Group owns a platform of real asset managers focused on the areas of water, distributed and renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and integrated land management green real estate. It’s a mouthful but the concept was born from Dave boldly saying YES to the question, “Could finance be a solution for global issues such as famine, abuse of resources, and global warming?” Dave sets out solving these problems by channeling funds into real assets that are managed using sustainable practices, which results in growing value and consistent returns. After all, Dave says “Investing, no matter what word you put in front of it is still investing, even impact investing. Everybody in investing wants to get paid.” Often times sustainability gets criticized for being a fluffy concept that is difficult to define. But according to Dave there is nothing fluffy about sustainability. Through his experience he can see that it is an economic shift. With 4 billion humans entering the middle class “wanting to eat chicken and drive cars”, our methods for farming, development, and energy generation are going to have to change to be able to support the stresses put on the system. Sustainability is essential for our global economy moving forward.
Where do MBAs fit into all of this? Dave shared some knowledge and skills we must possess if we want to be in impact investing.
- Know your way around a spreadsheet (be able to trace benefits flows- dissecting benefits flows can lead to financial innovation)
- Risk management and assessment
- Valuing of externalities
- Willingness to roll up your sleeves and figure stuff out
Visiting firms like Equilibrium Capital gives students like us a first hand account of the skills desired by our future employers and adds significant value to the education we are receiving at the Oregon MBA.
Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with Sven Gatchev and Pam Birkel, two second-year CSBP students who are part of the SPP team working with Mountain Rose Herbs (MRH), about their project and what they’ve learned so far.
What exactly does MRH do?
MRH sells herbs, teas, and essential oils. About 97% of their products are organic, and they blend and package these ingredients at their facilities into their own proprietary varieties for retail.
What is your project all about? What have you been working on?
We are working on a 2012 Baseline Sustainability Report, focusing on 9 key areas of impact: buildings, landscape, water, energy, waste & recycling, products (sourcing, packaging, shipping), employee benefits, philanthropy, and prosperity. We also had the opportunity to conduct a Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Analysis for MRH’s Scope 1 & 2 impacts, which was great because it allowed us to directly apply some of our classroom knowledge obtained during our LifeCycle Analysis class with Joshua Skov. Moving forward, we’re going to take a deeper look at the findings of the baseline report, and make recommendations for improved performance, and provide MRH with tools for tracking and management of their impacts and initiatives.
What have you learned so far? What have been the biggest surprises and challenges?
One of our major takeaways is that MRH is already doing a really great job, but there is always room for improvement. Something that’s been fun to see in action, and be a part of, is the company’s informal policy to “do something crazy and controversial every year” (with regard to sustainability), and realize that a relatively small group of people (150-200 people) with a similar perspective can create a significant positive impact. One surprise/challenge we’ve faced is actually the company’s financial success. MRH is a firm that shies away from the term “profitability”, instead preferring to use the more appealing term “prosperity”. Part of our job has been to convince them that this success is not only great for them, but a large part of sustainability in general, as they set a good example for other firms, and have increased flexibility to implement creative sustainability solutions.
What do you expect to see as the impacts of your project?
As a result of our baseline report, MRH will finally have a clear and concrete document to centralize and give structure to their sustainability efforts. Having the baseline in place will give them a great jump-off point for future ideas, and has definitely helped them realize their role as leaders. Our contact, Alyssa Lawless, provided a great soundbite when she said “We didn’t realize how awesome we were,” and that was really satisfying for us, to help our client gain a better understanding of their true impacts, both positive and negative.
It sounds like a very satisfying project overall, how do you think you’ve benefitted personally from working with MRH?
It’s been amazing to see firsthand the amount of success a company can have when they truly put people and planet before their own prosperity. Looking at the “big picture” of MRH’s total footprint, and having the ability to impact that, and help shape the way it moves forward, is an extremely valuable experience. We’ve really gained a lot of exposure to the core ideology and vision that motivates the employees of MRH, and we’ve really drawn on that energy, and been treated as full partners in this endeavor, and that’s been a wonderful experience for us.
We would like to (belatedly) congratulate those students who graduated at the end of Winter term. We are extremely proud of Paul Chun, Christina Early, Katrina Galas, Mitzi Ing, and Amy McCann, the most recent graduates of the Oregon MBA. While we will miss your presence on campus, we wish all of you the best in everything that you do, and look forward to keeping in touch as you progress through your careers. Congratulations on a job well done!
Shannon Oliver offers Lessons Learned from Natural Products Expo West, as Red Duck Ketchup looks back at a whirlwind weekend of business development as they prepare for their May launch:
- Bring a bigger suitcase – you’ll end up with more samples than you anticipated.
- When Michael Besancon introduces you to the people who come up to talk to him, they are important. Pay attention.
- Do not try every sample offered to you (vegan fishsticks?).
- Go hang out at the Marriot bar – that’s where the real stuff happens.
- Practice your swooping tactics ahead of time – you never know when you’ll have to grab Dave Dahl by the shoulder to get a chance to talk to him.
- In the natural foods world, there is an inverse correlation between the professionalism of attire and the status in the industry – if someone is dressed like a bum, they’re usually well-connected or a CEO.
- Park near the event, even if it costs more than you think is reasonable.
- All of Bob Marley’s relatives seem to have started natural product companies – Ziggy Marley Organics, Marley Coffee.
- Kale, Greek yogurt, chia, quinoa, fermented foods, salted caramel and non-GMO are HUGE in 2013.
While using our tetris skills to get all our free samples in our luggage, Karen Bonner and I began reflecting on the amazingly productive two days we’ve had here at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA. We’re here building our business, Red Duck Ketchup, and followed the recommendations of those in the natural foods industry to attend the event and soak in the knowledge from the wealth of companies and individuals attending. Expo West is one of the largest natural products trade shows in the world with representatives from companies far and wide.
We’ve had meetings with the former Global Director of Purchasing for Whole Foods, the Regional Buyer for Costco, and the CEO of KeVita Probiotic Beverages. We chatted with the co-founders of Madecasse (an awesome mission driven chocolate company using the power of business to make an impact in the world), distributors, suppliers, and a whole lot of folks making kale products of every shape and form. We also had the chance to see other Eugene companies that have grown and succeeded: Nancy’s Yogurt, GloryBee foods, Larry & Luna, Good Clean Love, and Emerald Valley Kitchens (now owned by Wildwood). We even spoke to a sauce company out of San Francisco who had heard of our company through a recent news article (possibly this bizjournals article).
All this came as Whole Foods announced, during one of yesterday’s keynote addresses, that it would be completely GMO transparent by 2018 – a huge commitment that stands to create lasting effects in the food industry, much the same way WalMart’s sustainability initiatives are shaping global supply chains. Whole Foods said, “all products in our US and Canadian stores containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be clearly labeled within five years. We heard our customers loud and clear asking us for GMO labeling and we are responding where we have control: in our own stores.” This is tremendously encouraging for us, both as individuals interested in sustainability and as a company launching a non-GMO product. As we finish packing our bags, setting our watches ahead an hour, and getting ready for our 3:30am wake up call, we realize we have one final thought about this weekend:
10. Sometimes it can be overwhelming but in the end you just have to go with the FLOW