Team 'Ale Mail' in Winnipeg

Why we compete

As we wrap up our Winter term at the Oregon MBA, I’m proud to reflect back on the efforts of our teams that took their ideas ‘on the road’ and across borders to socialize their ideas and gather valuable feedback from judges and peers. If no business plan survives first contact with customers, then you cannot overstate the value of getting out the building to share your idea with the world.

Many will say that the ‘business plan’ is dead and that business plan competitions are a lost cause. We at the Lundquist College of Business respectfully disagree. Writing a business plan and putting together an investor pitch is not a waste of valuable MBA time. Rather, those activities are a forcing function for students to integrate the business model they’ve designed, the customer development they’ve done, and the core MBA functions of finance and strategy together in a well-communicated package.

Team ‘CINCH’ in Bangkok

We send Oregon MBAs to these competitions to expand student perspectives and share in the joy of competition. When our teams compete, they get the type of hands-on learning that builds human capital for the future. No amount of classwork can prepare you for the challenges that come from unknown judges and competition from other well-developed ideas. Students learn from one another, sharing the experiences of the tough judges, travel, and experiences of a student entrepreneur. Whether it’s in Bangkok Thailand, Louisville, Winnipeg, or Portland, the outcome of these competitions is the same – experiences that shape ideas and outcomes for a students’ career.

Feature image: Team ‘Ale Mail’ in Winnipeg


Written by Nathan Lillegard

I manage the programs and activities of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, I work to build relationships between the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oregon (and beyond) and our students. As an entrepreneur (in recovery) myself, I help others learn about and navigate the challenges of starting and building great companies.

OMBA takes the Bend Venture Conference

The numbers have been crunched, the presentation decks prepared, and nerves are on high. Your carefully thought out idea is about to become reality…but only if you win. Welcome to the Bend Venture Conference.


As an MBA student in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track, I expected to be provided with insights into the start-up world within a classroom context. But when I found myself, only three-weeks into my MBA program, traveling to Bend, Oregon for my first venture conference I realized that the Oregon MBA exceeds expectations.

A venture conference is an event where ideas turn into actions. A little research on the Bend Venture Conference (BVC) website led me to expect a multi-day entrepreneurship-focused event and close to $1 million in prize money. The start-up companies were broken into three categories of competition: Social Impact, Early Stage, and Growth Stage. 15 founders were going to pitch their start-up ideas to groups of investors. And I was going to be part of it.

After arriving at the Tower Theater in Bend, my classmates and I got settled in for the first round of competition: Social Impact. Here, companies were formed around the idea of helping others. We saw presentations centered around water conservation, fighting human sex trafficking, and blood-borne disease diagnostic tools. To round out this philanthropic group, Rebekah Bastian, the Vice President of Product at Zillow took the stage as the key note speaker. Bastian discussed how she is leveraging her role at the United States’ leading online real estate marketplace to help end homelessness.


The Early Stage competition kicked off Day Two. Here we saw six founders pitch their hopeful companies for three minutes each. Again, the company focuses varied. Anything from inner-tire suspension to rainwater collection systems to crowdsourcing apps could be found onstage. These new companies were competing for $15,000 and the vote was decided by the audience. I was amazed to know that my ballet could help the company I most believed in launch.


The Growth Stage competition rounded out the conference. The five companies were seeking seeding funding, typically in the amount of 1 million dollars. These companies – like Cartogram, Hubb, and Outdoor Project – have all been around for a few years and the founders were practiced presenters. The keynote speaker for Day Two was Loni Stark, the Senior Director of Strategy and Product Marketing at Adobe and the co-founder of Stark Insider, a West Coast media brand. Stark shared her thoughts on the significance of digital on customer experience and marketing.


As a future entrepreneur and hopeful starter-upper like myself, the face value of attending the BVC was obvious. It was a chance to see how entrepreneurs and investors were going to come together to bring the next big thing to market. I was able to learn impactful tips, like what to wear on stage, at what pace to speak, and how to stand while presenting. I was able to apply the business terms I have been learning in my MBA classes to a real-world application. But the most valuable lesson I learned at the BVC that it is always possible to turn your passion into your career.

There is little scarier than introducing yourself as a Master’s student specializing in innovation and entrepreneurship to a room of innovative entrepreneurs. There is a pressure to have that next million-dollar idea researched and ready. So when you don’t have it all figured out, it is easy to feel apprehensive. But the BVC showed me how to discover that million-dollar idea… Or at least where to start. Despite how varied the ideas presented on stage were, the theme was all the same: do what you love. Discover your passion and work within that space. And if no one is doing exactly what you want to, go out and build that company from the bottom up.

I had high expectations for the MBA program at the University of Oregon. But looking back at the connections made, ideas inspired, and knowledge grasped while attending the BVC with the classmates, I realize that the Oregon MBA is already exceeding expectations.


Written by Tess Meyer

Tess is a 2018 MBA in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track. With a background in Psychology and experience managing extensive teams, she is passionate about driving human potential. Tess' aim is to enter career services where she can encourage sustainable career passion for clients and businesses alike. When she is not writing or studying, Tess can be found hiking, reading, or trying a new restaurant. Learn more on

Success at NVC and beyond

As many of you may have already heard, our very own TougHER (Stacey Edwards, Brawnson Adams, and Justin LaTempa) took second place at our New Venture Championship this past weekend. In addition to the $10k prize, I know the team gathered great feedback and ideas from the judges and found inspiration in the response to their opportunity.

Kate Blazar, leader of team Animosa helped us make the event great for our guests in her role as LCE GTF, helping all weekend and spearheading our annual team social/bowling event. Both TougHER and Animosa are continuing forward towards making their dreams real through our Venture Startup class and other Oregon MBA courses.

It takes a whole program to help these ideas launch and the Lundquist College of Business is proving to be a great place for MBAs to incubate their ideas. That shows with the success of our graduates. Here are some of our highlights-Red Duck Ketchup

  • Red Duck Foods has launched a line of BBQ sauces and is expanding in the Northeast US soon. They are adding stores, raising money, and having fun. Co-founder Shannon Oliver was on our panel at NVC and it was amazing to see how mature and wise the team has gotten as they’ve built a great company.
  • Cowbucker continues to share the ‘Bucker’ with more of the world! That team is adding schools for licensed products and launching new designs to keep their business growing. Stop by 222 E 11th and visit their local storefront to see what’s new.
  • AirFit is now Roam Fitness – With a prototype gym in Bend, and the first location at JFK moving forward, Ty and Cynthia are making great progress towards making us all happier and healthier travelers.

Picky Bars on the shelves of Trader JoesAnd in other news… Oregon MBA Alum extraordinaire Jesse Thomas has recently made a big announcement about his company Picky Bars. Spoiler: Look for them in your local Trader Joe’s!!!

So what’s the theme here? I’d say that the Oregon MBA attracts and encourages independent thinkers with the passion and commitment to make their dreams reality. Our programs and classes, in all subjects, push students to think bigger and be disciplined in applying what they’ve learned in class. Our community of alumni, mentors, and others provides the foundation for testing business models, building connections to industries, and growing a supportive network that helps in unexpected ways.

It’s an honor to watch ideas become reality. The same set of immense challenges face all entrepreneurs. The knowledge, skills, and learning environment that we provide here helps our students gain an advantage and go forth to build great companies. We should all be proud of our startup Ducks!

Written by Nathan Lillegard

I manage the programs and activities of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, I work to build relationships between the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oregon (and beyond) and our students. As an entrepreneur (in recovery) myself, I help others learn about and navigate the challenges of starting and building great companies.

WOMEN’S WORKWEAR: A Celebration of a Formidable Force

The Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship has fostered some impressive start-up companies over the years. One of the current MBA start-ups is TOUGHER a woman’s workwear company. The company’s new blog describes the evolution of the concept. Check it out below or on the Wear TOUGHER blog.

Stacey Founder of TOUGHERDuring today’s 3-mile run fraught with rain, Beyonce’s anthem of female empowerment fueled an extra “umph” in my stride despite what felt like nature spitting in my eye. As the talented singer rhetorically asks, “Who runs the world? (Girls),” I thought of the nearly 400 women we have interviewed who Grow, Build, and Make. Women who similarly motivate me to work harder and leave me inspired after every conversation we have shared.

TOUGHER women run the world along with some incredible men, who are their colleagues, partners, friends, and supporters. The major difference between the two sexes, however, is that a serious oversight has long existed for women who need and want durable clothing that fits their body’s frame and protects them while they repair fences, birth calves, or grow stunning crops and flowers.

Men have had their pick of workwear brands; whereas, nearly all women we have interviewed are left to shop the men’s aisles (98%) and must modify their clothing to make them work in clunky fashion (89%). Imagine having to hack your clothes with scissors and duct tape just to make them work for your job or passion.

TOUGHER‘s mission is simple: Great workwear. Built for women. Yet, emails received from women nationwide remind us that what we represent is more than that. TOUGHER acknowledges and celebrates the importance women in skilled trades and artisanal crafts represent. What our customers create matters and deserves our attention.

Imagine a time before sports uniforms were made specifically for women and girls. A not-too-distant past where sports bras did not exist, but had to be made by 3 women sewing together two jockstraps because no such thing existed in 1977. Once apparel was produced to outfit women and girls for sports, it signaled to the world and its wearers that what they contributed to sports mattered- regardless of whether they were a professional athlete or not.

In similar fashion, designing and selling durable, comfortable apparel for women is our way of raising a glass to all women who grind it out each day and work hard with their hands.

We’re so proud of all of you and what you’re doing. Keep sending us your photos of the home projects you build, bridges you designed, or plowed acres you accomplished in a day’s work. You can send them to: or post to our Facebook page at:

Your apparel is in the design phase and coming. We can’t wait to see what you do in it! Here’s a toast raised to you.

Stacey, Founder and CEO

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Team TougHER takes on the Louisville Cardinal Challenge

The Louisville Cardinal Challenge is an annual business plan competition held in Louisville, Kentucky. Hosted by the University of Louisville, the Cardinal Challenge is one of the first events of the business plan competition season and offers students seeking to launch a business an opportunity to measure up to their counter parts from around the nation. The 2016 edition was sponsored by Brown Forman and offered thousands in prize money and services to the winner.

The competition had an opening round of four tracks with three teams within each track. The winner of each track moved on to the final round. Those teams who didn’t advance out of the first round competed in the 60-second quick pitch competition within the competition.Team TougHer at the Cardinal Challenge

The Team TougHER journey began in the opening round where we presented second out of three teams. Our presentation went well and we felt confident coming out of the Q&A session. Our opening round track included a team specializing in a new natural and organic chicken feed that fought diseases in chickens and a team who created a new solid-state rocket fuel source. Needless to say, we quite a challenge in front of us.

Later in the day, the competition hosted a luncheon with all the teams and announced the winners of each track. Unfortunately, Team TougHER didn’t successfully emerge from the opening round. The team pushing rocket fuel edged us out by the narrowest of margins.

Next up was probably the part I found to be most valuable. After lunch we were guided to our feedback session with the judges who evaluated both our presentation performance and the overall quality of our business plan. The judges provided critical feedback and assured us that we weren’t far off from a winning plan and pitch. Once through with the feedback session, our fearless leader, Stacey, put together a pitch for the 60-second quick pitch mini competition.

Stacey competing in the fast pitch for team TougHERFor the quick pitch competition, the moderator called up each of the eight selected speakers from each team and then randomly selected who would pitch. The presenters were allowed no more than 60 seconds which was then followed by two minutes of time for the judges to make notes and score the pitch. After a nerve-racking half hour, Stacey was selected to pitch last. Realizing that she was missing important details of our business in her original pitch, Stacey scrapped the pitch she prepped and free styled the pitch. Later than evening at the awards banquet, it was announced that Stacey had brought home the title for the quick pitch division along with $1,500 for the business.

As a native of Hawaii, I never thought I would find myself bundled up in 19-degree weather in the heart of Kentucky. I knew the Oregon MBA was going to challenge me in many ways but I never expected to be pitching in front of panels of entrepreneurial experts and other MBA’s and PHD students. It made me really value the multiple speech classes I took in high school.

This business plan competition offered me a chance to not only see what my counter parts across the nation are doing, but it also gave me a chance to see just how well I stack up to the competition. After this experience, I can confidently say that Oregon MBAs are just as competitive as any other out there. It was especially cool to see all the different innovations that others are working on and how they view the landscape of their respective industries.

Overall, this experience provided a ton of learning points and exposure to things that I never imagined. I now know more about solid-state rocket fuel than I ever thought I would. I am extremely grateful to be a part of this team and for the opportunities that the Oregon MBA has given me. Next for Team TougHER will be the New Venture Championship in Portland, April 7-9. We hope to see you there!

Written by Brawnson Adams

Brawnson is a 2016 MBA from the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. A native of Hawaii, Brawnson has an extensive background in retail and an undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business.

Fused Machine

Undergrads Display Entrepreneurial Chops in Civil War Shark Tank

The UO vs OSU Civil War Shark Tank competition shares similarities with ABC’s Shark Tank, however it has a different impact on its audience. Instead of watching strangers who are typically older, not college-age individuals, in this contest the competitors are my peers. I know the hard work they’ve put into bringing their ideas to fruition and watching them compete in this event makes me want to push my own boundaries too. One of the most distinctive things about this undergrad event is that students get direct feedback, both criticism and praise, from professionals within a range of business industries. This year marked the third annual event for the friendly competition between the two rival schools, and the first time OSU has been the host. During this year’s event, OSU added an elevator pitch free-for-all competition. Adding this mini event provided all attendees—including me—with the opportunity to use their creativity and brainstorming power.

Some contestants have never even pitched before, and have accelerated their idea in a matter of weeks to be showcased in this event. Students have entered industries that I wouldn’t have thought possible at our age. Last year it was health care and this year it was pay-per-click budgeting. At Shark Tank I get to witness students like me put their best foot forward and be courageous. The innovations that students come up with are inspiring not just in nature, but in the efforts that their creators have put into the product or service. Orchid Health, the winner of last year’s competition, has since won numerous other funding opportunities and have had their primary care clinic running for almost a year now.

Entrepreneurship requires immense creativity and tenacity, qualities that are applicable beyond just the business world, which is why I am so drawn to it. Entrepreneurs and the innovation they bring are needed in all industries. While there is an element of competition, it’s a very positive atmosphere. Students and professionals get to connect and share ideas. The main competition also gives the participants invaluable feedback in order to allow them to further improve and flourish, and for some, capital investment to help them get business going. I look forward to continuing this tradition between the University of Oregon and Oregon State entrepreneurship programs, and next year we will be back on Duck turf.

—Katie Breeden ’17 

About Katie: I am the current president of the UO Entrepreneurship Club and loving every minute of it. I plan to graduate in spring 2017 with a double major in business (with a concentration in marketing) and digital arts. If I have time, I’ll also pick up a product design minor. Creativity and design are two of my biggest passions. Aside from the Entrepreneurship Club I am a member of the Business Honors Program, Kappa Alpha Theta, and work with the Lundquist College of Business Job Shadow Program. One day I hope to own my own marketing and design company located somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Katie Breeden is president of the college’s Entrepreneurship Club.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Start-up Financing 101: Cash is King and Always Extend Your Runway

With Valentine’s Day coming up I felt I would try to spread the love and passion of business a little. The idea of starting your own business is such a romantic notion. Snuffing the system, being your own boss, working your behind off for what you’re passionate about, and creating something amazing and (hopefully) disruptive enough to make the world a better place! But then reality comes crashing down when you realize that in order to accomplish this you need money. Potentially a lot of money. Not many of us have the luxury of having a wealthy (and highly understanding) partner who can support us during our entrepreneurial endeavor or a nest egg that is able to be invested (or risked depending on your perspective). As much as I hate to admit it: Money makes the world go ‘round and it is even more imperative for start-ups.

As someone who would love to work for a start-up (or small yet rapidly growing company) and who is immersed in this world as an entrepreneurship MBA (trust me: it’s not an oxymoron) thinking about financing for such ventures is daunting. Luckily, I’m in Oregon which provides multiple opportunities to fight the ever shrinking runway of start-up finance. We have an extensive network of traditional funding paths. Oregon hosts many angel investment opportunities including the Bend Venture Conference, the Oregon Angel Fund, Angel Oregon, and the Willamette Angel Conference. We also have opportunities for seed stage investments with the Portland Seed Fund and the newly established UO Foundation Seed Fund. But there is a rapidly growing form of funding taking root and thriving in the Pacific Northwest!

Crowdfunding: the wave

According to a study done by the Crowd Data Center, Oregon ranked 4th in the best states for crowdfunding. Portland ranked 3rd for the top city while Seattle ranked 7th and San Francisco ranked 1st! I know San Francisco isn’t technically in the Pacific Northwest, but it is just a hop, skip, and jump away and is almost like an older, more experienced sibling when it comes to start-up financing. (Sand Hill Road, anyone?) Now I know what you are thinking…crowdfunding?!?! Yes. Crowdfunding. Changes to SEC regulations have allowed platforms such as Kickstarter, Kiva, Crowdfunder, and multiple others to tap into the pockets of the masses to help finance fledgling companies and products get off the ground. (Check out this Forbes article for more.) No longer do you have to be an accredited investor or give up thousands (potentially millions) of dollars to play a major part in the economic development of your community. After all, small businesses are a powerful driver in job creation. And if one is going to have a job, why not do something that speaks directly to and of you? Not everyone is an entrepreneur. But thanks to the great support shown through the success of crowdfunding, almost anyone can help an entrepreneur be that much closer to success.

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.

In Portland, Unconventional Business Makes Sense

From Portlandia to Grimm, Portland has become known for its unique yet endearing quirks through pop culture. The shows feature handmade artisanal foods, communities of enthusiastic outdoorsmen, and few fairy tale creatures. Reality was not so distant from fiction when the UO Entrepreneurship Club went to the Rose City this past weekend to hear from different businesses about the keys of their success.

Walking into Evo Sportswear, the first thing you notice is how unlike a sportswear company the location looks. A fake pink storefront sits in the middle of the store with the name of Uncle Jacks Bakery; the building itself is a renovated Salvation Army; and the second floor has walls painted with faux stained-glass windows. All in all, a little quirky for a place that’s known for selling skis and snowboards. But as our guide—general manager Kevin—explained, all of these elements are play a part in staying true to the Evo brand. Started 14 years ago by Bryce Phillips, Evo began in Seattle as an online retailer selling skis and snowboards. Eventually the first brick-and-mortar store opened and the product line now includes everything from yoga mats to surf boards. Phillips used the location as not only a store front, a place where people could buy something and leave, but as a community gathering place where local winter sports enthusiasts could discuss their favorite pastime, create an event space, art gallery, provide giveaways, have launch parties, organize trips to mountains, hold training courses, and use the space for fundraisers and clubs as well as meetings.

With online sales booming (the company sells 25 percent of all European winter sportswear through the second Evo location opened its doors in Southeast Portland this past October. So when so many mom-and-pop-style sports stores are closing their doors for good, why would Evo choose to invest so much in a new location? The simple answer is that shopping online, though cheaper, has cost the industry a lot. As Kevin talked about his last trip to the mountain for a day on the slopes he saw tons of people with their skis on the wrong side, grips not properly installed, and frustrated in general because their online purchases failed to live up to their expectations. By having a brick-and-mortar location near their target market, Evo is able to provide the community with an immense amount of support through customer service and by allowing people to handle the products before they spend hundreds of dollars. Even if someone can’t find the perfect piece of equipment they’re looking for (only 5-10 percent of Evo’s total inventory can be found in the 11,000 square foot retail location), there are multiple iPads throughout the store so an employee can help you search through the company website. This click-and-mortar approach has been the determining factor in Evo’s success balancing tech and face-to-face customer service.

The next stop of the day was Salt and Straw, nationally recognized gourmet ice cream makers. Just a few days before our tour, cofounder and head chef Tyler Malek was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of their 30 under 30 for changing the way Americans eat. Known for creating ice-cream flavor combinations such as sea urchin and mint, and mashed potatoes and gravy, Tyler has shaped Salt and Straw to become an iconic part of Portland. Kim Malek, Tyler’s cousin and cofounder and president of the company, provided a tour of the manufacturing facilities where all the ice cream Salt and Straw sells in Oregon is made. Club members saw the R&D facilities where all the unconventional flavors are concocted, the actual process of how they produce hundreds of gallons of ice cream, and the administrative side that keeps everything running smoothly. Amazingly, three small ice cream machines are responsible for churning out more than 20 flavors. As a fresh batch of the almond brittle with salted ganache came straight out of a machine, members were treated to a taste of the incredible ice cream and learned that the milk used to make the delicious concoction was as close to butter in consistency as you could get.

Malek explained how the core principle of her business idea—creating a neighborhood gathering spot—is still felt in the manufacturing process through terroir, a French word that means “taste of place.” By partnering with other local companies for ingredients, Salt and Straw keeps their flavors local both in Portland and in their newest scoop shop in Los Angeles, California. Throughout this rapid growth (the company began four years ago as a food cart), staying true to their identity as community minded foodies has been the key to Malek’s success.

Our takeaway: in Portland, community matters. Treating customers as neighbors rather than profit margins means a lot in gaining loyalty. Finding a way to make that experience more than just a transaction can be a game-changer for not only customers, but for an entire industry. Knowing how this community approach has created such success, Portland’s reputation as a hub for the unorthodox will likely outlast any cable TV series.

Written by Jordan Johnson

Senior at the UO, majoring in business administration, minoring in art. Current President of the UO Entrepreneurship Club.

Duck feet all over the WAC

Oregonians are generally averse to self-promotion. We’re a humble lot (mostly) that figure it’s better to let our achievements speak for themselves than spend time and energy seeking recognition. It’s something we do and part of the culture. But I’m going to step out of that mold for now and praise some of our students and community friends after witnessing the Willamette Angel Conference today.

First, I want to thank everyone who has helped bring the Matthew Knight Arena and Ford Alumni Center together. The WAC was hosted in the Guistina Ballroom at the Ford Alumni Center this year. Finally, the UO has a world-class facility to have formal events! Don’t get me wrong, the old EMU Ballroom and a couple of other facilities on campus are great. However, the modern and uniquely Oregon design of the FAC really stands out for people coming into town. Having Matt Arena right next door gives the East campus area a center of gravity that the whole university needed.

Second, let’s recognize all of the University of Oregon students and alumni involved in the Willamette Angel Conference. The list is long, so let’s bullet point for brevity:

  • The Concept Stage winner was Orchid Health – A local Eugene company creating direct primary care clinics in medically under-served communities. Started by a one-year-ago grad and a soon-to-be graduate. That’s right, early twenty-somethings starting a health care company. Cool.
  • Other Concept Stage companies representing UO ties:
    • a start-up company targeting ERP of Human Resources co-founded by an Oregon MBA alumnus
    • Manage my co-op: a husband/wife team of OMB (Marching Band) alumni building tools to enable group buying clubs for everything
  • Blue Dog Mead, a well-established beverage company, was represented at the event by CEO and co-founder Simon Blatz. Keeping the dream alive and mead flowing.
  • The Oregon MBA and other Lundquist College of Business students helped with the due diligence process and as volunteers for the event.

Dune Sciences, one of the five finalist companies has strong ties to the UO. The company was founded by John Miller and Jim Hutchison based on research from their lab in the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon. I know that this team has been working at this for a long time to bring their technology to market. Making it to the WAC Finals was a big accomplishment for them. I know that Dune Sciences is going to continue to grow and be a big UO and Eugene success story.

Finally, let’s talk about RAIN. The Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network is finally up and running in Eugene. Joe Maruschak, a UO art major and game development entrepreneur, is taking the reins of the local node of this program. Joe is a community builder who understands the role an accelerator and incubator can play in developing an ecosystem for startups. Good things are on the horizon. The support that the Office for Research Innovation and Graduate Education has provided getting RAIN going has been invaluable. Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation Patrick Jones has brought his experiences building a similar community in Tucson, Arizona, and at the U. of Arizona to bear to help make this a reality. Without this kind of fundamental support in place, building a thriving entrepreneurial community is harder. With this high-level support, we’re all pulling together to improve the community and build a place where students can stay after they graduate.

So be on the lookout for more great things happening here in Eugene. You may need to ask to hear about it. We’ll be busy letting our successes speak for themselves.

Written by Nathan Lillegard

I manage the programs and activities of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, I work to build relationships between the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oregon (and beyond) and our students. As an entrepreneur (in recovery) myself, I help others learn about and navigate the challenges of starting and building great companies.

Dixie Powers Visits Women in Business

The natural entrepreneurial instincts of Dixie Powers guided her as the founder and former president of Baggallini Inc. Her work ethic, ingenuity, and perceptive vision of an untapped market for organized bags and accessories fostered a company that eventually grew from $1.2 million in gross income in 2003 to over $18 million in 2010.

On April 10th, 2012, Dixie presented her story to the Women in Business club. Originally from Salem, Oregon, Dixie certainly does have a life story From Bags to Riches, the name of her autobiography-in-process by Kerry Tymchuk. She comes from a conservative family where her and her sister’s first job involved picking strawberries and beans until the age of 16 when they began working in the canneries. Dixie’s hard-working character derived from her childhood. She said that, “We grew up with a work ethic, we had to.” She spoke fondly of her father as a role model and self-made man who started a women’s shoe and clothing store as well as dabbled in real estate and the stock market.

After high school, Dixie’s father hoped she would pursue an academic path and attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Dixie had always found school to be uninspiring and admitted to skipping twenty-two days of school her senior year. After graduation, she attended a college that eventually funneled into what is now considered Portland State University. To her father’s dismay, she discontinued her enrollment during her second term and found herself needing to pay room and board at her parents’ house in Salem.

Dixie acquired a job answering phone calls for her uncle as an alternative to working in the canneries again. She tolerated this job until one day when she received a phone call from her friend Carol, who worked as a flight attendant at United Airlines. Carol suggested Dixie pursue a job as a flight attendant. Unfortunately, United Airlines was at full capacity. Three days later, Carol called Dixie again with a job opening at Delta Airlines. She quickly discovered that the requirements of a flight attendant included no husband or kids, hair pulled back, no jewelry larger than a nickel, and weigh ins. Essentially, “Young, thin, and cute. And we were all three!”

Starting at the age of nineteen and for the next thirty years of her life, Dixie became a flight attendant. At one point or another, she was based in Miami, Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta, and many more cities. Dixie was in Boston, her favorite base, for thirteen years and now returns every summer. In Boston she began to develop her innate real estate skills by renting and buying a variety of properties like her father, who sadly would never see her professional successes.

Soon after, she fell in love with and married her husband, a banker, and had a son and a daughter. Their family eventually transferred to Portland, Oregon, where Dixie was based with Delta Airlines. Her flights journeyed to countries like Japan, Korea, Thailand, and China.  On her days off while in these countries, Dixie explored the street markets where she would find designer brands names such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Nike, and Ralph Lauren. She and her fellow flight attendants would frequently return home with a variety of goods for friends and family. She often flew with flight attendant Ann Simmons from Dallas who would buy Chanel earrings for $5 and return home to sell them for $50. Dixie, however, became fascinated with bronze figurines and began selling them to friends, neighbors, and local businesses. Dixie guaranteed that it is, “impossible to go to Asia and not want to become an entrepreneur.”

One day while browsing the street markets of Seoul, Dixie discovered a coin pouch. She immediately recognized a need for the accessory as a flight attendant in order to keep each currency isolated. Dixie found a manufacturer and subsequently began to identify and design a wide variety of products that flight attendants desired such as travel and tote bags as well as twistable, travel-sized razors. Dixie and Ann experienced rapid achievement by selling their products to junior flight attendants at other bases to sell to their colleagues. Together Dixie and Ann successfully launched their company Baggallini Inc.

As Baggallini continued expanding, the duo developed a line of vividly colored children’s travel bags that revolutionized the appearance of all products at trade shows. They then franchised the company to encourage growth and eventually Norm Thompson and The Container Store began carrying their products. In February 2001, Dixie retired as CEO of the company and sold baggallini for $40 million.

Her professional accomplishments came full circle two years ago when her sister presented her with a gift. Dixie received a license plate holder for the Wharton School of Business, which she now affectionately drives around with in memory and pride of her father.

While verbally illustrating her stories and physically presenting products to the club, Dixie’s passion and enthusiasm overpowered her initial shy exterior. The membership was able to take away the invaluable advice that work ethic combined with diligence provides limitless accomplishments.  Thank you, Dixie, for speaking with Women in Business!

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.