Tag: Alumni

Kenny Kline, EN

In INC. Magazine, entrepreneur Kenny Kline, EN ’08, MSF ’08—cofounder of online strength-based competition and training publisher BarBend—has some simple advice for other startup founders: Get an entire city behind you.

Kline first moved to St. Louis to attend WashU and ended up staying for several years after graduating because “St. Louis is a vibrant place with a lot of cool stuff going on.” Combine that with the relatively low cost of living and the city is a great place to start a business.

In the process of starting [my] company, I discovered what makes St. Louis highly valuable to would-be founders: The city is truly dedicated to helping startups thrive.

From the nonprofit Arch Grants program (which offers funding with no equity) to the Cortex Innovation Community (a 200-acre innovation hub and technology district in the heart of St. Louis), Cultivation Capital (a venture capital firm that supports multiple accelerator programs), and SixThirty (a global FinTech venture fund and business development program), St. Louis promises no shortage of resources for budding entrepreneurs.

And it’s exactly resources like these that explain why entrepreneurs are increasingly willing to leave the traditional startup hubs in search of greener (and more cost-effective) pastures. Those entrepreneurs who are brave enough to break with convention are finding boundless support in the middle of America.

In addition to sharing his own experiences, Kline (who also has an MBA from Columbia Business School) speaks with Michael Seaman, founder of SwipeSum, who moved his company from LA to St. Louis. Seaman also sings St. Louis’ praises as a stellar place for startups, boasting great talent, a strong work ethic, and of course, affordability going for it. Seaman is now on a mission to encourage other founders to look beyond the coasts and to take advantage of resources available in other parts of the country.

Read more at Inc. about Kline’s and Seaman’s experiences as entrepreneurs in St. Louis.

Jason Wang, BSBA ’09, recalls the day at Washington University when his father texted him a photo of “a tall, old white dude” dining at the family’s New York City restaurant.

It was the day Anthony Bourdain, with film crew in tow, really put Xi’an Famous Foods on the map. That was in 2008. A decade later, Wang paid tribute to the chef and television host, on the day of Bourdain’s suicide.

On Friday, Wang, CEO of his family’s growing food empire, committed 100 percent of the day’s net sales to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, raising $73,509.76.

On Monday, he thanked patrons and restaurant staffers in an Instagram post for their heartfelt support: “We were able to serve almost double the amount of dishes as usual during dinner on Friday 6/8/18, with some stores selling out of items towards the end of the night,” wrote the 2016 recipient of the Olin Emerging Leader award. “Thank you for helping us with this tribute to our friend.”

The Huffington Post has the full story here. You can find The Wall Street Journal feature about Bourdain and Xi’an Famous Foods here. At the time of the WSJ feature, Wang had just opened the chain’s 10th store. It’s since expanded to include nine active stores in Manhattan, two in Queens, and one in Brooklyn. Wang is regularly involved in Olin’s New York alumni network, participates in the NY Trek with students, and is part of the WashU Asian Alumni Network.

Today’s a day of extreme sadness for us here at Xi’an Famous Foods. I’ve lost a dear friend today, and we mourn with the rest of the world. I remember the time in 2007 when Tony first visited our basement food stall in Flushing for Travel Channel’s No Reservations while I was still in college (even though I didn’t know who he was at the time). I remember my father preparing interesting off-menu dishes to get his opinion on when he visited our store. I remember years later in 2015 after interviewing together for an article, I approached Tony and told him, while he may have no idea what he has done for our family and business by simply saying he enjoyed the food, I wanted him to know it helped bring our family out from living in one room in Flushing to living the American dream. We were able to grow our business and provide great food for our guests, and opportunities for our employees. I looked at him in the eyes and said, this is something we will always be thankful for, Tony. And he simply replied, “I’m just calling out good food like it is, that’s all.” In honor of his memory and all of those dear people who left us all too early, and in taking whatever action we can to prevent suicide in the US, Xi’an Famous Foods will be donating 100% of our net sales on June 8, 2018, from all of our stores, to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK @800273talk. Please cherish all of our lives and help those who may be struggling. Rest in peace, Tony, and the most sincere condolences to Tony’s beloved family. ~Jason Wang, CEO … [UPDATE 6/11/18: With your heartfelt support, along with the hard work of our store staff, we were able to serve almost double the amount of dishes as usual during dinner on Friday 6/8/18, with some stores selling out of items towards the end of the night. We were able to raise $73,509.76 (net sales) to donate to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’ to help their work in suicide prevention. Thank you for helping us with this tribute to our friend.]

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Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA

The St. Louis Business Journal has released its 2018 list of “30 Under 30” honorees and two Olin alumni are part of the latest class. The awards program, sponsored by Olin, recognizes future leaders of the region and the local business community.

This year, Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA ’16, AB ’11, and Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17, will be among the 30 St. Louis-based young business leaders who will be featured in the July 6 of the Journal and honored at a July 12 ceremony.

Hoffman is a principal at Cultivation Capital. She manages the firm’s Life Sciences Funds I and II, focused on developing funding for promising biotechnology startups. Her responsibilities include deal sourcing, due diligence, portfolio management, fundraising, financial reporting and investor relations.

Glantz is co-founder and CEO of GiftAMeal, a for-profit social enterprise that invites customers at participating restaurants to use the GiftAMeal mobile app to share photos of their meal. For each meal shared, a donation is made to a local food bank.

Early in his new book, The Samurai Listener, Cash Nickerson recounts the shock he received from a poor performance review in his first year as a corporate attorney for Union Pacific Railroad.

“At the young age of 26, what held me back were skills I had not learned in college, law school, or business school,” writes Nickerson, JD ’85, MBA ’93. “My behaviors in the office and the perception of those behaviors by my boss’ assistant and everyone else in the office who had an opinion had derailed me—possibly even threatened my career.”

Nickerson recalls that he hadn’t learned to listen. He hadn’t learned to watch people around him for signals about how they were feeling about the situation—and how he should respond. He hadn’t learned to “read situations” or identify and navigate power structures—like the influence his boss’ assistant could wield—in the organization effectively and respect.

His latest book (Nickerson has five other published volumes to his credit) puts listening skills in the context of martial arts practices such as politeness, self-control, and honesty. Great listeners, he says, use these practices to guard against “subtle attacks we often face from colleagues, clients, and others competing for control, eager to succeed at our expense.”

“I’ve seen a list of as many as 70 ‘soft skills’ in my research,” Nickerson said told the Olin Blog. “Listening is one that is heavily talked about. There’s also teamwork, which probably gets the most attention in business school, but gets zero attention in law school. In business school, that’s recognized as a critical success factor.”

The Way of the Samurai

Listening was key, he said, serving as an umbrella category for a host of other soft skills—how to read others, how to broaden your perception of what’s happening around you, how to read situations, and how to navigate politics.

He tells a story of a class on negotiation he gave recently for students at the WashU law school. He passed out a playing card to two class members for a quick game of “high/low.” Which student, he asked the rest of the class, had the higher card? The class stared at the students trying to discern a signal. None got it right the first time. A few people guessed correctly on the second round.

Before he tried a third time, he chided the class: “You guys are just staring at their faces. You have to get a broader view.”

And that third time, he passed out two cards and asked again: Who has the higher card? Finally, a student gave the correct answer: They have the same card. “I saw the look on your face,” she said, “and you seemed to be smirking a little bit.”

“Don’t just watch someone talk. Step back,” he said. “See how everyone else is reacting.”

Leonard Adreon, BSBA ’50, is a Korean War veteran, a corpsman who chronicled his experiences in a recently released memoir, Hilltop Doc: A Marine Corpsman Fighting Through the Mud and Blood of the Korean War. The memoir marked the first time in 60 years he had confronted and told the stories of the gruesome experiences he faced in war.

He recently returned to campus for a public conversation about his book, moderated by Olin Dean Mark Taylor.

“I didn’t say a word to anybody,” Adreon told the St. Louis Jewish Light. “A lot of us decided that the smartest thing to do was to go on with our lives and put it behind us. What we experienced and endured was horrendous. It was better forgotten.”

After the war, Adreon returned to St. Louis and spent 36 years as the executive vice president of The Siteman Organization. a real estate management and development company. He was an active advocate for the building and real estate industry throughout his career, serving in advocacy roles around the world and in Washington, DC.

Adreon has also been a leader at a variety of charities focused on child welfare and volunteers as a facilitator for writing classes in Washington University’s Lifelong Learning Institute.

He offered this poem to Dean Taylor in late April as a tribute to fallen US soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines.

Remember Forever

I am alone
among the silent stones
It’s early morning
The sun creeps through
sparsely scattered clouds
chases the night away
A cool gentle breeze
tingles my skin

Row after row
marble stones
on a carpet of green
Each curved at the top
standing proud over the grave
a small religious symbol
above the etched name of one who served
and the dates of a shortened shattered life

I’m here to visit my son
resting quietly with other soldiers
Today is his 40th birthday
If he could talk to me
what would he say
What is the message I should carry home

I sit on the small bench
close my eyes and listen

Dad, you’re here, that’s what counts
When I went away I knew the score
Danger lurked with every step
Most guys made it and came home
Some of us ran out of luck

I tried to do my best
for you and Mom
for Jamie and Helen
I longed to hear your voice
Feel the warm hug of your love

try to remember me Dad
and all who lie beside me
Remember me forever
Remember them forever

Stuart Adam Wolfer, BSBA
Julian Wise, LA '93

Julian Wise, LA ’93

Julian Wise, LA ’93, wrote this tribute to his former WashU roommate Stuart Adam Wolfer, BSBA ’93, an Army reservist killed during a mortar attack in Iraq in 2008.

This spring, I attended the 25th reunion for the Washington University Class of 1993. It was a joyful, fast-paced weekend, filled with alumni parties, volunteer events, and conversation with old friends. It was good to stroll the Brookings campus again.

Yet amid the merriment, I couldn’t help noting an absence in our ranks. The week marked the 10th year since the death of my former roommate, Major Stuart Adam Wolfer, KIA in Iraq in 2008.

Stuart and I lived together from 1990 to 1992, first in a suite at Rutledge Hall and later in an off-campus apartment in the Central West End. He remains an unforgettable figure from my Washington University years.

Stuart and I had little in common. I was a quiet liberal arts student from Cape Cod struggling to choose a major. Stuart bounded into WashU from Coral Springs, Florida, rock-confident in his plans for the future—business school, ROTC; an MBA or law degree after graduation. I marveled at his certainty, not without a trace of jealousy. Could it really be that easy to choose a career path without putting yourself through torturous mental gyrations?

Stuart was physical. He stood tall, worked out regularly, and carried himself with commanding presence. He didn’t just enter a room—he strode in. By junior year, he was maintaining a full course load, working part-time at Eddie Bauer’s at the Galleria Mall, and decamping frequently to Fort Leonard Wood in the Ozarks for ROTC training. I couldn’t figure out where he got the energy.

Lee Wolfer of Eagle, Idaho, the widow of Stuart Adam Wolfer, and ROTC Lt. Col. James Craig, unveil a memorial during the Stuart Wolfer Memorial Event at the North Campus of Washington University on April 18, 2018. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Lee Wolfer of Eagle, Idaho, the widow of Stuart Adam Wolfer,
and ROTC Lt. Col. James Craig, unveil a memorial during the Stuart Wolfer Memorial
Event at the North Campus of Washington University
on April 18, 2018. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Stuart and I weren’t best friends, but we were always cordial with each other. I kept quiet in the apartment, did the dishes and paid the rent on time. With his hectic schedule, that was all he was looking for in a roommate. We would never achieve that sentimental, bosom-buddy rapport associated with college friendships. I was a wallflower, while Stuart’s energy was turned up to 11. By senior year we’d drifted on to other living arrangements. I never saw Stuart after graduation; we exchanged a few brief emails before falling out of touch.

Walking among the current generation of WashU students, it struck me that the people least like us are often the ones we learn the most from. There is comfort and ease in bonding with similar people, yet the greatest growth comes from encountering those whose temperaments, outlooks, and natures contrast with our own.

With the passage of years, I’ve come to understand that, while he was no saint—he could be stubborn as a bull when the spirit moved him—Stuart possessed qualities I have come to value, admire, and even try to emulate. He was loyal to a fault, devoted, hard-working, and relentlessly value-driven.

I suspect his energy came from an awareness that his time at Washington University was brief and he was determined to wrest every drop of experience from it.

Today, I think of Stuart’s three daughters, who were young when he died. I want them to know that their father lived with a spark that’s memorable a quarter century later to those who knew him. I’m certain he loved them with a power beyond words. To them, I say: Your father was a remarkable man and you should be proud of him. Washington University certainly is.

Julian Wise is the owner of Island Images Gallery and Genevieve Press, a small non-fiction publishing company. He lives on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He can be reached at islandimagesgallery.com and julwise@gmail.com.