Tag: Entrepreneurship

When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Akio Yahiro Korte, MBA ’21, who worked on competitive landscape analysis for Capacity.

Over the 2020 summer, I worked on the CEL summer project, a seven-week consulting opportunity to help a client with their business needs. In my case, the client was a privately held startup company that wanted help with its competitive landscape analysis. Capacity, our client, was really excited and passionate about sharing information with us, so we could give them the best recommendations possible.

This project sharpened my project management, planning and coordination toolkit. From a technical perspective, this project has refined my competitor analysis and marketing skills. I also helped the team using my finance background when appropriate. 

Our team lived on a weekly cycle. Weeks started with a one hour class on Monday. Client meetings occurred every Wednesday afternoon. Client meetings were earmarked for one hour, but we always went over due to great client engagement.

Since team members were working virtually across three different time zones, we sporadically set up team huddles to address timely needs. Typically, a team member would spend several hours a week working on a specific function (think deep diving a competitor’s entire marketing strategy). 

From a team leader perspective, it’s always great to work with new and diverse teams. I worked with a healthy blend of graduates and undergraduates sprinkled with different business disciplines (finance, entrepreneurship, consulting, marketing). I worked with five other students—and I was thoroughly impressed with each of them.

Particularly thinking about the undergraduate students on my team, there were people who hadn’t had previous work experience. So for the first time, they were talking directly with business owners and leaders—and they really stepped up to the plate, asked detailed questions and shared their expertise. It was a huge win for those students—it wasn’t an experience you could get anywhere else.

Client interactions were a big win. Capacity went above and beyond by letting us talk with different business leaders. Even though this was a marketing project, we talked with leaders in finance, sales, and execution. We even got the opportunity to talk directly with the CEO, David Karandish, BSCS ’05.

Not only is David a WashU alum, he also sold the parent company to Answers.com before starting Capacity. David had some very cool stories to tell, everything from writing a text-to-speech app around his high school years to being on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.”

In addition to answering questions to help the team with the CEL project, he had some parting words of wisdom for future leaders: keep morale up by being transparent, keep one foot in present reality while keeping another in future potential (be the bridge between the two realities). We were honored to spend this time working closely with the client, learning from their perspective and providing recommendations.

This has been a very interesting experience from a project management perspective. The project’s scope shifted several times, another team merged into mine, not to mention working virtually across different time zones always poses unique limitations. But the team successfully adapted to meet these challenges head-on. This resilience is a hallmark of the quintessential Olin business student. 

This is the second successful team project that I have led while at WashU. Given the great experiences both projects and teams have been, I am contemplating doing at least one more this coming academic year. 




A new WashU course, Innovation for Defense, will give students a chance to define and solve problems facing the US intelligence community starting in spring.

An inter-disciplinary entrepreneurial course, Innovation for Defense is open to students from McKelvey School of Engineering and Olin Business School. The class (consisting of roughly 10 Olin students and 10 McKelvey students) is co-taught by Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship at Olin, and Peggy Matson, professor of practice, Sever Institute, McKelvey. The course brings together people from the Olin business community and the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Exploring current problems—like moving people and supplies through checkpoints in a secure way, helping pilots quickly acclimate to a variety of aircraft and reducing technology downtime by using IT data to create proactive solutions—will be a driving force behind the student’s learning.

Each class problem has a dedicated sponsor from the Department of Defense who will be regularly engaged with the team. Student teams will learn to use the Lean Startup methodology and Mission Model Canvas, made famous by Stanford University, to iteratively cut through the complexities of these issues.  

The Innovating for Defense course is building on the partnership with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), and includes the recently awarded National Security Academic Accelerator grant which seeks to launch new ‘dual-use ventures’ from the University’s existing intellectual property.

Jake Laktas, university program director at WashU, representing NSIN says, “This course’s model is unique because it can be an equally valuable learning experience for DoD partners as it is for the students. University problem solvers who are unencumbered by existing thought processes can lend brand new approaches and unique contributions to our nation’s most difficult technology and security challenges.”

It is interesting to note that a student does not have to be a citizen of the United States to take this course and none of the DoD problems are confidential.

“None of these business problems are classified. It is not innovating for war, or something secret; it is innovating for large organizations. It will teach students what the DoD is, how to interact with it, how to support it, and how to ultimately support the economy,” Villhard said. “It’s almost like a mirror of the commercial market when you consider how many different things there are to do within the DoD.”

The course was created to introduce entrepreneurial thinking to students and introduce the concept of interdisciplinary teams. These students will gain hands-on experience that can be useful in any work situation in the future and will look excellent on their resumes. It teaches how to seek out problems, find solutions, and consider monetization.

Find the original post on the Innovation for Defense class, from the Skandalaris Center, here.

Above: Credit, Shutterstock.




Snacklins, a company that produces plant-based alternatives to pork rinds, nearly tripled its sales in 2020 in the highly competitive snack food industry.

Jeremy Sherman

Fans of NBC’s “Shark Tank”might recognize the brand from its appearance on the show in 2019, when founder Sam Kobrosly walked away with an investment from Mark Cuban.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, Snacklins has continued to pursue industry success, undergoing a major rebrand to create a more interactive, internet-accessible brand. The effort to differentiate Snacklins and draw consumer attention was led by Olin alum and Snacklins Marketing and E-Commerce Manager Jeremy Sherman, BSBA ’15.

Consumers seek products online

Sherman and his team noticed that the pandemic pushed consumers to seek out products online. They struck out to create a brand that offers both a great product and an interactive, fun and personable online experience. They decided to launch a complete rebrand, selling the same product using a new website, new packaging, new flavors and bigger bag sizes.

The key to the rebrand, Sherman said, was to “create a whole personality around” Snacklins.” The goal was to make its product “not just fun to snack on, but to interact with.” The company had to be innovative, while incorporating its core personality and spirit in its new marketing campaign. To do this, the Snacklins team kept a simple and bold design and introduced engaging new features on its website, including a game called SNAC-MAN .

Snacklins has been recognized for the success of its rebrand, earning a feature in Forbes magazine.

Olin’s influence

Sherman credits Olin’s influence with allowing him to consider himself a “business generalist, with the ability to think about economics, operations, supply chain and marketing.”

Olin provided him with a valuable foundation of business knowledge, he says. He credits his Introduction to Entrepreneurship class for arming him with the ability to understand the mechanics of entrepreneurship, especially how to transform a vague idea into a complete business plan. The creativity and entrepreneurial spirit he acquired during his time at Olin still guides his work today, he said.


Late last month, the Skandalaris Center announced this year’s finalists for the Global Impact Award. This award, founded in 2013, may present the finalist teams with up to $50,000, thanks to a donation from Suren Dutia and Jas Grewal.

The Global Impact Award was established in order to support the passions of Washington University students, recent alumni, and postdoctoral researchers who are creating ventures that are scalable, sustainable, and quick-to-market with proof of concept and a broad impact.

Caregather makes the life surrounding health bolder and brighter by connecting patients going through serious medical incidents to their closest circle and broader network. Tripp Brockway (AB ’12) and Michael Offerman, AB/MBA ’13. 

Cedars Health, Inc. provides minimally invasive procedures using their biocompatible implant, which mechanically compresses the prostate to dilate the urethral channel.  Raphael Chung, BS ’20, and Kevin Park, BSBE/MSBE ’20.

Golden Roots Essentials is an all-natural toxin-free skincare line with ingredients derived from the African continent. Fanta Kaba, MBA ’21. 

LFR International creates scalable networks of emergency first responders in a resource-limited setting without formal emergency medical services. Zachary Eisner, BS ’21, and Peter Delaney, AB ’18. 

Pareto is a direct-to-consumer women’s apparel brand founded on the principle that women wear 20% of their closets, 80% of the time. Jessica Landzberg, BSBA ’17, and Olivia Bordson, BSBA ’15. 

Qilo is an energy solutions company and energy supplier that charges consumers transparent rates and helps them make smarter energy decisions using a mobile application. David Brost (School of Engineer & Applied Science ’12). 

Congratulations to the finalists! The winner of the Global Impact Award will be announced on April 27, 2021, over Zoom.

Find the original Skandalaris post announcing the finalists here. Also, watch the video of finalists reacting to their selection above.




When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Lawrence Watson, vice president of sales at Hunter Engineering.

Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?

Hunter Engineering has had a long term relationship with WashU Olin, and we’ve always had positive experiences with the students we have worked with over the years. When the pandemic changed our plans for more conventional summer internships, we jumped at the chance to apply for the CEL project. This format allowed us to continue moving forward some important initiatives while at the same time offering some compelling subject matter that the students can really dive into.

What was your project about?

Our project was focused on how changing consumer habits and expectations impact our specific industry. We are always looking for ways to improve our customer’s experience with Hunter and wanted to ensure we are able to apply lessons from other industries that might be best-in-class.

What was it like working with Olin students?

Working with the Olin students has been a very positive experience for our entire team. It is nice to hear new perspectives and share ideas with such an eager group.

What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?

Be bold and go after what you desire. There are always companies out there looking for great people.