Tag: Entrepreneurship



Arch Grant recipients Marc Bernstein, BSBA ’15, Adam Hoffman, BSBA ’17, and Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17.

Three startups spawned on the WashU campus joined the latest class of 20 companies to receive Arch Grants worth $50,000 each. All three companies were launched through Olin’s Hatchery course, one of the longest-running entrepreneurship courses in the United States.

The three Arch Grants recipients established at WashU are:

Balto, founded by Marc Bernstein, BSBA ’15. The company markets software that uses artificial intelligence to improve the success rate of sales reps working in call centers.

CheckTheQ, founded by Adam Hoffman, BSBA ’17. The company has created a monitoring system that delivers real-time information on wait times at airport security to airport operations.

GiftAMeal, founded by Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17. The company markets a mobile app that helps provide a meal to someone in need each time a user takes a photo on its app at a partner restaurant.

“The entrepreneurial drive of these young alums, and the progress they are making with their companies is really remarkable,” said Cliff Holekamp, professor of practice in entrepreneurship, who teaches the Hatchery course. “It wasn’t that long ago that these students were sharing their new business ideas with me in my office, now to see them win Arch Grants is very exciting and a meaningful validation of the traction they are making with their companies.”

The three companies, along with 17 others, learned they’d each receive the $50,000 grant on November 16 at the Arch Grants gala, according to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Arch Grants organization does not take an ownership stake in the companies it supports, but does require them to operate for at least a year from St. Louis in order to qualify for the money.

The Olin Hatchery course involves student teams that work on a commercial or social venture idea proposed by a student or community entrepreneur. The students work to produce two presentations to a panel of judges and a complete business plan for the startup enterprise. The course is open to any WashU student who has taken the prerequisites.

Watch the Arch Grants video about all the 2018 grant recipients.

Pictured above: Arch Grant recipients Marc Bernstein, BSBA ’15, Adam Hoffman, BSBA ’17, and Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17.




Written for the Olin Blog by Caroline Suppiger, BSBA ’20, with contributions from Daun Lee, LA ’20, and a video by Lucie Kirk,  LA ’20. All are participants in the Madagascar Sustainability Initiative, an Olin class that is a joint educational project between Olin Business School and the Missouri Botanical Garden. One of the initiative’s programs, Project Period, creates panties and a sustainable source of menstrual supplies for women and girls entering puberty.

The women involved in Project Period recently participated in a regional “Art Fair” (see below) to sell panties and baskets. In addition, they gave a pair of the panties to Madagascar’s minister of arts (female) as a promotional gift. They are making the period panties and are thinking ahead about International Women’s Day festivities held every year in March. The panties should help to reduce infections and the need for a charcoal crop to pay for medicines.

My project was the third iteration of Project Period, a program first developed by students a few years ago. In the past, groups combatted the lack of feminine hygiene products available to women by creating underwear using local material, including a cloth pad filled with local moss and bark. Expanding on this prior project, our group focused on female empowerment as a whole, contributing in three distinct ways: economic support, education, and self-empowerment.

Economic support

Once we arrived in Mahabo, Madagascar, our group discovered that the previously made underwear was too large for young girls going through puberty. We developed an additional smaller size of underwear to support adolescent girls as they experience and learn about their changing bodies.

We applied for a grant to bring two hand-powered sewing machines to Mahabo. These machines help women make underwear more quickly, thus providing increased economic support and allowing more women to experience the benefits of this local product.

As part of our economic aim, we wanted to help women create a self-sustaining business resulting in a source of revenue. To do this, we priced the underwear, designed a sign, and taught the women how and where to sell the underwear. In just one week, we sold five pairs of underwear.

Project Period Team showing the girls club their video for the first time.
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Education

While in Mahabo, we provided a series of classes for women, young girls, and young boys in the community. We taught basic sexual education including: proper hygiene, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, puberty, and basic anatomy.

“In addition, we created a song, which outlined the purpose of our project and the importance of period panties, that the same middle school female students performed at big events, like the big presentation we gave to Mahabo and other involved parties,” Lee said.

Empowerment

The last part of our project focused on the Girls’ Club, an established group within the community made up of girls ranging from 12 to 16 years old. In order to encourage empowerment and self-confidence, we gave each girl a flip camera for approximately an hour a day to document parts of their lives.

We asked questions like, “Who is your mentor?” and “What is your favorite subject in school?” Because this village was such a male dominated community, we wanted to give the girls something of their own that they are proud of. At the end of our time, a team member compiled the videos and we showed the girls their video. There were laughs and tears because this was the first time any of them had even seen a photo of themselves.

We also taught the young girls a song and dance to help market the underwear at local events like soccer games and markets.

In what ways did it go as you expected—and in what ways didn’t it?

A few days in to our trip, after working with the women and girls of the village, we found out that the underwear made in the past was way too big for the younger girls who were one of our main focuses of the trip. Because of this discovery, we had to completely change our plans and redesignate our funds, designing two pairs of underwear instead of one.

“It was a success for the most part, because we were able to produce quite a few new sizes and we were even able to sell them at the Saturday market,” Lee said. “We found out that the mothers rarely buy the panties because they would rather spend the money on their daughters, so we were selling the smaller panties in hopes that the mothers would buy them for their daughters and then buy some for themselves.”

Going into the trip, I thought that our plans were a bit ambitious because we had so much to do, but fortunately, with the help of the Mahabo community, we were able to complete everything we had planned and more.

What were your biggest takeaways?

My biggest takeaway from the project itself is how amazing the women in the Mahabo community are. They were more than willing to answer our questions and come to meet with us day in and day out. There was a woman in the community, Madam Julienne, who volunteered to teach 40 women how to use the sewing machines for several hours a day throughout our time in the village. I was inspired by the women’s deep affection and care for both their own families and the well-being of the community as a whole.

After almost a month in Madagascar, it was evident how resilient the Malagasy people are. They are extremely big-hearted and work incredibly hard to support their families and greater community.

“While we thoroughly planned out our projects at school, actually going to the site and speaking to the Malagasy people and the women of Project Period made me realize that their inputs are a lot more important and useful than sticking to our timeline,” Lee said.

How has this class/project/experience contributed to your long-term goals—career or otherwise?

I think this class has contributed to my long-term goals by showing me the importance of an impact-driven job. As cliché as it sounds, this trip further demonstrated to me that I value impacting lives in a positive way through my personal and professional endeavors.

The Madagascar Sustainability Initiative is a class available to both undergraduates (UB B53 MGT 401M) and graduate students (B63 MGT 501 03). Pictured above: Xavier Bravo, LA ’19; Nick Murira, BSBA ’19; Caroline Suppiger, BSBA ’20; Lucie Kirk, LA ’20; Daun Lee, LA ’20; and Jonno Schneider, BSBA ’20.




Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, wrote this post on behalf of Bear Studios LLC.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard

Take a moment and think about yourself five years ago—or even just one year ago. Consider the day-to-day issues you were facing and your near-term worries. I would bet that you cannot remember most of your troubles. And even if you can, they are likely not the same as those that bother you today.

Contemplate your attitudes and outlooks and reflect upon how different they are from your current perspective. If you are anything like me, it borders on absurd to think that you were the same person who had those thoughts and took those actions just a short while back.

Now, recognize that much of what you are concerned with and think about today will likely seem petty in five years’ time—or even just one year from now. The appreciation that you always have grown and always will grow is certainly important, yet it is only the first step in orienting your mindset toward personal growth.

Before I continue, let me introduce myself. My name is Ben Kosowsky and I am a sophomore at Olin Business School triple majoring in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy. I consider myself to be a growth-oriented person. What follows are some of the strategies I use to maximize my personal growth.

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection can and should be different for everyone. For me, the most successful strategies have been documentation, meditation, and rebuke.

I became inspired to keep a journal after an interview with a “brother” in Delta Sigma Pi during my pledging process freshman year. Since then, I have spent at least 15 minutes every night reflecting on my day, focusing on what and how I can improve.

At first, meditating even for five minutes was very hard for me, but I have now reached the point where I can meditate for 30 minutes at a time. This contemplative time has trained me to let go of unproductive thoughts, focusing intensely instead on critical matters.

Finally, the strategy of rebuke, derived from the Jewish concept of Tochacha, involves inviting your closest friends to criticize you and explain how you can improve. This requires a tremendous amount of trust, but hearing your flaws from those closest to you can open your eyes to issues that documentation or mediation won’t bring to light.

Openness

Throughout your life, the vast majority of your thoughts and beliefs have changed, and they will continue to change. To embrace the inevitability of this change, you should actively seek out new ideas by exposing yourself to as many different perspectives as possible.

Everyone has things you can learn from them and taking the time to listen will help you truly understand their vantage point. Realize that you already know any potential things you will say, so you can maximize learning and growth by listening to what others have to say, and then determining what is valuable.

Perspective

While it is critical to be open to new ideas, it is equally as important to not care too much about other’s perceptions of you. Reflect on how much you cared about what the cool kids in middle school thought about you, and how little you care about their perceptions now.

On a more macro level, realize that societal definitions of success are sometimes just as arbitrary as “coolness” was in middle school. Additionally, notice how large of a role randomness plays in life and allow yourself to take some of your accomplishments and failures with a grain of salt.

This should help you realize how important it is to live your life only according to your own value system and not according to anyone else’s.

Challenge

One thing most people try to avoid is the feeling of being uncomfortable. My objective throughout college has been to challenge myself with a set of goals that push me beyond my comfortable limits, while still giving myself a chance at success.

In my first semester at WashU, I challenged myself to join as many on-campus organizations and to take on as much leadership and responsibility as possible. In my second semester at WashU, I challenged myself to think outside the box in terms of my career path and began to pursue opportunities in growth equity, instead of a more traditional path.

Last semester, I challenged myself to eat meals one-on-one with as many people as possible in order to deepen my relationships. My challenges this semester have been to meditate, to work-out, and to read at least one hour of philosophy every day.

None of these tasks were (or are) easy for me, but the key to growth is pushing your limits by setting your mind to overcome what makes you uncomfortable.

Failure

Embracing failure is not about being content with losing or not caring about success; instead, it is realizing that every struggle is an opportunity for learning and growth. Everyone struggles through failures in life. Learning to deal with and bounce back from them is the true test of one’s character.

One way I think about struggle is through the lens of what I call Type 1 versus Type 2 situations. A Type 1 situation is one you enjoy during the moment and will remember as a positive experience. A Type 2 situation is one where you are struggling during the moment and will likely remember it as a negative experience.

If you train yourself to recognize the potential growth opportunities of a Type 2 situations while in the midst of one, you can focus on how you can learn and grow from the struggle instead of dwelling on the struggle itself.

These strategies should be continuous processes that push you and keep you from becoming complacent. If you make a “wrong” decision, don’t dwell on your mistake (the “right” answer always seems obvious in 20/20 hindsight), but focus on how you can learn and grow from it.

If you consistently learn about yourself through self-reflection, open yourself to new ideas, take other people’s perceptions less seriously, push your comfortable limits with challenging goals, and learn to embrace failure, then you are well on your way to achieving personal growth.

Guest blogger: Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, is a triple major in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy; he is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.




This past spring break, members of the Missouri Botanical Garden Practicum team packed their bags and traveled 30 hours to Antananarivo, Madagascar—the capital city, known as “Tana.”

So, what is going on in Madagascar with two Center for Experiential Learning programs there (yes, there is Madagascar Sustainability Initiative, too)? The world’s fourth-largest island has a fascinating history, geography, and climate. Consequently, the country features tremendous biodiversity; in fact, more than 90 percent of all the plant species in Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world.

Therefore, Madagascar is of particular significance to conservationists and botanists. The Missouri Botanical Garden has been present in Madagascar for more than 30 years. They currently manage 13 ecologically unique sites around the country, collecting data and discovering new plant species each year. In short, the botanical garden has partnered with a CEL team of students to consult on improvements to their work in Madagascar while focusing on the future sustainability of the ongoing effort.

Prior to the trip, the team met with several staff members of the Missouri Botanical Garden, learning about the Garden’s history, goals, and efforts. Afterward, the staff gave them a tour of the research facility, with more than 7 million unique plants catalogued and stored in a botanist’s heaven. With this foundation in place, they were ready to venture to Madagascar to learn more.

The team set out on this trip with a mission in mind: To meet with the Missouri Botanical Garden’s staff in Madagascar and to learn about the operations and the conservation work of the organization at the national and local levels. Here is Laini Cassis’, MBA, ‘19, account of the trip on how they reached their goals during each day:

Diving into the First Day

On our first day in Tana, we met with the botanical garden’s staff members at their headquarters. The following day, we embarked on a full day of driving and sightseeing to one of the garden’s 13 conservation sites: Analalava, which is home to 12 plant species that are not found anywhere else on Earth. This protected forest on the east coast of Madagascar is home to lemurs, tree frogs, and bats—all of which we saw on a guided hike.

While at Analalava, we visited the site’s fishponds and tree nursery, and a local rural community called Fokontany Bongabe. While there, farmers brought us to their community garden, which generates additional income for their families. We learned about important crops such as vanilla and cloves.

The employees at Analalava work closely with surrounding communities like this one to create livelihood alternatives to protect the forest. It was incredible to see such community engagement for environmental action

Our stay at Analalava was rustic, but we had a fantastic time. We were lucky to not face a thunderstorm, or worse: a cyclone! Every meal included tropical fruits such as longans, pineapples, lychees, avocados, and coconuts (without straws). In such a rural place, the night sky revealed the dazzling Milky Way. We also went to the Indian Ocean and took a stroll along the beautiful beach in the nearby town of Foulpointe.

After another day of driving, we returned to Tana. The CEL team delved into our observations and reflections, and then presented to the MBG staff in Tana about our work objectives and project expectations.

On our final day in Madagascar, we did some sightseeing around the capital. We walked downtown, took some thrilling taxi rides, visited the highest point of the city, and toured the botanical garden and zoo. It was an eventful and eye-opening week, but it was time to leave Madagascar with another series of long flights.

Our team’s success and safety in Madagascar was largely thanks to the local Missouri Botanical Garden staff, who provided expert advice and guidance every step of the way—from ordering food to bargaining souvenirs, to handling logistical details.

We are thankful for the assistance that enabled us to focus on our assignment without disruption. Now recovered from jet lag, the team looks forward to crafting our final product and delivering impact to the Missouri Botanical Garden.




Ben Rosenkranz, MSBA ’18, BSBA ’17, wrote this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

Sports often connect people across regions and nations. Soccer is known as the world’s game and one CEL team got to experience this firsthand by traveling to Quito, Ecuador, to work with Independiente del Valle, an Ecuadorian soccer team competing in the country’s first division.

The CEL practicum student consulting team is helping Independiente capitalize on the momentum it gained following a Cinderella run to the final of the Copa Libertadores tournament in 2016 by building a new stadium, expanding its fan base, and increasing overall revenue. Learning about and getting immersed in the culture of fútbol and food helped them progress on their project.

We found it difficult to fully understand a client and a country simply through Google searches and a few Skype calls. Spending five days in Quito with our client gave us a much better perspective on how our client operates within the greater landscape of Quito.

Given that our project involves real estate—helping evaluate where in the region the team should build a stadium to optimize attendance growth and generate revenue—spending some quality time on the ground in Ecuador and seeing the stadium’s current location was imperative. We did our best to maximize the time we spent in the country. This led to many long days (and not as much sleep as we would have liked) as we jumped from presentations, to work sessions, to games and dinners with the client.

We started our trip with an extended presentation to the marketing team, but drastically refined it until our final meeting discussing our recommendations in front of the ownership group on our final day in Quito. In between, we experienced what it means to be a professional soccer club in Ecuador.

We spent time at the club’s impressive academy—it is said to be the second best in all of South America—we met academy and first-team players, coaches, and executives, and we spoke to anyone we came across about the current state of Ecuador soccer, politics, and culture.

Our faculty advisor, Juan Pablo Espinosa, seemingly knew everyone in the city. His introductions to his friends, family and colleagues, whether directly connected to Independiente or not, all provided us with further context on the opportunities and challenges of economic development in Ecuador.

We also immersed ourselves in Quito’s culture through our meals in local restaurants, long drives through beautiful valleys to the suburb where the team played, and visits to two vastly different soccer stadiums in the area. Through our travels, we developed a fondness for nata, a creamy Ecuadorian condiment, and an obsession with taxo, a fruit that looks like a cross between a banana and pomegranate.

We all improved our Spanish, testing it out when we appeared as guests on the club’s local radio show. We hopped in on a soccer scrimmage at the academy between the coaches and the trainers, and some of us showed them that Americans have a few fútbol skills as well.

In the end, we provided Independiente’s management team with four case studies of MLS teams that faced similar location and financing situations in the United States, providing a roadmap of references and best practices to follow when the final location is determined. The team was impressed with our progress at the halfway point, based on our presentation.

Going forward, we are looking to pivot a bit from the original scope to provide more directed recommendations based on the experience and knowledge we gained in Quito.

We were humbled to have the opportunity to represent the CEL and Olin in Ecuador and cannot wait to get started working on the second leg of our project, building on our current progress as seen by our client lead.

“We have had the opportunity to work in two projects with the CEL,” said Santiago Morales, CEO of Independiete Del Valle. “In both projects, we have received great ideas and valuable recommendations to increase fan engagement.”