Tag: Professional MBA

Seventeen WashU Olin student-led startup firms each received a $1,000 grant from the Holekamp Seed Fund over the past academic year. The grant program, initiated in 2018, has granted a total of $44,000 to 40 companies since then.

The program is the brainchild of Cliff Holekamp, MBA ’01, Olin’s former professor of practice and academic director for entrepreneurship. The program is built to provide up to 20 grants each year thanks to a $500,000 gift from Holekamp and his father Bill Holekamp.

“It’s exciting to see not just student interest in the Holekamp Seed Fund doubling but also the continued excitement and energy around entrepreneurship at Olin and WashU,” Cliff Holekamp said of the 2022 grantees. “WashU students have exceptional and big ideas to change the world. We’re proud to be the first money in to support them.”

The number of applications doubled from 11 to 22 year-over-year, with grantees rising from 10 to 17.

Grant applications are evaluated by a panel that includes Holekamp and Doug Villhard, Olin’s professor of practice and academic director for entrepreneurship. The four-member panel also includes II Luscri, assistant vice provost for innovation and entrepreneurship, and director of the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Elise Miller Hoffman, AB ’11/MBA ’16, and a general partner at Cultivation Capital, Holekamp’s venture capital firm.

“We encourage students to courageously move beyond the brainstorming phase, by turning their ideas into action and their concept into a company,” Hoffman said. “It’s my pleasure to review their applications, offer advice and seed the next generation of innovation. Our students are beyond inspiring.”

The 2022 Holekamp Seed fund recipients include:

  • St. Louis Consulting Group, Samuel Holliday, MBA ’23
  • bonhome, Jacob Wise, MD ’23/MBA ’23
  • Ice Cream for Bears, Tim Berg, MBA ’22
  • Closet Switch, Chiara Munzi, AB ’23
  • Vulvopedia, Najjuwah Walden, PhD/MSW ’18
  • NXTUP, Nathan Genstein, MBA ’22
  • SpanAbility, Ritvik Illindala, EN ’23
  • SpeakIT, Kai Skallerud, AB ’17/MBA ’22
  • VertiGreens, Dave Kanoff, BSBA ’12/MBA ’22, and Tova Feinberg, MBA ’22
  • Got Sure, Felipe Cuartas, MBA ’22
  • Utter, Justin Matthews, MBA ’23
  • Lyfe Health, Tony Sims, BSBA ’23
  • The pcBEE, Tyler Richards, BSEE ’22
  • Pool, Rebecca Brosch, PMBA 51, and Sarah Ramrup, PMBA
  • Sobriety Hub, Clayton Canfield, BSBA ’23

“We’re fortunate to have supporters like the Holekamp family and alumni like Elise who are passionate about Olin, WashU and our students,” Villhard said. “What a wonderful example of how a donor can really impact our students and help to encourage their dreams and career trajectory.”

Tim Berg, MBA

You might say this partnership is just the bees’ knees. Two Olin alums have joined forces thanks to a common ingredient between their two products: honey.

Cam Loyet, PMBA ’21, and cofounder of Honeymoon Chocolates, has partnered with Timothy Berg, MBA ’22, founder of Ice Cream for Bears. Both promote the benefits of honey as the sweetening agent in their respective confections.

The two companies are selling out of the same Clayton, Missouri, storefront.

“Honey is having a moment,” Berg said. “Consumers are educated on it and looking for it. Products that are sweetened only with honey are just starting to appear though, so I feel like our companies are hopping into the ring at a perfect time.”

Loyet’s chocolate brand opened its first retail location in January not far from the WashU campus in nearby Clayton at 16 N. Central Ave. As of now, Berg is scooping his ice cream from the same location as the two honey-based companies use their hive minds to stick together and work smart. He said it was “an amazing opportunity to get valuable exposure for our very young product.”

“It’s always fun watching students take their startups from the classroom and apply them in the real world,” said Doug Villhard, the academic director for Olin’s entrepreneurship program, who coached both startup founders. “Especially when two WashU MBA entrepreneurs partner on a honey of an idea.”

Loyet said the partnership emerged because he and Berg have like-minded products with a focus on sourcing sustainable honey. They’ve shared contacts from the location where they source their honey—Jeff Weaver, an apiarist in Bourbon, Missouri. He said both he and Berg found a lot of support in launching and testing new products in St. Louis.

“I personally see this as a long-term collaboration—as long as we can both continue to find honey,” Loyet said. He credits his collaboration with Villhard and the WashU community for helping get Honeymoon Chocolates off the ground. “Honeymoon had very little traction before WashU. I gathered mentors and a team that made traction and sales possible.”

Berg also credits the “unbelievable impact” of the WashU community. “Anytime I need help, there’s someone in the WashU network a phone call away with the experience and knowledge I’m looking for,” he said. “Even the spot where I manufacture is a result of WashU connection.”

Pictured at top: Tim Berg, MBA ’22, and Cam Loyet, PMBA ’21, have partnered their companies in promoting honey-centric products: Loyet’s Honeymoon Chocolates and Berg’s Ice Cream for Bears.

Kelsey Wortmann, PMBA 49 (with book), asked a question of Ron Christie (on screen, left) during the 90 students

The return to a sense of normalcy and traditional in-person events continued in late April as more than 90 PMBA students arrived in Washington, DC, for their two-day residency at the Brookings Institution.

Students arrived for the trip in time for dinner on April 27 and spent the next two days in conversation with noted political insiders, media experts and policy wonks—all in service of connecting the dots between business, government and policy.

More than 90 PMBA students from four different cohorts went to Washington, DC, in late April 2022 for their two-day residency at the Brookings Institution.

“We spend so much of our time optimizing our market strategy, but there are so many other factors at play,” said Archie Karanwal, PMBA class 48, a product owner at Edward Jones. He said the Brookings residency was a great opportunity to gain an understanding of some of those other factors.

Indeed, the trip is a manifestation of Dean Mark P. Taylor’s oft-stated desire that every WashU Olin student have a Brookings experience during their time. The April residency included students from four different PMBA cohorts: classes 46, 48, 49 and 50. The two-day visit even included an evening tour of DC monuments among the activities on April 28 and 29.

Ian Dubin, associate dean and managing director for WashU at Brookings, exhorted the students to bring their own experiences and professional work with them as they listened to and engaged with the speakers, who covered topics including cyber-security, the government regulatory process and Congress.

“It’s not all like cable news here in Washington, where people are yelling at each other all the time, believe it or not,” Dubin said.

Speakers included Ron Christie, CEO of Christie Strategies and former deputy assistant to the vice president for domestic policy under Dick Cheney, who shed light on the more subtle interactions that occur among policy makers and elected officials—and who reinforced the importance for business leaders of understanding that process.

Students from PMBA 48 including Courtney Kube, left, and, from right, Archit (Archie) Karanwal and Ashley Dowd, went on a nighttime tour of the DC monuments during their April 2022 residency in Washington. Archie’s significant other, Swati Patel, white coat, joined the tour.

Those connections were not lost on Kelsey Wortmann, PMBA 49, a product planner at Emerson. “I hadn’t realized how actual work gets done in Washington. I never really thought before about how easy it is to make connections.”

Other speakers included:

  • Michael Fitzpatrick, director of global strategy and innovation, Google; former associate administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget
  • Jim Papa, senior vice president and managing director, Global Strategy Group; host of Staffer podcast; former special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; former House and Senate senior staffer 
  • Susan Page, author and Washington bureau chief, USA Today 
  • Steven Chabinsky, former deputy assistant director, cyber division, FBI 
  • Hon. Albert Wynn (D-MD), senior director, Greenberg Traurig LLP; former member, energy and commerce committee, US House of Representatives 
  • An assortment of foreign policy experts.

Pictured at top: Kelsey Wortmann, PMBA 49 (with book), asked a question of Ron Christie (on screen, left) during the 90 students’ visit to DC for a two-day residency at the Brookings Institution.

Who doesn’t love chocolate? Especially when it’s free!

Honeymoon Chocolates, cofounded by Olin alum Cam Loyet, PMBA ’21, is hosting its grand opening of its chocolate factory from 3–7 p.m. this Saturday. The address: 16 North Central Avenue in Clayton, Missouri.

Honeymoon Chocolates, in Clayton, Missouri.

Free drinking chocolate, chocolate samples, baked goods and merchandise will be available, and the first 30 people to come will receive a gift. Masks are required.

Honeymoon Chocolates crafts bean-to-bar chocolate sweetened with raw honey.

“We are chocolate makers in solidarity with our cacao farmers through pledging to pay a premium for all cacao purchased,” Loyet said in an email. “We donate to honeybee research and purchase directly from beekeepers.”

Loyet co-founded the company with his now wife, Dr. Haley Loyet. The brand evolved from a dorm room in 2016 to a team of five and the Clayton location. In 2021, Arch Grants awarded the business $50,000.

Top photo: Founders Cam Loyet and Dr. Haley Loyet.

The St. Louis Business Journal recently announced its 40 Under Forty Class of 2021, a set of young leaders the publication expects to feature in the next decade. This year’s list includes Ryan Harbison, MBA ’19, a US Marine veteran who now serves as general manager and vice president of business operations at Breeze Helicopters.

Harbison was an outstanding student at Olin. He was a Charles F. Knight Scholar and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honors society. Before coming to WashU, Harbison received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History at Colgate University, where he also served as a volunteer firefighter. He then spent 10 years as a Marine pilot and flight instructor.

‘Olin bridged the knowledge gap for me’

“Olin was instrumental in preparing me for life in the ‘civilian’ business world,” Harbison said. “While the Marine Corps provided me with a set of skills that have also been beneficial, Olin bridged the knowledge gap for me between a largely liberal arts background and the hard skills I needed to feel confident entering the business world.”

Harbison is also grateful for the Olin Veterans Association, of which he served as president in 2019. “The OVA was one of the main reasons I choose Olin,” he said. “Washington University has a robust veteran network and actively engages transitioning veterans. Our cohort of students worked hard to increase the OVA’s presence in the community while also trying to bolster veteran numbers at the school.”

‘Outstanding entrepreneurship program’

Harbison also said he benefited from Olin’s “outstanding entrepreneurship program. I had the opportunity to work with several start-ups during my two years in the MBA program. Those were very enjoyable and beneficial programs, and I learned a tremendous amount from the founders of the companies that my groups partnered with.” 

The St. Louis Business Journal will host an awards ceremony for Ryan Harbison and the other 40 Under Forty nominees on Thursday, November 18, at the St. Louis Marriott Grand Hotel. Tickets are available online.

Wade Miquelon, MBA

Shares of JOANN Inc. jumped nearly 5% on their first day of trading after the arts and crafts retailer raised $130.8 million in an initial public offering. The fabric and craft retailer is led by CEO Wade Miquelon, MBA ’89.

The company is listed on NASDAQ under the symbol JOAN. It announced its intention to go public in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on February 16.

Although the company suffered from declining revenues before the pandemic, a rise in at-home crafting and sewing has prompted a 38% growth in sales since May 2020.

Miquelon told Forbes magazine that the pandemic is not the only contributor to the spike in sales. He said the company has been able to play into “solid trends” of “more do-it-yourself, a lot more personalization, and major movements on market exchanges like Etsy and Shopify” that have been building over the past few years.

He also mentioned JOANN’s success in offering curbside pickup, supporting its online purchase options. According to Marketwatch, the company announced IPO terms on March 4, indicating its plan to offer 10.9 million shares at between $15 and $17 a share.

Although JOANN’s recent growth has been impressive, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business, the question for potential investors could be whether Joann can can successfully convert growth to net income, whether the market will keep growing, and whether the company will continue to drive down its debt.

However, JOANN’s transition into public offering is an opportunity for investors to gain a foothold in the craft and sewing market. Hopefully, consumers and investors alike will be able to capitalize on the recent rise in sales for JOANN, and enjoy reconnecting with at-home projects like sewing and crafting during this isolated time.

The company had 855 retail locations as of January 30 and a database of more than 69 million customers.

Pictured above: Wade Miquelon, MBA ’89.