Tag: Undergraduate



When Sky Zone CEO Jeff Platt, BSBA’06, pitched his idea for an indoor trampoline park during his Intro to Entrepreneurship class at Olin, he couldn’t imagine the growth and success he would experience in the decade ahead.

Free Style Jump at Sky Zone (from website)

Sky Zone has grown from its original locations in St. Louis and Las Vegas to 176 franchised parks in six countries. “Twenty-five million people will visit this year, generating more than $300 million in sales. Last year, Sky Zone’s corporate revenues were $50 million, with a 20% profit margin,” according to an article on the Forbes website.

Alumni in the newsPlatt tells Forbes that he doesn’t plan to sell his fitness/entertainment venture any time soon, “We created a billion-dollar industry from scratch,” he says. “There’s a lot left to accomplish.”

Link to article on Forbes.

Link to related blog post: Platt shares business tips with CNBC.

Photo: Jeff Platt, CEO of Sky Zone, jumps at a company outlet in Gardena, CA. (Photo by Robert Gallagher for Forbes)

 

CATEGORY: Career, News

Jerry Kent is a recognized entrepreneur and trailblazer in the telecommunications and technology industries with an outstanding track record for customer service and delivering superior returns for investors. Prior to assuming the role of TierPoint’s CEO, he served as its chairman. He also serves as CEO of Cequel III, which he co-founded in January 2002.

Cequel III is a technology management company. Previously, the Cequel III team built AAT Communications into the largest privately owned cell tower company in the United States before selling that enterprise in 2006. Cequel III and Jerry also managed Suddenlink Communications, building it into the seventh largest U.S. cable company with operating results among the best in its industry before it was sold to Altice Group in 2015 for an enterprise value of $9.1 billion.

Jerry began his career as a CPA with Arthur Andersen in 1979, and in 1983 left to head up acquisitions and finance for an upstart cable company, Cencom Cable Associates, Inc. He later became CFO of Cencom, which grew by acquisition and eventually served 550,000 customers in the U.S. before it was sold in 1991.

Jerry and Judy Kent sponsor the Kent Scholarship Fund which currently provides partial-to-full tuition scholarships for 18 BSBA students.
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

After serving a year with Cencom’s acquirer, Jerry left and co-founded Charter Communications, Inc., in January 1993. He led Charter to become one of the 10 largest cable operators in the U.S., serving 1.3 million customers. In 1998, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen acquired Charter, providing substantial rewards for Charter’s private investors. Jerry continued as President and CEO, growing Charter to serve more than 7 million customers and making it the nation’s fourth largest cable company at the time. The company went public in November 1999, in what was then the third-largest IPO in U.S. history. Charter consistently led the industry in superior operating results and from the IPO date until September 2001, the month Jerry left, Charter’s was the best performing public cable stock.

A native of the St. Louis metropolitan area, Jerry is very active in the community, serving on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee for his alma mater, Washington University, and on the Olin National Council from which he earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA. He is Vice Chairman of The Magic House/St. Louis Children’s Museum Board. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the St. Louis Zoo and Chairman of the St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission.

Source: Cequel III




“When I found out that our offices were literally across the street from each other,” Amanda Signorelli, BSBA’13, said, “we had to meet.” The newly named CEO of Chicago-based TechWeek, a conference and media company focused on building startup communities, couldn’t wait to meet Rick Weisberg, BSBA’81. After all, he had made it possible for her to graduate from Washington University.

Signorelli had just been named one of the Top 20 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017 by CIO.com and was preparing to share her success story at the Scholars in Business dinner last fall. Meeting Weisberg would provide an important piece of the story from her undergrad days.

During her sophomore year, Signorelli learned that her family was in financial straits and could not afford to pay for college; she would have to drop out of WashU. “It was terrifying,” Signorelli recalls. The prospect of leaving the school she had worked so hard to attend, and where she was happily pursuing interests in languages and entrepreneurship, was devastating.

Signorelli was unaware of the Scholars in Business Program and the generations of students, like her, that it has helped since 1979. She was overwhelmed when she learned that she qualified for a scholarship and would be able to stay in college and earn her degree at WashU. “It was amazing to see how connected the Olin network was, to sense I needed help, and they were there,” she said.

Signorelli was a recipient of the Lawrence Krulik Memorial Scholarship created in 1991 by Rick and Sheryl (BA’81) Weisberg in honor of her father. More than 25 students have benefited from the fund. Each year, the Weisbergs have received notes of appreciation and thanks from grateful Olin students, but until this past year, the Weisbergs had never actually met one of their scholarship students in person.

At their first meeting in a Chicago coffee shop, Signorelli told Rick Weisberg, “I don’t think you have a sense of just how important this scholarship was for me.” Amanda remembers the meeting as, “Very surreal. It was a really special moment for me.”

Amanda Signorelli and Rick Weisberg chat during video shoot for Scholars in Business Dinner.

The feeling was mutual for Weisberg. “Frankly it really hit me in a very, very positive way. I was very touched that she reached out to me. I never really fully understood the impact that the scholarship had made on her and others who received it because I never saw the outcome.”

Weisberg is quick to add that he takes no credit for Amanda’s success. “If I helped her on her path that’s one thing, but you know it’s up to the individual to find their path and be successful at it.” Weisberg found his path and passion in finance while at Olin. He says he will never forget the support and encouragement he received from Dean Bob Virgil when applying to graduate school at New York University. “Dean Virgil set up an interview for me with the dean of NYU’s business school. Thanks to that conversation, I was accepted into the MBA program right out of WashU and it changed my life.”

On Giving

“I’ve been involved in a lot of organizations, whether it’s been in in the theater, religious, or otherwise, but I have not found a better organization than Washington University both in terms of the purpose of donations and in terms of the operational side of the equation. The attention to detail in terms of the care that you feel from the university prior to the contribution, during the contribution, and after, it seems seamless and effortless and actually makes it a very pleasurable experience, and it’s just a great place to be a part of.”   – Rick Weisberg

After 26 successful years with Goldman Sachs, Weisberg continues to work as a private investor. He has remained connected to WashU through the Eliot Society and the regional cabinet in Chicago where the Weisbergs have lived since 1988. Meeting Amanda, Weisberg admits was a learning experience. “It has re-motivated me in a very positive way to re-think my philanthropic process. When you give to a large organization you know you’re doing something good, but you never directly see the outcome. In the case of the scholarship program, you know there is a proportionate and direct impact from what you provide.”

Amanda Signorelli will never forget the impact that the Weisberg’s generous gift had on her life. And now that she has connected with the fellow alumnus and donor who made it possible, she realizes she is a part of the Olin network that will be there to support the next generation of students with time, money, mentoring, and friendship.

Link to Entrepreneur’s Business Rockstars video with Amanda Signorelli.

Link to 2016 Scholars in Business Dinner video featuring Bob Virgil and Amanda Signorelli.

CATEGORY: Career, Student Life



Alumni in the news

Congratulations to three Olin alumnae named among the Most Influential Business Women of 2017 by the St. Louis Business Journal. The awardees are accomplished business leaders from a wide range of industries and markets throughout the region. They also have made a difference in their own communities and at various nonprofit organizations.

From left: Sara Hannah, BSBA’01, Managing Partner, Barry Wehmiller Leadership Institute; Shelley Lavender, EMBA’03, President of Boeing Military Aircraft, a business unit within Boeing Defense, Space & Security; Theresa Ruzicka, MBA’86, President of Catholic Charities of St. Louis

CATEGORY: Career, News



We can’t believe the founders of the Bear-y Sweet Shoppe have all graduated and sold their startup to the next generation of entrepreneurs! We remember when they were launching their kickstarter campaign back in 2014. Time flies when you’re having fun, selling candy to sleep-deprived undergrads with a sweet tooth jones for peanut butter cups and gummy bears to fuel a long night of studying. The Sweet Shoppe was a brilliant startup idea and it has been a success…let’s hope it’s here to stay and will become a campus landmark and role-model for future student-run businesses at WashU.

Founders of the Bear-y Sweet Shoppe

Poets & Quants featured the Sweet Shoppe on its site following the selection of co-founder Jessica Landzberg as one of the Best & Brightest Class of 2017 Undergrads. Be sure to read the P&Q story here.

Landzberg told P&Q that the idea for the candy story was inspired by her visits to her older sisters when they were students at the University of Rochester where there was a campus candy store.

“The hardest part was making it legitimate,” she says. “We had to file as an LLC, and we had to get many, many licenses, because we’re selling food. We had to make sure we were doing everything by the book – getting our licenses and filing taxes as a business.”

Check out the Sweet Shoppe’s website for news about the second generation of owners and their plans for next year.

For more info on the Student Entrepreneurship Program (StEP), click here.