Twenty-seven minority business executives recently went back to school for a week.
The executives made up the 2015 class of the University of Washington Foster School of Business’s Minority Business Executive Program, a weeklong program for leaders of minority- and women-owned businesses.
“Going into it, I wasn’t excited to go back to school,” said Jacob Belarde, vice president of Washington-based Belarde Company Inc. “But I got so much out of it that I never expected. It was by far the most educational experience I’ve ever had, and it broadened my whole sense of smart business management.”
Lectures, panel discussions, and group sessions focused on strategy, leadership, supply chain management, accounting, and marketing. This year’s program added three panels, on best practices for fast-growing companies, doing business internationally, and marketing to large corporations.
“The first two panels featured leaders from companies who are experienced in these areas and they shared some of their own stories regarding what they have learned,” said Jennifer Lang, director for executive education at Foster. “The third panel had leaders from Boeing, Starbucks, and Skanska who shared their perspectives on what they are looking for from suppliers and partners.”
“There was a lot of leadership talk, which I found very useful,” Belarde said, particularly Professor Patrick Bettin’s two-day course on smart decision-making in leadership.
“The class brought together people from all facets of business. I’m in the construction business, there was a whiskey distiller, there was someone in advertising. It was interesting to speak about the differences, but even more, about the similarities we face,” he added.
Lang said the program had 13 “incredible” sponsors this year, one of which was Northwest Mountain MSDC. The Council originally conceptualized the MBE program, and then developed the program in partnership with UW, Zones, Inc., Microsoft, The Boeing Company, and Nordstrom, Inc.
Every year, the Council uses some of its scholarship funds—raised from events such as the upcoming golf scholarship fundraiser—to cover the program’s tuition for a handful of business leaders, like it did for Belarde this year. Belarde said receiving the $4,250 scholarship was his “driving force” to attend.
“I already told my project managers, I’m putting them through this program,” he said. “It’s geared toward business owners, but anyone could benefit from it.”