See how our MBA students are impacting business in our own backyard (and across the globe.)

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Digitizing Cherished Family Memories for Easy Sharing


From Facebook photo albums to iPhone videos, it seems the majority of our everyday experiences and memories live in a digital format. But what do we do with treasured family archives from previous generations: home movies, cassette tapes, slides, baby books? All too often, the memories recorded within these assets lie dormant, as they can only be shared in person or with the aid of devices that have been obsolete for decades.  

Peggybank was founded to make such archives easily accessible, and Portland State alum Marcia Kapustin (MBA 2010) is now helping people preserve and share cherished family memories through her work as President and COO of Peggybank. A former touring director and producer for musical artists and bands such as Paul McCartney, Metallica and U2, Marcia now utilizes her entertainment background and MBA experience to usher cherished memories out of boxes and into a modern, crisp and easily shared digital format.

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Mobile Grocery Takes on Urban Food Deserts


Many Americans face significant barriers to following a healthy diet, and it’s an important issue that three Portland State MBA alumni are trying to resolve through their start-up venture, My Street Grocery. Initially named “Fork in the Road,” the venture started out as a project while Amelia Pape (MBA 2011) was taking Charla Mathwick’s “Pioneering Innovation” course. It had an initial goal of addressing urban “food deserts” — communities with little or no access to fresh produce, dairy and other healthy foods. The solution? A mobile, food stamp-authorized grocer that would bring healthy food options into underserved communities.

Later, Amelia teamed up with classmate Colin Gallison (MBA 2011), and they entered the 2011 New Venture Championship competition, winning $1,000 for Best Written Business Plan and $1,500 for the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) Lightning Round. They were soon joined by fellow PSU MBA alum Eric Johnson (MBA 1999), who had experience managing daily delivery of milk, eggs and other fresh food to nearly 400 7-Eleven stores in the Pacific Northwest and Bay Area.

Along the way, the venture received valuable assistance from Portland State’s Social Innovation Incubator (SII), which included networking support, professional service resources and guidance from other mission-based organizations. In October 2011, the team launched its pilot program, conducting more than a dozen stand-style markets — complete with pre-assembled meal kits and recipes — to affordable housing communities around Portland.

“The Portland State MBA program had a hand in every part of the decision to start this venture,” said Amelia. “From our classmates to the professors to the dean — people have really rallied behind us.”

The level of support from the PSU community became evident with a recent Kickstarter fundraising campaign that yielded nearly $13,000 to support the purchase or lease of a branded truck for additional mobile markets.

“The support and network has been huge for us,” added Colin, who was quick to credit faculty members such as Charla Mathwick and Cindy Cooper for their guidance and business connections. 

Bringing renewable energy to the developing world

When Greg Price, MBA class of 2009, was approached by the PSU business school to participate in a National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) program in Nicaragua, he was asked to "go to Nicaragua and innovate, with a focus on sustainability and poverty reduction."

From this experience in Nicaragua, Price saw an opportunity to develop a study-abroad curriculum at PSU around micro-enterprise and micro-finance. The new program allowed PSU to work with impoverished communities in Nicaragua to improve their quality of life, while offering students the opportunity to make a real impact with a hands-on immersion course. The program entails students traveling to Managua and surrounding areas to study local micro-enterprises and micro-renewable technologies' impact on economic and social development and environmental stewardship.

Micro-finance is a very important community development tool that is leveraged by entrepreneurs and enterprises in developing countries across the globe.

"My idea was to take experience I had getting immersed with the communities and the culture, take the resources we had, with the students and potential donors, sponsors and the university, and leverage those to build new curriculum to add to the MBA at PSU," Price explains.

For the inaugural Micro-Enterprise trip to Nicaragua, Price used industry connections in renewable energy he made when he founded a renewable energy firm, New Roots Energy, while earning his MBA at PSU. Sunlight Solar Energy partnered with New Roots Energy and donated five solar panels to the PSU program to help offset the costs of the initial development projects.

The PSU business student participants included eight Master of Business Administration and three Master of International Management students. The student participants worked closely with two non-profits, AsoFenix and Green Empowerment, to identify needs within the communities and help install the solar panels. The students were challenged with creating a business model to generate extra value from solar panels for farmers.

The solar panels donated by Sunlight Solar Energy were installed on houses in the communities that the students stayed in, and provided much needed electricity for lights, cooking and farm equipment. In addition, the solar panels were used to create a revolving loan program.

"One foundational learning experience in international development and community development is that you cant do give-aways. If you give something away, there is no value to it," Price explains. "We created payment methods that made sense to the communities and everybody else involved, and we created as much value as we could. This allows the communities to take pride in owning the panels and ensures that they are maintained. Every dollar we bring through PSU for the program goes back into this fund that Asofenix manages. Now, every time we go back, we have that pool to work out of for future projects."


Strategies by students win international award

Portland State business students worked with Portland Roasting Co. on a strategy to market the company as the top sustainable choice for socially and environmentally responsible consumers. Students conducted six months of research on the Oregon coffee micro-roasters’ Farm Friendly Direct program. The result of the collaboration was a case study that has won first-place honors at the prestigious oikos Global Case Writing Competition in corporate sustainability.

The three Master of Business Administration students and one Master of International Management student participated in a Case Study Fellowship, a select program in PSU’s Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability. The team met with Portland Roasting executives to assess their programs and provide strategic recommendations. Some team members even traveled to Central America to meet with suppliers and gain perspective on the company and industry.

Mellie Pullman, an associate professor of supply chain management and logistics at PSU, submitted the study and has been a driving force behind bringing sustainability-related case studies to Portland State.

“There are only a handful of universities in the United States that offer this case study opportunity to their students,” said Pullman. “In fact, Portland State was the only student team entered for this award and competed against more than 40 submissions from faculty teams.”

Pullman aims to make PSU known for sustainable business cases.

“Case studies expose students to real-world concepts. They have to deal with problems as if they are insiders in the company, which trains them to be decision makers,” said Pullman.

Mark Langston, an MBA student on the team said his group “brought a fresh set of eyes to a current business challenge. We were able to do a tremendous amount of concentrated research around the industry; talk to current and past customers, suppliers and industry experts; and then synthesize that information into some key business recommendations.”

Paul Gilles is the vice president of operations for Portland Roasting, a wholesale, internet and retail distributor. “It benefitted us to have someone outside the company use their expertise and give us their perception. They felt we weren’t selling our message strongly enough and weren’t differentiating enough. We took all of the recommendations provided and made changes to how we present the program.”

Not only do PSU students and regional businesses benefit but this case study is now being used by faculty and students in classrooms around the world.

Environmental impact of one loaf of bread

Dave’s Killer Bread’s vision is to make the world a better place, one loaf of bread at a time.

With that vision in mind, PSU MBA students worked with NatureBake, Dave’s Killer Bread parent company to look at the environmental impacts of one loaf of Good Seed Bread.

Internal reflection and personal redemption have been the driving force behind Dave’s Killer Bread. NatureBake was founded in Portland, Oregon by James Dahl in 1955 with the goal of being innovative in their use of whole grains and sprouted grains in their breads. NatureBake has grown to become a regional landmark in the bread industry, and is now run by three generations of the Dahl family. In 2005, James’ son, Dave, returned to the family business after years of being in and out of prison. He has followed his father’s footsteps of innovation by creating the Dave’s Killer Bread line of products.

Recently, other regional and national bakeries have launched organic brands, focused on environmentally sustainable agriculture and the reduction of facility admissions. While sustainability has always been part of NatureBake’s values, they felt they could continue to adapt, identifying what actions should be taken in order to retain a competitive advantage within the marketplace.

With this in mind, Portland State MBA Students Kylene Fickenscher, Adam Kohl, Ken Waineo, and Nate Young worked with NatureBake to analyze the life cycle of Good Seed Bread. The analysis was defined by those process functions over which Dave’s Killer Bread and NatureBake had immediate control and ability to change. In addition, the MBA team developed potential strategies for reducing the company’s impact via environmental and financial return on investment, feasibility, and impact on facility operations.

The end result was a plan that provided Dave’s Killer Bread with information that could be utilized to make rational, informed decisions that would lead to an improved social and ecological footprint for the facility and help Dave’s achieve its vision statement. This statement, and the values that underlie it, clearly permeate the entire organization, and help to drive strategic decisions as well.

In addition, the project established a baseline from which Dave’s Killer Bread can measure future performance. If, for instance, a capital project is undertaken, Dave’s Killer Bread can measure the effect relative to the baseline assessment. Particularly with intensity metrics or per loaf calculations provided for each input, Dave’s Killer Bread can measure its progress in future years regardless of growth.

Dave’s Killer Bread can also develop a robust marketing strategy to tell the story of its commitment to sustainability. There is a large and growing consumer base that is attentive to environmental concerns and most would be happy to make the switch to their products if they were aware of their environmental management practices.



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