FALL 2008 VOL. 9 NO. 2

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Sustainability Week at Smith

Smith faculty, staff and students are no strangers to business buzz phrases like “going green” and “social responsibility.” Sustainability Week at Smith featured Seth Goldman, co-founder and CEO of Honest Tea, the second annual Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) Conference, a discussion on global business, and a Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship session focusing on alternative energy as a business strategy.

Net Impact Events

Smith’s Net Impact chapter, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to improving society through business, sponsored two events geared toward full-time MBA students. Officers hoped to host events that would engage students and bring awareness to issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainability in everyday business.

Seth Goldman, CEO of Honest Tea

“We were honored to have Seth Goldman as our guest,” said Emily Chan, first-year student and Net Impact co-president. “The students in attendance said his lessons were really valuable and interesting.”

Goldman, Honest Tea co-founder and CEO, candidly shared stories of his start-up experiences and accomplishments. Just 10 years ago, Goldman began brewing homemade teas in his kitchen. The company enjoyed early success as he sold Whole Foods Market on his mock-up bottle (a Snapple bottle with an Honest Tea sticker) and several thermoses of different tea flavors.

With assistance from co-founder Barry Nalebuff, Goldman’s former business school professor, Honest Tea’s original investors have made 28 times their original 1998 investment. The company’s remarkable growth has been recognized nationally, with Coca-Cola purchasing a 40 percent interest in Honest Tea in February 2008.

Goldman told students he has no regrets about the path he and his company have taken. “What I’ve learned is illustrated in this Chinese proverb,” he said. “’Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it.’”

Cases ‘N Beer: Yahoo! in China and Global Business

Net Impact and more than 30 MBA students welcomed the opportunity to discuss the social and economic costs of global business operations with Dr. Shreevardhan Lele, Smith faculty member and Tyser Teaching Fellow.

The case discussion centered on Yahoo!’s compliance with the Chinese government’s request to divulge user identity and personal information. Dr. Lele led a group debate, surveying the group for issues and concerns about Yahoo’s actions.

“The discussion was engaging and enlightening,” said Adam Weiner, a first-year MBA student. “He encouraged people to share their thoughts and reflect on others’ ideas.”

Second Annual CEO Conference

Sponsored by students in the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program at the University of Maryland’s Shady Grove campus, this year’s CEO Conference featured speakers and panels focusing on current and timely issues in entrepreneurship.

The conference theme, “E*Generation: Entrepreneurship and the Environmental Renaissance,” attracted more than 180 students and professionals. Conference events included an entrepreneur business exhibition, networking opportunities, and the chance to win $500 in a Pitch Dingman competition.

Keynote speaker Doug Humphrey, a “serial entrepreneur,” kept the crowd laughing as he shared the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. His first company, Digex, was one of the first Internet service providers. In addition to starting three companies, Humphrey has held positions the boards of 20 companies. He was able to answer students’ questions, including when you should replace yourself, and the biggest problems he sees with entrepreneurs.

Dingman Center

Smith’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship hosted Michael Granoff and David Kirsch, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at Smith, to discuss Project Better Place and Granoff’s mission to reduce the world’s dependency on oil.

Project Better Place, a California-based electric car company, aims to reduce the environmental impact of driving by moving cars from the “oil grid” to the electrical smart grid.

Granoff and Kirsch’s areas of interest collided when Granoff was in a meeting with colleagues, and someone passed around Kirsch’s book, “The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History.”

The Smith audience asked many questions about the future of Project Better Place. Kirsch said he was glad students had a chance to learn about Project Better Place’s vision for the future of the electric car, and he was happy to speak with Granoff about the industry’s past.

  SMITH BUSINESS Magazine

Copyright 2008 Robert H. Smith School of Business