UW-B taps into business
March 16, 2009 · Updated 11:21 PM
Freytag, Gekler head up development center
Since its founding in 2006, the Business Development Center at the University of Washington, Bothell, has worked with businesses ranging from a new Amoco franchise to a computer hardware refurbishing company that was pulling in an annual revenue of $50 million.
In the case of the Amoco, center Director R. Brooks Gekler said the new owner isn’t ready for a team of business students to descend on him. For now, Gekler seems to be offering some general guidance.
In the case of the hardware firm, Redapt Systems, Inc., a student team certainly did visit the business, providing help with Internet marketing.
Over the years, the center also has worked with various nonprofit and community-based groups such as the Northshore Performing Arts Center and Special Olympics of Washington. They have or will be working on some marketing schemes for downtown Bothell, and the city of Edmonds has asked for something similar.
Gekler states the center has three main goals. The first is to provide business owners and managers with guidance and planning aimed at better management of those businesses, always keeping an eye toward growth. A second goal of the center is providing students at UW-B and several partner schools with hands-on, real-world experience, overseen, of course, by Gekler and various professors.
“All of that comes together to drive economic development in our cities and communities,” Gekler added about goal No. 3. “It’s a win-win.”
Not surprisingly, as the economy continues to shudder and shake, demand is up for the business center’s free services. In fact, sitting in his small, one-man office on the UW-Bothell campus, Gekler said there is a definite need for the center to grow. Still, he doesn’t want to discourage any business owner or operator from contacting the center. UW-Bothell has several college-based partners and can refer business owners to other organizations if that seems appropriate.
“We really have enormous resources,” Gekler said.
Associate director of the UW-Bothell business program, Walter Freytag is the founder of the business center. He noted the program (and, of course, its clients) can make use of students ranging from those at its community-college partners to those in UW-Bothell’s Master of Business Administration program.
“We can offer the businesses who visit a wide range of services, and our students can see their education put into practice in an exciting, real-world environment,” Freytag said.
According to its Web site, since Freytag launched the center, the enterprise has completed at least 28 student consulting projects; conducted 45 one-on-one consulting projects; and engaged more than 120 students and 10 faculty members at UW-Bothell and its partner institutions. The provided services are valued at more than $300,000.
Gekler said the first step when a business owner walks through the door is figuring out what help that business owner needs.
“Sometimes, they just want to grow, but they just don’t know how to do that,” Freytag said.
Gekler said the center can attack, but isn’t necessarily limited, to three areas of expertise. Growth and marketing plans directly involve a business’s bottom line. The center can help enterprises manage costs and control budgets, something particularly important in the current economic environment. Human resources is another area with which the center can help. Freytag said that attracting and retaining good people, especially in the retail sector, is a repeated concern.
Gekler offered that handling technology is a fourth issue that often arises.
Bellevue Community College is the business center’s most recently added partner, but others include Cascadia, Edmonds, Everett, Lake Washington and Shoreline community colleges. Gekler likes to say the center can serve any enterprise in a geographic swatch from Everett to Bellevue.