Feature Friday: Apple-A-Day

by Kelsey Knutson7. June 2013 10:45


I hate to admit it, but my breakfast typically consists of chugging a cup of coffee on the way out the door.  And if I need to boost productivity at work, I pour another dose of caffeine.  The thing is, I’m not the only who is guilty of this.  In an effort to maximize our efficiency at work, we consume unhealthy food and beverages because it is quick, easy, and readily available.  This is the same phenomenon observed by Apple-A-Day.         

Dedicated to promoting health, the company brings fresh Washington apples weekly to their clients, benefiting employers, employees, and local businesses.  Employers are able to increase productivity and morale (visit their website to read more on this).  Providing apples to employees helps increase health but also makes employees feel valued (which is a form of motivation).  Employers are also giving back to the community, left over apples are donated to local charity and food banks.  The apples themselves are fresh, come in a variety of types, and support local business.    

These Washington apples are grown locally (in Yakima and Wenatchee).  Then Peterson Fruit (a family-owned fruit wholesaler) picks up the apples and brings them back to Mukilteo, WA.  Apple-A-Day then drives early Monday morning to pick up and deliver these fresh apples.  The point is, these local businesses are able to work together which allows for fresh and affordable products coming directly to you.  

Apple-A-Day started in 2009, when father of Danielle and Megan LaRiviere saw an opportunity.  The seed was planted while he was sitting in the lobby of a business, and saw that water and apples were made available to customers.  He then told his daughters about the idea and the rest is history.  

While attending WSU the girls work remotely; finding clients, making sales, and recruiting talent (Driver Edgar Gudino has been a part of the team since 2010).  During the summers, Danielle and Megan would continue to grow the business in their hometown of Yakima, WA. 

At WSU Danielle studied Entrepreneurship, which led to business plan writing and participation in competitions.  In 2012, her team received “Most Passionate” at the WSU competition and placement in the top 36 out of 101 teams at the UW competition.  But it didn’t stop there.  Upon graduation, Danielle teamed up with Alexia Schmidt (B.A. in Sociology from WSU) to bring Apple-A-Day to Western Washington.

Today they still serve the Yakima area but have also experienced growth.  They have over 80 accounts in the Bellevue/Kirkland area, and just launched delivery to Seattle on June 3, 2013.  They also received ‘Best New Innovative Product of 2013’ by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.  All in all, this is a great example of the impact small business can have and the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive at Washington State University.  Visit the Cougar Business Network to find more Coug owned businesses and Go Cougs!



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Business Development | Entrepreneurship | Feature Friday | Small Business

Feature Friday: College Hill Custom Threads

by Kelsey Knutson31. May 2013 12:21

College [noun]: company, group; specifically: an organized body of persons engaged in a common pursuit or having common interests or duties. 

Hill [noun]: a usually rounded natural elevation of land lower than a mountain.

Custom [adjective]: made or performed according to personal order.

Culture, in the business world, is used to portray the core-ness of a company.  It describes how people within the business think, feel, and act.  In the case of College Hill Custom Threads, their culture stems from a long line of leadership, philanthropy, and community.  These cornerstones were developed through their personal experiences in the greek system.  In the beginning, the team focused on designing shirts for greeks, by greeks.  They were able to relate to customers, identify their needs, and provide competitive prices.

The greek system may be comprised of multiple chapters but they come together to make a difference in their schools and across the world.  In the university setting, this pride is experienced as fans set aside their different interests to cheer on their team.  Similarly, businesses are comprised of various departments and groups who all rally around a common mission.  This is why CHCT isn’t just for greeks in college, its for everyone who is a part of something. 

College Hill Custom Threads (CHCT), has grown to accommodate a wide range of clients.  Founded in Pullman, WA (hence the use of ‘hill’ in the name), the company has gained traction with the community, university, and nation.  With this recognition, they have expanded, opening a new office in Seattle, WA.   

After talking to Owner, Tony Poston, I learned about the key factors that make this company noteworthy.  Their strong internship program provides experience and college credit opportunities for WSU students.  Sales reps across the nation are given the chance to earn some income and represent their schools.  Their full-time staff is comprised of WSU, U of I, and Boise State alumni who collectively form a robust team.

We, as Cougs, should embrace the spirit CHCT evokes (read the last Feature Friday to learn more about Cougs doing business with Cougs.)  Also, as a business community, we need to admire the innovative nature of this company.  Their ability to be proactive rather than reactive contributes to their continued success. 

Ultimately, CHCT is comprised of talented young-minds who enjoy what they do and continue to do it better.  For example, the daunting task of purchasing large orders is now all done online (thank you CHCT.)  In this case they identified a problem of inefficiency and implemented a solution.   As for future innovations, there are many ideas on the horizon for CHCT.  Follow them on twitter, facebook, their blog, to find out more.   

Welcome to Seattle College Hill Custom Threads and Go Cougs!

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Business Development | Entrepreneurship | Feature Friday | Small Business

Feature Friday: CougsFirst!

by Kelsey Knutson17. May 2013 10:25


When I was on vacation in Hawaii, I saw an older man wearing a Coug hat.  I had always heard the adage, ‘once a Coug, always a Coug,’ and figured I should test it out.  So, I waved at the guy and yelled, “Go Cougs” and guess what?  He smiled and said it back.

I’ve witnessed Cougar pride throughout my college education, but talking to a total stranger and bonding over our love for WSU made me realize that the Cougar family really is something special.  There is a sense of comradery and compassion that infects people beyond their educational years, it becomes a part of who they are for the rest of their life.

Its obvious we have no problem bonding with strangers or with the person cheering next to us at a football game.  So why can’t we do something more with this sense of pride?  That is where CougsFirst! enters the picture.

CougsFirst! is comprised of a group of passionate leaders dedicated to promoting Coug-influenced businesses to the WSU community.  Their mission is simple; when you’re thinking of buying something, buy from a Coug.  

So, the question becomes, how do you find out about these companies? CougsFirst! and the WSU Alumni Association started by introducing the Cougar Business Network.  Anyone can join by becoming a member.  After joining, the individual or business is then given access to the network, which allows users to search and post jobs and browse businesses.

Then CougsFirst! brought the online community to life through a trade show.  It was the first ever of its kind where the only commonality was a love of Washington State University.  Everything from coffee and cheese to banking and insurance was represented.  Ultimately, Cougs were able to find out more about each other’s businesses, businesses were able to build customer relationships, and I finally joined Wine By Cougars.  What’s the moral of the story? It worked.

As for the future of CougFirst!, we need your help.  I encourage you to do two things. 1. Register to the Cougar Business Network, you will be surprised what businesses and people you will find.   

2. Talk to us, share your ideas, because ultimately this group is about connecting people and helping each other out.

Join Cougar Business Network and ‘like’ CougsFirst! on Facebook to find out more.  

The Backbone

by alexisholzer15. May 2013 08:14


I know you’ve heard it: small business is the backbone of our economy and they are the job creators of America. As I traveled the backbone of Washington’s highway system last week, that phrase kept rolling around in my head. From a visit with an Auburn small business owner, to WSU Vancouver’s Business Growth MAP celebration, and finally the SBA Small Business Awards Gala, I know this statement to be true.

The first stop on my journey was Auburn to meeting with Pete Agtuca at his manufacturing facility. The remarkable thing about Pete isn’t that he’s Seattle Business Magazine’s 2013 Manufacturing Innovator of the Year (small firm), or even that he has invented low-cost and portable Powersails that could support disaster relief workers and other small businesses like his own by offsetting energy costs and providing advertising space. The thing I find most compelling about Pete is that he was late for our meeting because he was picking up supplies from Home Depot (they got his order wrong). Here’s a guy who owns multiple successful companies (no doubt 3 Phase Energy Systems will become equally if not more successful than his Laser Cutting Northwest or Pacific Air Cargo Transfer) and is still picking up orders from Home Depot. That to me is the quintessential example of a small business owner. One week you are accepting a prestigious award from Seattle Business Magazine, and the next week you are dealing with the day-to-day duties to ensure you remain successful. Hard work comes hand in glove with owning a small business. Don’t worry about Pete though; he’s poised to expand 3 Phase Energy System to a facility across from his current manufacturing facility. There’s another thing about small business: they expand where they are, continuing to support the communities where they live providing jobs right here in our region. By the way: he’s looking for interns!

From Auburn, it was off to Vancouver to participate in WSU Vancouver’s Business Growth Mentor & Analysis Program awards celebration. In a few words, this program pairs teams of business students in a capstone class with a mentor to provide recommendation reports to small business owners in the greater Portland/Vancouver area, and has been steadily growing over the last three years. These student and mentor teams identify barriers to business growth, do market research, and provide recommendations through a professional presentation. Ensuring actionable reports and sustainability, mentors remain in contact with the business to ensure that they are able to successfully implement the recommendations. Or in one case, the business owner hires the student team outright! It was clear that this program is working: students are getting professional experience working directly with small business, mentors are able to give back to their community, and the small businesses are able to overcome their business growth barriers through engagement with higher education. It’s worth noting too that the major supporters of the program are two large banks, Chase and US Bank as well as Foster Wealth Advisors. The keynote speaker from JP Morgan Chase highlighted several times in her speech, the importance of small business, not only for Chase’s bottom line, but for the role they play as the foundation for any community by empowering ‘everyday people’ to play an active role in the economy. As communities are strengthened, so in turn is the business climate. The cycle continues.

My week ended at the Museum of Flight with an inspiring evening at the 2013 Small Business Administration Small Business Awards Gala. By invitation from the Washington Small Business Development Center, I was able to hear from a variety of individuals about their daily struggles, business triumphs, and pride in their ability to support others through providing jobs in their communities. Most often, I heard how they never could have done it alone. Between business advisors who are now friends, small banks that are champions for their success, and the countless others that helped them along the way, the sense of community that operating a small business fosters in our corner of the United States was apparent.

I also had the chance to meet some of my new colleagues in economic development. You heard it here first: we are excited to announce that the WSU Small Business Development Centers will now be a part of the Office of Economic Development, beginning July 2013. Nothing will change about the impeccable business advising the centers’ advisors provide to the hundreds of Washington businesses annually, however we are excited to explore possibilities for expanded business services through integration with the university’s economic development arm.

In sum, if there is one thing to be learned about small business success: it takes a village. It might take one person’s vision, but it takes a village to get a business off the ground. It takes a village to sustain and grow a small business through collaboration and commercial support. Most importantly, it’s more fun to celebrate a small business’s success with a village. I hope the next time you happen to meet a small business owner in your own village, you will take the time to tell them how much they do for your community. They are, after all, the backbone.  

Women swept five of the six awards, including Small Business of the Year (not pictured)

Women swept five of the six categories of the evening, including Small Business of the Year winner Jill Blankenship, owner of Frontline Call Center on San Juan Island (not pictured).


Business Development | Education | Entrepreneurship | Small Business