FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 1l a u n c h m a g . c o
I S S U E E I G H T L A U N C H M A G . C O
Validate Your Business Idea
Mastering Digital Innovation
Larsen Toy Lab
B Revolution Consulting
Muddy Shoe Adventures’
2 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
By LARRY COX
Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship
MBA student Neal Bloom co-founded The Portfolium (theportfolium.com), an
interactive platform for visually showcasing one’s work, knowledge, projects
and experiences. Ideal for students of all ages, it allows career-seekers to go far
beyond the limits of the traditional resume to include media, photos, video, .PDF
documents and more! Customers may add a custom URL to further market
themselves, build their brand and found in Google searches! Social features built
into thePortfolium, such as messaging, commenting, liking, bookmarking and
sharing encourage connecting and collaborating with others across all fields of
study, as well as receive valuable feedback and ideas. Neal is currently targeting
University career centers; seeking to get The Portfolium distributed to students
and alumni searching for employment opportunities. With all of their work and
experience neatly organized in a portfolio, they will be well-prepared and
confident to connect with exciting job and internship opportunities.
Jennifer Estes (IMBA ’13) successful completed a KickStarter fundraising
competitor for her T-shirt line #SELFiE T, inspired by Facebook’s and Instagram’s
newest #selfie craze. The shirt has a mirrored logo, indecipherable to other. When
you see the #SELFiE in the mirror, you and everyone else can read it. Check out:
Recently, “Renny! The Original Bluetooth Home Ringer” was featured in USA
Today and The Fuser, headphones that increase your awareness of the natural
sounds while listening to music, made its debut on the Home Shopping Network
and in the New York Times. Both are products produced by Paul McCloskey III
(MBA ’11) and his company Ölens Technology. Along with his THE PERFECT
ARTICHOKE, a proprietary cooking time measuring scale, Paul celebrated all three
products making it to the next round of Walmart’s annual “Get On The Shelf”
Noelle Nguyen (PKE MBA ‘12) and her online shopping site American Love Affair
raised $30,840 in a crowdfunding campaign to spotlight little-known American
designers, all of whom manufacture their clothing in the USA at a remarkable
value. American Love Affair is currently home to such brands as Cut Loose
clothing, Terox footwear, and Rich & Skinny denim.
Erik Forbes Paxman (MBA ’07) entered his startup PAX Designs into the Intuit
Small Business Big Game Contest. Erik launched started PAX Designs, LLC in 2012
and in short time introduced its first product, University Nail Pax, a line of
officially licensed nail wraps at www.shopunp.com. He offers a line of custom
designed nail foils for collegiate fans to sport their school pride. Erik has licensed
with 34 schools around the United States and he is continuously looking to add
Darren Popek (MSEN ’12), the Graziadio School’s very first Master of Science in
Entrepreneurship program graduate) is launching his new business, Crafted
Beverage Company (http://craftedbevco.com/). It offers ready-to-drink fruit juice
and bar mixes made from preservative free, all-natural ingredients. Flavors
include cherry ginger, lemongrass lemonade, mint elderflower, lychee pear and
4 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
Before It’s Too Late
By YAEL GRAUER
ith rates of unemployed and
underemployed graduates at an
all-time high, many MBA grads
are putting their skills to the test
by attempting to start their own businesses,
either full-time or on the side. But before
diving into the deep end, validating a
business idea can help you determine
whether to pursue your solution for a
common problem, or replace it with some-
thing more viable, before you sink your life
savings on launching your new business or
An easy and inexpensive way to get
started is by providing a service; whether
that’s graphic design, consulting/coaching,
writing, or something else altogether.
Before ramping up advertising and
marketing, seek out those around you to see
if they are interested. If your friends and
acquaintances aren’t willing to pay for your
services, it’s far less likely that a stranger
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 5l a u n c h m a g . c o
FIND THAT FIRST
Instead of getting caught up in ask-
ing people whether your idea is good,
get started by finding that very first
“The first thing you should do is think
about one person you can help today,”
said Bridgett Hart, who worked in cor-
porate America as an executive before
branching out into a coaching business.
To validate the idea, she reached out to
women in her target market to deter-
mine whether they had parts of their
life with which they needed some extra
guidance. “Then I presented them with
the opportunity for an introductory
coaching session regarding the areas
that interested them.”
The sales came in, and she’s now in the
process of ramping up her business.
BACK UP YOUR IDEA WITH
While using word-of-mouth marketing
to find people around you for a ser-
vice-based business is an easy, effective
and inexpensive way to start, building
and developing a technical solution
(such as an app) raises the stakes sig-
Spending a lot of time researching your
target market is critical, and this goes
beyond collecting survey responses and
determining market value, says Brant
Cooper, co-author of New York Times
bestseller, The Lean Entrepreneur.
“Validation is not seeking out market
research that backs up your idea, or
going out to find evidence in support of
your theory. Rather, it’s trying to
disprove it; trying to eliminate your
experimental bias that we as human
beings are endowed with,” says Cooper.
Where many entrepreneurs go wrong,
he says, is when they buy into the myth
of the visionary, assuming that they
must have so much conviction in an idea
that they can simply skip over this nec-
essary step. But spending a lot of time
speaking with people in the industry
you’d like to target can help you answer
some pivotal questions; such as whether
or not they even have the problems you
think they have in the first place.
The key is to spend a lot of time
listening, observing behavior, and un-
derstanding deeply what a day in the
life is like for the people you’d like to
introduce an idea to.
“In the first interview, never mention
your solution,” Cooper recommends,
pointing out that many business owners
take the wrong approach by developing
a solution and then searching for some-
one who has the problem.
“Don’t just tell people you have an idea
and ask them what they think about it.
[Avoiding that] frees you up to learn
what pains they have and whether
there’s something solvable there,”
Your next step would then be to run
some experiments to see if people do
what they think they do, and whether
or not your solution would work for
them, ideally by developing a minimum
One widely publicized startup that
skipped this step was Color Labs—a $41
million disaster. Despite the very high
amount of venture capital funding and
a great deal of media buzz, the mobile
photo-sharing app received poor
reviews in the media and bad ratings in
the Apples iTunes store. The company
folded at the end of 2012.
LISTEN, LEARN, ADJUST
In stark contrast are startups that have
responded to customer feedback and
shifted their models accordingly.
Groupon is one such example. It started
as ThePoint.com, a site that allowed
users to start campaigns to organize
donation drives or group activities,
which would only take place if enough
people signed up and the ‘tipping
point’ was reached.
Another example is Instagram, which
started out as mobile app allowing
users to check into locations, plan
future check-ins and do a million other
things, before focusing primarily on
“For most of the successful
companies we know, it’s not that they
had this great idea and went out and
executed on it. Almost all of them had
to learn what the right thing was
before they became successful. Almost
all successful startups end up as some-
thing different than what they started
out as,” Cooper said.
So the listening doesn’t end after
launching a product or starting a ser-
vice-based business. “Once you have
one person that gives you money, that
first customer, you can track what they
need, by really listening and hearing
what they want and what you can
provide,” Hart says.
This allows you to improve on a service
or product and continue tweaking it,
while making some money in the
6 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
Muddy Shoe Adventures
By KATERI WOZNY
Pepperdine Full-time MBA alumnus Michael
Bennett (MBA ’06) has always been a travel
enthusiast at heart.
“My first trip was to Costa Rica at age 19. From
there, I’ve b een t o Guat em al a, M exi c o, C h in a ,
Switzerland, Norway and even spent five months of my
MBA program in Denmark. Every time I travel, I learn
more about myself. It is an inspirational aspect in my
life,” he says.
Bennett turned his traveling passion into his own
business this year by starting Muddy Shoe Adventures, a
company whose tours combine travel, physical adventure,
cultural interactions, nature, supportive group
environments, facilitated group discussions and personal
coaching that empower people to reconnect with
themselves through self-exploration.
“I was reading Deepak Chopra’s book ‘The Seven Laws
of Spiritual Success’ and in it he asked: If you had all the
time and money in the world, what would you do?
I decided I wanted to do two things: travel and help
other people reconnect with themselves through travel
experiences,” he says.
After graduating from the MBA program with a
concentration in global business, Bennett worked at the
Los Angeles Universal Preschool and then at Pepperdine’s
Graziadio School for Dr. Gary Mangiofico for seven years
doing corporate training and development. Along the
way, he learned that it was the “soft skills” of business
that made him want to help people and become an
“Team dynamics, organizational behavior and all of
those aspects were more interesting than the hard skills
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 7l a u n c h m a g . c o
“You may not walk away with perfect clarity, but our trips
are a start of this process of reflection by helping you create
the life that you truly want.”
(i.e. marketing, financing). I discovered that I liked
helping individual people grow professionally and
personally,” Bennett says.
With Muddy Shoe Adventures taking off this fall with
four trips, Bennett is constantly attending seminars, we-
binars and adventure travel events to help him identify
the current travel trends.
“It’s all about marketing and creating brand awareness,”
he says. “The travel industry is also unique in the fact
that most companies do not spend money on traditional
advertising. We have had many of our referrals through
word of mouth.”
Muddy Shoe Adventure’s programs focus on four areas:
• Who participants are as individuals
(values,strengths, passions and purpose)
• Where these people are right now in their lives
• Creating a vision for where they want to be in
• Developing a plan to reach these goals
Bennett’s research suggests that 65 to 75 percent of
Muddy Shoe Adventure’s clients will be women, likely
in their late 30s to early 40s, who want to try adventure
travel. He currently has a handful of customers who want
to embark on a self-examination journey.
“The programs force people to get out of their comfort
zones, let their guard down and be who they are. They’re
on a journey of physical and mental exploration,” he
says. “You may not walk away with perfect clarity, but
our trips are a start of this process of reflection by
helping you create the life that you truly want.”
On average, the tours cost $2,500 for a five-day program
and $4,000 to $6,000 for an eight-day program.
Once the trip is complete, customers have the option to
stay in touch with Muddy Shoe Adventures.
“Post-program, we hope participants will stay engaged
with us on our Facebook page. We also have
opportunities for clients to continue their journey of
self-exploration with their program leader through
follow-up coaching,” Bennett says.
As for the future of Muddy Shoe Adventures, Bennett
sees great growth.
“We’re going to leverage strategic partnerships to help
build awareness of our company. It’s critical to get our
name out there as quickly and effectively as possible, and
working with other adventure operators is the best way
for us to do that,” he says. “We also plan on engaging
corporate clients and working with individual travelers
and their friends and families on customized programs.
The possibilities are endless.”
Bennett credits Pepperdine’s MBA courses for helping
him become a successful entrepreneur.
“The MBA classes at Pepperdine taught me how to
play nicely with others, how to work in groups and
self-management skills to control the wave of emotions
that are an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial
process,” he says.
Bennett says for Pepperdine students wishing to become
entrepreneurs, it’s best to figure out which direction to
take at the beginning of the program.
“If you don’t know, talk to someone in the career depart-
ment or with one of the professors. Do your best to make
sure all of your courses are geared towards building the
business. The sooner you can figure out what you want
to do, the sooner you can use that as an incubator for
your company,” he says. n
8 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
O. Michael Bradshaw
By ALAN KRAWITZ
ome might call Orange County resident Michael
Bradshaw’s business venture, iBiblestory.com, a
wholesome collection of more than 200
Bible-themed stories and topics available as an
app for Android and Apple iPhones, divine intervention.
But, to Bradshaw, Master of Science in Technology
Management ’93, the venture was something he put
together in his spare time when not working on technol-
ogy management projects for a variety of aerospace and
defense industry contractors, including Boeing, Raytheon
and Northrop Grumman.
“The initial idea for iBiblestory sprang from my interest
in educating people on difficult subjects, such as math
and science,” Bradshaw said, noting that the actual
business started more than a decade ago.
“I always had an interest in Bible stories,” he explained.
“I talked to people in various user communities and they
said there would be a need for such a product as
Bradshaw, the sole proprietor of iBiblestory.com,
explained that hismaster’s thesis was about general
learning systems and had nothing to do with
iBiblestory.com specifically. But, Bradshaw’s abiding
interest in Christianity would eventually give way to an
One day, while flying for business, he had an epiphany
that his time in the air could be used more productively
by learning about the Bible. So, Bradshaw set out to try
and make it possible for people to learn about the Bible
in just 40 hours, or in one week with the use of interac-
tive apps as well as feature-length movies.
“The idea really grew out of my own lack of time to
learn enough about the Bible,” he said, noting that he
found the prospect of employing free apps to be very
Raised in Chicago by parents of European and
Afro-Caribbean heritage, Bradshaw said he was always
involved in volunteer teaching of Christian education,
multimedia music projects and worship services.
He added that while he always had an interest in religion
and prayer, it was “never his trade.”
Further, Bradshaw explained that his family was
instrumental in guiding him to the iBiblestory.com
venture. “My main influence in religion was
family-based,” he said.
Among some of Bradshaw’s early challenges included
the fact that at the time the site was launched around
2001, apps were not yet widely available as they are now
through channels such as iTunes and Google Play.
Bradshaw’s somewhat enviable position was that he was
ahead of the technology curve.
“I was basically waiting for mobile technology to
advance to the point where we are now—with
smartphones, iPads and other tablets—to allow
iBiblestory’s free apps to be readily downloaded and
used on-the-go,” he said.
While Bradshaw explained that the site’s apps are free
for download for both Android and iPhone systems, he
added that the site’s movies are competitively priced. The
apps are available through both iTunes and Google Play.
Some of the site’s Bible-based stories include Journey to
the Promised Land, Jonah the Whale and Seven Sayings.
While unsure of exactly how many downloads the site
has, Bradshaw estimates they are upwards of 10,000 at
Moreover, he said that growth of the mobile market and
the Internet helped to reshape his business.
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 9l a u n c h m a g . c o
Other challenges, Bradshaw said, included “developing
the right relationships” and staying “faithful to your
Asked about how Pepperdine helped with his entre-
preneurial vision, Bradshaw said the school helped him
answer some key questions.
“Pepperdine was amazing for me because my initial in-
terest at that time was finding out how managers make
decisions that eventually flow down into the workforce,”
He also said the school helped him form very “diverse
“Pepperdine entrepreneurs are highly focused and do
have goodwill,” Bradshaw continued.
When asked about advice for future and budding
entrepreneurs, Bradshaw suggested being modest and
learning from others’ successes.
“Everyone has the ability to have great impact on the
world,” he said, advising that entrepreneurs keep their
egos in check and instead concentrate on how they can
make positive impacts on the world.
Bradshaw also gave some pointed advice.
“Take some people you can study,” he advised. He also
said that simply asking people about the personal goals
that led to their success is very beneficial.
“Potential entrepreneurs need to hear stories of success
and see how people made their own paths in order to
“I was basically waiting for mobile tech-
nology to advance to the point where
we are now—with smartphones, iPads
and other tablets—to allow iBiblestory’s
free apps to be readily downloaded and
10 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
By ALAN KRAWITZ
y his own admission, Alameda, CA resident Stefan
Hofmeyer (Executive MBA’12) already had the
good life with a family he adored, a stable senior
management job, a house in a good neighbor-
hood, and a sailboat to spend weekends on in the San
But, his decision to pursue an MBA at Pepperdine was not
so much a function of his desire to fulfill the American
dream, but rather to broaden his horizons and keep his
career as well as his life moving forward.
“To me, life is not so much about the person with the
most toys wins but the person with the most experiences,”
said Hofmeyer, who grew-up in Iowa and has always been
involved in information technology and business process
He added that he really wants to enjoy what he does for
work and not just “slog away” day after day.
So, when the opportunity to ramp up an entrepreneurial
company such as ModalMinds presented itself in 2010,
Hofmeyer, who has studied at both Stanford and Harvard
business schools, jumped at the chance.
“I had known my business partner, Adam Signaigo, for
quite some time doing projects with him and also by
connecting and staying connected through social media,”
Hofmeyer said, explaining how he established himself as
the company’s president and helped to re-launch it in 2011.
Signaigo originally founded ModalMinds in 2007.
ModalMinds provides temporary executive management,
operations management, technology integration and
strategic advisory services to a variety of companies.
Hofmeyer says the company has an important focus on
helping firms plan and complete Mergers and Acquisitions.
“The challenge for us,” said Hofmeyer, “was determining
how to define and then market our somewhat abstract
services and find a niche.”
Hofmeyer explained that what his company basically does
is to go in and make sure various systems and processes,
especially technology management systems, match-up and
make sense for each company.
In addition, they also make certain that companies aren’t
duplicating vital services and processes from key account-
ing practices to complex technical systems.
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 11l a u n c h m a g . c o
When asked about how Pepperdine’s MBA program helped
prepare him to launch into his work at ModalMinds,
Hofmeyer had nothing but praise for the school and its
professional approach to business education.
“Pepperdine was a high-quality program targeted at
executives,” said Hofmeyer, who definitely fits the
executive bill with nearly 20 years of experience at
companies such as Accenture, Wells Fargo Bank, and growth
oriented consulting firms.
Calling the school’s program “very high-end,” Hofmeyer
described how the school would actually fly-in certain
professors for various classes.
“Pepperdine brought the professors to us,” he said, also
recalling that class sizes were small, in the 10-25 student
range and that there was “excellent engagement” with
Hofmeyer added that he still keeps in touch with many of
his professors even now.
Further, he also noted that learning to effectively use
connections is a key part of the Pepperdine educational
experience. “The network I developed and continue to use is
extremely valuable,” he said.
Hofmeyer also credits Pepperdine’s program with helping
him realize what’s important.
“I realized there is much more to life than what I was doing
in my management consulting role,” he said. “The program
teaches overall balance in community, with your family and
Asked about key challenges that ModalMinds has faced,
Hofmeyer said that being able to continue to have
long-term vision while not losing sight of day-to-day is most
Hofmeyer’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs was basically a
message of total commitment to your vision.
“You can’t do this [be an entrepreneur] half-way,” he
warned. “You must be ‘all-in,’ it would be really tough to
work a day-job and start a company in your part-time.”
He also advised new business start-ups to be aggressive
about going after contracts and to not underestimate the
time and effort it takes to get things done.
“Maintain control of your time and achieve some type of
balance between work and personal life. If you really love
your work and related experiences, then your career is
destined to be great.” n
“To me, life is not so
much about the
person with the most
toys wins, but the
person with the most
Stefan Hofmeyer (center), President, ModalMinds and a
graduate of EMBA86N, with Jonathan Bunce (Executive MBA
‘97), Principal, ModalMinds, M&A Services; and Adam Signaigo,
Founder and Principal.
12 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
Alex LarsenLarsen Toy Lab
By KATERI WOZNY
Siblings, co-founders Courtney and Alex
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 13l a u n c h m a g . c o
Growing up, Alex Larsen loved to play with
“My dad always wanted to turn his lifetime
hobby of carpentry into a business and he had all
the tools necessary to create the blocks,” says Larsen (MBA
’11). “When I was a toddler, I loved stacking them as high as
possible and watching them crash to the ground. When I got
older I became interested in creating more intricate
structures that were built to last for days or weeks.”
With the seed being planted at a young age, Larsen
launched Larsen Toy Lab in 2012. Based in Westport,
Connecticut, the business aims to provide high-quality
blocks and a fun, educational experience for children. The
blocks, made out of maple and cherry wood from Pennsylva-
nia and Vermont, come in 15 different shapes.
The original idea was to have each set come with one of two
different children’s books that are part of a series with
recurring characters. The main character, Leif, a poor Viking
boy, is able to overcome challenges in his life by tapping
into his powerful imagination. Since then, Larsen has
expanded the concept by creating a block-based game and
“Our mantra has always been to make better blocks and
make better experiences. The blocks are better quality,
hand-sanded and have natural finishes,” he says. “Blocks,
building and creativity are central themes of the books and
they aim to challenge kids to think about what they can
create with their own blocks. I am the author of the books
and my mom (an artist and art teacher) is the illustrator.”
According to Larsen, few high quality American toys are on
the market these days.
“We hadn’t seen anything like it so we knew the opportu-
nity was there. The name Larsen Toy Lab just felt right since
there was such a strong connection to our personal skills
and values,” he says.
Larsen used Kickstarter during the 2012 holidays to help
fund Larsen Toy Lab, with 150 people donating nearly
$16,000. To date, Larsen has sold between 350 to 400 block
“The next step is definitely securing a bigger investment
that will give us the space to grow,” he says.
The biggest challenge Larsen has faced while building his
business has been marketing and sales.
“My background was focused on the product and design. I
didn’t have experience in online marketing but I have been
learning and making lead way,” he says.
Larsen always wanted to start his own company but never
had the confidence until he looked into the MBA program
“I wanted an MBA because I wanted to learn how to start a
business and be around people that were starting a
business,” he says.
With a concentration in entrepreneurship and a Certificate
in Socially, Environmentally and Ethically Responsible (SEER)
Business Strategy, Larsen credits Professors Michael Crooke
and Larry Cox for having the biggest impact during his
course work at Pepperdine.
“Michael is a genius with the big picture and is living
evidence that value-based leadership works. Larry’s classes
were refreshingly creative and inspiring,” he says.
Larsen loves being an entrepreneur because of the freedom
to work in all areas of business.
“I worked as a design engineer in new product development
before business school and I never got to hear what the end
users were saying about the products we designed. Having
my hands in all areas of the business gives me a complete
and non-distorted view of the company,” he says.
In the future, Larsen wants to expand the business by add-
ing a warehouse and introducing new concepts, such as a
three-in-one block game set with a variety of shapes. He
14 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
also wants to introduce a monthly subscription called Block
“We really want to expand on our basic idea with a
subscription model of where to send monthly toy deliveries
and add a few more blocks and games. The idea here being
that kids are always excited to get stuff in the mail every
month and now they will have a set of blocks that keeps
growing,” he says.
Larsen also wants to go beyond basic technology to get
children interested in toys.
“We want to have our toys in every single classroom in
America and have kids become interested in them instead of
competing with technology. Right now we have been using
classrooms for market research purposes only. There should
be a balance by bonding with natural and physical toys,” he
Larsen also believes in giving back to the community and
gives part of the profits to local children’s hospitals and Trees
for the Future, a nonprofit organization that empowers rural
groups to restore tree cover to their lands.
“The message to our customers is that for every set of blocks
sold we will plant a tree through Trees for the Future and we
encourage our customers to learn more about this
phenomenal organization,” he says.
Larsen says future MBA Pepperdine students should be
constant learners and learn new tools while developing their
business, such as Kickstarter, Adobe Creative Suite, Word-
Press, social media, MailChimp, ShortStack and Google.
“There are some incredible tools out that have gone a long
way to level the playing field. I think most people would be
surprised to learn how easy some of these are to learn,” he
Alex Larsen was honored by Natural Child World with its
2013 Eco-Excellence Award in the category of Eco-Toys.
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 15l a u n c h m a g . c o
By SEAN CHAFFIN
Pepperdine’s John Mooney Explains the
New MBA Concnentration
n an increasingly complex technological world,
Pepperdine University MBA students will soon
have a new concentration to better prepare
them for a digital world. The Graziadio School
of Business and Management will be adding a
concentration in Digital Innovation and Information
Systems (DIIS) this fall that will be available to
full-time and part-time MBA students.
AN EMERGING FIELD
Department chair John Mooney says the school’s market research
identified a concentration in information systems to be among the top
three opportunities for expanding the portfolio of concentrations
offered in the MBA program (and also includes finance, business
administration and accounting).
Continued page 20
For entrepreneurs, about 50 percent of
the ideas for new ventures emerging
from Pepperdine students are online
businesses and apps or involve product,
service or process innovations that are
substantially enabled by digital
16 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
By LINDSAY LAVINE
Chris Rovin has a full plate, but he’s not
complaining. In addition to being a second-year
MBA candidate, he’s the incoming president of the
Malibu Graduate Business Society (MGBS), and the
co-founder and executive director of WeSearch.org, a
business he describes as the “Kickstarter for medical
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a
degree in history in 2010, Rovin worked in a research lab. He
soon noticed that the lab couldn’t compete for funding with
larger labs and universities. Around the same time, a family
friend was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare
form of cancer. He wanted to donate to an organization that
supported research for the disease, but was unable to find
information online. In fact, he discovered that unless you
had very specific knowledge about the disease, it was very
hard to connect with labs that do that kind of research.
“I realized there was an opportunity for these [smaller] labs
to raise money from other groups,” Rovin says.
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 17l a u n c h m a g . c o
The need to connect potential donors with labs doing
research for specific diseases was obvious, he says, and there
was a need for a new source of funding.
The smaller labs are more agile and flexible than their larger
counterparts, Rovin says, and therefore a crowdsourcing
model could work well. When someone gets diagnosed with
an incurable disease, patients, families, friends and
supporters rally around the patient and are more likely to
contribute or raise funds for the illness, Rovin says.
(His friend’s cancer is in remission, and he now serves on the
board of directors for WeSearch.org.)
The idea behind WeSearch.org came in late 2010, and by the
summer of 2011, the site was launched. So far, WeSearch.
org has raised nearly $15,000 to fund research for various
diseases. Rovin and his co-founder faced many challenges in
the early days of their business. For starters, he had a
bachelor’s in history and limited business experience. Rovin
says he spent many hours online figuring out how to start a
business, create a website and file the appropriate legal
documents. He also asked friends and family members for
help. In addition to the start-up challenges, Rovin notes
there’s also a risk-taking component involved in a new
“It’s scary putting your time and effort into something that
may not succeed,” he says.
Pepperdine’s MBA program gave Rovin and WeSearch.org a
strong business foundation on which to build. In fact, Rovin
has already incorporated accounting and financial best
practices into his business. He credits a strong network of
classmates and professors that has been so willing to help by
offering advice and support. Rovin looks forward to taking
elective classes as a second-year student, when he’ll focus
on entrepreneurial skills and strategies. These tools will help
Rovin decide where to take the business next, as well as
make any needed adjustments to the burgeoning business.
Rovin recommends finding and connecting with a network
of people on campus who are willing to offer advice or help.
He also advises entrepreneurial-minded students not to be
afraid of asking lots of questions of fellow students and
“You never know where a thought or question might lead
you,” he says. n
18 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
B Revolution Consulting
By ESHA CHHABRA
Dirk Sampselle, just a few months out
of grad school, is already a thriving
entrepreneur. He’s not just running
one company, but three.
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 19l a u n c h m a g . c o
Founder of B Revolution Consulting, B Revolution Capital
and ezBcorp, Sampselle (JD/MBA ’13) wants businesses to
integrate the triple bottom line into their legal structure.
He’s converting businesses from traditional S and C corpora-
tions to benefit corporations and certified B Corporations.
The difference, he says, is, “The B Corporation certification
is the seal of approval that a company has survived a
rigorous third-party social and environmental impact
assessment, making them verifiably an ethical company that
consumers, investors and employees can trust. The benefit
corporation legal entity then locks those claims into place,
making the business legally accountable to doing good as
well as pursuing profit.” Already, many businesses have
adopted the new legal structure and certification. Famous
examples of B Corporations include Patagonia and Ben &
His passion for social enterprise started a decade ago when
Sampselle abandoned his career as a commodity broker to
start a 501(c)(3) that helped the homeless in Gainesville,
Florida. Leveraging the undergraduate pool at his alma
mater, the University of Florida, Sampselle created a student
volunteer organization with over 300 members, Citizens for
Social Justice, that ran a transitional housing and education-
al rehabilitation program for homeless individuals. While
the organization still exists, ultimately the challenges facing
the homeless inspired Sampselle to attend law school at
“I wanted to attend a school that would help me leverage
my skill set to change the world for the better and I’m
grateful that my experiences at Pepperdine did exactly
that,” Sampselle says.
Sampselle is a recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship, which he
won in part because of his “service mentality” along with
his top grades and LSAT scores. He spent his first summer
during law school working at Public Counsel, the world’s
largest public interest law firm, on issues facing homeless
youths in Hollywood.
“I absolutely loved it—and I gained an incredible mentor
at Public Counsel because of my work there,” he says.
He continued this work by becoming president of Advocates
for Public Interest Law, a Pepperdine Law School student
organization dedicated to helping law students explore
public interest law volunteer opportunities.
Sampselle was on his way to a career in impact litigation
when Professor Janet Kerr, director of the Palmer Center for
Entrepreneurship and Law at Pepperdine, suggested that
he look into B Lab as a way to blend his entrepreneurial
instincts with his socially-conscious mindset.
“It changed everything. From the moment I saw their
homepage, I knew they were going to disrupt the way
organizations like my former charity created change,”
B Lab is the organization that certifies B Corporations
and advocates for the benefit corporation legal entity,
and through a fellowship at the Palmer Center, Sampselle
secured an internship at B Lab, where he authored their
Benefit Corporation White Paper, the legislative
memorandum that is used to advocate for the legal
After serving with B Lab, Sampselle knew it was time to
build a support structure for the legal and certification work
he had helped establish at B Lab. When he authored the
white paper, the entity had only been passed in one state,
and he knew that if more states were going to adopt it,
those companies would need help navigating the
certification and legal status.
“Through B Lab, I found my new vocation, which is to
advocate for integrating purpose and values into the way
we do business, so that we prevent the problems charities
solve before they happen. If we have more conscientious
commercial exchange, the realm of charity and the realm of
business start to blur, and we have just one mode of
conscious, compassionate exchange,” Sampselle says.
He launched B Revolution while in grad school, formulating
the idea, developing the business plan and gathering funds
while adding an MBA to his law degree coursework. The
“Effective time management quickly became much more
necessary,” Sampselle jokes. While he argues that nothing
can take the place of hands-on learning and going through
the exhausting task of launching a company, an MBA helped
him navigate the tasks ahead of him. “I learned the
language, frameworks, and models – material that was
very new for me since I hadn’t been a business major in
undergrad and all of my business experience was in the real
world,” he says.
Today, Sampselle runs a conglomerate of companies that
provide certification consulting to companies, low-cost legal
services to startups, and access to mission-aligned capital for
B Corporations and benefit corporations. As a member of
the growing contingent of students and alumni who see the
potential of becoming entrepreneurs, Sampselle advises that
current students aspiring to start companies do what he did.
“Don’t wait to start your company. Vet the idea, test your
hypothesis, iterate, make it happen. There will never be a
better time to start making your idea a reality. Life is too
short to wait.” n
20 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
“This conclusion aligned with the
observations by our Information
Systems and Technology Management
faculty that the Graziadio School was
very strongly positioned within the
broader L.A.region to offer a
comprehensive, rigorous and
practice-oriented graduate curriculum
to those seeking career opportunities
at the interaction of business and
digital technologies,” he says.
Mooney is an associate professor of
information systems, and
technology management and has
conducted considerable research in
Information Technology and
information management. Feedback
from business has shown there is a
need for business professionals and
managers who can lead, manage and
envision business-IT initiatives.
“The extent of use of digital technol-
ogies across most business processes
and many products and services is
giving rise to a critical need for
professionals and managers who bring
deep understanding of the opportu-
nities for business innovation that are
enabled by digital technologies and
the sophisticated managerial
competencies necessary for effective
planning and implementation to
execute these opportunities,” he says.
“Such individuals will be best
positioned for career success by
acquiring a comprehensive mix of
business, technology, and managerial
knowledge and competencies.”
As technologies merge and change,
Mooney believes the emergence of
social media, smart phones and other
web-connected mobile devices, and
the proliferation of apps are
combining to create a much broader,
powerful and more pervasive range of
digital technologies. As the world
enters a realm of “total digitization,”
he says, the most exciting opportuni-
ties for innovating products, services,
processes, and social interactions are
those enabled by digital technologies,
and the largest portion of economic
activity will occur within the
“digital economy.” Digital innovation
is a term used to describe the
innovation of business strategy,
business models, products, services
and processes that are enabled by new
and emerging technologies.
The new concentration differs from
the traditional study of Information
Technology in that IT usually refers to
technologies that capture, store and
process data. DIIS will cover a larger
scope along with the business aspects
related to the digital economy.
“There are a number of research stud-
ies that point to the need for business
professionals and managers who are
competent and comfortable at the
intersection of business and digital
technologies,” Mooney says.
With the new concentration, the
Graziadio School is hoping to meet
SERVING THE STUDENT
For students seeking a concentration
in DIIS, the hope is this addition will
offer a wide range of career
opportunities for graduates. For
part-time MBA students, the
department anticipates business or IT
professionals will be interested in the
DIIS concentration to seek professional
and managerial positions in areas that
bridge business and IT. These include
business/systems analysis, business
flow analysis and design, project
management, supply chain manage-
ment, and consulting and IT-based
For full-time MBA students, DIIS may
be of interest to those with technolo-
gy, business or related undergraduate
degrees who wish to pursue
professional and managerial career
opportunities with a technological
focus. These areas might include
business analytics, project manage-
ment, business process/workflow
analysis and design, business
management, consulting and technol-
ogy-based entrepreneurial ventures.
MASTERING DIGITAL INNOVATION Continued
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 21l a u n c h m a g . c o
“Feedback from our own alumni and industry connections
has verified a critical need for business professionals and
managers who possess the knowledge and competencies to
envision, manage, and lead initiatives that span the realms
of business, IT and innovation,” Mooney notes. “More
broadly at a national level, there are critical shortages of
business and management professionals with competencies
and capabilities to lead the development of the Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematical (STEM)
sectors, for which graduates of the DIIS concentration will
be well-positioned to contribute.”
All this is a definite plus for students. In the classroom (or
digital classroom), students will be offered coursework
ranging from business analytics and digital innovation to
enterprise architecture and infrastructure management.
Graduates will be uniquely qualified for a world in which
every industry will be affected by digital technologies,
Mooney says, including the greater Los Angeles area.
“Some industries are being impacted more than others.
Within the L.A. area, media and entertainment are being
totally transformed by digital technologies,” he says.
“Financial services and retail have already undergone
significant transformations, but new emerging technolo-
gies will continue to enable additional innovation
opportunities. Healthcare is at the very early stages of its
transformation. The continued emergence of
internet-connected, mobile, smart monitoring devices will
enable remarkable innovations in pro-active patient health
management and incident prevention.”
For entrepreneurs, about 50 percent of the ideas for new
ventures emerging from Pepperdine students are online
businesses and apps or involve product, service or process
innovations that are substantially enabled by digital
Mooney says Pepperdine is uniquely situated to offer DIIS
because the school has one of the largest departments of
tenured faculty in Southern California whose teaching,
research and professional interests involve the courses
included in the DIIS concentration.
“We are actively involved in relevant applied
research projects, business activities and professional
organizations that inform our course design and teaching
approaches,” he says.
As part of the concentration, the professor is
planning a study tour of Dublin, Ireland in December that
will examine the globalization of the digital economy and
includes visits to the Dublin headquarters of Accenture,
Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft. What has been the
reaction to the new DIIS offerings so far?
“Very positive,” Mooney says of the faculty response.
“Student reaction has been very positive also, in particular
the possibility for students to qualify for a double
concentration in DIIS and another area such as marketing,
entrepreneurship, leadership and organization change, or
In a changing digital world, DIIS will prepare business
professionals to become technological titans. n
22 |LAUNCH! MAGAZINE| ISSUE NO. 8 | FALL 2013 l a u n c h m a g . c o
American Love Affair
Noelle Nguyen, PKE MBA ’12
Michael S. Saddik, PKE MBA
Paul Dietzel, MBA/MPP ’11
Dirk Sampselle, JD/MBA ‘13
Nicholas Stankevich, mba ‘13
Nathan Johnson, MBA ‘10 and
Jake Wall, MBA ‘08
Liz (Liz B. Latif) Bardelas,
Beach House Winery
Kimberly A. Murray, MBA ‘07
Behind the Brand
Bryan Elliott, MBA ‘99
Beyond the Olive
Crystal and Chip Reibel,
Susan Hua (MBA ’10)
Aaron Bird, MBA
Michael O’Hare, MBA ‘09
Srinivas Rao, MBA 09
Margan Patee, MBA ‘10
Business Simply Put
Lori Williams, MBA ‘05
Tashah Johnson, MBA ’11
Aaron Moskowitz, MBA ‘07
CE Made Simple LLC
Matthew S. Lemert,
Armin Rafiee, MBA ’10
Jon Hoenig, MBA ’10
Travis Benoit, JD/MBA ‘10
Christos M. Cotsakos, MBA ‘83
DeJant Group Corp.
Omid Semino, MBA
Dat Do, MBA ’11 and Geoffroy
Dubuisson, MBA ’11
Jimmy Nguyen, MBA ‘09 and
Patrick Leroy, MBA ‘09
Destino Vero Designs and
Derek Skorupski, MBA ‘10
Dev Dugal, MBA ‘04
Jason Nazar, M.B.A ’05, J.D. ‘06
Adam Lieb, JD/MBA ‘12
Jeff Rozic, MBA ‘06
Sarah Scherff, MBA ’10
GenZum Life Sciences
Chris Achar, MBA ’11
Max Kipnis, MBA ‘12
David Price, MBA ’11
Sergio Retamal, MS ‘04
Zubin P. Mehta, MBA ‘06
O. Mike Bradshaw, MSTM
Nick Norris, MBA ‘09
Sameer Gupta, MBA ‘09
Brendon Kensel, MBA ‘00
Michael Cheshire, MBA ‘11
Jon Hoenig, MBA ’10
Kensel & Co
Brendon Kensel, MBA ‘00
Krav Maga Worldwide
Matt Romond, MBA ‘12
Larsen Toy Lab
Alex Larsen, MBA ‘11
Darlene Kiloglu, MBA ‘11
Brett Fisher, MBA ‘11 and
Stephen Yeoh, MBA ‘11
Linked Orange County
Bryan Elliott, MBA ‘99
Pratish Shah, EMBA ‘10
Elizabeth Schmidt (MBA ’96) has developed an idea that
is similar to Groupon, but provides small independent
businesses control over their marketing and advertising
It is not top heavy and runs itself over the Internet. She
is completing its development, but is offering this project
to individuals in the Pepperdine Entrepreneur Nation. If
you are interested in this concept and want to learn more
about what Elizabeth has already accomplished, contact
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Steven Lee presented his concept Tiger Bowls for
converting the traditional Korean BBQ restaurant into a
fast food restaurant to the panel in his ENTR 667 class. To
his surprised he earned a term sheet from one of the
panelists the next day.
RHODES SCHOLARS INTERSECTION OF FAMILY AND
Master of Science in Organization Development faculty
member Kent Rhodes at Pepperdine University recently
released a new book, with consultant David Lansky,
“Managing Conflict in the Family Business: Understanding
Challenges at the Intersection of Family and Business”
The authors identify family business conflict archetypes
(patterns), frames, roles, and tactics with a view toward
educating readers about the common conflict cycles that
families running a business can encounter. They address
twelve conflicts that are common in family-owned
businesses, how families can spot them, and then plan for
their successful and effective management in ways that
simultaneously uphold the family and the business.
FALL 2013 | ISSUE NO. 8 | LAUNCH! MAGAZINE | 23l a u n c h m a g . c o
Bardia Dejban, MBA ‘10
Jordan Rockwell, MBA ‘10
Maine Forest Yurts
David Crowley, MBA ’12
Kasra Ferasat, MBA ‘10
David Rosendahl, BSM, ’05
Stefan Hofmeyer, EMBA ‘12
Muddy Shoe Adventures
Michael Bennett, MBA ’06
and Sam Blake, MBA ’08
Neo Pro Guard
Paul McCloskey, MBA ‘15
Personal Care Physicians
Troy Medley, MBA ‘03
Steve Swift, MBA ‘13 and
Kathy Regan, MBA ‘12
Lee Rankinen, MBA ‘10 and
Justin Malik, MBA ‘10
Alexander Fondrier, MPP/
Sam Nelson, MBA ‘05
Kevin Maloney, MBA ‘02
SG Biofuels, Inc.
Kirk Haney, MBA ‘95
Jaime E. Parker, MBA ’99
Shark Bite Scuba
Kimberly Isaac, MBA ‘10
Srinivas Rao, MBA 09
Smile Brands Inc.
Steve Bilt, PKE MBA ’01
Nick Mitchell, EMBA ‘07
Frankie Warren, MBA ‘10
Davien L. Watkins, BSM ‘08
Kyle C. Murphy, MBA ‘05
Neal Bloom, MBA ‘18
Tim Kim, MBA ‘10
David Naczycz, MSOD ‘07
Varun Khanna, MBA ’12
Dhaval Doshi, MBA ‘09
Chris Rovin, MBA ‘14
ENCOURAGING ENTREPRENEURSHIP REMEDY FOR
According to the recently released Global Entrepreneurship
Snapshot, a report compile by Spark Global Business in the
U.K., nearly every area of the United States is investing
resources in promoting entrepreneurship. Professor Kyle
C. Murphy, a serial entrepreneur and lecturer of Strategy
& Entrepreneurship at Pepperdine, is quoted saying that,
“enterprise innovation hubs like Silicon Valley have long
been the envy of other regions, and while some larger U.S.
cities such as New York, Boston, Austin, and Los Angeles as
well as smaller cities like New Orleans and Pittsburg have
burgeoning startup ecosystems, other cities like Atlanta
and Dallas are far behind.”
Murphy feels that, unfortunately, too many communities
are trying to create an innovation hub by throwing
everything in the garden and hoping something blossoms.
ANDREW LOWENSTEin, mba
Co-founder, Neo Pro Guard