Peet’s gets a shot of creativity from Berkeley MBAs

Drinking coffee is a given for students pulling all-nighters to finish up final projects, but for a dozen MBA students this spring, coffee drinking was the project.

The students spent hours on recon at local cafes, serving coffee to classmates and surveying them on every detail of the experience, and conducting a nationwide poll on coffee consumption habits. The research team was part of the Haas@Work program, and their goal was to help Peet’s Coffee & Tea find new ways of engaging Millennials.

And they did: Jessica Mitchell, Peet’s Director of Innovation, said that the students’ ideas are more than likely to see the light of day. “We felt they had a lot of potential to reach customers who are new to coffee. They’re really tangible solutions that we could see implemented.”

Peet’s earned a place in local lore and helped launch a nationwide specialty-coffee trend after opening its first store in 1966 in North Berkeley. Peet’s now has 237 cafes and 141 licensed partner locations nationwide, including seven in Berkeley. So it was only natural that Peet’s turn to Berkeley-Haas for a shot of creativity.

Haas@Work dispatches teams of MBA students to help inject fresh thinking into client companies. Students began with insight generation, identifying Peet’s core competencies and its customers’ core values, before moving on to idea generation—“It’s literally putting as much stuff out there as you can,” says team member Michael Christman, MBA 16.

After paring their list down to 15 ideas, the team worked with Peet’s management team to select the top three. Next, they designed and ran micro-experiments to validate their key assumptions. Students then transformed their insights into concrete recommendations for some of the company’s top leadership, says Ceren Baseren, MBA 16.

“The fact that you, as a student, have a chance to have your voice heard and to present in front of such a high-level client is extremely valuable,” she says.

Past Haas@Work clients have represented a wide range of industries and products, including banking, enterprise software, electric vehicles, health care, cloud computing, and pet food. In addition to the dozen students at Peet’s this semester, another 12 worked for Bio-Rad Laboratories, a 63-year-old medical diagnostics company also founded in Berkeley.

“What’s really unique about the model for Haas@Work is that the teams operate like an outsourced innovation agency,” says Dave Rochlin, Haas lecturer and Haas@Work executive director.

Over the course of the semester, students are introduced to the innovation framework and tools, and the teams collectively put in thousands of hours identifying insights and developing novel concepts for—and with—their clients, Rochlin explains.

“In the case of Peet’s, we took a deep dive and fresh look at both coffee drinkers and cafes, and how people connect with coffee, to try to understand areas where Peet’s innovation team can take advantage of unmet needs,” he says. The team also spent time examining how the company’s unique sourcing and roasting model might be further leveraged, holding in-depth discussions with Peet’s coffee roasters, buyers, and baristas.

In addition to Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students, Haas@Work is open to students in the Haas school’s Executive MBA program and the UC Berkeley School of Information.

MBA Internships: Consulting on Main Street


Wine by the barrel: Kory rolls up his sleeves at Brooks Winery in rural Oregon, where his MBAs Across America team did a comprehensive cost and break-even analysis.

Student: Kory Vargas Caro, MBA 15

Interning with: MBAs Across America, a startup organization that’s sending teams of business students on six-week summer road trips to both help and learn from small entrepreneurs.

This is the inaugural year of the program, which was started by four Harvard MBAs who gave the idea a test drive last summer.

Before the trip, Vargas Caro and his teammates identified, screened, and selected six entrepreneurs with specific business challenges. They’re now traversing the country, from Montana to Colorado to Detroit to North Carolina, spending one week on each project before hitting the road to their next gig.

Their projects have included  a comprehensive cost and break-even analysis for a winery, and a go-to-market plan for a line of custom guide-dog harnesses, and a shipping and distribution strategy for a subscription box service—focusing on hand-crafted products from Nashville—that is expanding to five new states.

MBAxA because: “People forget that small businesses are the largest engine of growth in America, and the largest providers of jobs. These are people who are having a positive impact in their communities, yet they are often overlooked.”

“Our team particularly wanted to focus on women and minorities. I was a small business owner (political fundraising and organizing), so this is an opportunity to combine the tools that Haas has given me with real-life experiences to help people who are just like me.”

Excited about: “Getting the chance to meet impressive small business owners in areas I’ve never visited. The people we’ve worked with are leading the way on how entrepreneurship should be done. In Bozeman, Montana, we worked with the owner of a café and pizzeria who was pushing the envelope on farm-to-table dining in her community. We worked with a winery owner in rural Oregon who was building a $1.2 million tasting room that would transform the Valley into a destination for wine tasting, helping out local wineries in the area.”

Highlight so far: “The strength of the team. We’d never met or worked together before. Now we’re spending 24-7 together on the road. We’ve gotten closer. The work has gotten stronger. We understand each other’s strengths. In Detroit we met the other teams on the road. It was a great learning moment for me, when we got to share our experiences with one another. I’m very thankful for being exposed to this movement and making these friends and building this amazing network.”

Team Ross/Haas and Tiffany Lach, the owner of Sola Cafe in Bozeman, Montana.

Team Ross/Haas and Tiffany Lach, the owner of Sola Cafe in Bozeman, Montana.

Haas skills applied: “Team Haas/Ross is the only mixed-school team, and that has turned out to be a big advantage. It’s also helped me see what we do well at Haas. We put a lot of emphasis on teams, and we really do lead the way in design thinking.

I’ve put this into practice every day. The first day, we just ask questions and we take notes. Questions like: can you help me understand why this is important to you? We keep asking questions, and we look at the assumptions underneath. Is it true that you have a bottleneck here? Is it true that the technology you have isn’t working for you? Instead of people telling us what they want us to fix, we start by making sure it’s the right problem.”

Big takeaway: “I came into this knowing nothing about wine, nothing about restaurants, nothing about dog collars. I still know just a bit about them—but now I know the questions you need to ask. Once you get to the problems and get through to the answers, the rest is mechanical. With a few more experiences in other industries, I could do absolutely anything.”

Advancing career goals by: “I came into Haas wanting to explore the world of entrepreneurship. Having been a small business owner, I knew I would eventually start another business. This trip has helped solidify my belief that I’ll end up in the start-up world. This is where I’m most happy. I’m recommitted to the path I started on.”

Read the Ross/Haas team’s blog posts here.

Read about the team’s week at Brooks Winery in Oregon’s Statesman Journal, and in the Denver Business Journal.

Undergrads Consult to Help Local Businesses Boom

Part of the CYC team: Marina Liang, Business Administration & Psychology, Senior; Kiron Chandy, Business Administration & French, Senior; and  Kristie Chang, Sophomore

CYC leadership: Haas Seniors Marina Liang and Kiron Chandy, Sophomore Kristie Chang

From powering pearl milk tea shops to revving up local restaurants, an undergraduate consulting initiative is working to help local businesses boom.

Kiron Chandy, BS 14, is president and co-founder of the new program, Consult Your Community (CYC) at UC Berkeley. Chandy got her first taste of consulting when she offered marketing assistance to a Bay Area dry cleaner. She was 14 years old, but saw even then an opportunity for business and philanthropy to intersect.

“I’d walk in with my dad and we would casually talk with the owners about marketing strategy. They wanted to promote that they were the first in the city to use green technology and I realized I had the skills to help,” she says. Chandy designed a website for the cleaner which led to a photo opp with the mayor and an influx of new clients. “I saw that the work I had done made an impact and they were so thankful they gave me free dry cleaning after that,” she says.

CYC provides pro bono consulting services to low-income and minority small business owners in college communities. Launched February 2013, CYC has been featured in The New York Times and rapidly expanded to 15 college campuses nationwide, including Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia.

Haas graduate and Founder Michael  Bloch, BS 13, and winner of Haas’ Beyond Yourself award at graduation, saw the need for an organization that would help students develop business experience while also giving back to the local community. Last spring, he jumped into action, recruiting Chandy to take the reins in Berkeley while he promulgated the initiative nationally.

The CYC model helps small businesses to develop strategies for sustainable growth, students to gain consulting skills and hands-on experience, and consulting firms to develop promising talent. CYC is negotiating partnerships with McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, and Deloitte Consulting, who have agreed to offer training, advising, and support.

“As students, we saw potential to help these businesses because, in many cases, we are their best customers,” says Chandy. “We know what we’re looking for in the services they provide, so we have an active interest in trying to help.” She points out that small businesses constitute over 99% of employer firms in the U.S., yet many struggle to stay afloat. “Only half of small businesses make it to their fifth year,” she says.

Last spring, the Berkeley chapter consulted a small grocer, a Korean restaurant, and tapioca drink (pearl milk tea) shop. CYC founding member Andrea Perez helped the grocery store with a marketing campaign and says customer acquisition was the challenge, not loyalty. “They are known for their sandwiches by their most loyal customers, but people just walking by wouldn’t even know they had a deli.”

CYC has set ambitious goals, aiming for 25 chapters and 800 members serving 100 businesses in 2014. The Berkeley team put in long hours this summer, many of them interning by day and working in the Haas Undergraduate Lounge by night.

Sophomore Kristie Chang recently joined CYC as a marketing intern to be part of a cause that helps people. “As an account executive for the Daily Cal, I hear a lot from local businesses fighting to barely break even,” she says. “This made me wake up to the fact that we as students can do something about it. We all have some business knowledge, and they are people who can really make use of it.”

MBA 12s at Work: Chevron Technology Ventures

Feriante conducts a site inspection in Kona, HI.

Feriante conducts a site inspection in Kona, HI.

Grad: Jarom Feriante, MBA 12

Working as: Business Development Analyst with Chevron Technology Ventures. “I champion the integration of new technologies into Chevron’s organization,” he says of his work analyzing  promising startups and developing utility scale solar projects to test their products.

Most excited to be working on: “Developing the most sustainable and cost effective energy resources of the future!”

Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) because: “I sought the Berkeley MBA because I wanted to make a larger impact in the sustainable energy industry. Although I have an entrepreneurial background, transition to Chevron was welcoming. “I work on a small team and have a lot of flexibility in choosing how best to drive value for the organization. The role is very entrepreneurial and fits my work style.”

Inside CTV: “I’m based in Houston, but have managed projects in Argentina, where I led a team to identify strategic electrical enhancements for a Patagonia oil field, and in Hawaii, where I manage the engineering and development process for a utility scale solar R&D project.”

Networked: Feriante often encounters Haas alums while interacting with Bay Area clean energy startups. “This has helped to establish connections and more quickly reach a level of trust with new organizations.”

Job search strategy: Feriante participated in company presentations and conferences to network and learn about organizations, finding that he was able to focus on management consulting early in the recruiting season and energy companies in the late season. “Interestingly, I ended up in an internal energy consulting role.”

The BILD approach:  “I’ve been surprised by how often I use processes learned in Problem Finding, Problem Solving  and Haas@Work to understand and address business needs. Procedures I’ve learned at Chevron have added even more structure to identifying, framing, and analyzing opportunities.”

Living the Houston life:  Feriante is on the road a lot for work, but says that Houston’s airport access (and favorable weather) also work well for his passions–rock climbing and year-round motorcycle riding. “The best thing about Houston, though, he says, “is its people.”

Haas Achieves: A Video Year-in-Review

Congratulations to the full-time MBA classes of 2012 and 2013. In just one year you have accomplished an extraordinary amount, from organizing conferences and international treks to winning case competitions. We are so proud of all you achieve at Haas–and have captured what we could (i.e. some, certainly not all!) in this Haas Achieves video. We know you have many achievements yet to come and wish you the best.

Video produced by Tritone Media

MBA 11s at Work: McKinsey & Company

Welcome to MBA 11s at Work, a periodic series on the career launches—in consulting, finance, tech, entrepreneurship, and more—of the Berkeley MBA class of 2011.

Grad: Hrishika Vuppala, MBA 11

 Working as: Associate with McKinsey & Company, so far working with clients in healthcare, and consumer packaged goods.

Thrilled to be with McKinsey because:  She has the opportunity to work across a broad sector of industries and functions and to work alongside very senior clients, influencing and driving change.  “McKinsey has a stellar reputation in this regard, and hence this was a job that I really wanted.”

Most excited to be working on: Actively recruiting for McKinsey. “I am excited to come back to Berkeley-Haas to speak to students about a career in consulting.” On the work front, Vuppala says she is “keen to work on engagements involving regulation in the telecom sector – a niche area that is bound to have a far reaching impact globally.”

Inside McKinsey: “McKinsey is a great place for someone looking for diversity in work,” says Vuppala. “One of the most interesting features is that the company allows you to do one-year international rotations in any of the McKinsey offices across the globe.” She says several colleagues have worked in Asia and in Europe and have greatly benefited from their experiences in a different geography.

Networked: Vuppala interacts with Haas alums at McKinsey for events related to recruiting at Haas and connects with fellow alums at McKinsey offices worldwide as she travels for business. “I’ve often connected with my classmates in different cities to catch up over dinner and reminiscence about our time at Haas.”

Best career search strategies: Vuppala practiced “tons of case interviews” and ensured that she addressed the feedback she got. She also found fellow students to be instrumental in helping her prepare and build confidence to do well in interviews.

Defining Principles in action: Vuppala identifies strongly with the principle of Students Always. As a consultant, I don’t necessarily always have the most relevant industrial or functional expertise,” she says. “However, with the mindset and the willingness to learn, it is easy to overcome the lack of experience and win the confidence of your clients.”

Living the Atlanta life: “Living in the South gives you access to the best comfort food in the US. I try to explore as many restaurants as I can and, if anyone is down in Atlanta, I’d highly recommend the South City Kitchen for its awesome food. “


One official week in and full-time MBA students have already been clubbed: They’ve worked through a Zynga case with the Digital Media and Entertainment Club (DMEC),  attended an “Energy Boot Camp” held by the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC), and heard Bain & Company perspective on the smartphone ecosystem, thanks to the Haas Consulting Club. Here is just a sampling of what’s happened in just a couple of weeks on the club scene–and what’s coming up:

A number of DMEC club officers, fresh off of summer internships at Zynga, came to Haas during O-Week to work through a Zynga Career Workshop with new students. Along with alumnus and Zynga Product Manager Matt Salazar, MBA 11, they gave an overview of the product management role and how games are designed. First-years then pitched game ideas for prizes. 

Zynga COO Marcus Segal addresses Digital Media club event

Those game industry contacts were leveraged once again the first week of school, when Zynga COO Marcus Segal addressed DMEC’s first speaker series class. Brain Guenther, MBA 12, serves as VP of Marketing for both DMEC and the Haas Technology Club (HTC) and says to watch for career treks to prominent digital media and technology companies, the annual DMEC >play conference, and a new case competition from HTC sponsored by VMWare.

BERC greeted students with an energy boot camp, where a crowd of people turned out to hear VC and legal perspectives on technology, policy, and business aspects of clean energy. BERC’s annual lecture on Sept. 1 features Samir Kaul of Khosla Ventures and UCB alternative energy Professor Chris Somerville, who will discuss a regulation, the role of large corporations in cleantech startups, and financing and deployment of clean technology.

The Haas Consulting Club welcomed some 80 people at each of their first two events: A management consulting primer and a discussion by Bain & Company consultants on the smartphone ecosystem wars. Watch for Consulting 101 on September 1, when a panel of 2nd-year students will discuss their internship job search and work experiences. “Interviews for management consulting start early and resume drop deadlines are coming up soon,” says Co-president Jarom Feriante. “The Haas Consulting Club has a lot of members who are serious about executing interviews successfully, and the time to start preparing is now.”

From Marketing to Latin American Business to Design and Innovation Strategy, if you’d like to go clubbing, visit the Berkeley MBA Campus Groups web page to learn more.