January 11, 2002

Anderson School Gives Women and Minority Entrepreneurs Competitive Edge Through "Mini-MBA" Certificate Program

Los Angeles — Steve Wilkinson, an African American business owner in Oakland, earned his MBA some two decades ago and wanted to update his management skills. After attending UCLA Anderson's management training program for small business owners, Wilkinson not only brought his business acumen into the 21st century, but also developed a new business plan for his financial advisement firm and is now poised for expansion.

To benefit more entrepreneurs like Wilkinson, UCLA Anderson will bring its quality Management Development for Entrepreneurs (MDE) Program to Northern California's small business community this spring. Taught by the same award-winning faculty who teach Anderson's top-ranked MBA programs, the MDE Program provides entrepreneurs with essential management skills and strengthens their ability to build effective and profitable organizations.

"The MDE program not only helped me to focus my practice, but also to better help my clients by greatly reducing the learning curve and amount of review. It was invaluable," said Wilkinson, whose long-term interest lies in creating wealth for entrepreneurs, especially minority entrepreneurs.

Business owners in Northern California can learn first-hand about the MDE Program by attending a free Open House on Jan. 25 at the San Ramon Valley Conference Center in San Ramon. In addition to offering workshops on entrepreneurial strategy and opportunity recognition, the MDE Open House provides entrepreneurs with a chance to meet some of the MDE Program's successful alumni.

"One of the program's major thrusts is to create a competitive advantage for minority and women owned businesses," said Gwenael Engelskirchen, MDE Program coordinator. Through corporate sponsors such as Sempra Energy, Merrill Lynch, SBC Communications/Pacific Bell, and Pacific Gas and Electric, which help defray fixed costs, UCLA Anderson's Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies is able to offer the program at reduced rates to entrepreneurs.

R. "Vijay" Vijayaraghavan, founder of Santa Clara-based Comit Systems, credits the MDE program with helping his contract-engineering firm become one of the hottest start-ups in Silicon Valley. Founded in 1992, Comit Systems has made the list of the Silicon Valley's top 100 fastest growing private companies for the past six years, according to an annual survey compiled by the San Jose Business Journal, based on a two-year revenue growth.

"The MDE Program really gave me the tools and the time to think about, and crystallize, our business models," said Vijayaraghavan, a 1996 graduate of the program.

The MDE Program is offered twice a year — at UCLA Anderson during the fall and in the Bay Area during the spring. Participants receive instruction in the latest theory and practice in such areas as strategy, marketing, finance, operations, and management. In addition to a varied curriculum of lectures, case discussions and applied workshops, participants enjoy one-on-one interaction with faculty to address the challenges facing today's growing enterprises.

"To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need not only attitude and vision, but also the ability to lure investors, market products, attract customers, structure complex financing, oversee operations, and manage people," said Al Osborne, Price Center director and associate professor of business economics at UCLA Anderson. "These are the skills we impart through the Management Development for Entrepreneurs Program."

The MDE Program consists of ten all-day Friday class sessions, followed by two months of independent work towards the completion of a Business Improvement Project (BIP). Participants collaborate closely with current Anderson MBA students on their BIP, a blueprint for action that uses the skills and knowledge gained in the classroom to make key improvements in a participant's business strategy. For the entrepreneurs, the BIP often provides the most tangible benefit of the MDE Program.

Vijayaraghavan conducted two BIPs — one on knowledge base creation and the other on engineering performance evaluation. "Overcoming the resistance and getting these systems accepted by all has grounded the company's business model to reality, and a powerful macro-economic trend," he said. "Everyone in Comit now understands that process and productivity are our key result areas."

For Wilkinson, the BIP enabled him to establish new business relationships with the capability to land more substantial clients, and to develop consultative tools to advise clients on all aspects of business management. "It allowed me to focus my practice; pruning the less profitable areas and developing the areas that fit with the vision I recreated for my firm," Wilkinson said.

His firm, Wilkinson & Associates, currently manages $10 million in assets and generates $500,000 in revenue, and he expects to double that in the next year.

Another African American entrepreneur, Rochele Lawson, president and co-owner of All Day Cable, Inc., in San Jose, credits the MDE Program with helping her significantly grow her business. "I gained so much insight in running my business more effectively and efficiently that I have actually grown since the Sept. 11 event," Lawson said.

The Northern California 2002 MDE Program will begin with an Opening Banquet & Orientation on March 8. Class sessions will be held in San Ramon from March 15 through May 17, and graduation will take place on July 12.

For enrollment, fees and other information, contact UCLA Anderson at (310) 206-4169 or mde@anderson.ucla.edu.

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