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  • 18 Dec 2014

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A different business culture

by: SUBMITTED PHOTOS - University of Cincinnatti Clermont College students spent spring break exploring Portlands business culture. Twelve undergraduates from the University of Cincinnati Clermont College, Ohio, spent their spring break in Portland studying businesses, food carts and the streetcar system.

Jay Page, assistant professor of business at UC Clermont, came up with the idea for the trip after visiting Portland for the first time in 2009. He wanted to show his students a different business landscape in a hands-on crash course.

“From being a foodie heaven to (having a) much different geography and a different culture than the Midwest, I knew it was a city that business students would find very interesting,” says Page. “What also made it very relevant to our students here in Cincinnati is that we are ... putting in a streetcar and plan to add to the existing route in the future and install light rail, as well.”

On the roof of the Northrup Station Hotel, where they stayed, entrepreneur Ryan Carpenter, founder of Moberi food cart, shared business advice with UC Clermont business students at a pizza party around a bonfire.

“My business is meant to be fun and energetic and light-hearted,” says Carpenter, 32, who now has two stationary food carts and a mobile cart. “There’s a lot of old ideas that can have new spins on them, no pun intended, in a new — just better — more unique way.”

Carpenter was featured on the ABC TV show Shark Tank, a reality start-up competition where entrepreneurs pitch ideas in the hopes of coercing rich investors. Carpenter was ultimately not offered a deal, but persevered with his company.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTOS - Assistant Professor Jay Page took them to several companies, including Nutcase Helmets. Moberi’s uniqueness comes from its bicycle-powered blenders that make superfood-infused green smoothies from local berries and products.

“(Carpenter) told us his story and it was ... really cool to see that side of an entrepreneur,” says Maggie Cowens, UC Clermont student and president of the Professionalism, Academics, Character and Experience (PACE) student business organization. “He had a dream and he didn’t give up and he’s successful now.”

All of the PACE student executives came to Portland to get a better idea of how the city’s unique small business and public transportation atmospheres influence its economy.

Besides Moberi, the students also visited TravelPortland, Portland Streetcar, Keen, Pendleton Woolen Mills and Nutcase helmets.

“What makes Portland so different from every city I’ve been to is the way they cooperate out there,” says Cowens. “They collaborate ... working together to promote each other’s businesses.”

According to Carpenter, the food cart community is close-knit, following and retweeting each other on social media.

Cowens enjoyed visiting the different businesses, especially Pendleton Woolen Mills.

“It was really cool that CEOs would take time out of their day and stop and talk to college students and give us a couple minutes of their time,” says Cowens. “I never thought I would speak to the CEO of Pendleton.”

Cowens says the Cincinnati streetcar will be helpful for exploring the city. Currently, she feels limited in where she can go once she has already parked her car downtown.

“It was really, really cool to walk out of our hotel and catch a streetcar to anywhere in the city — we didn’t have to walk hardly at all,” says Cowens. “It will be nice to park somewhere (in Cincinnati) and go all around the city and not have to worry about ‘oh, it’s too far we can’t get there,’ — ‘oh, it’s fine, we can jump on the streetcar.’”

What Portland does is cutting-edge, and the Clermont students learned the value of start-ups supporting and networking with each other and using clean and local practices.

“The streetcar is such a great idea for transportation with prices and going green,” says Cowens. “In Portland, it’s really cleaned up and people care and the grass is really green — probably because it rains so much.”

Since the trip was successful, Page is planning on making it an annual trip for 12 business students in future years.

“What our students realized on this trip is that indeed different cultures do exist here in the United States and students can explore those much more cost effectively than an international experience,” says Page.

Cowens has already signed up to come to Portland again next year. In Cincinnati, she decorated two display cases with souvenirs and gave a presentation to other students about her experiences.

“Portland is just so different, there’s something about it,” said Cowens. “I’m really attracted to the city itself, I’m thinking about moving there.”