Saint Mary's Readies the Next Generation of Global Entrepreneurs

The Bay Area is a hub for companies that operate on a global scale – consider Google, Apple or Twitter. But it isn’t just the tech giants that have tentacles in today’s global economy. Even a restaurant or a tea company can have outposts around the world.

Students gather outside the Numi Tea headquarters in Oakland.

Students in a Saint Mary’s class on Global Entrepreneurship learned that first-hand during forays that took them beyond the classroom, as Jan Term courses often do, and into the world of real-life businesses to learn about local companies with a surprisingly global reach.

At Metro Lafayette, they heard from restaurant owner Jack Moore, the former CEO for Wolfgang Puck’s global restaurant business. At Wente Brothers Winery in Livermore, they learned that the winery is the fourth largest exporter of U.S. wines.

And at Numi Tea, they met with Vice President of Operations Brian Durkee, a 2011 graduate of Saint Mary’s Executive MBA program, who explained that the company, based in a nondescript warehouse in Oakland, has growers in 20 countries and exports to 34 nations around the world.

Lessons from the Real World

Along the way, the students learned some key lessons for all entrepreneurs – both domestic and global.

“I learned that before you get into it, you have to know every single detail of the business,” said William Sutjipto, a junior finance major from Jakarta. “I want to learn and apply this to my dad’s energy company in Indonesia.”

Numi Tea Vice President of Operations Brian Durkee EMBA 'xx at a Jasmine flower plantation in China.Adjunct Professor of Finance Tom Cleveland, a former director of national and international banking for the global financial services firm Deloitte & Touche, said the course reflects the growing focus on global perspectives in the School of Economics and Business Administration and offers a taste of the Professional MBA program’s new entrepreneurship concentration, which will debut in October.

It also reflects growing trends worldwide. "Entrepreneurship has become the most important factor in success in developing countries, as well as in the United States," he said. "After some success, the most practical way to grow and prosper is to move the idea globally."

Students eagerly embraced the lessons they learned from business people in the field as well as guest speakers like Tapan Munroe, former chief economist of PG&E and an expert on Silicon Valley whose latest book is Innovation: Key to America’s Prosperity and Job Growth.   

A Case Study in Global Sustainability and Innovation

At Numi Tea, the students also got lessons in sustainability and the importance of constant innovation, which Durkee says has been the key to the company’s explosive growth.  

Numi is the fastest growing organic tea company in the United States and is “on the forefront of the sustainable movement,” he said. Not only is it the top purchaser of fair-trade tea in the U.S., its packaging is cutting edge, with boxes made from bamboo – an inexhaustible resource – and printed with soy-based ink. A numbers-cruncher extraordinaire, Durkee estimates that the company has saved 5,202 trees and has kept 334,560 pounds of waste out of landfills with its ground-breaking environmental practices.

Aaron Love, a senior business major, was impressed with the Numi operations. “This is the first time I’ve heard of a company going to such lengths to be sustainable,” he said.

Nate Dalena, a senior business major who has a job lined up with global insurance company Arthur J. Gallagher &Co – and a secret dream of someday opening his own bar and restaurant – said that after this class, he now has a better idea of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. As he said, “You really need to be an expert in the field first – and willing to take on risk.”

View photos from the Global Entrepreneurship class's visit to Numi Tea.