Taking Care of Business: Alumni Business Owners
Posted by Caitlin Joyce, ’11, ‘18 on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 3:48 PM PST
Seattle University alumni and students are well known for their leadership skills and commitment to service. As an institution that places an emphasis on professional excellence and discernment, it should come as no surprise that many alumni feel called to start their own businesses.
With so many entrepreneurs in the Seattle U alumni community, we are excited to announce the new Alumni Business Owners Alliance. This group aims to provide community, support and networking opportunities for alumni business owners. Read until the end to learn more about how to get involved.
In this issue of the SU Voice we feature just a few of our alumni business owners. We will continue to highlight alumni business owners throughout the year. If you are a business owner that would like to be featured, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andre Taybron, MPA ‘00
Kipara Group LLC
D.C. Metro area (Alexandria and Arlington, VA)
Kipara Group LLC is a premier residential real estate and design services firm in the Washington, D.C. metro area. According to co-founder and Seattle U alumnus, Andre Taybron, ’00, the company’s mission is to help clients establish an environment where they can comfortably work, live, play, and love, explaining that, “We work with each client to facilitate transactions and create spaces to help them build and live their best lives.” Andre and fellow co-founder Brian Gendron not only want to take care of their clients but also vulnerable community members who might not have the resources to afford stable housing.
“Seattle University’s social justice-minded philosophy and teachings continue to have a positive impact on my personal and professional lives. At Kipara Group, we emphasize housing as being a right for every individual, influenced by Jesuit tradition,” Andre said, adding that he advocates for affordable, safe, and sanitary housing for all.
In the wake of the recent announcement that Amazon will open part of its second headquarters in the D.C. area, Andre was featured in the Puget Sound Business Journal, saying, “I recognize from my observations and experience in Seattle (from 1996-2015), the potential to make money from Amazon's decision, yet I am anxious about Amazon's expansion because I know it will displace longtime residents.”
We asked Andre what his secret to running a successful business was and he said it all comes down to relationships. “We build relationships with individuals who trust us with, what is usually, their most expensive purchase and investment.” To Andre, success is having repeat clients who are willing to recommend their services to others.
Learn more about Kipara Group here.
Outside of his work, Andre stays involved with Seattle U as a leader in the Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter.
David Engelstein, MBA ‘12
Dragon Bicycles, LLC
David Engelstein began his career working for a family textiles business, where he helped manage the company's product development department. This experience inspired David to follow in the footsteps of other direct to consumer companies likes Casper, an online mattress retailer, and develop Dragon Bicycles. Dragon Bicycles sends consumers affordable quality bikes that are ready to use right out of the package.
A cyclist himself, David found inspiration in the German company Canyon, which also provides bikes straight to the consumer, but at a higher price point than David and his team offer. According to David, the most affordable Dragon Bicycle design starts at around $1400 compared to the competitor’s $2000 and includes a bike designed to fit the customer’s measurements, free shipping, 30-day trial and easy returns.
Still a new company, Dragon Bicycle opened its doors about 18 months ago and began selling on Cyber Monday 2018. David said that to thrive they need to be flexible, confident and willing to adapt. He’ll consider Dragon Bicycle a success if a year from now a big competitor mentions their name in an article.
Dragon Bicycle has partnered with a local summer camp to supply them with branded bicycles and is looking to build partnerships with a variety of businesses. David wants alumni to know he is passionate about putting people on great bikes and he hopes you’ll learn more about Dragon Bicycles, LLC here.
ChrisTiana ObeySumner, ‘13, MNPL’16
Epiphany with Equity: Education and Consulting
According to ChrisTiana, it wasn’t just a desire to develop a successful business plan that led them to launch their consulting firm. It was a combination of planning, impulsivity and the desire to fulfill an unmet need that led them to start Epiphany with Equity: Education and Consulting. “I feel it is important to share that someone can start a business out of necessity and still be successful,” ChrisTiana said.
As someone with a diagnosed developmental and psychiatric disability, ChrisTiana is familiar with being a self-advocate and having to fight back against oppressive systems. In their consulting work, ChrisTiana uses their expertise in issues of intersectionality to explore the
"why” at the root of issues within organizations that are striving to be more inclusive. ChrisTiana uses a holistic approach with their clients focusing on everything from anti-racism initiatives to accessibility issues and cultural frameworks. ChrisTiana’s clients have included the Washington Autism Advisory Council, GeekGirlCon, the Arc of King County and others.
“My myriad experiences of navigating and deciphering the messiness and convolutions of sociopolitical and sociocultural humanity underlies the philosophy and approach of my workshops, assessments, and formal consulting and strategy services—the phenomena of these explored not as intersections, but as interwoven tapestries of history, action, behavior and experience,” ChrisTiana said.
ChrisTiana’s message to others is that the pathway to entrepreneurship is less like cartography and more like spelunking. There is no right or wrong identity, ability, background or method to embarking on the journey. And it is more likely for those who do not come from privilege to have to chart their own path. They suggest leaning on your networks and community and collecting every bit of advice along the way to critically consider whether it works for you.
Those looking to connect with ChrisTiana and their services are encouraged to reach out to them through LinkedIn.
The stories above highlight just some of our alumni business owners. If you are a business owner who wants to build community with fellow Seattle U entrepreneurs and learn about the Seattle U Alumni Business Owners Alliance, join them at one of their upcoming events or follow them on SU Alumni Connect.
Business Owners Alliance Site Visit
January 22, 2019
Space is limited. RSVP required.
Business Owners Alliance Happy Hour
January 24, 2019
1514 NW Leary Way, Seattle
No RSVP required.