|Alaina has been the subject of many articles, including several in national publications. Here are just a few...
Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Winter 2009 - The Business of Mergers
The Arizona Republic, November 14, 2008 - Contest Winners Help Boost State
Forbes.com, November 13, 2008 - Arizona Technology Council Announces Winners of Governor's Celebration of Innovation Awards (also published (and related stories) on Marketwatch.com, EuroInvestor.co.uk, Yahoo! Canada, TMCnet.com, StreetInsider.com, and Macro World Investor)
AZ Business Magazine, December-January 2008 - High Tech Hopes: State, universities, business groups works to make Arizona a high-tech powerhouse
Arizona Daily Star, December 6, 2007 - UA program preps science students for business world
ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals, October 22, 2007 - Laughing Matters - Adding humor to the Lab Makes a Job More Fun
ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals, October 2007 - Job Fair Success
Monster.com, Spring 2007 -Take a No-Crying Approach to Resolving Workplace Conflicts
Monster.com, Spring 2007 - Five Ways to Build Leadership Skills in an Entry-Level Job
Tucson Business Edge, January 3, 2007 -Tech pros improve worth with people skills
Leader Magazine, Spring 2006 -Spread the Word: Hiring a Publicist Can Help You Achieve Your PR Objectives
Arizona Daily Star, July 14, 2006 - Many Roles Boil Down to 1 Word: Entrepreneur
Arizona Daily Star, May 15, 2006 -It's R.U.D.E. not to R.S.V.P.
Arizona Daily Star, May 3, 2006 -Business, science a powerful mix: UA students find 2 fields go hand in hand
Tucson Citizen, December 28, 2005 - Professor Injects Scientists with Marketing Savvy
Entrepreneur Magazine, December 2005 - For Success, It's Who You Know
Tucson Business Edge, Summer 2005 - 40 Under 40 Business Leader Winners
Arizona Daily Star, August 22, 2005 - Franchise Owners not sure what to do with 'Picurro' name
Arizona Daily Star, September 6, 2004 - Meet Alaina/Alana: Mistaken Identities: former students, current employees at the UA are forever being mixed up
Read a recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine quoting Alaina that was also featured on TheStreet.com and msnbc.com.
For Success, It's Who You Know
By Nichole Torres
The saying goes that every person on earth is separated from every other person by only six degrees. That means your friend's brother's nephew's wife could know Michael Dell, Donald Trump or Martha Stewart. You could conceivably be only a few networking steps away from someone who could help you get your business off the ground -- be it an industry contact, a top lawyer or a state government official. You've heard all about the importance of networking, but what about harvesting your own network to uncover someone who just might be able to get you in touch with a stellar business contact? That's six-degree networking.
Even if you don't think you know someone who can help, you'd be surprised. What about an old schoolmate you send holiday cards to? Who might she know? Or could your softball teammate have a brother in the same industry in which you hope to hang your shingle?
Perhaps the biggest benefit of using the "six degrees of separation" method is that you have an "in" with this new person. Since your friend of a friend is opening the door, you're not exactly a stranger. "The whole key to six degrees is you're coming with a reference; you're not cold calling," says Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a marketing and sales consulting and training firm in Los Angeles. "You're coming with a warm lead, so to speak."
A Friend of a Friend
A warm lead is exactly how Paul Taylor found someone who could help him get his specialty clothing business off the ground. Taylor, 36, had been working as an arborist and found that his work clothing wasn't as practical for tending trees as he would've liked. He wanted to combine the durability of a canvas work pant with the agility and great fit of a rock-climbing pant -- so in 1997, he launched Arborwear LLC from his parents' Cleveland-area home.
Like any entrepreneur excited about a new idea, Taylor was talking about the venture one day with a friend who was also an arborist. This friend happened to have a friend whose sister worked in a New York City fashion enterprise. Taylor called that friend of a friend, who then introduced Taylor to his fashion-industry sister. "I called her, and I ran the whole idea by her. She didn't know anything about chain saws or tree work or arborists, but she said, 'The key to it is that you have a niche, and that's really the only place you can ever hope to get started,'" recalls Taylor. "I wound up going to New York City and meeting [this contact] . She loaned me a cell phone and gave me this list of people to see about fabric."
Taylor's fashion-industry contact was so helpful and encouraging, in fact, that he credits her with helping him launch his business. "She gave me confidence that this was a good idea -- and she gave me a push in the right direction," he says.
Sincerity is the key to making the six-degree method of networking work for you, according to experts. If you go to people thinking only about what's in it for you, you'll turn off a lot of potential contacts. "As you approach these individuals, be sure you've clearly defined what you can do for them," says Ferrazzi. "Generosity is the [key] to your success with relationships. Defining what currency you have -- what you can do for others-is crucial."
If you can bring something to the table, do it. If you can't, as was the case with Taylor and the fashion-industry contact, display complete humility, and be genuine in your communication with contacts. Says Taylor, "The thing that helped me most was that I never lied, [though] I always tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I really found that people bent over backward to help me."
To get started, plumb your expertise, and look for things to offer. Taylor, for instance, was able to barter his tree-removal services with a lawyer he met through another friend -- he got legal services to help set up his business, and the lawyer got a problem tree removed from his property. Cultivating contacts has paid off for Taylor, whose $1.5-million business now sells its Arborwear line of specialty climbing and outdoor-work clothing online. The company's line of pants, shirts, T-shirts, belts and hats is also sold through retailers such as REI nationwide.
The seeds of your six-degree network can grow in the most unlikely places. You might sit next to someone on an airplane, or be chatting with someone as you wait for an elevator, when business kismet strikes -- so be sure to bring your game face with you wherever you go. "Every interaction with anybody counts because it reflects on your brand," says Alaina G. Levine, president of Quantum Success Solutions, a Tucson, Arizona, company that provides expertise on topics such as PR, personal branding and marketing.
Kaz Kihara always had his business idea in the back of his head. While working for a CPA firm in the late 1990s, he was attending night school and started chatting with one of his classmates. The two struck up a friendly rapport, and Kihara learned his classmate was the chief information officer for an $80-million company in the medical services industry. In 1999, when Kihara decided to start Premier Data Technology Inc., a Torrance, California, provider of IT services to small and midsize companies, this high-level executive hooked him up with a former colleague -- who became one of Kihara's first and largest clients.
Keeping his six-degree network of contacts in mind at all times, Kihara regularly calls his contacts socially -- not always with a specific business goal in mind, but to keep those lines of communication open. "While I'm driving in my car, I call my clients, friends, ex-employees, just to see how everything's going," says Kihara, 35.
And just like the experts suggest, he approaches contacts with ways of helping their businesses. Says Kihara, "I try not to do it too aggressively -- I usually try to know the person or help that person in their business or personally. How can I help them so that they might want to help me out?"
There's one definite no-no of the six-degree system: Don't be too pushy or aggressive when pursuing your leads. And don't rush a connection too quickly, says Steve Harper, author of The Ripple Effect: Maximizing the Power of Relationships for Your Life and Business. "If person A can get you aligned with person B, but you don't have enough rapport built up with person A, you have a tendency to really burn a bridge," he says. "You [can] make people feel used and seedy in the process [by] leapfrogging them. It's really important to let everybody know that they're individually important in the process -- and give the proper credit to person A for opening that door of opportunity." You can do that by following up with a thank you, he notes.
Ever appreciative of his business relationships, Kihara's company grew to a second location in Las Vegas in May thanks to six-degree networking. He is currently establishing and building relationships in Asia with hopes of bringing his services to the Japanese market, which will likely push sales past the 2005 projections of more than $2.4 million.
Consider the biblical adage "seek, and ye shall find" when it comes to six-degree networking. As Ferrazzi notes, you have to be proactive when employing this approach during startup. First, you must decide exactly what type of startup help you need: Are you looking for someone to help finance your business? A mentor to teach you about your industry? A source of great employees? "Once you identify what you want to achieve, you can specifically target the individuals you need to associate with to achieve [your] goals," says Ferrazzi. "Some are going to be prospective clients, community leaders, influencers, etc."
That kind of preparation is precisely what helped Cindy Page build her Blockhead Bath line of bath and body products. When she launched her company in 2002, she needed help determining her company name in addition to general information about the bath and body industry. A former assistant buyer for Filene's, Page knew a vendor who referred her to a friend who worked in marketing for a large bath and body manufacturer -- and she was able to glean a lot of industry knowledge from that contact. "When I talked to that person, I really made sure I had a goal in mind and the kinds of questions I wanted to ask [all prepared] ," says Page, 35. "I made sure I did my homework."
Do your homework, and don't be afraid to ask politely for what you need. But, Ferrazzi cautions: "You've got to make sure the intimacy you have with them is commensurate with the request." There's a fine line between being proactive and being aggressive, but experts agree that many people are willing to help if you approach them in a positive, "what can I do for you" kind of way.
It's really just being brave enough to open your mouth about your business. Says Page, "I tapped into every friend, every trusted colleague, every business associate." A friend of a former co-worker, for instance, was organizing a Ronald McDonald House fund-raising event; thanks to that connection, the organizer tapped Blockhead Bath to donate to the silent auction-a social coup and a brand boost. Page was also invited to participate in a sales event at an arts fair in Chicago when a friend of hers, who went to college with the person who ran the fair, put in a good word. The real-life implication of such relationships is clear: Page has seen her company's 2005 sales approach $500,000, and her company currently sells its products online at www.blockheadbath.com and at the Amazon.com Beauty store. Says Page, "People like to do business with people they know, and they like to help people they know-or kind of know."
Six Degrees of Success
It would seem that using your six-degree network of contacts is not only smart for business, it's essential. "It's amazing to think that we are connected to every other person on the planet by only six steps, which means there are unlimited business opportunities out there," says Levine.
And if you've learned anything, it's that this isn't just an easy, one-time gig. It's important to keep your six-degree network thriving as you grow your business. "It's a never-ending process. It isn't just going to events and collecting business cards -- it's about finding people you can build something with and cultivate a relationship [with] ," says Harper. "It's a lot of hard work to build that trust and rapport, but you'll be rewarded handsomely because you're willing to put the time and effort into it." Cultivating your six-degree network is a deliberate and valuable act, so tend to it as you would a garden, and watch the business opportunities grow.
Six Ways to Start Six-Degree Networking Right Now
Ready to build and cultivate your own connections? These six action steps will help you get your six-degree network up and running:
1. Make a list of the 250 people most important to you. Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a marketing and sales consulting and training firm in Los Angeles, suggests you consider business leaders, community leaders, friends and family -- basically anyone who can help you and to whom you might have something to offer. Start cultivating those relationships.
2. Become a master at relationships. It's not just about picking up the phone; it's about creating long-term connections and developing a real rapport. Ferrazzi says to remember things like your contacts' birthdays and favorite hobbies.
3. Join business and social groups. Start attending meetings, luncheons, mixers, whatever -- anything that will build your contact list. "As you grow [your] business, your circle -- your network- should grow as well," says Zoe Alexander, networking expert and founder of Divas Who Dine LLC, a women's business networking group in New York City.
4. Assess your attributes. Clearly define what you can bring to the table for all your new contacts. The more you bring to the party, the more willing people will be to help you, Alexander points out.
5. Engage in conversations. No matter where you are, start talking with your seatmate or line buddy. Ask questions about their business or industry and talk a bit about yours, Levine suggests. You'll get ideas, inspiration and, if you're lucky, a really good six-degree contact.
6. Bone up on current events. "Leaders are readers," says Steve Harper, author of The Ripple Effect: Maximizing the Power of Relationships for Your Life and Business. To be relevant to your desired contacts, you've got to stay abreast of news, happenings and the like. Doing so will also give you good conversation-starters for any networking situation.
Alaina was recently the subject of an editorial in the Gannett newspaper, the Tucson Citizen, regarding her award-winning graduate class, Topics in Entrepreneurship for Scientists, which she designed and teaches, and for which she was named an inaugural Eller Entrepreneurial Scholar.
December 28, 2005
Professor injects scientists with marketing savvy
By Teya Vitu
Coming up with a brilliant high-tech gizmo is only half the challenge.
The real challenge is the other half: making a business out of your innovation.
Even more important to the community is making that a growing business with hundreds of employees.
Southern Arizona has some 1,200 high-tech companies. Maybe 50 to 75 have 100 or more employees. The other 95 percent are closer to 15 or 20 employees - and will likely stay at 15 to 20. Not because the technology isn't brilliant. But because the business savvy at these many companies nowhere near matches the high-tech savvy.
Science and business pretty much don't mix. But lots of scientists run their own companies. End result: Lots of small and failed companies that could have been the next Oracle.
Alaina G. Levine has a passion for giving scientists at least a taste of business savvy. Levine, director of special projects at the College of Science at the University of Arizona, a couple years ago started a professional master's degree program - a business degree for scientists.
But Levine is sharp enough to know that few scientists will go for a full degree. So she opened up the one-semester Topics in Entrepreneurship for Scientists class within the degree program to any graduate student in a scientific or engineering discipline.
The program and class are a collaboration with the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program at UA's Eller College of Management.
It's a class that could play quite a role in building the long-elusive high-tech economy for Tucson. The rule of thumb is high-tech powerhouses start small in some city and grow big in the same city: Microsoft in Seattle, Dell in Austin,Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley, etc.
In reality, scientists must bring in business people fluent in the high-tech world to take a small company to the big time. But Levine's class gives young scientists an immeasurable head start.
"Scientists I interact with have no idea how a business operates, or how their science interacts and affects the bottom line of the business enterprise," Levine said. "What we're trying to do with the class is change the way scientists think."
Students get a crash course into the world of entrepreneurship, far removed from beakers and microscopes. It's a world that can conquer nearly any scientist - keeping a potential powerhouse company as one of the thousand of small companies Tucson has.
Worawarong Rakreungdet, who simplifies his Thai name down to "O," brings joy to Levine and the local entrepreneurs actively involved in the class.
"Before I took the class, it was, 'How does this (technology) work?' " said Rakreungdet, a doctoral candidate in physics working on the interaction of atoms and light. "Now I say, 'What is the market? Who will buy our product?' If it's a great idea but there is no market, it won't work."
Exactly the words Jim Akridge likes to hear. He is chief executive of Valence Technology in Austin, Texas, but lives in Tucson and is one of the dozens of entrepreneurs who serve as mentors for students.
"The part they miss is the marketing part (in college)," Akridge said. "I help them understand that in order to be successful, they have to have a marketing idea - something people want, need and is cost-effective."
Levine's class, limited to 20 students per semester, tackles things students will never hear in biochemical engineering or cellular biology: venture capital, competitive advantage, supply chain management, market share distribution, selling cycles. Levine knows of no other university that offers such a science entrepreneurship course.
Each week there is a free dinner for five students, at which time they can pick the brain of an entrepreneur.
"Students get funded at those dinners," Levine said. "They learn how to handle firing people. Amazing secrets come out from those dinners."
Souma Chaudhury, a doctoral candidate in optical sciences, took the entrepreneurship class last semester and noted that business people have a much broader view than scientists. He has no illusions that he has the chops to run his own high-tech company.
"I would hire a businessperson," said Chaudhury, a native of India.
Teya Vitu is a business reporter for the Tucson Citizen.
Arizona Daily Star
May 3, 2006
Business, science a powerful mix UA students find 2 fields go hand in hand
Opinion by Richard Ducote
There once was a notion that science and business mix about as well as oil and water.
That's a very dated concept, especially in the vicinity of the University of Arizona College of Science, where entrepreneurship is nurtured right alongside algorithms.
Examples of this beneficial combination will be on display this evening at The Manning House Downtown.
A dozen graduate students in science, engineering, optics and agriculture will team up to present three early-stage business plans before an invited gathering of nearly 100 Arizona business leaders.
The plans start with technology and try to address a need, along with ways to move ideas to market.
Successful entrepreneurs help mentor the students and guide their plans along the way. Bob Morrison, one of the founders of Sunquest Information Systems in the late 1970s, is one of the mentors. Sunquest was sold to Misys in 2001. Morrison now is executive director of the Desert Angels, a group of investors who focus on tech startups.
He calls the program "terrific" and says students in today's competitive world economy need to be entrepreneurs. Even pure-research scientists "need to have some notion of value in the marketplace for what they are doing."
Kirt Gardner also mentors one of the teams and helps to review all three team presentations. He is a veteran of operations in many companies and now serves on private company boards.
"It's the beginning of preparation for the real business world," he says. The students feel the need for business courses to go along with their science studies, "and that makes sense to me."
Student participants praised the program.
Ken Barrett already has a Harvard MBA but decided to enroll in the UA professional science master's program in applied science and business. His team's plan uses CAT scans to screen for colon cancer.
"I really came at it from the science technology front," Barrett says. "I focused on the science courses with the goal of doing early-stage technology evaluation and business development in biosciences."
Joanna Lahtinen is in the professional science master's program in applied biosciences. She is now focusing on science and law with the hope of becoming a patent attorney. After completing her master's degree, she plans to enter law school.
"It's very beneficial" to consider business issues along with the science study, she says. "I could never have had this exposure in a regular master of science program."
Alaina Levine, director of special projects for the College of Science, says the professional science master's program was created six years ago, working with the Eller College of Management. The whole idea is to make science students more successful in tech-based companies, Levine says.
Such integration among disciplines benefits the university and its students.
Proof that such programs help our community will likely come in the future, as these business-savvy students take ideas to market.
Contact columnist Richard Ducote at 573-4178 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arizona Daily Star
July 14, 2006
Many roles boil down to 1 word: entrepreneur
By Becky Pallack
Alaina Levine's work could be labeled in a lot of ways: scientist, businesswoman, teacher, comedian, public relations specialist, administrator.
But she wraps them all into one category: entrepreneur.
Levine, 31, is a project director at the University of Arizona's College of Science, where she also teaches a class on entrepreneurship for graduate students.
She came to the UA from New Jersey to study math and archaeology, but after graduation she realized that "I'd rather be the one igniting the fire of interest in science in other people," she said.
Levine helped launch a master's degree program in applied science and business for physics graduate students. She advises students in the program and also provides public relations and other support for the department. Levine figures she mentors around 75 people a year.
She also administers a class for science graduate students who are interested in learning business skills to help them start their own businesses. She designed the class in 2004 and was named an Eller Entrepreneurial Scholar by the UA's Eller College of Management.
Levine recruited Kirt Gardner — a local entrepreneur who is currently on the board of Apta Software in Tucson — to help coach the students and to review their business models. Gardner said Levine is positive and energetic, and brings her sense of humor to the class.
"She's got a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, she's good with people in the class, and she really tries to make them become more accomplished in business," Gardner said.
On the side, Levine runs her own small business, Quantum Success Solutions. She does public relations and "corporate comedy."
She has always liked performing and making people laugh, she said. So when she noticed people were always bored and reluctant at workplace training classes, she decided she could fill a niche market for entertaining training.
Some of her workshops include "Success Bling Bling: How to be a Career Advancement Diva" and "It's Not Just About the Benjamins, Baby: Teambuilding and Leadership to Ignite Positive Change."
"I really enjoy making people laugh," Levine said. "I see it as a challenge."
She has given about 350 presentations nationwide in about three years, including some close to home at Intuit Inc. Because the audiences are so different, Levine tailors each presentation and includes changes that can be made immediately to improve success.
Her best advice is to always look for opportunities.
"Some will lead you to failure, and failure is fabulous," Levine said. "Failure is the best way to learn."
Levine was honored for her own successes when she was named 2006 Leader of the Year by Greater Tucson Leadership in May.
She said she felt privileged and humbled to be among past years' winners. Recent honorees include U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona and Tanis Salant, director of the UA Institute for Local Government.
She said she would like to follow their examples of being the kind of leader who enables others to improve themselves.
Lea Marquez-Peterson, executive director of Greater Tucson Leadership, said Levine was chosen because of her "exemplary community service."
"She's got an engaging personality," Marquez-Peterson said, "and once you meet her, you understand why people call her a PR queen."
Profile Name: Alaina Levine
Job: Director of special projects and the Professional Science Master's Program, University of Arizona College of Science
Friday On the Job focuses on the people who make Tucson businesses run — those who are in charge, keep a business running, are just starting out or hire workers.
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at 573-4224 or at email@example.com.
Contact Alaina at firstname.lastname@example.org.