Dann Cutter has maintained a reactor on a nuclear submarine and, for the past 12 years, kept the computer networks running at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. He serves on the Waldport, Oregon city council and two state advisory boards (rural health care and transportation). Why, then, would he return to college for more education?
The answer is personal, best answered by Cutter with a photograph that shows him curled up with his four-year-old daughter Kacey and their two cats. “When Kassandra was born in 2004, I decided it was time to do something serious about my life goals,” he says.
Today, the student in the College of Business and University Honors College is completing a bachelor’s degree in business finance with minors in resource economics and mathematical sciences. He has also accepted a Graduate Laurels Scholarship for OSU’s MBA program. In 2008, with sponsorship and support from OSU’s Austin Entrepreneurship Program, Cutter was one of 13 Americans accepted into an international fellowship program at Stanford University. The Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education (REE) teamed him up with students from China, Thailand and Australia and charged the group with developing a proposal for a sustainable food product business.
Communicating through e-mail, Cutter and his peers shared their cultures and food specialties. They discussed hurdles for starting new businesses in their respective countries.
“Assumptions varied for each of us,” says Cutter. “We take food safety regulations for granted in the U.S., but in Thailand, they’re still developing their approach to food additives. Clean water is something else we take for granted, but you can’t assume it will be available in other parts of the world.”
Last October, 60 REE program participants representing nearly every continent met in a one-week workshop at Stanford. Cutter and his team created a business proposal combining a flair for international flavors (pad Thai, gyros, specialty pizza, bobotie and feijoada) with the requirement of locally produced foods and recipes. The group’s presentation has generated follow-up interest from a venture capital firm.
Other groups developed related proposals: social networking tools to recommend restaurants based on individual food preferences; methane generation from restaurant wastes to meet community energy needs; a food distribution network to serve local farmers, allowing them to compete with global food product companies.
During the workshop, Cutter introduced students to Oregon’s diverse food industry and explained its reliance on international markets. He reached out to Oregon processors for samples of crab and shrimp, pears, hazelnuts, wine and microbrews and took cases of these foods to share with the other participants.
“It’s easy to see markets that exist in your own local area,” says Cutter. “This experience showed me that all entrepreneurship happens in a global market. You need to look at a much larger picture. Business creation is a world-wide endeavor.”
Cutter maintains contact with the members of his group. “You come to understand that there are students around the world just like you who worry about paying their tuition and getting a job,” he says.
Cutter’s personal interest is the energy industry. His Honors College thesis focuses on the prospects for wave energy, but he has gained a broad understanding of how entrepreneurial behavior applies to many disciplines. “Entrepreneurship isn’t just for business students,” he says. “It’s for students in agriculture, science, engineering and all others. It’s as fundamental as math, reading and writing.”
— By Nick Houtman
For more information:
To support the Austin Entrepreneurship Program, contact the OSU Foundation