Salt Block honors business innovators

| October 8, 2012

The Sweet Briar College business department will host its second Salt Block Project Entrepreneur Awards Dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11 in Prothro Dining Room.

The 2012 award recipients are Leah Busque, a 2001 Sweet Briar graduate and founder and CEO of TaskRabbit Inc.; Marti Beller, founder and CEO of PlanG; and Bob Vosburgh, CEO of Survey Vitals. In addition, 40 to 50 area business owners and representatives have been invited in recognition of their contributions to the local economy and community.

In 2011 the focus was on local winners, when a dozen area leaders representing both new and established businesses were honored with certificates of recognition. Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling gave the keynote address at that event. This year, the honorees have been asked to prepare brief comments.

The Salt Block Project is a creation of Sweet Briar’s business department to focus on the connections between innovation, entrepreneurship and the liberal arts. In practice, it is a series of outreach initiatives to the business community that can take such forms as conference workshops led by successful entrepreneurs for area college students; partnerships with local companies to provide hands-on work experience for Sweet Briar students while providing real service to real businesses; and the awards dinner, which is a signature event to be held annually.

Sweet Briar’s business program is less than a decade old. Salt Block is a product of the department’s strategic planning to define its identity and direction to best prepare students for jobs after graduation while staying true to the College’s liberal arts mission.

“Where we ended up is entrepreneurship,” said department chair Tom Scott. “Entrepreneurship is the perfect confluence of creative and critical thinking and business. Whether a student starts her own business or not, if she understands the larger context within which business operates, understands the way business functions work together, and has real experience prior to graduating, she is an asset to any organization.”

In today’s global economy, he adds, it’s more important than ever that business majors have the broad perspective a liberal arts education provides.

The dinner is a way to further emphasize these connections and allow students — who plan and execute Salt Block programming — the opportunity to interact and learn from today’s leaders and innovators who are shaping the new economy.

About this year’s recipients:

Leah Busque founded TaskRabbit Inc., then called RunMyErrand.com, in 2008. The company uses an online social networking model to let people and companies outsource tasks such a deliveries, buying groceries or assembling furniture, to a pool of “runners.” The runners, who are vetted through background checks, bid against each other on odd jobs that TaskRabbit users need done.

Busque started the company in the Boston area, where she was working as a software engineer at IBM. Within about a year, she procured $1 million from West Coast investors to expand and moved to San Francisco. The company also operates in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif., and employs three dozen full-time engineers, managers and other professionals in addition to more than 2,000 independent runners.

Marti Beller, co-founder and CEO of PlanG, is well known in the Richmond business community after serving as president of Affinion Loyalty Group for the past decade. Earlier this year, she and her co-founders launched PlanG, a venture that aims to revolutionize how individuals give to charities by providing a solution to individuals, businesses and nonprofits that help increase the impact they can make on the world.

PlanG provides an online tool that allows individuals to select, organize and track all of their charitable giving in one place. It connects donors to charitable organizations, allows individuals to create fundraising campaigns for charities they care about and provides an individual account where campaign donations, employer matching funds, or retailer and loyalty program rewards can be deposited for later distribution by the account owner. The company partners with more than 250 online retailers who will contribute to individuals’ PlanG accounts when they make purchases.

Beller says the idea behind PlanG is to apply traditional for-profit marketing solutions and expertise to the world of philanthropy.

Bob Vosburgh is the founder and president of 9g Enterprises, a company that provides surveys, workshops, coaching and keynotes for organizational improvement. Its primary focus is on medical organizations through Survey Vitals, a proprietary electronic solution that provides immediate feedback for continuous organizational improvement and increased patient, employee and physician satisfaction. Survey Vitals also supports compliance with state and federal Medicare requirements.

Vosburgh, an aeronautical and astronautical engineer, spent 14 years in the military as a fighter pilot, assistant professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Air Force ROTC Commandant of Cadets. After his service, he entered the corporate arena, primarily in finance and investments. He started 9g Enterprises in 2002, and is an author, regular speaker and executive coach.

Contact: Jennifer McManamay

Category: Business, Uncategorized