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Central Washington University

CWU Student Wants His Business “On-a-Roll”

Daniel Clausen has big plans for a business he wants to start. It’s now $5,000 closer to a reality, after his idea took first place in Central Washington University’s 2013 Business Plan Competition. 

“I thought the competition was a great experience that really helped me develop my ideas about the business,” says Clausen, a senior at CWU, who has been formulating his idea since high school.

Clausen’s winning entry was for a mobile sushi business, “On-a-Roll.” Clausen and his friend, sushi chef Casey Lafkas, realized that Clausen, a double major in business management and accounting at CWU, would have the business knowledge and skills, while Lafkas has the product expertise to run a successful small business.

Lafkas, 22, has been employed as a sushi chef since he was 16 years old.

Clausen, also 22, says, “The product that [Lafkas] has learned how to expertly prepare is something that people go crazy for and really incites word of mouth advertising.”

The American fusion style of sushi is what Clausen and Lafkas consider a main advantage over their business competitors.

American fusion sushi rolls are inverted, with the rice outside of the seaweed. Typically, cooked fish is used, instead of raw, and deep frying the rolls in tempura batter are other ways that the American fusion style is considered more suitable to the tastes of the customers they want to attract.

Clausen’s business model is designed to keep the cost down, while reaching his target audience.

“Being mobile will also allow us to travel to large concentrations of hungry customers, including the late night crowd,” explains Clausen.

Since it does not require a big kitchen, seating area, or a large staff, “On-a-Roll” will be cost effective, allowing money to be spent on quality product and equipment.

"The business plan was well done,” comments Roy Savoian, director of CWU’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I4IE), who led the judging panel for the Business Plan Competition. “It effectively assessed details of the market, with strong customer and competitor analysis, and identifying growth options and dynamics."

Clausen plans to initially locate his business in the Bellingham area, because of its proximity to the ocean and fresh seafood. Its location on the busy travel corridor between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, and relaxed food-truck regulations were other reasons for his location decision.

The business name “On-a-Roll” represents several things, according to Clausen. Playing into the meaning of the phrase as a series of successes, the double entendre also emphasizes that the business serves sushi rolls, and that it is mobile.

Clausen says he wouldn’t be where he is with his business if not for the Business Plan Competition.

Clausen will devote all his time to getting his mobile sushi business up-and-running after he graduates in March 2014.

CWU’s I4IE sponsors the annual Business Plan Competition in conjunction with the university’s Symposium On University Research and Creative Expression. A total of $10,000, from the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, is awarded to the top three business plans.

"Clausen provided great graphics in his PowerPoint presentation of the business plan, including the mock-up of the food truck,” says Savoian. “His presentation was strong and effective in all areas of knowledge, organization, and delivery. I can tell you that judges were impressed that he started the presentation with food samples and introduction of the chef. This was an innovative idea!"

This year’s $3,000 second place prize went to William Reichlin for his “Colockum Craft Brewery,” and the $2,000 third place prize went to Ryan Corbin and the CWU student chapter of the Society of Physics Students for their “Creation and Dissemination of Physics Curriculum Activities.”