Hornet to take reins at one of the West’s biggest banks

Talk about capital gains: This week, The Sacramento Bee reported that Hornet alumnus Cort O’Haver will be taking over the top jobs at Umpqua Holdings Corp. – one of the biggest financial institutions on the West Coast with more than 350 branches – in January 2017.

In the biggest move of his career, O’Haver will take over as the organization’s president and CEO, as well as chair of its Board of Directors.

The former Sac State English major and current president of Umpqua Bank, O’Haver (’86, English) got into finance relatively late.

Once he did, he never looked back.

O’Haver excelled in banking school before moving into various management positions throughout Northern California.

Next January, he takes over an institution that has seen unprecedented growth in the past two decades. Check out this week’s story in The Sacramento Bee below for an in-depth look at Cort’s journey through the world of finance:

Sacramento State alum will take over top Umpqua Bank posts in 2017 – The Sacramento Bee

In the Mouse House: “Made” mogul serves up sushi at Shanghai Disneyland

Alan Wong in Hatsune Sushi in Hong Kong
Chef and restaurateur Alan Wong (’00, Philosophy) opened his latest location of Hatsune Sushi on June 16 at the brand-new Shanghai Disneyland. (Photo courtesy of Alan Wong)

For millions of Disney fans around the world, the long wait is over: Shanghai Disneyland has officially opened! And for Made at Sac State restaurateur Alan Wong, that means bringing a taste of California to more diners from around the world.

Over the past 15 years, Wong (’00, Philosophy) has built a culinary empire consisting of 13 restaurants across Beijing and Shanghai that have effectively cornered the local market on California-style sushi, characterized by its use of sauces and non-traditional ingredients like avocado and crab.

Wong’s restaurants, called Hatsune Sushi, took off – of the 9,199 Beijing restaurants listed on Tripadvisor, Hatsune Sushi ranked 48th in June 2016 – and Disney took notice.

For Wong, a self-described Disney buff who says he can sing most Disney movie songs, it was a dream come true to have the opportunity to open a restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. On June 16, that dream became a reality with the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, which at nearly 1,000 acres and a cost of more than $5.5 billion is the second-largest of all the Disney parks.

Made at Sac State caught up with Wong the last time he was stateside – check out his Made feature and video to see more of his culinary craft, find out what Disney character he’d be, and more.

 

 

The (Silk) Road to success

Payam Fardanesh on "Made at Sac State — The Video Magazine" Season One
Payam Fardanesh (center) chats with “Made at Sac State – The Video Magazine” host Gloria Moraga and Professor Seung Bach, interim associate dean for undergraduate programs, about Silk Road Soda.

When Payam Fardanesh founded Silk Road Soda, his line of Mediterranean-inspired drinks, in 2012, he was selling one bottle at a time out of the trunk of his car. Four years later, he’s bringing the tastes of his childhood to the entire country.

In the past year alone, Fardanesh has inked deals with some of the biggest names in retail, catapulting his brand into the national spotlight. Still, the Sac State alumnus remains grounded in his family roots and the memories of his grandmother, brewing and sipping the same suds he sells today.

“I was re-creating my childhood when I made the product,” Fardanesh says. “It’s a pretty simple drink, but everyone in Iran has it.”

The entrepreneur spent his formative childhood years in Iran. The Silk Road Soda line is his version of his grandmother’s own recipe for the sweet-and-sour Mediterranean drink sekanjabin. It is traditional and simple, made primarily with mint, sugar and vinegar, and it is a staple in countries like Iran, Greece, and India.

Fardanesh was the first to bring it stateside on a commercial scale. Sacramento, he says, was the perfect place to test the market, thanks to the city’s diversity.

“There are so many different cultures that are really tied to Sacramento,” he says. “We really have a melting pot here. … It really was a launching pad for us.”

Silk Road Soda may have its roots in the Middle East, but the company got its start at Sac State: Fardanesh met his original business partner in the Master of Business Administration for Executives (EMBA) program. He earned his degree in 2011, launched the brand in 2012, and hasn’t looked back since.

In 2016, Fardanesh signed his first national contract with Cost Plus, and Silk Road Soda today is shipped by 10 different distributors to nearly every state in the country. The company’s growing success snowballed into a blockbuster pact with CostCo, where they will begin rolling out his product by the case starting in the Pacific Northwest later this year. That deal alone, he says, could end up accounting for over one-fifth of the company’s business.

This year, Fardanesh expects to sell more than 30,000 cases — an amount that no longer fits in the trunk of his car. That’s a problem he’s happy to have.

“For the younger entrepreneurs that think they can’t get it done here in town, I would say they’re wrong,” he says. “If you have a great idea and a good pitch and good promise, there are the faculties in our community to grow a small business.”

Click here to see Payam’s interview with Gloria Moraga in the College of Business Administration episode of the first season of Made at Sac State — The Video Magazine.