These women mean business

Four Sacramento State alumnae made the Sacramento Business Journal's 2016 list of "Women Who Mean Business."
(Sacramento State/Sam Macapagal)

Congratulations to the four dynamic Sac State alumnae named to the Sacramento Business Journal‘s 2016 class of “Women Who Mean Business.”

Christine Ault, Carol Burger, Judy Kjelstrom, and Keri Thomas have excelled as leaders in careers that span the region’s professional spectrum.

Each year, the Sacramento Business Journal celebrates the capital region’s top female movers and shakers with its “Women Who Mean Business” awards.

This year, Sacramento State was well-represented by alumnae who are shaping the future of Sacramento in everything from health care and culture to science and economics:

  • As an independent communications consultant, Christine Ault has worked with organizations throughout the region to unite economic interests, hone in on the city’s strengths, and take steps forward to create jobs and bolster the local economy.
  • When it comes to the well-being of the city, Keri Thomas has had some of the biggest impacts as the director for governmental and community relations for Sutter Health Valley Area. A champion of the region’s most underserved populations, she is personally responsible for programs and initiatives that bring health care to people in the region who need it the most.
  • In that same vein, Carol Burger has been helping patients get back on their feet since 1978, when she founded her own outpatient therapy business, Burger Rehabilitation, which provides physical, occupational, and speech therapy for people around the region.
  • Finally, as director of the biotechnology program at UC Davis since 2004, Judy Kjelstrom presides over a program that shapes students who make real-world impacts on everything from agriculture to pharmaceuticals.

The “Women Who Mean Business” awards luncheon will be held June 17 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento and will honor 17 awardees who join a group of 112 elite women who have been honored by the Business Journal over the past 12 years.

Congratulations to our four outstanding alumnae for their remarkable careers and these well-deserved honors – they are Made at Sac State.

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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.

Former Cadet Wing Commander takes flight after graduation

(Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
Evan Yanagihara passes along his duty as Cadet Wing Commander at Sac State’s Air Force ROTC Parade. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Cadet Evan Yanagihara, who is graduating this spring, is leaving behind a legacy at Sacramento State’s Air Force ROTC program as Cadet Wing Commander of Detachment 088. He will be commissioned in June as an Air Force second lieutenant, joining Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training – an internationally manned, highly competitive training program in Texas.

Yanagihara’s impressive resume includes receiving the 2016 Cadet of the Year Award and the 2012 Civil Air Patrol Life Saving Award for saving a friend’s life, among several recognitions for leadership and academic excellence. He was honored May 13 at the Air Force ROTC Parade with Cadet Wing Change of Command, where he passed along his role as commander to Cadet Matthew Silpasornprasit.

Lt. Col. Kenneth Morse, commander of Sac State’s Air Force ROTC program, calls Yanagihara a clear standout achiever in the program.

“He is the top cadet in our detachment, and I will be proud to send him to be an active-duty officer this summer,” Morse says. “Cadet Yanagihara is the sort of young man I am comfortable giving the reins of our Air Force to. He is truly an exceptional leader, person, and airman.”

In addition to his success in the ROTC program, Yanagihara excelled as a Mass Communication Studies major.

“As a member in the Air Force, it is inevitable that you’re going to have to stand up and give briefings. Because of that, we practice them in ROTC,” Yanagihara says. “A particular class I had that helped me was Intro to Media Creation with Professor  (Diego) Bonilla, which helped me create an instructional poster for our cadets that will hopefully be used for years.”

The El Dorado Hills-born cadet knew he wanted to join the Air Force at age 12, when he joined the Civil Air Patrol. At 16, he knew he wanted to be a pilot after attending local air shows.

Our Made at Sac State graduate is to be honored this June at the Air Force ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at Mather Field.