2018 Best & Brightest: Cole West, Washington University (Olin)

Cole West

Washington University (Olin)

“Lover of immersive learning, my parents’ music, and making an impact wherever I go.”

Fun fact about yourself: I started my first business in fifth grade with my two best friends at the time. It was an art business where my friends would do the drawing and I ran the accounting, delivery, and payment processes. The only thing I drew was a complementary bubble letter picture of customers’ names when they made their first repeat purchase, and it was complementary for a reason. We had three “employees” and our most popular drawing was Hello Kitty.

Hometown: Farmington Hills, MI

High School: University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy

Major: Marketing & Entrepreneurship

Minor: African & African American Studies

Favorite Business Course: My grandmother, Norma Cash, worked in retail shoe sales for over 25 years. When I got to WashU and had the opportunity to take Retail Management, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the business that she spent her life working in. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the quickly changing industry and the small details that differentiate a store from an experience.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

School Awards/Honors:

  • Awarded merit-based John B. Ervin Scholarship from WashU
  • Awarded merit-based James E. McLeod Scholarship from WashU
  • Recipient of the Ralph Bunche Scholar Award
  • Dean’s List

Extracurricular Activities

  • Center for Experiential Learning’s Small Business Initiative – Undergraduate Fellow & Sr. Project Lead
    • I am now the Undergraduate Fellow at the Center for Experiential Learning, a consulting firm within WashU in which undergraduates and MBA students serve as consultants to clients that range from rural startups to Fortune 50 companies. Originally created for 2nd-year MBA students, my role entails client acquisition, relationship development, and working with groups of students to help empower them to deliver successful project outcomes. I am also responsible for developing a long-term strategy and necessary infrastructure for the expansion of the Small Business Initiative, a program exclusively for undergraduates.
  • The Shopping Stop – Co-Founder and President
    • I am the co-founder and president of a grocery delivery service for the WashU community. We deliver from five stores and our clients are students, faculty, campus organizations, and departments within the university. Our business started as a grocery pickup service and has expanded to include delivery services, seasonal specialty products, and a service delivering college move-in essentials to international students.
  • Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) – Career Prep Fellow Class of 2017
  • Teaching Assistant for Management Communication and Retail Management
  • Each One Teach One – High School Math Tutor
  • Student Entrepreneurial Program – Executive Board Vice President

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Freshman Year: Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, Detroit, MI – Internal Firm Services Intern
  • Sophomore Year: The Box Out Group LLC, Plantation, FL – Marketing Intern
  • Junior Year: Deloitte Consulting LLP, Chicago, IL – Strategy & Operations Business Analyst Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m excited to return to Deloitte Consulting as a Strategy & Operations Business Analyst in August.

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is Professor Ashley Hardin. She made Organizational Behavior one of the most valuable classes that I have taken at the business school. Additionally, the fun, passion, and energy that she put into her class helped to inspire me to not give up on my dream of one day becoming an educator.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? The Israel Summer Business Academy was what I enjoyed most about Olin because it not only allowed me to learn about a new culture by experiencing it, which was life-changing, but it also helped to equip me with entrepreneurial skills that I still use in my business today.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? We learn how to find and extract value in business school, but one of the lessons that I have been taught through my holistic education with a focus on business is that the social responsibility of businesses is just as important to consider as the bottom line.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Take the information you learn in class and find a way to experiment and implement it in the real world.

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…educational studies and African and African American studies. I’ve always been interested in learning about and helping to improve the access that minority communities have to high-quality education.”

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Something that surprised me is how supportive the environment is here. When I first came to business school I was expecting a very competitive and cutthroat community, but I was pleasantly surprised with the collaborative nature amongst students and the professors’ dedication to their students’ success here at Olin.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My grandfather, Alphonso West, and my father, Bruce West, are my greatest inspirations for my entrepreneurial and business spirit. Both started businesses from scratch, worked tirelessly to nurture and grow them, and succeeded despite the odds of failure. Neither of them had a degree in business. Growing up, I felt like entrepreneurship and business was in my blood, and I thought I would be even better equipped to pursue my dreams with a formal business education from WashU.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I’m most proud of The Shopping Stop, the grocery delivery service that two other students and I started within the Student Entrepreneurial Program at WashU. Creating a business from scratch has been the most challenging experience that I have ever had and seeing it grow and thrive has been the most rewarding. These last three years of entrepreneurship have taught me about marketing, accounting, working in teams, innovation, integrity and so much more. I can honestly say it has changed my life for the better. I’m grateful for the opportunity and proud that I took advantage of it.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the business school? I would make experiential learning within the St. Louis community a requirement for all business majors. I feel like my degree wouldn’t be complete without the consulting work that I was able to do in the St. Louis business community. The community benefits from the additional resources and students benefit from gaining practical skills that they can apply in any career. More importantly, though, I think experiential learning reinforces giving back to the community that you’re a part of, which is a crucial part of running a socially responsible business.

Which classmate do you most admire? Taylor Harris because her resilience and dedication to her goals inspires me.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would first like to thank John B. Ervin and James E. McLeod. Both were African American deans at WashU and paved the way and set an example for so many young minorities to follow. Without the support of the scholarships in their name, my journey at WashU would not be possible.

I would also like to thank my friends, family and mentors for their unyielding support. I’m so fortunate to have the support system that I do.

Lastly, I would like to thank my parents and God. My mom’s wisdom and encouragement to test the boundaries has pushed me to think outside the box in everything that I pursue. My dad’s example of what a father and person should be has been a guiding force that I strive to replicate in my adult life. I’m grateful to God for guiding my steps and giving me the strength to follow my passions.

What would your theme song be? People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul by James Brown – anyone who knows me knows I’m an old soul

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Become a teacher or professor one day

Learn a new language

Favorite book: Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Favorite movie: Its a Wonderful Life – I cry at the end every single time

Favorite vacation spot: Nassau, Bahamas

What are your hobbies? Golf, movies, traveling, attempting valiantly (…and failing) to recreate family recipes, trying new things

What made Cole such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2018?

“Cole has been a tremendous leader in Olin and across Washington University during his academic career.  From founding a student entrepreneurially business, to acting as a resource to others looking at founding businesses, he is always willing to help others achieve their goals.  Cole has participated in several experiential projects through Olin’s Small Business Initiative, serving as consultants to local business facing large challenges and this year Cole is serving as the inaugural undergraduate Center for Experiential Learning fellow, charged with helping to scale the program so many more undergraduates can participate each semester.  Cole has been an incredible leader and contributor and will be leaving Olin a much better place than he found when he arrived.”

Steven Malter
Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs