More than a case study

Gustavo Kolmel ’08 makes time
to talk with students after class

When Gustavo Kolmel ‘08 showed up to present his case in Adjunct Professor Al Danto’s New Enterprise class, he reminded students that only five years before he sat where they were sitting and listened to Jim Crane, chairman and CEO of Crane Capital Group and owner of the Houston Astros. “I came to the class to hear him speak. When he was through I introduced myself, and he expressed an interest in buying my company.”

Born and raised in Brazil and always willing to take on a new challenge, Gustavo came to the United States at 21 with $500 in his pocket. When given the opportunity, he opened an office in New York for his first employer, BMCU Internationale Spedition, and learned to speak English. For the next eight years, he continued work in the shipping industry, living and working overseas as well as the U.S.

A problem solver and people person, Kolmel spent a year and a half working in Houston before he decided to start a company. “I didn’t have a vision to change the world. I wanted to grow a company.” In 1999, with only a laptop and a small amount of savings, he started InterStar Global Logistics. InterStar became a recognized leader in the global freight industry with a presence in 18 countries before Crane Worldwide acquired it in September of 2008. Kolmel became vice president at Crane, where he guided the company through several acquisitions.

Launch, grow, harvest

Last year Danto, a graduate of the first class of Rice MBA for Executives in 2000, had the vision to start using Jones School alumni for case studies in his class. Composed by two Jones School students and edited by Al Napier, professor of management, the case study examined fellow EMBA graduate Kolmel. Students were free to ask him any questions related to the case, and the topics ranged from capital and contract negotiations to eating noodles for dinner and deciding to earn an MBA.

“Having Gustavo speak to us about his incredible entrepreneurial experience really brought the case alive. He was not only able to fill in the gaps of the story, but his presence was also truly inspiring,” said Jennifer Richards ’14.

Kolmel left Crane Worldwide after 18 months and moved with his wife and two young children to Asheville, North Carolina where he “bought a farm to see his kids grow up close to nature.” He started LuAnn Capital, a global mergers and acquisitions advisory firm, and despite the distance is still active with the Jones School, especially the JGSEO, where he participates in monthly roundtable discussions with alumni entrepreneurs, mentors students and alumni starting companies and is always willing to review a business plan or start-up idea.

“Having alumni in the class like Gustavo and Emily adds a new dimension and enhances the learning experience,” said Danto. “Many of the lessons we learn in other university’s case studies can be found in our own alumni and their experiences. A key component to learning entrepreneurship is through the trials and tribulations of other entrepreneurs. Having the case principal in the classroom eliminates the need for interpretation from a third party case.”

The next case analysis in Danto’s New Enterprise class this spring will be Managing Growth at Armenta, with jewelry designer and entrepreneur, Emily Armenta ’03.