Black Coral Island Workshop Weekend Getaway

Last weekend, Jessi and I traveled with 18 students of the Center for Entrepreneurship to Black Coral Island. Black Coral is a small barrier island that you can rent for a reasonable price and offers solitude and a breathtaking natural environment. The students spent hours playing volleyball, swimming, and dancing during the night. We also had several talented cooks who made the group sashimi, grilled tuna, and marinated chicken.IMG_2841.jpg

Although the students spent much of their time simply enjoying the time away, they also learned the basics of the Business Model Canvas. The Business Model Canvas begins with a single piece of paper that gives its user the ability to sketch out a business. It includes a section for the needs and problems, customer segments, unique value proposition, costs, revenue, and other important aspects of a successful business.img_2721

I provided small student groups a Business Model Canvas with the needs/problems filled out. Each group worked with me on developing creative solutions to these needs/problems and to complete the rest of the canvas. Groups imagined businesses to fit the FSM’s unique needs, including a taxi app, a reef conservation cooperative, a employer/employee matchmaking service, healthy snack options, and others. The groups then spent the next 24-hours testing their ideas by surveying other students on their services and prices. The results varied from some teams actually undervaluing their services and eventually increasing their prices to other groups that had do a complete pivot on their idea. img_2798

In the end, the students learned that getting business ideas off the ground doesn’t always require a 60 page business plan. Instead, they can quickly come up with an end-to-end business model and then adjust through market research and testing before they fully commit to an idea.IMG_20161119_144114.jpg

It was a really fun weekend full of great food, fun, and breakthroughs. We plan to host another one next semester so please stay tuned.img_2852

Underwater Pillars

Mason and I just returned to Pohnpei after a very relaxing and much appreacited few weeks with family and friends in Seattle.


It was hard to say goodbye to everyone again, but as you may be able to imagine, we were really looking forward to getting back in the beautiful Pohnpei waters!

Yesterday, we went diving in the waters below the ancient city of Nan Madol. Nan Madol is in the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site, and this was a very special dive.

In the warm, green, and murky, water we found seven pillars that were once pieces of the Nan Madol city. After hundreds of years in the water, these stones have turned into homes for hundreds of creatures.

Despite the cloudy visibility, we still found two lion fish, a shark, many large sea anemones full of clown fish, and many other colorful and interesting animals and plants in this thriving reef.

Tallest Point in FSM

Last month, we hiked to the tallest point in the Federated States of Micronesia with a group of friends. Nanalaud is the second highest point in the region of Micronesia.  At just over 2,500 feet, the Nanalaud hike is an extreme trek through the jungles of the interior Pohnpei island. IMG_0307

We started at the Salapwuk Elementary School, the same place that we usually start for our favorite Six Waterfalls Hike. From there we hiked seven hours through the intense rain and fog. We had to bypass many of the rivers that we were meant to cross because they were completely swollen from the rain. However, we still found a few goos swimming holes.

After an exhausting first day, we arrived at the cave where we would spend the night. It continued to rain, but we found refuge among the local experts who already had a fire burning in the cave. After a cold and wet night sleep, we woke up early to start the second day of hiking. Once we hiked above the cave, the jungle completely changed. The trees were covered in moss five inches thick. There was a unique species of mangrove tree growing at the top of the mountain. This is unusual because Mangrove trees grow at on the coast. After about two hours we reached the top, the highest point in the FSM. We ate lunch in the fog. Unfortunately, there was no view through the fog, but we learned what it felt like to live in a cloud. We walked along the mountain ridge, through mossy tree tunnels, and nine hours later we found our way back to the school.

Big check on our Pohnpei bucket list.

Diving with the Big Fish Now

Mason and I went diving with Ken from Pirate Diving Service this weekend. It was another incredible dive out near Ant Atoll. We both have more than 20 dives now!

Mason and Ken surrounded by a school of bigeye trevally.

Mason spotted this beautiful black tip reef shark trolling for fish over the reef.

Me, caught on camera, enjoying the scenery and checking my air.

A school of stunning blue reef fish looking for a place to hide in the coral.

First Kayak Trip to the Barrier Reef


On Saturday, Mason and I put our kayaking skills to the test. Recently, a friend of ours went for extended leave off island, and he left us his kayaks for safe keeping. With two heavy-duty seafaring kayaks at our finger tips, we had to test our abilities.

We went for a 7.5 mile kayak from the boat launch near our house to a tiny island on the barrier reef. After crossing the small bay at the boat launch, we made it to the mangrove tunnels. We know these tunnels quite well, and we paddled right into the third opening. The beautiful tunnel wound its way through green and brown lush forests, until it dropped us off back in the lagoon, directly across from our target: the little island on the reef. That was as far as we had ever gone. We would often make it to the end of the tunnel and stare longingly across the lagoon, imagining the trek.

On this day, however, after a big breakfast and with the right set of kayaks, we were determined to get to the tiny island. As we paddled, we could see the golden reef drop down into deep blue channels and rise back up again. Paddling over the endless dark water of the channels was disconcerting at first; who knows what might be watching from below. After two miles across the lagoon, we made it to the island, the barrier reef, and the open ocean. We stopped on the island for a lunch break, and we took a moment to snorkel at the reef wall, where the color fish were unfazed by our swimming. Snorkeling gave our arms and shoulders a break.

The trip back was tiring. The wind was no longer at our back and the current was not in our favor. Yet, two hours later we made it over the lagoon, through the mangroves, and back to the boat launch. We had finally concurred the lagoon by kayak!

First but not last trip across the lagoon.

The Center Takes a Hike

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The Center for Entrepreneurship gathered over 20 students to do the infamous Six Waterfalls Hike.  It was a real treat to be with some of my best and brightest students outside of the classroom.  The hike is pretty tough, so I worried some of my students would struggle.  To my pleasant surprise, they handled the hike with ease.  I should have known better.  Although none of my students had been on this hike before, they all grew up in this jungle, and many did the hike in flip-flops or barefoot twice as fast as the rest of us.

The Center had a great first year.  We managed to start several small businesses, host successful competitions, and complete several workshops.  Most recently, we learned that two participants of the Grant Writing Workshop received grants from the Global Green Fund.  One participant will receive around $5,000 to build a water catchment system in her village, while the other also received $5,000 to help start a meat processing center here at the College to manufacture local pork products.  I am extremely proud and feel immensely lucky to be a part of the Center and look forward to our next year.

Small Island Entertainment

There is one United Airlines flight per day to Pohnpei. Depending on the day of the week, the plane is either going from Guam to Honolulu or Honolulu to Guam. Pohnpei is one of five stops the plane makes in between.

On this day, we watched plane land from the water after a fun day of scuba diving.

Weekend Waterfall Kayak

Although we are loving our new scuba diving adventures (another scuba video coming soon), we have not forgotten our lovely kayak.

Pohnpei is a wondrous place via the water.The mangrove channels of the island are so peaceful.

This weekend we explored our way to a waterfall with some friends. In order to get to the mangroves that lead to the waterfall, we had to pass through a bay filled with shipwrecks. Once through the bay, a beautiful mangrove channel eventually opened up to a different part of the lagoon. From there, we passed through the “mangrove labyrinth” made up of many small mangrove plants that require a lot of maneuvering and remembering if you turned right or left. After a few wrong turns and downed trees, we made it up the river and to a hidden waterfall.


This small island never seems to run out of beautiful secrets to share.

Tanks 5 & 6

Last Friday, 25 March, Mason and I went for our first two recreational dives outside of our certification class: tanks 5 and 6.

Ken Shigeta, the owner of Pirate Diving Service (and our landlord) took us out with his employees, Maverick and Andy. We went to Pehleng Pass, and tried drift diving for the first time. Ken is an extremely experienced dive master, and we had a fantastic time! We are certainly looking forward to our next dive with the Pirate team.

See if you can spot the (1) octopus, (2) school of barracuda, and (3) shark in the video:

If you are heading to Pohnpei and interested in scuba diving, contact Pirate Diving Service!