Business ideas from aspiring entrepreneurs ranged from waders designed to keep duck hunters’ feet inside their socks and heated ski pole handles to protein-infused ice cream and a service that enables golf cart owners to custom design their rides.
The launch pad for these would-be entrepreneurial ventures in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business was ELE 4010 – Venture Concept Testing, a Department of Management course designed to teach the entrepreneurial process through a team approach and, in the process, expose students to their strengths.
“Students walk away from this class with an understanding of the entrepreneurial process and learn a lot about themselves,” said Chad Navis, Arthur M. Spiro Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership, and course instructor. “Students pitch venture ideas, then divide into teams and execute on turning that idea into a viable business throughout the semester.”
Navis said the entrepreneurial exercise gives students “a safe at-bat” as they develop their business concepts, which includes building a website, creating a marketing video, and presenting their start-up ideas in a simulated trade show and through pitches to potential financial backers.
“An interesting array of start-ups are generated in this class that run the gamut of ideas, ranging from craft-based concepts like customized cornhole boards, wood-burned memory boxes and specialized apparel ventures to technology-oriented concepts like coffee maker enhancements, digital media consulting, and social event apps,” Navis said. “And the exercises tend to bring out a student’s strength that might not be evident in a traditional class. It’s very interesting to see some of the students’ development as the class proceeds.”
Zeke Galloway, a management senior, is one of those students who benefited from the requirements of the class. His role on the Dog Man Waders team exposed him to the pressures of preparing for investor pitches and delegating work in a team setting.
“I really hadn’t experienced some of the tasks the class required us to perform. From delegating work in a team setting and shooting and editing a marketing video, to answering questions during our investor pitches, they all were experiences that I can learn from and take with me,” the Spartanburg native said.
The Dog Man Waders team consisted of an interdisciplinary group that included management major Judson Jones, CEO, and brainchild of the start-up; Logan James, education major; Tyler Stroud, political science; Travis Northcutt, agribusiness, and Galloway.
Their product is designed for use on traditional waders worn by duck hunters. The unique device tightens the foot of the boot to prevent socks from sliding down when a hunter attempts to lift their foot from a muddy area.
“The Dog Man Waders team was an eclectic group that came from a cross-section of University disciplines,” Navis said. “What set them apart were the team dynamics and how they worked cohesively in presenting pitches to investors. They all brought different ideas to the table and got things done, and they nailed it in communicating their story. That all contributed to them moving their idea forward.”
The mid-semester milestone events of ELE 4010 were a trade show and investor pitches that required team members to present their ideas to judges. There were 16 teams of students with the majority being either majors or minors in the Department of Management.
“The trade show and investor pitch environments created a unique experience for students. A group of entrepreneurship instructors and entrepreneurs not directly tied to the university served as judges,” Navis added. “Students were ranked on their professionalism, level of confidence and in the pitch – the investment worthiness of their presented business concept.”
Though he has some entrepreneurial experience, having operated his own landscaping business, Zeke’s initial plan beyond graduation is to pursue a career in financial management. He’s getting his feet wet this summer as an intern for an Upstate industrial real estate brokerage firm.
“In my role as marketing and product research director for the Dog Man Waders team, I learned a lot, especially about the shared responsibilities in a team setting,” he said. “These are experiences that I’m able to apply to my internship this summer and certainly in my future pursuits.”
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