My background in the arts has given me the opportunity to often start something new and fresh. New choreography, new concert, new chances, new thoughts, new ideas …
Oftentimes, I have thought about my long-term goals and the thought of starting a new business venture – either nonprofit or for profit – has been on the forefront of considerations. I have been lucky to be surrounded by friends and colleagues who have started their own ventures ranging from performance-based or service companies to niche products in clothing and craft industries. After witnessing some of their experiences, I felt inspired to continue to learn about the world of entrepreneurs.
With that in mind, I enrolled in the Entrepreneurial course (MBA 591) this past winter. Quickly, I discovered this course was not one for the passionate alone. Much like the entrepreneurs on the hit ABC show Shark Tank, one needs to be willing to dive in and swim with adventure, determination and persistence.
The course is not a recipe for how to start your own small business; rather, it is an exercise on how to develop and grow your skills to pursue and succeed at the next big “it” product or idea. Topics discussed include: venture capitalism, the idea and opportunity, ethics, sustainability, market feasibility, and growth stages beyond start-up. Case study analysis and class discussion deepen your understanding of these topics. Being an entrepreneur himself, Dr. Barth Strempek uses his experience to offer personal guidance to students and additional resources to explore beyond the scope of the course.
Now, what’s taking a dip in the water without having a little fun? The course provides the chance to create a unique idea and develop a business plan to pitch to would-be investors (or “sharks”). Working in teams, you begin to consider many components to organize your plan. What is your target market and how will you reach them? What is your expected margins and cash budget? What operational issues can you plan to anticipate? And, of course – Is your idea actually a viable one?
For my team, we enjoyed trying to think of creative names or attributes to our product. We came up with so many ideas in fact that we decided to conduct a survey via SurveyMonkey. The survey not only guided us on aspects to consider when creating a product name, but also offered primary market research to be used to develop an effective marketing plan.
When the day finally came to swim with the sharks, other teams in the class actually brought in samples of their products; for example, a Greek yogurt dressing. Yum! Each team had to pitch their idea and provide evidence of their product’s market feasibility. After presenting, each team received immediate feedback on the quality of their pitch and business plan.
Those who know me well are familiar with my childhood fear of sharks. After taking this course, the venture capitalist species do not seem so scary. My scuba gear has a few more tools for when I am truly ready to set sail with the next big thing.