Senior business majors got a heavy dose of real-world experience this semester at i-Day, an event where they pitched their Senior Business Capstone projects to a panel of judges consisting of highly successful business executives. On the line was a share of $12,000 (split between 16 teams) with which they would fund real businesses during their final year at George Fox.
But the money would not be split evenly. Similar to the popular TV show Shark Tank, the panel of executives would decide how much money each team got based on their presentation. The panel consisted of five “sharks” who had already made their mark on the business world: Phil Autrey (Partner, Kitchen Sink Holdings, LLC), Dave Barram (former CFO of Apple), Ruth Bennett (former CFO of Bonneville Power), Laurie Koehler (Consumer Campaigns Activation Manger, Intel) and Walt Truelson (Founder, Truelson Associates).
What was it like to swim with these “sharks”? We asked three students to share their experiences.
Kali LeFebre (’14), Finance Major
One of the top things I love about George Fox is how invested the faculty becomes in each individual student’s life. Our professors don’t just care about how we are developing academically, but also how we are improving in character. They also take an interest in how well we are being prepared for life after college. And for most college seniors like me, this “after college” is approaching fast. For me, what makes this deadline seem like it’s coming even faster is the fact that I will have to get a full-time job, and hopefully one where I can use my degree. And with that comes the question,“What if I don’t know how to do my job?” Thankfully, I go to George Fox, a school that provides endless opportunities for hands-on experiences.
The most recent and continuing hands-on experience I am a part of this year is Senior Capstone. As business majors, students are grouped into teams that are given the opportunity to exercise their knowledge and skills gained from the past three years of college and actually start a real business. This business is developed, launched and continued in just one school year. Talk about real-life entrepreneurship! So far, one of the top learning moments I’ve encountered from this experience has revolved around one day: i-Day.
On a Saturday early in the semester, teams pitched their ideas to a panel of “investors” comprised of seasoned business professionals. Throughout the weeks leading up to this day, we had conducted market research, had numerous meetings, and began to develop our business idea. All of our hard work was then presented in a two-minute pitch followed by 10 minutes to talk with investors.
What a learning experience this was! To have the opportunity to learn from business professionals, practice networking and presentation skills, and to continue experiencing the whole process of starting a business has been invaluable to my education at George Fox.
At the end of the day our dean told us, “You guys did business today.”
We no longer are learning through textbooks and case studies. Now, we are learning through real-life experiences. Even early on, this experience has already prepared me for life after college. I’m blessed to belong at a school that is equipping me with skills, knowledge and real-life experience that I will use throughout my entire career.
Ryan Beckham (’14), Marketing Major
Presenting in front of successful businesspeople was much less intimidating than I had initially anticipated. By the end of the pitch I was more focused on how much more information the panel could have heard about our business, rather than who I had just presented to. Presenting to such an esteemed group of individuals made the process seem real and exciting!
I learned just how much preparation matters in such a high-stakes event. My pitch was well rehearsed, and the rest of the team worked hard to put together visuals and handouts that other teams did not have. By visually showing why our group should be invested in, I believe that we left the panel with a lasting impression that worked to our benefit.
Kelly Uchiumi (’14), Global Business Major
Intimidating, impressive and initiative are three words I would use to describe i-Day. It was a great opportunity to meet with very experienced professionals and present our business pitch that we had been putting together for the past week and a half.
Intimidating: There were high expectations and high stakes. There was $12,000 available to be allocated between 16 teams, and my team and I met six days straight for two hours minimum every meeting to prepare our pitch. The Hoover conference room location with six present faculty members and a video crew also added a bit to the intimidation.
Impressive: There was so much energy from all the teams and people that were a part of i-Day. It was fun to finally hear about everyone’s business ideas after being so secretive the past couple of weeks.
Initiative: It felt good to know that my team had taken the time to be prepared. We anticipated a lot of the questions the panel asked us, and I was really proud of my team for coming together to answer the questions. We pulled some really late nights the week before, but our product and our pitch came together really well.
What I learned most from the entire experience is that I have a long way to go in my career. Our panel has had a ton of experience doing business and running a business. Their expertise reflected in their demeanor and their questions. As a business student, I am only at the beginning of my career journey, but who knows, maybe years from now I could be the one on a shark panel sharing my experience with students.