Baby sharks: Business class participates in mini-“Shark Tank” session – NIU Today

The popularity of the Emmy® Award-winning reality TV show, “Shark Tank,” inspired College of Business Associate Professor of Management Furkan Gur to design his class into a mini-“Shark Tank” session.
Students who enroll in MGMT 327 (Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship), are edgy, rebellious and creative in finding solutions to problems. Take Caitlin Krush, who regularly off-roads in her Jeep® with her family but gets slowed down when trails are closed or damaged due to wear and tear. Or listen to the students in Group 3 who desire to help the deaf.
The students are required to partner up with others to develop a creative concept for a new product or service for which they can demonstrate an overt benefit, a reason to believe in its success, or a solution to an existing problem. Teams then complete a written plan and pitch their idea a lá “Shark Tank” to the panel of experts, usually College of Business alumni and entrepreneurs. Their pitches must include an outline of the idea, the opportunity, the potential market, risks, distribution, pricing strategy, photos or sketches of the product or service, and finally, sustainability.
“I want the students to experience the entire gamut of business experiences, including the highs and lows, from conception to execution to sustainability,” said Gur.
Krush’s “Shark Tank” idea is to create a chemical treatment for the environment that would allow for off-road trails to rejuvenate themselves. The spray product could be easily applied throughout the terrain and is designed to allow plants to regrow at an extremely fast rate. The product also allows for the dirt on the trails to stay healthy. Problem solved! Let’s ride!

Top: (Sharks, L-R): Furkan Gur, Elois Joseph, Pamela Blackwell Bottom: (Group 3, L-R): Elise Craven, Grace Klonoski, Jesse Ahrens

Top: (Sharks, L-R): Furkan Gur, Elois Joseph, Pamela Blackwell Bottom: (Group 3, L-R): Elise Craven, Grace Klonoski, Jesse Ahrens
Group 2’s project is all about customization. Personalized ByMe the Organic Supplement is a supplement made specifically for an individual. The consumer can take a quiz online to see what vitamins he or she needs for health benefits. If the consumer does not want to take the quiz, there is an option that allows them to jump to the customization portion to add any protein, probiotic, or vitamins they would like in their supplement.
Group 3 is comprised of students Grace Klonoski, from DeKalb, who is studying communications with a minor in social entrepreneurship; Jesse Ahrens, from Crystal Lake, who is a business administration major with a minor in innovation and entrepreneurship; and Elise Craven, from Naperville, who is studying kinesiology. Their product is a job training program designed to educate drive-through restaurant employees how to better work with and serve customers who use American Sign Language. This product, they contend, will provide equal access under the Americans with Disabilities Act while better serving their customers and acquiring a more loyal base. Throughout the class, the pitch ideas are as wild and varied as the students involved, and they have included ingenious solutions and several meaningful moments.
Some, however, miss the mark. “One of the presentations didn’t work for me,” said Shark Tank judge, entrepreneur, and alumna Pamela Blackwell, who earned a degree in management in 1990. “There was a miss on the market demand. The students needed a prototype of the product to be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of it. I didn’t see the value.”
However, some knock it out of the park.
“Group 2—the personalized vitamin product group—conducted a lot of market research, including the high demand for these items. Most importantly, the presenters understood and were passionate about the offerings,” said Blackwell.
“Ultimately, it’s very important for students to have a safe space for trial and error. It is a place to make mistakes, ask questions and learn from a cohort of individuals who are working at or around the same pace. Therefore, students will not feel awkward or embarrassed when asking basic questions,” said College of Business Shark Tank judge, entrepreneur, and alumna Elois Joseph, M.B.A. ’15.
“Overall,” Blackwell said, “the students really impressed me with their ability to develop and present their business ideas. They were well thought out, and the students clearly had a vested interest in the opportunities they presented. Bravo to them!”
This article originally appeared in Northern Now.


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