Assumption Students Pitch Business Plans to Local Entrepreneurs
Every business student dreams of being their own boss one day and this December the students in Assumption College’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship class got a taste of what that would be like. Through the coordination of Professors Bryan Coleman ’08, CPA, and Spyridon Tsakas, Ph.D., the students had the opportunity to develop a business plan and present their ideas to a panel of Worcester-area entrepreneurs in the style of ABC’s hit show Shark Tank.
“This event is the best experience that I could imagine a student having to prepare them for post-college,” said Matt Naimoli, who was one of the “sharks” and is co-founder of G&N Insurance, based in Southborough, MA. “Presenting a multi-dimensional plan for a hypothetical business while under scrutiny is something every entrepreneur must do when starting from scratch.”
In order to prepare the students for the “shark tank,” Profs. Coleman and Tsakas spent the semester teaching them the basic business skills necessary for creating a business pitch and brought in multiple guest speakers throughout the semester to give them insight into the real world of entrepreneurship. The semester culminated with their “shark tank” presentations, which were given not only in front of their classmates, but before the four, real world entrepreneurs as well. The five groups, each comprised of five students, proposed ideas that ranged from a coffee-based protein drink as well as two apps geared toward college students.
In addition to Naimoli, the three other panelists were Mike Covino, president of Niche Hospitality; Todd McDonald, president of Aisling Partners and Assumption alumnus Jeff Allain ’98, founder of New Economy CPA. The four entrepreneurs, each with their own background and vast personal experience, provided the students with business advice after each of their presentations.
This expertise and real-world critique offered a valuable learning experience, one that both the students and the panelists felt provided them with far more than public speaking practice.
According to Naimoli, the course provided students with the best experience a college could offer its business majors: an opportunity to step outside of the textbook and into a business setting.
Jaclyn Chirco ’17, a marketing major who was part of the group that presented “Another One Bites the Crust,” an organic, all natural alternative to pizza, found the course informative because of how applicable the topics are to her future. “In this course we aren't being taught the black and white, problem and solution type learning that most classes do,” she said. “We are learning how to deal with issues, not just the answers to those issues.”
For Kodey Bryce ’17, a management major whose group proposed “Munch in a Crunch,” a mobile beverage and snack truck, the skills he learned will help with aspiration to run his own business after graduation. “The real world experience for this course has prepared me for what it will be like when I run my own small business,” he explained. “It put me in the shoes of a real life business owner and forced me to think about things that most people wouldn't think have to go into the business.”
Prof. Coleman thinks the course is beneficial for his students because of their access to the panelists. “The students are getting a chance to hear what real-life business owners think about their ideas,” he said. “This is even more impactful when they are businesses that the students are familiar with.” Coleman added that three of the four “sharks” had previously shared their personal journeys, from dreamers to actual business owners, with the class as guest speakers earlier in the semester.
Though primarily designed to provide the students with a real-world learning experience, the afternoon also allowed the panelists to give back to a community that has helped them grow as professionals. “It is the notion of paying it forward,” McDonald explained. “Someone did this for us; it’s our time to share our journey.”
Allain, an Assumption graduate, enjoyed his time on the panel and was especially impressed with the constant evolution of the College’s business program, which, he said, is always adapting to the ever-changing business world by offering experiences like this.
”Courses like this focus on broad, business-based exposure and give students an opportunity to have business models planned and critiqued by individuals with experience,” Allain said.
By taking part in a course that prepares them for the rigors of real-world entrepreneurship, the students were able to metaphorically leave the gates of Assumption and enter into a larger world. David Allen’18, a marketing major who was also part of the Munch in a Crunch presentation, said this course was an eye-opening experience and great opportunity that prepared him for life after college.
“It not only educated us on the necessary skills to be entrepreneurs, but also empowered us to have the courage to step into that mindset,” he explained. “I never imagined myself as an entrepreneur, but after this course, I feel as though Assumption has prepared me to do whatever I set my mind to.”
Photos by Caroline Gilbody '18
Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College