Business Owners Critique Undergrads’ Plans

Seniors in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) business major are one step closer to graduating after taking their capstone course business plans to the eyes of entrepreneurs.

“It was very daunting,” said Gabriel Spargur, ’15 (CAS). “I was very nervous about this entire class. I knew we had to come up with a business plan. Eight weeks ago if you asked if I knew how to put together a business plan, I would have said no, but he’s definitely pulled it off.”

Dr. Joseph Bucci, CAS business professor, helped his students pull this off by giving them a step-by-step checklist to forming such a document. He then required them to present before area business owners who would critique students’ plans, ask questions, offer suggestions and, in some cases, opportunities.

“It takes all the academics from marketing, accounting, operations and management, all of the things you’ve learned that are just right now tests. I take a test, I write a paper, and it makes it practical,” said Bucci. “They have to pull all of that together. That is what a business plan does.”

Entrepreneurs represented a variety of business backgrounds including service, telecommunications, law and business consulting.

“My role was to just sit back and listen, maybe give a little critique and thought. It was really about the entrepreneurial thought that these students have and ideas that could help grow our economy. Some of them are very unique and could start new industries by themselves.”

“Anybody in this class will tell you, this semester, we feel like we are being bullied sometimes, because it was a lot like Shark Tank,” said Spargur. “Sometimes the questions come out of left field, and there’s nothing you can say. You’re not being bullied. They’re really trying to teach you something here. They’re making you ask the questions so further in the future that’s how you’ll think.”

“It was nerve-racking,” said Tyler Groff, ’15 (CAS). “It was hard to overcome, but I just realized they were once in the spot where I am and I don’t know where I’ll be in the future.”

Groff says his future could include venturing out into the waters of entrepreneurship. He interned with Dean Thomasson, one of the visiting business owners. Through that experience, he crafted a company that would provide human resources services to small businesses, an idea that attracted attention, and possibly future customers, during his presentation.

“I’d say that when one of the business owners that was looking at it said that when you’re ready to launch I’ll hire you for three of my companies, that really solidified that it’s a viable entity, and we’re going to keep moving forward,” said Thomasson.

“That was surprising to hear,” said Groff. “I wasn’t expecting to hear that. So we’ll see what happens. I’m excited.”

“I just think forcing people to go through the exercise is very important,” said Macayla Nicoliason, managing attorney at Lentz Law Group. “It’s important to work on those skills, public speaking, writing, and even though everyone hates it, the finances are important to think about. It forces you to really research your market, and I think that’s the best exercise for any business owner.”

Although not every student will be pursuing their business plans, the exercise gave them an in-depth look into business ownership. It also built relationships and connections between the students and the entrepreneurs. They encouraged students to dream big and always strive after their goals.