Exploring the keys to success in building a business
Each January, students across campus have the option to order food to be delivered to them, buy unique products to wear or use, and participate in services offered by Business Administration majors during their capstone projects.
These capstone business projects require seniors to start and run businesses for the month of January with only an initial investment of $500 given to each business. Each business is required to give an initial pitch in front of BSC business professors and a final pitch in front of BSC business alums who currently hold high positions in the business world. Although this is a Jan-Term project, in reality, the teams only have 18 days to actively sell their food, products, and services because they dedicate the first week of January to in-class discussions, creation of the businesses, and brand profiling.
At the end of Jan-Term, three teams have the honor of receiving The Phillip C. Jackson Jr. Profit Award, the Wayne W. Killion Sr. Innovation Award, and the Kevin R. Stump Sr. Overall Entrepreneurship Challenge Award.
The Phillip C. Jackson Jr. Profit Award goes to the team with the highest overall profit margins. This year, the award went to Iron City Apparel, a Birmingham themed apparel company which was run by Jacob Dresher, Cliff Poe, and Dylan Rose. This company offered originally designed t-shirts and koozies, as well as hand-knit beanies, made personally by Dylan Rose’s grandmother. During Jan-Term, the groups could sell to students on campus, but the teams were also encouraged to go off campus to expand their businesses to a larger and more diverse market.
“Getting off campus was one of the greatest challenges,” Rose said. “[But], I really enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to any business major.”
The Wayne W. Killion Sr. Innovation Award went to Magic City Match, which was run by Caroline Irby, Evan Piedrahita, and Breanne DeBaets. This service aimed to provide college students in the greater Birmingham area with dating connections.
“We wanted something that would set us apart,” DeBaets explained. The group wanted something different from most of the BA499 teams that only sold products. Caroline Irby originally suggested that they offer a dating service for BSC, UAB, and Samford students.
“We felt like it is hard to meet people… [and to] foster connections,” DeBaets explained. This innovative service and catchy name set this business team apart and allowed them to win the innovation award. Magic City Match offered a free survey to students, then after a match was made and verified through school emails, students received emails offering them the option to pay to get their matches. The team decided to stick to similar pricing as the dating service Tinder: $5 for 3 compatible matches or $8 for 5 compatible matches. There was also a $10 option for 5 matches and attendance to a speed dating event, which was hosted on campus.
The team realized that credibility is a huge aspect for a dating service, which is why their two-week Jan-Term business was more of a trial run to see if this idea would have the potential to be successful in the future. DeBaets explained that they tried to place target ads on Facebook and Instagram, but because they did not have a business license, their advertising on social media was limited to sharing posts. As a result, they saw more BSC students taking surveys than Samford or UAB students. Overall, the team would have liked to have had a higher profit.
“In some ways we should have increased our prices from the start,” DeBaets admitted, but they ended up sticking to their original prices because the market they were targeting was college students with limited budgets and a hesitancy to pay for a service.
The Kevin R. Stump Sr. Overall Entrepreneurship Challenge Award for the team with the overall best business went to Perfetto Polish, which sold high-end lip and body exfoliators. This group was run by Scott Barton, Dallas Coyne, and Meredith McAdory. The team of Perfetto Polish not only received the Kevin R. Stump Sr. Overall Entrepreneurship for the overall capstone class, but they also won an initial challenge near the start of the term, receiving $100 in capital for the ‘best first presentation and idea’ when they presented to the panel of BSC business professors and brought in samples of their products to test.
When faced with criticism from this panel for lack of having a poster to display their brand, Barton came up with the idea of projecting their brand logo onto the wall and playing music to draw potential customers to their table. From his experience working at Mac Cosmetics, Barton also came up with the idea of creating edible sugar lip scrubs (vanilla, cinnamon, and mint) and body scrubs (lavender, rose, grapefruit, and forest) using essential oils and all-natural ingredients.
“It took us until January 3rd to come up with a name for [the business],” Barton said. They ended up naming it Perfetto Polish because Perfetto means ‘perfect’ in Italian and polish makes it sound like a luxury product. They also created their logo to be similar to the Chanel logo and packaged the product in sleek metal jars instead of mason jars to suggest the idea of luxury to potential customers.
“We, as a group, tried to do more off campus selling, which was one of our major advantages,” Barton revealed. They used almost all $500 in start-up money, and as soon as they started turning profit, they went out and bought more supplies so that they would have extra product on hand.
“I was really strong-willed on having pretty display testers,” Barton said. “Only a few people didn’t buy the product after trying it. It’s all about creating demand for your product in the market.”
Perfetto Polish was able to display their products off campus at a salon for free, at Rhapsody in Hoover, and with a.k.a. Girl Stuff, which is run by a Birmingham-Southern Alum.
On Saturdays, the team went to a.k.a. Girl Stuff to set up a table and talk to people, which allowed them to learn active selling techniques and learn conversation that draws individuals in to try the products. “It was really helpful to have partnerships,” Scott stated, as selling at other places required a business license which the group did not have.
The team plans to continue selling their products outside of the Jan-Term capstone. “We’re going to really push our online store because it will be much easier for us to manage,” Scott said. However, their products will also be available at E.B & Grace Hair Studio in Vestavia and possibly at Alabama Goods. They would also like to continue their partnership with a.k.a. Girl Stuff.
The other option for the business capstone class requires business majors to write a paper about a theoretical business, rather than running an actual business. “Some people went on the business capstone trip and got great [experiences], but here we got real world experience,” Barton said. “It was a lot of learning and adjusting, but it really opens your eyes to this is how a business runs and this is what you have to do to be successful.”
All photos courtesy of the BSC Business Administration Department.