University of Nebraska–Lincoln students in the Foundations of Entrepreneurship (ENTR 321B) course provided a Builders Marketplace for the College of Business community in November. From flower bouquets, sweatshirts and blankets to Taylor Swift-style message bracelets and golf-themed shot glasses, the students used their individual strengths in entrepreneurial teams to plan, create, market and sell their own products and then donated the profits to local nonprofits.
"Instead of buying a textbook for class, I ask them to contribute $50 into their seed capital," said Samantha Fairclough, associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management, who teaches the class. "Then as a team, they have about $200 to spend on inventory, marketing, decorating a store, and maybe purchasing a web domain because some of them sell online. They put a lot of thought into what they're going to do, how they're going to price the items and how they're going to market to students, staff and visitors. I encourage them to hand make their products, so we get Innovation Studio involved on Nebraska Innovation Campus."
The course and Builders Marketplace are part of the Clifton Builders program, which is designed to develop students with high leadership and entrepreneurial potential. Students selected as builders take cohort classes together and aspire to change the world by building new businesses, teams or communities through leadership and involvement.
The builders also donate their earnings to nonprofits across Nebraska. They include The Hope Venture, Kids and Dreams Foundation, Launch Leadership, Madonna School, McKenna's Ray of Hope/Kearney Area Community Foundation, Special Olympics Nebraska Inc. and Visionary Youth.
Given the dynamic nature of this course project and the Clifton Builders program's mission of supporting entrepreneurial minds through strengths-based development, Kaitlin Ferris, assistant director of the program, helped diversify teams by understanding each student’s natural talents and unique leadership style, drawing from the valuable insights provided within their CliftonStrengths® report.
"Some students thrive in strategic thinking, while others excel in relationship building. Assembling a diverse group of students with varying ideas, perspectives and strengths prompts individuals to consider their planning, decision-making process and how they can best collaborate with others. We aim for these teams to learn how to leverage their collective strengths while cultivating a close-knit community," Ferris said.
Bennett Argue, a junior Clifton Builders management major from Lincoln, worked with the Scarlet and Cream business, offering a line of t-shirts and sweatshirts. He shared how the course provided insight into the process of developing products from ideation to market analysis and production to delivery.
"The course allowed us to experience the whole business process in a little microcosm. It was difficult to predict the market though, and we wished that we had brought more merchandise to the Builders Marketplace," said Argue. "Learning about the Shopify app and others was useful for an entrepreneur, like me, to quickly set up a website for online transactions."
Diya Kishore, a sophomore architecture major and Clifton Builders management minor from Omaha, Nebraska, found the design thinking process helpful while working on a team with Argue.
"We learned so much about the design thinking process, which involved creating our prototype and selling it. We first talked about design thinking in our Foundations of Entrepreneurship class, and following the process step by step, it helped so much with our Builders Marketplace project."
Jadyn Maddox, a sophomore secondary Spanish education and Spanish major from Lincoln, said the supply and demand was their team's biggest business challenge. She and three students worked on Crafted Connections, featuring Taylor Swift-style message bracelets.
"It was tricky because we were handmaking all the bracelets and had so many to make before the marketplace happened. We had to continually make sure we had enough supplies and often needed to buy more or get more from each other," said Maddox. "Going into education, I know the different processes of design thinking will be useful. From coming up with ideas, figuring out solutions to problems and empathizing with different consumers, I know these skills can be directly implemented into the classroom with my students."
The Builders raised more than $1,500 for their nonprofits, and most of the teams have sold out of their inventory.
"This year, the students stepped up to another level. We had a big crowd, and there was such variety of products with many that we had not seen before, like floristry and ceramics," Fairclough said. "The feedback from those who attended in the past said that this was the best one yet."
Published: December 6, 2023