Students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business turned ideas into action running their own businesses through a weeklong startup simulation called The Crash Course. Undergraduates involved in the Clifton Strengths Organization (CSO), a recognized student organization, gained the hands-on learning experience of operating a startup and ended with a profit of more than $2,000.
“We created this event to take students beyond the incubation phase of entrepreneurship. The College of Business and Center for Entrepreneurship specifically already do a wonderful job at creating spaces for entrepreneurial ideas and business pitches, so we wanted to find ways to get beyond that and provide something different,” said Jasie Beam, program coordinator for the Clifton Strengths Institute.
With stores set up through the e-commerce platform Shopify, the CSO provided students with select products like t-shirts, stickers and chocolate to sell. Split into teams, groups took responsibility for the creation of their websites, marketing, packaging and shipping, and the tracking of inventory and financials.
“Our goal was to have students experience and learn at least one new thing about the actual act of running a business that helps them when it is their own money or business investment on the line,” said Beam.
Each team took a different approach to operating their business. Grace Fuller, sophomore accounting and management major from Gretna, Nebraska, and her teammates focused on setting competitive pricing compared with their peers and created accessible marketing materials through QR codes. Made more popular during the pandemic, the QR code strategy resulted in 804 products sold overall – the most of any team.
“The Crash Course was a great experience because we overcame different challenges and came together as a team. We utilized teamwork and communication skills that are applicable to any project or business we may work with in the future,” said Fuller.
With teams randomly assigned, students like Anna Harris, junior business administration major from Omaha, Nebraska, relied on their CliftonStrengths® to work with their groups and implement successful strategies.
“We talked through our strengths and what we each could bring to the team. Even though we had never met each other or knew how we worked, we came together and carved out our strategy and goals, which was really our driving factor that helped us gain so much profit,” said Harris, whose team held the highest gross profit of $1,311.98.
At the end of the campaign, students presented their results, displaying a total gross profit of $3,471.54. After repaying the CSO for expenses, students made a net profit of $2,115.86, where groups kept their respective share and any leftover inventory went back to the organization to use for fundraising throughout the year.
Beyond the money students earned, Beam noted how the startup simulation provided valuable experience as students move forward into their careers.
“Some groups really owned the business structure side of this event and had daily team meetings where each member had a specific role like being CEO, CFO and so on, and would touch base about what one another needed and how they could help one another. That kind of real-world experience of a team dynamic and leadership experience can benefit all students in the workplace, future schooling and in their personal lives,” she said.
To learn more about the Clifton Strengths Organization, visit: https://business.unl.edu/current-students/student-organizations/.