An entrepreneurship course offered at the University of Minnesota Duluth allows students to take the reins of a competitive class project and try to turn it into a profitable business.
“This class is about how to identify new opportunities, and learn how to pursue those opportunities,” said Raymond Jones, associate professor of entrepreneurship and professor of the class, Management Studies - Entrepreneurship in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics.
In addition to testing and running a business, students are simultaneously competing for points that count toward their grade.
A class leader board shows the points each group of students has earned from accomplishing different tasks that relate to the production of their start-up companies. Creating customer surveys, launching social media sites and selling their product or service generates points for each team.
“To get around having to form real legal businesses, all profits they make go to a charity of their choice,” Jones said. “They get points if nonprofits endorse.”
On a weekly basis each group presents their progression or regression in front of the class as a way to gain feedback from the professor and their peers, a process Jones believes is crucial to learning.
“It’s less lecture-based, and more of a hands-on class,” said UMD junior Grayson O’Driscoll, co-founder of North Shore Clothing Co., an online business created in the class along with Katie Swanson, Riley Mudek, Kara Burley and Dana Radermacher.
North Shore Clothing Co. was created by the five undergraduate business students who saw an opportunity to “revamp” northern Minnesota-inspired apparel with an eco-friendly mentality. Each student has different roles according to their strengths. O’Driscoll, for example, specializes in graphic design and brand identity. Others in the group handle customer support, financial planning, social media marketing and other tasks.
Since the launch of the business in October, the North Shore Clothing has made more than $600 in profits; the students chose to donate their earnings to Sugarloaf: The North Shore Stewardship Association, a group that works to preserve and restore the natural environment along Minnesota’s North Shore.
Duluth Screen Printing Co. makes the group’s shirts.
“Their focus is being environmentally friendly at a reasonable price,” Burley said - which fits with the North Shore Clothing’s mission of promoting environmental sustainability.
The team decided to play it safe by selling only long- or short-sleeved T-shirts to begin with, Burley said. But after conducting a recent survey, the group may start selling hats and sweatshirts to accommodate Duluth’s winter weather.
Other businesses started by student groups this semester include another T-shirt company; a service matching UMD students who drive with homeowners who have space for parking cars; a dock-removal business; and a group trying to bring an indoor sports dome to the Northland.
“After the class is over the students can choose to do whatever they want with their business; it’s theirs,” Jones said.
- To see the products offered by the North Shore Clothing Company, visit their website at north-shore-clothing-company.myshopify.com.