As the spring semester recently came to an end at the University of Missouri-Rolla, some seniors were more worried about paying back small business loans than they were about paying back school loans.
Sixty six students from the UMR School of Management and Information Systems were enrolled in a senior-level course designed to give them real-world experience in business. They formed four companies, elected four chief executive officers, secured four loans and executed four business plans.
Each company sold a different product. The products included stadium chairs, coupon books, customized websites and a how-to book. The gross revenue of the four companies was $13,012. The total profit for the semester was $5,868, which was donated to charity.
“The class is a really good fit when it comes to UMR’s hands-on learning philosophy,” says Dr. Madhu Reddy, assistant professor of information science and technology and business administration. “Some of the students have already told us they’re talking about their business experiences at UMR in job interviews.”
This is the second year the special capstone course has been offered at UMR. Reddy taught the class this past semester with Dr. Lance Gentry, an assistant professor of business administration. The course draws students from three academic departments: economics and finance, business administration, and information science and technology.
Reddy and Gentry let the students divide responsibilities and grade each other based on perceived contributions to the companies. But the real test, according to Reddy, is being able to pay back the bank – and making a profit.
The Green Lamb Co., which produced and marketed a book, “The College Success Guide: A unique perspective for students by students,” ran into a problem when they took delivery of the published books, and one of the chapters was missing. They had to re-order the books, which cost them money and time.
“They still made money,” Reddy says, “and they learned some important lessons about planning and how to handle pressure when plans change.”
The most successful of the four companies solicited paid advertisements from local businesses and sold coupon books to the public for $5.
“I find it remarkable what these students were able to accomplish in just 16 weeks,” says Dr. Arlan DeKock, dean of the UMR School of Management and Information Systems. “I keep my fingers crossed each year. So far, 100 percent of our student companies have ended the semester with a profit to be donated to charity.”
Phelps County Bank in Rolla extended the seed money loans to get each of the four companies started.
“The bank takes it seriously,” Reddy says. “I think this is a good way for our students to interact with the community in addition to learning about business.
“If just three or four of these students decide to start their own companies some day, then this class is a success.”
The following UMR students were company CEOs: Chip Carden, a senior in business and management systems from Cuba, Mo.; A.J. Larson, a senior in business and management systems from Joplin, Mo.; Sabrina Jones, a senior in business and management systems from St. Louis; and Juan Salas, a senior in information science and technology and business and management systems from Waynesville, Mo.
During an end-of-the-semester reception on campus, representatives from each of the student companies officially donated their profits to three non-profit organizations: Prevention Consultants of Missouri, Phelps County Community Partnership and the Red Cross.