A Unique College Business Class

In the fall of 2004, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with our senior business majors, many of whom had seemingly already checked out of college. These were not the same junior business majors who regularly came to class with enthusiasm and anticipation. As the primary faculty member for the senior business strategy class I was ready to try a new approach. Something had to give! I had heard about some colleges requiring business student’s start their own businesses. Frankly this held great appeal because I believe one way to effectively teach students is by integrating real life experiences into the classroom. So I decided to adopt this idea in our business strategy class. I quickly realized I would need to secure institutional funding. I needed venture capital money. My plan was to launch this new class format in the spring of 2005.

In December of 2004, six weeks before the class was scheduled to start one of our senior business majors who was enrolled in the spring class and quite excited about the new format was tragically killed in a terrible car accident caused by an alcohol impaired driver. At the memorial service held on campus the student’s parents requested in lieu of flowers monies go to a newly established memorial scholarship fund for use by the undergraduate business department toward the launching of this new idea. The parents were delighted to see the funds used in this manner. In the five years since, the Patrick Kibler Scholarship Fund has allowed our department to grant venture capital loans to over fifty new businesses created and operated by our senior business majors.

The Idea

The central idea of the class is to simulate a real start up business. We ask students to apply what they have learned in their previous management, accounting, marketing, economics and finance courses through the formation and operation of an actual business. Each team is given $750.00 (which must be paid back) as venture capital money. The fall semester is dedicated to selecting a team leader, establishing the business teams, identifying the actual business idea (this is hard for students) and then developing the different components such as the mission statement and marketing, finance and management plans. This activity takes virtually the entire semester. The actual launching of the business is in December. We do this to allow businesses to capture the Christmas season buyers. The spring semester is when the businesses are fully operational.

At the end of spring semester each team reports on the success of their business at the Senior Business Presentation ceremony in the Hoover Lecture Hall. Parents, friends, students and faculty attend this event.

One business team several years ago donated their entire net income of over $6,000 to Senai Global a nonprofit organization that builds fresh water wells in Africa. In a small Ethiopian village today there is fresh water well with the name of George Fox University inscribed on the foundation.

This year’s senior capstone business represents a variety of business ventures.

The Fitted Fox is a clothing exchange business buying and selling used clothes. (Team Leader Alex OpBroek)

Bruin Bloom is a specialty flower business. (Team Leader Selena Tabscott)

Drivers in Disguise is a campus transportation business. (Team Leader Keri Moore)

Flex Mix packages and sells unique trail mix products. (Team Leader Tyler Richwine)

Fox Hunt is a campus speed dating service. (Team Leader Nu Pham)

Cards of Hope designs and markets specialty greeting cards. (Team Leader Hilary Sargent)

Tie Bet imports and markets unique Tibetan handcrafted goods. (Team Leader Eric Barton)

Fox Lot is a business managing a Saturday Market on campus in March. (Team Leader Amelia Keith)

Dirk Barram
Dean, School of Business
Director, Undergraduate Programs
Professor of Business