Wildcat Ventures

Wildcat Ventures Team

Wildcat Ventures (WV), part of the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, is a student organization that hosts six student-run businesses. Each business has its own student CEO and set of employees. WV includes the Crossing Cafe (located in the Mabee Business Building), Aperture Research Group, Purple Collar Tees, Wildcat Software, Purple Outfitters, and Right Hand Media. 

Junior marketing and management major, Camyrn Eason, and junior marketing major, Ale Ceniceros, are serving as the vice presidents of Wildcat Ventures this year. They hope to see their CEOs grow, learn, and overcome the extra challenges that this year brings. We asked both of the VPs, as well as the president of WV, junior management major, Riley Simpson, to share some of their expectations for this year and the challenges that COVID-19 is bringing to the student-run ventures.

What are your expectations this year for Wildcat Ventures?

WV President: Riley Simpson

Riley: “Wildcat Ventures is a club of the most entrepreneurial, problem-solving, ‘figure it out’ students on campus. We opened this year with an almost completely new team of executives and CEOs. I was hired the week that school went online (last spring) because of COVID, and our whole club is facing unprecedented challenges. Things started with a sense of what in the world are we going to do? But I am incredibly thankful for two vice-presidents and 5 CEOs who have rolled up their sleeves and dove into creative problem-solving. I’ve seen a lot of hard work in the face of adversity. We are approaching this year as a year of unique opportunity rather than a year where everything falls apart. I’m looking forward to a year of innovative solutions alongside an exceptional team.”

Camryn:I definitely think this year will be a big challenge and learning opportunity for everyone involved. I’m excited to watch our CEOs adapt and use creativity to solve problems.”

Ale: “I hope to just see learning. I think a big part of WV is learning from mistakes and hardships that come along. Learning to work through these with the people in your company is important. I believe that this is what will help us be better leaders and business professionals.”

WV Vice President: Ale Ceniceros

What changes do you see being made this year?

Riley: “In the past the CEOs of WV have operated in more independent ways, focusing on their companies without much connection to one another. This year we want everyone in WV to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. We’re out to bring positive change to ACU and develop leaders that will carry the Kingdom into the business world. You can’t do that alone and this year we want to create a thriving collaborative community. We are also honing in on creating sustainable systems that will outlast this year’s team. With student organizations, the turnover rate is so high. This year we want to create club-wide systems that will keep the momentum going even when we are gone.”

Camryn: “I hope to see better systems put in place for WV this year and easier transitions. As an executive team, we are working super hard to reform the systems to make them more simple and eliminate a lot of communication gaps. We also want to focus on the transition process from year to year so that when a new executive team and new CEOs are put into place, they will have an easier time transitioning. Of course, I would also love to see Wildcat Ventures turn over a bigger profit than previous years.” 

Ale: “I think a big change this year is collaboration. The executive team is hoping to create a culture where WV is all one entity instead of 5 small companies with different systems, ideas, and beliefs.”

WV Vice President: Camryn Eason

How do you think COVID-19 will impact the businesses this year?

Riley: “COVID-19 changes the landscape that WV operates in. We are running a cafe without much seating, selling shirts when there are no events and doing marketing research for a constantly shifting market. The pandemic is forcing us to be creative, and it is also forging our leaders. I know we can have an incredibly successful year. When the pandemic pushes us to the limits we just have to push back.”

Camryn: “COVID-19 will definitely have a big impact on all of our business this year. With department budget cuts, some of our project-based companies could see less business, but I am confident in our CEO’s abilities to overcome this problem. There will also be several changes made in the Crossing Cafe to follow CDC and university guidelines.”

Ale: “COVID-19 has already impacted our businesses a lot. Some of them have been taken online, others are thinking of ways to stay open in person. This is where creativity and an entrepreneurial mindset will be helpful. It will be so fun to see what the CEOs come up with.”

While the president and vice-presidents of Wildcat Ventures oversee the entire operation, it is up to each individual CEO to manage their specific business. We interviewed two of the CEO’s, Ben Fridge and Maddy Crockett, to ask them what they anticipate the new year to bring. Ben is a junior management and marketing major and is the CEO of Aperture Research Group (ARG), a market research and analytics firm. Maddy is a junior management and accounting major and is the CEO of Purple Collar Tees, a custom apparel screen printing company specializing in t-shirt design.

Why did you apply to be a CEO?

Ben:The WV President painted a vision of a club I wanted to be a part of. The opportunities we can provide the Wildcat and greater Abilene community is immense and exciting to be stepping into before I leave school.”

Maddy:Wildcat Ventures drew my attention with the hands-on opportunity they provide to students. The leadership this year is top-notch, and I’m excited to be working with a team of like-minded people who will push me to be better.”

ARG CEO: Ben Fridge

What is your plan going into your business?

Ben:I want to streamline systems within ARG and grow our clientele this semester. Transition is a big part of student-run organizations that operate on a semester to semester basis, and I was blessed to be handed this company in great shape with exciting things on the horizon. For that reason, I want to be able to truly leave ARG better than I found it!”

Maddy: “My plan is to be persistent, be excellent, and be collaborative. My business is largely sales-driven, so communication with my team and our customers is key. Being excellent in customer service is our top value proposition, and we get countless opportunities for that throughout the year. Finally, collaboration with my team is a great way to create ideas and teamwork.”

What challenges do you anticipate?

Ben:I think the word ’streamlining’ can be hard to quantify and easy to boast about. If we truly want to maximize efficiency and simplify processes, we will need to be honest about what is truly serving our systems and what is ‘fluff’ that has no bearing whether it is cut or kept.”

Maddy: “I think the most challenging part of this position is the fact that we are all students, with several other commitments outside of Wildcat Ventures. The greatest aspect of change in my plan will be challenged in staying on task and of course, specifically when life outside of work gets crazy.”

What changes would you like to make?

Ben: “I want to greatly expand our portfolio of clients on ACU’s campus using referrals and my analyst’s network of connections. I believe there is a great need for more organizations to be data-driven (especially on ACU’s campus), so reaching further in our circles would reveal deficiencies to these groups. Also, with a broader range of projects behind us, ARG can focus on more involved ideas in future years.”

Maddy:I want our image on campus to be as a business that goes above and beyond with top-notch products. I’d like for our team to be unified in the way we sell to customers and be persistent in the way we communicate.”

PCT CEO: Maddy Crockett

How has COVID-19 impacted the way you are operating?

Ben: “Beyond Zoom interactions with the employees hired, ARG can function in an online world more easily than many of the other companies. One of the exciting changes within our changed world is the potential for organizations needing data and insights about the way people are consuming and participating in commerce today. Market research opens the door to understanding how culture has shifted and how businesses or groups need to shift to retain individuals and thrive in this season.”

What does your business specialize in? 

Ben: “Market research and data analytics regarding the success of events or programs has been a major focus in past years. Reviewing collected responses to satisfaction surveys or creating focus groups to determine how well an organization is performing at a point in time is an area that ARG has mastered.”

Maddy:My business specializes in custom apparel and merchandise products for individuals and organizations around Abilene. We partner with people who have a design idea, and we help initiate and finish the process of bringing that design idea to life.”

Why should groups/students on campus use your business?

Ben: “The unique insights we provide have made waves in the decision-making process of all our clients. The value of having data and research behind initiatives deeply matters in an era that craves certainty and evidence. ARG strives to create the most value for whatever your business, organization, or campaign is driving.”

Maddy: “PCT serves the ACU community by providing top-notch products at a competitive price. Not only do we walk with you step-by-step through the creation process, but we also deliver your items directly to you – you never have to leave campus! If you can create it, we can make it a reality.” 

WV president, Riley Simpson, knows the plan going forward this year may likely change but feels that the organization is ready to adapt and grow. “We are currently working on launching two new companies this year. I know we can do it, but we have to have the right people in place. We need to find the people who see things differently, who aren’t afraid to fail, and who won’t quit when they get knocked down. We are in the business of developing resilient leaders who are crazy enough to think they will change the world. We know we will. If you’re one of those people, find me and let’s make it happen.”

We hope that this will encourage you to think of the services that Wildcat Ventures offers the next time you need a cup of coffee, a t-shirt made, or help to form a strong strategy for your organization. You can read more about each of the businesses by clicking here. If you are interested in becoming a part of Wildcat Ventures, fill out this form or check out their website. 

 

New Audit Analytics Course Gives MAcc Students an Edge

Dr. Curtis Clements

Efficiency is the key to accounting and the current key to efficiency is analytics. As the field of accounting advances and changes, so does the software, and therefore, the subjects taught in the accounting major. Dr. Curtis Clements saw the need for a course in accounting analytics and began teaching Audit Analytics, a graduate level class, last fall.

He explained that, historically, accounting has determined accuracy of financial statements by utilizing sampling. However, with programs like Tableau, Alteryx, Excel, etc., it has become possible to obtain, clean, and analyze data much more accurately and precisely. With the business world transitioning quickly into the world of analytics, Dr. Clements found it important to provide an opportunity for students to gain experience in one of the emerging disciplines and most crucial parts of accounting.

That goal was certainly met. The class was given access to Dillard’s department store sales data (housed at the University of Arkansas). This gave the students a real world feel to analyzing and working with large data sets. Dr. Clements wanted the class structure to give information and tools that would be practical in the future for each student’s career. The positive feedback give by students for the class led to an upgrade to the course textbook, which will lead to more information learned to put into action in the workplace.

Anthony Rodriguez, Master of Accountancy major from Argyle, Texas, participated in the inaugural class and gave his seal of approval. “I really enjoyed the class. This past summer, during my internship at EY, I was selected as 1 of 60 interns nationwide to go to Hoboken, New Jersey to attend a training in auditing analytics. The software packages we were taught in training were Tableau and Alteryx. One of the things I took from the training was how much technology can impact an audit for the better. Also, as 1 of only 60 interns, I would have an advantage over some of my peers. The Audit Analytics course at ACU touched on some of those same topics- specifically Tableau. As the course went along, I realized that we were learning much of the same material Ernst & Young (EY) had deemed a worthy investment. From my short experience in New Jersey, I saw how technology will begin impacting how audits work. Clearly, if EY invested as much money as they did to develop their Digital Ambassador Intern Program, it seems as though the Big 4 accounting firms want to get a head start on this trend. It is really awesome that COBA and Dr. Clements have begun offering this course to ACU students. Our careers will only get more and more digital, so it’s great that ACU is offering this course to help set its students apart from the competition.”

Audit Analytics was a resounding success and Dr. Clements is working to make sure the class will continue improving and adjusting to meet the demands of the field in the future as the tools for accounting analytics advance. The Master of Accountancy program prepares accounting students to meet the demands of the field, in whatever type of firm or accounting career they seek to work in. Click here to learn more about ACU’s Master of Accountancy program.

 

A Milestone for STAR

Jody Jones mentoring the STAR Fund Managers

Do you know about everything that goes on in COBA? We have so many awesome student programs, that chances are, you may have missed a few! STAR (Student Trading and Research) is a program where students learn to research an investment portfolio and trade assets based off their information. STAR began as an idea in 1999 and with an initial gift by a generous donor of $110,000 in June of 2000, ended its first full year of operation in 2001. Today, STAR manages a portion of ACU’s endowment and reports to the ACIMCO Board annually. STAR began as a student organization guided by Dr. Terry Pope and Dr. Jonathan Stewart. Now, students can earn course credit while they earn valuable real-world experience.

That kind of learning is something that Assistant Professor of Finance Dr. Jody Jones, who began teaching at ACU this past fall, is passionate about. Jones took over the STAR course after Dr. Pope retired last spring. Jones feels that one of the greatest learning opportunities that STAR affords is autonomy to the students in learning to make financial decisions. “All decisions are made by students. Although a faculty member helps guide decisions, the buying and selling of assets is dictated by student managers.”

Since inception, STAR has achieved an average return of nearly 50 basis points above its benchmark: S&P 500
Total Return Index. That’s reason enough to celebrate for any advising firm but this week STAR hit a huge milestone – the portfolio currently holds an outstanding $1.5 million.

Why is that such an important milestone? Dr. Jones explained, “The rising value of STAR allows students to better diversify and have more freedom in investment decisions. With the primary goal of the course being educational, students can buy and sell many assets and gain a broad perspective on the market. Also, this year will make it the first year that STAR has made distributions. The fund will return 4.5% of its value to the endowment to support scholarships, campus initiatives, and operations of the university.”

While STAR mainly consists of finance majors, anyone who is interested can join and is encouraged to do so. If needed, students can even apply to receive course credit for being a fund manager.

Dr. Jody Jones loves his profession for more than the numbers. He is passionate about integrating faith into his work and teaching. “While many of the student managers intend to work in the investment and financial services fields after graduation, financial management is important for all organizations and households. Stewardship is also a spiritual discipline.”

 

Young Alumni Spotlight: Allison Phillips

Allison (left) in Norway with her college roommate.

Allison Phillips graduated from the College of Business in 2015 with a marketing degree. She is currently working for Deloitte Consulting as a Data Scientist for clients and lives in Denver, Colorado. She is also passionate about traveling and her job allows her to pursue that.

 

Q: How have your foundations at ACU and in COBA helped you in life post-graduation?

A: During my time in COBA, I had the chance to lead student organizations, conduct research with faculty, and launch a student-run analytics consultancy through Wildcat Ventures. These experiences gave me the chance to gain experience as a researcher and consultant really early in life, which made my transition from school to work much easier. Professional skills aside, COBA gave me a lengthy list of mentors who guided and supported me as I tried to figure out the career direction I wanted to pursue. Having adults in my life who listened and gave me honest opinions about the decisions I was making has had a huge impact on the way I make decisions in my personal and professional life.

 

Q: Can you describe your work in data analytics and the experiences you’ve had with your company?

A: I’m currently a Data Scientist in Deloitte’s Consulting practice, which allows me to work with different clients to understand what has happened, predict what will happen in the future, and make more effective decisions with that information. I’ve gotten to work with companies as well as federal agencies, and I enjoy the challenge of learning about new industries and continuing to develop my technical skills while solving a wide variety of business challenges. In a given week, I work with teammates from all across the country to write code, conduct statistical analysis, design experiments, build slides, and brief clients. I’ve met some really incredible people at Deloitte, and it’s been fun to work with teammates whose backgrounds are very different than mine.

 

Allison with friends hiking Machu Picchu in Peru.

Q: What should students who are interested in data analytics be doing while they are in school to prepare for that after graduation?

A: Students interested in analytics should take data mining and programming classes to understand if they enjoy the kind of work they would be doing as a data scientist. Outside of class, students should look for relevant internships, opportunities to conduct research with faculty or job openings at ARG (the analytics piece of Wildcat Ventures). A lot of different paths lead to analytics careers so I would recommend learning some basic technical skills and looking for opportunities to apply those in ways that interest you.

 

Q: Would you share some of your favorite memories or experiences of traveling? How do you balance that with work?

A: I love traveling and definitely take advantage of all my time off! One of my goals is to visit all 59 National Parks, so I spend a lot of weekends hiking and camping with friends. Last year I also hiked to Machu Picchu with a big group of friends, road tripped through Norway with my college roommate (where we tried to break into a house that turned out not to be our AirBnB), and traveled through Southeast Asia with my family, where we ziplined to the tallest treehouses in the world. Learning about different cultures and experiencing ways of life that are different than mine is really important to me, and I’ve been lucky to have colleagues who are supportive of that. Plus it’s super fun!