COBA Grads Go Social!

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Imagine having a set of social listening tools that can measure exactly how effective your brand’s sharable content is. Well it is time to stop daydreaming and get social! In the fall of 2012, six founding members, including former ACU, SITC, and COBA graduates Brad Neathery (2011), Clay Selby (2011), and Braxton Huggins (2010), teamed up and created SocialRest, a set of specific tools designed to measure social shareability, engagement, and conversions made from a brand’s website content across social platforms. SocialRest measures how social users engage with a brand because of user-shared content from their website. SocialRest then follows that social user if they visit that brand’s website, listening to how they engage with content on the site and measuring conversion rates on the brand’s website.

In the fall of 2012, founder of SocialRest, Clay Selby who majored in IT in the School of Information Technology and Computing, pitched the idea at a conference in San Antonio called Three Day Startup. After the event, Clay and co-founder, Brandon Ashton, started developing the idea. After a long process of building, measuring, and learning, SocialRest became a reality, with potential to be one of the top start-ups of 2014. This set of social tools features social analytics, simple integration, impression tracking, customer behavior interest, and ROI tracking. SocialRest can also determine whether the content written on a regular basis is successful. News sites, brand-building blogs, and businesses that rely heavily on their content creators can benefit greatly with these measuring tools. SocialRest can help businesses observe, visualize, and adapt to customer responses on their site, making the process of seeing user engagement and conversion highly efficient.

The SocialRest team expects the site to become the premier listening tool for B2C (business to consumer) brands with shareable content on their website or blog. SocialRest has recently been ranked by ClubLab (a London philanthropic agency) as one of the 12 start-ups to watch in 2014, alongside high-caliber brands like Nest (acquired by Google), Topsy (acquired by Apple), and other legendary start-ups. In the month of February, SocialRest increased Twitter followers by 1200% and received over 20,000 social mentions. This company is definitely one to watch, with mentions from ClubLab’s “Top Start-ups to Watch in 2014” and Chelsea Krost’s “2014 The Year of the Millennial”.

Brad Neathery, an ACU and COBA graduate who  majored in marketing, credits their success to a number of factors, including the positive mentoring influences and constant engagement with potential users of the tools. Brad also stressed how much the Lord has aided in the process, working in miraculous ways to bring glory to His kingdom. “Christ calls us to serve his people in everything that we do, and philanthropy is nothing more than an act of service. SocialRest is made up of team members that are constantly stumbling toward the cross together, and our foundation is built upon accountability in business and in life,” says Brad. SocialRest exemplifies the values COBA instills in students, preparing them to go into the world with a missional mindset and determination to bring glory to Christ and his kingdom through all aspects of business and in life. SocialRest is looking for interns for the summer of 2014. If any students are interested in the internship, they can contact COBA’s career development team, Tim Johnston or Samantha Matta.

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“COBA craft’s the vision of its students to understand the world for what it is, and to then take their own approach on how to achieve their goals. There is an underlying belief that life should be seen as an opportunity, challenges seen as the first step to growth, and success to be seen as a humble awareness of how magnificent our creator is,” says Brad Neathery, former ACU and COBA graduate.

 

 

 

It is That Time of Year: Springboard!

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The highly anticipated event we have all been waiting for is just around the corner! Registration for the seventh annual Springboard Ideas challenge is now open and ready to start accepting applicants for 2014. Springboard is a business plan competition that takes place each year through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. Contestants vary, including some who have ideas and are seeking to start a business and others who have already established small businesses. The cash prizes come from several local sponsors. This year, certain phases of the competition have changed. The initial application process has been revamped to make each transition phase flow more smoothly for applicants.

The competition includes three different divisions: the community-growth division, the community-small business division, and the college division. The first, second, and third place winners in each division will receive cash prizes. For the college division, the first place winner will receive $7,500, the second place winner will receive $3,000, and the third place winner will receive $1,000. In the community-growth division, the first place winner will receive $15,000, the second place winner will receive $5,000, and the third place winner will receive $1,000. For the community-small business, the first place winner will receive $5,000, the second place winner will receive $3,000, and the third place winner will receive $1,000. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and be a permanent resident of one of the qualifying 19 counties surrounding the Abilene area.

To enter the competition, applicants must initially complete an online application and pay the registration fee. The online application deadline is 5 P.M. on March 7th. Once the judging panel has advanced chosen contestants on to the next phase of the competition, a mini-business plan must be submitted. The business plan should address the fundamental issues of interest to potential investors. This document should highlight the most important and interesting points of the business, which should give potential investors a general understanding of why this venture would succeed. Contestants who advance to the next phase of the competition qualify as finalists and must prepare a presentation for a live panel of judges. The exact date, time, and location will vary by division but will take place during the week of April 6-12, 2014. Participants will be given 10 minutes to present their idea to the judges and will then be subject to 10-15 minutes of Q&A from the judges.The final phase of the competition will be the awards dinner, which will take place on April 15th. All finalists will display their ideas as part of an exhibit hall before the dinner, and then the winners of each division will be announced during the dinner. This year, Stuart Crum, President for Bridgestone Retail Operations, will be speaking at the awards ceremony.

Students have represented COBA well in the past Springboard competitions. Typically, around 30-4 students from around campus enter the competition each year. Last year, senior Luke Luttrell won first place in the college division with his Right Route idea. Right Route is a mobile app similar to Google Maps but offers more route options, optimizing the fastest route between as many desired destinations. Dr. Brent Reeves and Dr. Brian Burton were two professors that helped Luke develop his idea for the app. Luke believes that COBA was absolutely fundamental to winning Springboard. He credits his success to the help of such great professors in COBA, reiterating how involved and willing they were to reach out and help him on his journey to success. Luke also praises the competition in regards to the process. He says, “Springboard gives students the opportunity to present an idea to a panel of investors with entrepreneurial experience, resulting in great feedback on the idea and business model.” Luke has learned to always seek entrepreneurial opportunities and encourages anyone with even the smallest idea to enter the competition. Springboard is a great opportunity to grow one’s entrepreneurial skills and gain relevant experience through a high value process and interaction with professional entrepreneurs.

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“The Springboard Ideas Challenge is a great opportunity for any student who is interested in entrepreneurial pursuits. It offers an unbelievable experience because it forces students to turn a simple idea into a fully functioning business model,” says Luke Luttrell, senior COBA student and winner of the 2013 Springboard Challenge.

 

Students Experience City Square

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During January, several COBA students as well as non-business majors took a January short course, Social Entrepreneurship, with Dr. Laura Phillips at City Square in Dallas. In the fall of 2012, ACU began to partner with City Square, combining curricular and co-curricular experiences for student leadership development. CitySquare is a faith-based, non-profit, human and community development corporation that promotes learning and formation through engagement, including projects, courses, internships, formative experiences, and degree programs. Courses at City Square offer opportunities for in-context learning, allowing students to be hands-on outside of the traditional classroom.

During the short course, 18 guests came to speak with students about social organizations and the different pieces that make up these organizations. The class offered a series of breakfast lectures where speakers discussed vital parts of nonprofit businesses that must be considered when working for or starting any nonprofit. Guests speakers, including Suzanne Smith, Founder and Managing Director of Social Impacts Architects and Co-Founder of Flywheel: Social Enterprise Hub, spoke about measuring success from a social perspective. Mark Jacobs, Senior Director of Operations for The Medicines Company, started His Chase Foundation in 2010 and is now focusing all efforts in Rwanda, providing 250+ students with educational opportunities. Mark gave students opportunities to engage and brainstorm ideas for his initiatives in Rwanda. Speakers also addressed questions concerning other aspects of a non-profit organization such as raising funds, the grant application process, how to start a board of members, social media, and the basic business principles included in a financial statement.

The majority of the class was comprised of business majors but all students found the information very useful even if they had no intention of starting an enterprise. Shanleigh Clinton, a nutrition major, says that she was worried the material would not be applicable to her. However, she says, “This class actually helped me understand how to balance mission and margin and how to have a greater impact in what I do.” Shanleigh plans on becoming a registered dietician, partnering with a feeding and nutrition education program and potentially working with a social enterprise.

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Bring on the Burritos..the Crossing Cafe is Now Open!

The Crossing Cafe - now open!

The Crossing Cafe – now open!

Students, faculty, and all of the ACU community, our wait is over. After pushing through long and dreadful coffeeless mornings, sitting through classes with no breakfast burritos to satisfy our grumbling stomachs, and sitting uncomfortably on the hard floors in the hallways trying to cram before those killer tests, the time has come. COBA is proud to announce the new and improved Crossing Cafe! The cafe opened this past Monday and offers an assortment of yummy snacks and breakfast items, including kolaches, donuts, breakfst burritos, coffee, tea, and a variety of other treats. The Crossing Cafe is a completely student-operated business run by Wildcat Venture students Allie Rostron, Casey Duncum, and Brandon Avedikian.

Allie Rostron, CEO of the cafe, says, “I am extremely happy with the renovations. Menus can always be changed, but our goal was to create a unique and inviting environment for the students.”

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Casey Duncum, senior management major, is also pleased with the new cafe. Casey has an innovative vision for the cafe, seeking ways to truly add to the unique COBA experience. The cafe also features student artwork from the student-founded organization Emineo. This adds a different touch to the cafe, creating a modern and trendy environment. In addition to the new atmosphere inside the cafe, Casey is hoping to eventually add furniture and live events on the back patio.

Casey says,”This summer was hard trying to make everything come together, but after seeing the cafe open, it was worth the hours of work and preparation.” 

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So what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Indulge in that hot, mouth-watering breakfast burrito and reward your taste buds for those treacherous mornings you had to function without coffee. Stop by the new and improved Crossings Cafe located on the first floor of COBA!

Wildcat Ventures Provides Students With Small Business Experience

COBA does a lot of things well, but one of the things we do best is providing students with hands on, real world experience. A great example of this can be seen in one of our student organizations, Wildcat Ventures. Created in July of 2012, Wildcat Ventures is a series of “on-campus, student-run enterprises,” as described by President Hannah Ostertag.

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Hannah Ostertag

Because Wildcat Ventures is a relatively new organization, Hannah has been involved in its development as well as its day-to-day operations. As a result, she believes deeply in the organization’s purpose and vision.

“The vision for this program is to create a series of businesses that are student-run and operated, providing an experiential learning environment for students to apply concepts learned throughout their coursework,” explains Hannah. “Students in this program gain practical leadership development and business acumen through the planning, implementation, and development of student businesses on campus.”

By the Fall 2013 semester, Wildcat Ventures will have launched four different enterprises: Connections Café, a t-shirt business, a phone-electronics repair business, and a sales and distribution business.

As president, Hannah has learned more than she ever could have imagined, including the fact that surrounding yourself with talented individuals whose skills complement your own makes any task easier.

“Working at Wildcat Ventures really gave me a glimpse of what it takes to start a business,” she elaborates. “You will have to work hard, extremely hard. You will have to live and breathe your business at times because if you don’t, the tasks that need to get completed won’t get done. There will be days when the challenges and barriers to your business seem overwhelming. But when you are reminded of your vision for the project, solutions to those problems can be found and those barriers can be overcome with enough perseverance.”

Thanks to Dr. Litton, Hannah, and the rest of the leadership at Wildcat Ventures for providing this incredible opportunity.

Be sure to get involved with Wildcat Ventures and support their businesses here on campus!

Chad Hutchins Named as New Entrepreneur-in-Residence

COBA is full of students with fantastic entrepreneurial ideas. However, many of these students don’t know how to develop these innovative concepts. One great way for students to engage in entrepreneurial training is by working with our new Entrepreneur in Residence, Chad Hutchins.

Chad Hutchins, Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Chad, a 2008 graduate who studied computer science with a focus in business, has always had an affinity for entrepreneurship. Chad explains,

“Since grade school, there’s always been some project on the side I worked on that I considered my ‘business’ at the time, which varied from mowing yards to making websites. “

While here at ACU, Chad, along with three other students, created Sheepdog, a service that assisted companies in identifying the social networks that their customers were using. While Sheepdog wasn’t a big money maker, it provided Hutchins with valuable learning experience from the time he came up with the idea in 2008 until 2010 when he and his friends sold the intellectual property to another startup.

Since Sheepdog, Chad has been involved in two additional startups, the most recent of which is called SugarOutfitters.

“It’s an app store for SugarCRM, a popular CRM solution,” explains Chad. “We spent nine months building the company and website, which we launched in September. Since then, sales have been going up every month.”

After successfully starting three different companies, Chad has learned a few things, one of which is the importance of having a solid business plan.

“Building whatever it is you want to sell is the easy part,” he elaborates. “It’s the marketing and distribution that will make or break you. So having a laser-focused target market and a strong plan for reaching that market is extremely important.”

In his new role as Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Chad will be in his office in the eHub every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. During these times, he will be able to meet with students in order to help them achieve the same entrepreneurial success he has enjoyed.

Chad is excited about this opportunity, because he can easily identify with the students with whom he will be working.

“Having been in their exact shoes, the thing that excites me most is being able to help provide the things I wished were available to me as I tried to build my own businesses while at ACU,” says Chad. “The college experience is such a unique time in a person’s life, a time that you don’t get back. I believe trying to build a business during that time is the best time to do so.”

Be sure to check out Chad’s latest startup, SugarOutfitters, by clicking here, and don’t hesitate to email him at hutchins.chad@gmail.com.