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. 

 

Internship Spotlight: Maddy Crockett

Junior accounting and management major, Maddy Crockett, from Lubbock, TX interned this summer at the corporate headquarters of City Bank, a publicly-traded company in Lubbock, Texas. While there, Maddy worked for the director of the Project Management Office and said, “The internship I held this summer with City Bank went beyond my expectations, and I am incredibly grateful for the experience the company provided me”.

Maddy learned so much during her time at City bank. “Project management within companies has always been fascinating to me, and I was able to learn it first-hand this summer. Over the nine weeks I was with City Bank, I was shown the timeline of a project, both in theory and in practice. I was able to shadow the director of the department in all areas – project implementations, team touchpoints, leadership development, and meetings with department heads and bank executives. I was also given a project of my own to work on, where I communicated with corporate and branch team members to complete a data initiative. The leaders in the Project Management Office showed me real tools to initiate and carry out projects from start to finish.”

Real-world experience with an opportunity to apply what she had learned was invaluable to Maddy. “One of my greatest lessons from this experience was getting to lead a meeting of my own for the director and other members of PMO. I also enjoyed experiencing seeing individuals from all different departments come together to accomplish a project; individuals were chosen to utilize their specific skill sets, and it was encouraging to see that teamwork and cooperation from everyone involved. City Bank is an excellent organization to work for; they treat employees like family, they provide great opportunities for growth, and they execute top-notch service for their customers.”

Maddy felt ready to take on the summer internship saying, “ACU has prepared me to be proactive and professional in this internship, along with being willing to work hard. By our professors encouraging us to be inquisitive and prepared for questions, I was able to learn from my director and peers. COBA has taught me that excellence is worth pursuing, and it is a goal I should seek after in all areas of work.”

Maddy’s favorite thing about being a COBA student is the variety of opportunities the college offers. “I love the learning opportunities COBA provides; nowhere else have I gotten the applicable experience that I have here. Additionally, the relationships we get to have with our professors has been a favorite of mine.”

For those students preparing for an internship, Maddy advises, “Have a teachable attitude, say yes to what is asked of you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your internship is what you make of it – it can be average, or it can be exemplary. Take advantage of the opportunity your internship provides for you and make it exemplary!”

Internship Spotlight: Sarina Smith

Sarina Smith is a junior management major from Melissa, Texas. This summer, Sarina interned for Raytheon Technologies in McKinney, Texas in their Intelligence and Space Division as a program planning intern. Sarina is hopeful that this internship will lead to a full-time job with the company after graduation. “My management identified me as a ‘high performer’ and have invited me to intern again next summer as well as documented their desire to hire me upon graduation.” We asked Sarina a few questions about her internship and her preparation for her future career.

 

What were the greatest lessons you learned in the internship?

My role in the internship was performing schedule management and ensuring my programs had strong performance and robust project management analysis. This included cost estimating, earned value management, critical path, schedule risk, plus cost and schedule variance analysis. One important thing I learned about myself during this internship was that I am adaptable and highly capable. This internship took a lot of communication and advanced skills, however, with determination I accomplished more than I thought possible. Something else I have learned is the importance of being proactive and enterprising in the workplace. Much of the time I had to teach myself or find solutions independently. Taking initiative and not stopping until you reach your objectives is what leads to success. 

 

How has your time at ACU prepared you for this internship and for employment after graduation?

My time at ACU has prepared me through relevant coursework. My academic coursework went hand in hand with my internship. My COBA classes were outstanding preparation for me having the technical knowledge and proper tools to be successful and most importantly my coursework gave me real-world relevant business scenarios. As a communication minor, my communication classes aided me greatly in leading meetings and interacting professionally with all levels of the organization. The leadership opportunities ACU offers also helped as much as the coursework. Being the pledge class president and current social director in my social club helped tremendously with organizational skills. The experience of being an officer and active in ACU Acapella choir increased my self-discipline. My confidence and communication skills were also expanded by serving on leadership teams for Sing Song, TED Talks, and volunteering as a mentor leader at Wildcat Week. My time at ACU has prepared me for employment after graduation by giving me the necessary tools and skills to thrive in the workforce. 

I now understand more fully what being in the professional workplace entails. My goal is to excel in my career using as many resources as I can and through self-study. I will apply what I learned during my internship to my academic coursework by using my improved technology skills as well as better time management. Some transferable skills I developed during my experience were analyzing and prioritizing tasks, extracting important information, and facilitating group discussions. 

 

What’s been your favorite thing about being a COBA student?  

My favorite thing about being a COBA student is getting involved in the many opportunities COBA has to help you optimize your career goals. COBA’s Leadership Summit in Colorado was especially impactful. COBA truly cares about their students and will go to great lengths to see them grow. 

 

What advice do you have for students who are preparing for an internship?

My advice would be to not underestimate yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere. Next, find mentors. It can be overwhelming being a part of something much bigger than yourself. Just like your classmates depended on you in a group project, your coworkers depend on you to help elevate the team. Therefore, ask for help. Having someone to show you the ropes and answer questions is a great way to make sure you are maximizing your contributions to the team quickly.  Also, don’t be afraid to seek answers on your own. A mix of independence and self-direction but openness to learning from others is a winning combination. 

 

 

Internship Spotlight: Kennedy Barnett

Kennedy Barnett is a senior management major with an emphasis on leadership and communications from Rockwall, Texas. Kennedy has interned for Encompass Health-Home Health in Dallas for the last two years. She is hopeful that this internship will transition into a full-time position after graduation. We asked Kennedy a few questions about her internship and her preparation for a future career as a student at ACU.

 

What were the greatest lessons you learned in the internship?

I have interned in the Professional Development department at Encompass Health for the last 2 years. In that role, I was able to interact with all departments and observe a lot of executive coaching and leadership development. I learned how to coach and give feedback, as well as how to show up professionally in the workplace.

 

How has your time at ACU prepared you for this internship and for employment after graduation?

Being able to successfully apply the things that I have learned in class motivates me to want to dig in and learn more. Dr. Marquardt’s Leadership in Organizations course and leadership theories have been especially helpful in preparing me for the workplace. 

 

What’s been your favorite thing about being a COBA student?

The thing that stands out to me about COBA is the investment that the professors make in each of their students. They encourage, motivate, and build relationships with their students and it enriches our learning experience.

 

Kennedy with CEO of Encompass Home Health and ACU Alum and Board of Trustees Chair, April Anthony

What advice do you have for students who are preparing for an internship?

One of the most beneficial things for me has been sitting in on meetings or spending one on one time with people in positions that I could potentially be interested in. I would advise anyone entering an internship to go in open-minded and be willing to try out different positions or projects that might be outside of your comfort zone. You may discover that you are a great fit somewhere that you never would have considered otherwise!

I would like to encourage everyone to seek out an internship. It changes your mindset in class whenever you have some real-life experience that you can apply to the things that you are learning about. Interning at Encompass gave me a new perspective and made my junior year so much more enriching. I want that for each of you as well.