The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, located in COBA, founded the Springboard Student Venture Competition to support the growth of ACU undergraduate and graduate student businesses and nonprofit organizations. Winners receive one-time funding from $500 – $3,000.
In order for the students to be able to compete in front of the Springboard judging panel, the students must be enrolled at ACU, must own at least 51% of their venture, and must be engaged in entrepreneurial activities such as the Founders Club, a student venture club led by Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator. Awards are based on the panel’s assessment of the potential of the business and the “spirit of entrepreneurship displayed by the student(s)”. Students come prepared with a 3 – 4-minute speech and the necessary financial reports for their business. Each student receives feedback on their presentation/business model and a chance to compete again in the next competition for those who are not awarded funding in the current competition.
This year Founders Club President, Karson Tutt, and Founders Club member, Lauren Gumm, were awarded for their presentations. Gumm, an elementary education major from Abilene, TX, runs a screen printing company called Wear It to Share I”. Lauren screen prints thrifted shirts by hand in order to bring people environmentally conscious and unique shirts. Tutt, a senior management major from Tuscola, TX, started Karson’s, an online jewelry company, which is now in the process of adding an in-person location in Abilene where many other products will be available. We interviewed both award winners to learn about their experiences participating in the Founders Club and the Springboard Student Venture Competition.
Wear It to Share It
How has being involved in the Founders Club impacted your business?
Lauren: “Founders Club has provided so many resources for me and my little company! I’ve gotten financial advice and marketing consultations and had the opportunity to speak in front of members of the Abilene community about the awesome entrepreneurs at ACU! I started my business in my dorm room and being able to have an office space where I can work is another great resource that the Founders Club has given me. Founders Club has also given me a community to walk through business ownership with. My friends have always been super supportive of my business but having a group of people who also own their own businesses that I can talk through ideas and problems with has been a huge blessing.”
Karson: “I have loved getting to meet with other student entrepreneurs who understand the struggles I go through. I also participated in one of the pitch competitions and won money to put towards opening my store.”
What did you learn from the competition experience?
Lauren: “The competition gave me a sense of confidence in my abilities as a business owner. To be able to present the work I constantly pour into and receive validation that what I’m pursuing is smart and in demand was really reassuring! I also learned how important it is to be confident in your abilities. The judges were looking for business owners who happen to be full-time students. I walked away really feeling like they saw me as a business owner and a student.”
Karson: “I learned that I am actually more confident in my business as a whole than I thought. I used to think my business was just kind of small and not that big of a deal, but it’s actually really cool that I’m doing this and it’s not as hard as I thought to talk to adults about what I do and my plans for the future.”
What is your plan for your business now that you have won the competition?
Lauren: “Winning the competition gave me the ability to purchase new equipment that I desperately needed. The equipment I started out with in 2018 still functioned perfectly fine but it was the cheapest option available and therefore required every element of the process to be done by hand. My new equipment is what allowed me to fully pursue printing on thrifted shirts! I simply didn’t have the time to thrift and print but with the time saved using my new equipment I am able to do both!”
Karson: “I was planning on opening the store regardless of if I won or not, but now that I did win the extra funding I was able to literally expand the space of the store and get nicer versions of the things I was already going to be getting (ex. cash register, security system, light fixtures, etc.).”
Is there anything you would like to add?
Lauren: “I just want to encourage anyone who thinks they want to begin a business to go for it! Even if it isn’t a business you want to pursue long-term you can learn so much through the process! I have an appreciation for entrepreneurs that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and started Wear It to Share It!”
Karson: “The Griggs Center and Founders Club truly have been a great asset to me and my business. I love the community that has come from being involved.”
When Matt Boisvert (’97), President and co-founder of Pharos Resources, graduated from ACU with a degree in marketing he never would have dreamed that his professional life would be so heavily influenced by his time as a student and as an educator. Matt has given back to his alma mater by being consistently involved in helping current students with professional development by providing internships and support at Pharos Resources as well as serving on COBA’s Visiting Committee.
After graduating from ACU, Matt began his career at C&W Manufacturing in Alvarado, Texas as the Director of Marketing. It didn’t take long for Boisvert to return to the classroom. In 2001, while working on his MBA in Services Marketing and Management at Arizona State, he began interning with Hallmark Cards at their headquarters (Kansas City, MO) in their Specialty Retail Group, implementing and measuring the grand opening marketing strategy for Hallmark stores. Matt received his MBA in 2002 and came back to ACU’s College of Business Administration to become the Director of COBA’s Career Development Center, building a comprehensive career readiness and employer relations program for business majors.
Some of the colleges and universities that Pharos works with.
In 2004, Boisvert became the Director of Career Development for ACU and, in 2006, the Executive Director of the Office of Career and Academic Development. It was during these years that he learned about the challenges of student success, as this office was tasked with overseeing the “Support Our Students” program and related SOS software, as well as providing career development and academic counseling services to students. In 2007, Matt returned to COBA and served as the Assistant Dean of Marketing Operations and as a marketing instructor. He said, “Teaching taught me the power of actually ‘seeing’ your students in the classroom… identifying those who were struggling in academic and non-academic ways. At the same time, I was consulting with ACU to help commercialize the SOS software for the higher education market…which led to me making an offer to purchase and transfer the ACU-developed technology to a newly formed entity (Pharos Resources) in 2008.” In 2010, Matt entered Pharos Resources in the Springboard Ideas Challenge and won the “most fundable” business plan. It was time to fully pursue growing Pharos Resources – which meant leaving ACU in order to do so. However, this did not mark the end of his relationship with ACU. In fact, it has led to many opportunities for Matt to collaborate with COBA through Pharos Resources. Today, Pharos Resources serves 61 institutions across the United States and Canada. Its solutions are used by over 10,000 faculty and staff and provides support to over 125,000 college students.
Faith has played a vital role in Boisvert’s work throughout his life. “Having my identity in Christ has sustained me during the lows and keeps me humbly grateful in the highest highs. It is an incredible experience to be able to create value, impact lives, and build a team of people who are passionate about meaningful work. I feel so blessed to do this work.” Matt allows his faith to guide him day by day in all seasons, reminding him that he is uniquely made and loved by God. “God is investing in me, wanting to teach and continuously lead me for His plan. That has given me the freedom and confidence to create Pharos in a way that honors Him.” This is lived out by the way that Pharos treats their clients, how they interact with competitors, and how they invest in their client’s success.
Mission First with Anthony Melchiorri
Pharos’ current challenge, like most of the rest of the world, is helping clients navigate COVID-19. In May, COVID-19 forced universities to face difficult decisions about their summer and fall reopening plans. After hearing Anthony Melchiorri on the daily podcast “No Vacancy”, Matt reached out to the “Hotel Impossible” host and hospitality expert to see if he would share his insights from the hard-hit travel industry to improve the success of higher education institutions during the pandemic. Anthony is an expert on how to create clean, safe spaces with visual signs of sanitization, and provides an exceptional understanding of how to deliver service excellence. The Travel Channel host, Melchiorri, is known for being direct, honest, and committed to excellence. In addition, he is deeply passionate about student success! Melchiorri points to his own higher education and military experiences as life-changing and the fact that he has three daughters in college right now makes his investment clear and personal. He is also involved in the business of higher education, by serving on the board of Park University, his alma mater. Anthony’s response was immediate and definitive: “If this partnership can change the life of one student, it is worth it.” Pharos Resources is partnering with Anthony through 2020 and has already hosted four Mission First webinars with him, providing practical advice and encouragement with an engaging and entertaining format: readers can access those webinars at the links below.
Helping Boisvert and Melchiorri drive the Mission First marketing campaign is Tres Cox, senior marketing major from Lewisville, Texas. Tres has been a marketing intern with Pharos since fall of 2018. While the Mission First marketing campaign promotes the Pharos partnership with Anthony Melchiorri, Tres has had the opportunity to work on a wide range of marketing projects for Pharos including COVID-19 resources, brochures, conference sponsorships and exhibits, digital/social media marketing campaigns, and marketing new product launches. Boisvert is highly complimentary of Cox, saying, “He is incredibly talented, with a great combination of valuable skills. It is clear that COBA continues to develop talented students into business professionals. Tres has added significant value to our brand and the team.”
Matt’s student experience at ACU, especially with faculty members, was formative as he described each of his COBA professors as exceptional and still appreciates them for connecting him to real-world applications while in the classroom. He said that COBA gave him confidence in his ability and instilled in him the value of service as a Christian leader in business. Dr. Rick Lytle was Matt’s overall favorite professor for the reason that “he modeled a life in Christ through his love and leadership” which has greatly influenced who Matt has become.
Boisvert’s favorite ACU memory? That would be Welcome Week during his senior year. “For my friends, roommates and me, it was junior/senior wars and my house was the de facto headquarters for seniors. My roommates and I had crates of eggs set on the roof of Bob Hunter’s rent house as massive egg fights erupted. In the middle of this ‘war’, I met my wife Melissa and we have been together ever since.”
Matt advises incoming freshmen to complete at least one internship before graduation. “They expand your network, allow you to explore your career options, and will test your competence.” And to current students, he says, “I would strongly encourage COBA students to invest in learning more about who they are and how they can make an impact in the world. Then, to prepare for their future, I really encourage students to develop their ACU network: peers, faculty, mentors. The value of a college degree is more than the classes you take…the people who love the ACU mission will be valuable connections for life.”
What is your educational background?
BS Communication Disorders, (Speech Pathology).
What is your work background?
I have been at home with my children for the past 13 years, with small part-time jobs on the side. Now that they are all in school, I’m enjoying the opportunity to work for the Griggs Center.
What do you do at ACU/COBA?
I am the Springboard Program Coordinator for the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. I help with fundraising, coordinate our business model competitions for both students and the community, and provide training events for aspiring entrepreneurs.
What’s the best part of working with students?
I enjoy their energy, creativity and enthusiasm.
Outside of ACU, what passions and hobbies do you have?
I love being with my husband and four children. I love to travel and eat and experience other cultures–this may be because I’m a ‘Third Culture Kid.’ I enjoy reading and singing. Also, I love to climb things. Especially trees.
The Heflin Family
What is a good, early story about your first job or when you were in college?
My very first job was scooping ice cream for a family-owned, homemade ice cream shop. I had a very strong right arm at the end of that summer!
Do you do any charity or non-profit work?
My family and I are a mentors for arriving refugee families through the International Rescue Committee. These families have become our real life heroes as well as our dear friends. Their stories are humbling and inspiring. I am very passionate about serving this community of people and would love to tell you more if you’re interested in volunteering!
Karen and Houston Heflin
Who is your role model and why?
Corrie ten Boom and Rosa Parks- I admire their strength and tenacity and their willingness to take great risks for ideas they believed to be important.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Teleportation. This would allow me to travel anytime to anywhere.
What is something that students might be surprised to find out about you?
I lived in Iceland in the late 80’s.
In November, the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy hosted the first annual Startup Week. The CEO student organization along with the Griggs Center were busy with several activities during the week, including an Alumni Entrepreneurship dinner on November 18, a CEO chapel on the 19th with guest speaker Toby Thomas, and ending with the final Elevator Pitch competition after the chapel. The goal of the Springboard Elevator Pitch competition was to get students to create and present their idea, giving them the opportunity to gain real experience working with entrepreneurs. Three weeks prior to Startup Week, participants presented their Elevator Pitch ideas in front of a group of local entrepreneurs and ACU faculty members and learned how they would be judged as well as the deadlines for the competition. At the dinner on November 18, the 10 finalists were announced. The next day, the pitches were heard and the winner received $1,500 cash for the idea.
The winner of the Elevator Pitch was COBA major, Colby Hatchett, a junior marketing major from Fort Worth. His idea was The Mullet, a restaurant concept where parents could enjoy a nice meal at the front of the restaurant while their children would be fully taken care of in the back of the restaurant. After the pitch, Colby said he was incredibly grateful to meet entrepreneurs working in the marketplace and gain real experience from the competition.
Rudy Garza, President of CEO, was excited that students were able to meet and connect with ACU alums and other entrepreneurs. At the dinner, students were seated at tables with the entrepreneurs and were able to hear their stories and advice for those considering entrepreneurship as well as making valuable connections for potential career opportunities. When asked the effect of COBA with the Elevator Pitch, Rudy said, “Because the classes are smaller and the quality of the faculty is excellent, COBA students always excel in the Springboard Challenge competitions. The presenters are stronger and seem comfortable speaking in front of the crowd. Through the interactions between professors and students, students gain major insight into what entrepreneurship looks like, which is incredibly beneficial for them in this case.”
Overall, the competition was a great success. Some unique ideas were presented during the pitch and it was great to have so many ACU and COBA alumni back on campus. COBA is proud to see such amazing business and Christian leadership in the marketplace. Again, congratulations to COBA student, Colby Hatchett, on winning the competition!
“The Springboard Challenge is a great enhancement to COBA’s culture of ideation, creativity, and innovation. This competition pushes our students and culture in a good way!” says Dr. Rick Lytle, Dean of the College of Business.
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.
“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.
Darbie Angell, Founder and CEO of CRU Dinnerware
Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week!
It’s that time of the year, the one where 35,000 events occur in 125 countries, all in the name of entrepreneurship. It’s beautiful, because it’s the chance to acknowledge that it’s hard to generate and implement new ideas, but that it’s also worth the trouble, because innovation is what makes our world go round.
Here at ACU’s College of Business, we try to embrace the spark of innovation as much as possible, which is why we’re celebrating entrepreneurship through several different events:
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13: ENTREPRENEUR SPEAKER SERIES
April Anthony, Founder and CEO of Encompass Home Health
Darbie Angell, Founder and CEO of CRU Dinnerware, will be speaking from 11:00-11:30 at the Hunter Welcome Center (LYNAY room), and April Anthony, Founder and CEO of Encompass Home Health will be speaking from 11:45-1:00, also at the Hunter Welcome Center.
Both of these women exemplify what it means to be successful entrepreneurs. They serve as mentors and examples to our students, especially to our future female entrepreneurs. We are incredibly thankful to have them with us to kick off Global Entrepreneurship Week.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15: SPRINGBOARD ELEVATOR PITCH COMPETITION (FINAL ROUND AND AWARDS)
Budding entrepreneurs have learned to pitch a new product, service, or business concept in two minutes or less in a competition to win $1500. The first round of the Elevator Pitch Competition took place last Saturday, November 6. Everyone is invited to watch the final round of the competition this Thursday at 11:00. Click here to register.
START THINKING ABOUT THE SPRINGBOARD IDEAS CHALLENGE…
Do you have a great idea? If so, you should participate in our Springboard Ideas Challenge! Each team or individual submits a mini-business plan and then, if chosen as a finalist, is given the opportunity to present its idea to a live panel of judges. Last year’s student category winner won $10,000 for his idea and the winner from the community category won $20,000! Click here to learn more about the Springboard Ideas Challenge.
Stay tuned for more information on this great opportunity!
A big thanks goes out to the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy for all of their hard work in creating opportunities that foster entrepreneurship within this community.