The Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) welcomes Charles “Chuck” Hinton Jr. as the new director for I-Corps Programming. He will be responsible for promotion of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) program, a set of entrepreneurial activities that prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory, and broaden the impact of select NSF-funded basic research projects.

Chuck Hinton 2015I-Corps is a public-private partnership program that solicits three-member teams – composed of an academic researcher, a student entrepreneur and an industry mentor – to participate in an intensive seven-week program to determine commercialization opportunities for their innovations. Selected I-Corps Teams are eligible for up to $50,000 in NSF grant funding to support their efforts in the combined on-site and online curriculum, which is based on the Lean Launch Methodology for business model validation.

Hinton will lead the CNVE’s efforts as part of the Southwest I-Corps Node (http://swicorps.org), one of seven national partnerships of universities funded by NSF to support I-Corps expansion. Texas A&M University, along with UT-Austin, Rice University and Texas Tech University, share responsibilities for promotion of this high-impact program and recruitment of I-Corps Team applicants. To date, I-Corps has trained more than 500 teams nationwide, many of which have efficiently determined a pathway through which to commercialize their NSF-funded innovations.

“Chuck’s efforts for the CNVE will focus first on recruitment and preparation of Texas A&M teams for enrollment in this elite program,” said Blake Petty, CNVE director and a National I-Corps faculty member. “He’ll then be responsible for expanding I-Corps participation throughout the Texas A&M System, around the state, and ultimately, across the southwestern U.S.”

Hinton received two degrees from Texas A&M: a bachelor’s degree in business in 1976 and an MBA in 1978. After a successful career in natural gas exploration/drilling/production, Hinton more recently became familiar to CNVE as a volunteer mentor working with entrepreneurial students at Startup Aggieland, the A&M campus’ student business accelerator. While leading efforts to recruit and train mentors for their student programs, Hinton developed a deep understanding and appreciation for Startup Aggieland’s Lean Launch Methodology – which shares the same principals applied in I-Corps training.

“We’re very fortunate to add someone of Chuck’s caliber to the CNVE team,” Petty said. “His expertise and enthusiasm for I-Corps will be infectious to everyone he engages.”

Academic researchers and students interested in learning more about I-Corps and non-academic leaders wanting to serve as industry mentors to an I-Corps Team are encouraged to contact Hinton at chinton@mays.tamu.edu.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

 

Categories: Centers, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

After spending most of an eight-day residency at Mays Business School immersed in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), 19 veterans returned home ready to roll out their business endeavors. They took with them the encouraging words and training from their mentors, guest speakers and Mays faculty members.

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The July 11-18 event was the eighth at Texas A&M University for post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities. It is hosted in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), which holds similar programs at seven other universities nationwide. They developed skills needed to launch and maintain successful businesses. The participants received training and mentoring. They also got a taste of life as an Aggie.

Some of the business proposals included bounce house rentals, business coaching, a trucking company and a network to help female veterans find relevant products, apparel and social media sites.

“This is such a great environment for those of us in business,” said Chris Thompson, a former Green Beret who manufactures firearms and conducts firearms training in Bryan. “They understand the challenges veterans face, and they know what new business owners need.”

This year’s event started with an opening ceremony featuring April Ames-Chase, a member of the EBV Class of 2014 and recipient of the 2015 Robin ’76 and Robert Starnes ’72 EBV Outstanding Alumni Award. She urged the participants to never let anyone dissuade them from pursuing their dreams. “If someone says it’s not possible, just tell them thank you and move on,” she said. “Pray, pivot and move forward.” She also advised the participants to utilize all the resources around them and “network, network, network.”

Dick Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, who spearheads the EBV each year, told the participants: “You’ll never have another time in your life when you’ll do nothing but focus on your business. Soak it up. Use it. Benefit from it.”

On the final day of this year’s program, the EBV participants presented their final business plan pitches and presentations. After a tour and reception at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, they were joined by program mentors, sponsors and guests at closing ceremonies at the Annenberg Conference Center.

The keynote speaker, Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Todd Nelson, told stories that captivated his audience. While serving in Afghanistan, Nelson was 10 feet from a suicide bomber. After three years and 40 surgeries — 20 life-saving, 20 reconstructive (while finishing his degree) — he was hired by USAA in San Antonio to help recruit other veterans.

19757139248_7a691c8b81_oHe said he was asked to be an example/inspiration for a consortium of doctors developing and researching new ways to grow skin and extremities. He said he went forward with his recovery rather than live off his pension and disability for three reasons:

  • Make a promise and follow a dream
  • Set an example for his daughters
  • Be a deserving husband

Nelson’s message to EBV participants emphasized the importance of finding the inspiration behind their entrepreneurial ventures. He closed by saying, “You know the how and the what. You need to find the why.”

After the residency phase of the program, the EBV participants have access to numerous resources, coordinated by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families: mentoring, technical assistance, financing services, legal services and website design. “We want to make sure they keep their momentum after getting this far,” said A.J. Florkowski, EBV national program director for the Institute for Veterans. “We also want to help them raise awareness in their own communities of what they are doing. That will help them build their network once they get back home.”

– Julia Mora ’17 contributed to this story.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Centers, Departments, Mays Business, Texas A&M

Acoustic Shield, Startup Aggieland’s first E-Team, is one of 50 E-Teams chosen to receive a $5,000 grant from VentureWell.  VentureWell defines an E-Team – the “E” stands for entrepreneurship –as a multidisciplinary group of students, faculty and industry mentors collaborating to bring a technology to market.

Luke Neese

Luke Neese, a philosophy major with a pre-law focus, and his wife Virginia, a nutrition major at Texas A&M University, co-founded Acoustic Shield with Liang Ge, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering. They met at 3-Day Startup, a program hosted at Startup Aggieland by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Mays Business School. Their venture is an indoor gunshot detection system.

VentureWell’s E-Team Program helps college students commercialize technology ideas. Startup Aggieland prepares students to enter programs such as VentureWell and the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps.

“Startup Aggieland – and Texas A&M University, for that matter – provides an experiential educational environment where you are responsible for what you get out of it,” Neese explained. “Your future is truly in your hands.”

Virginia Neese

Virginia Neese said being accepted for the VentureWell E-Team is an honor. “We have the opportunity to meet 49 other student startups from all over the country and learn something from each of them,” she noted. “I am excited to represent Texas A&M and to pursue this leadership opportunity. At Acoustic Shield, we are passionate about saving lives. The Stage 1 Grant and VentureWell Workshop will undoubtedly help us do that in the right way.”

Liang Ge

Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland, called it a unique resource for students of all majors and at all levels of study. “Startup Aggieland helps students stand out by making it possible for them to show that they have the skills to create their own jobs and to create value for investors, while also showing they can take a product to market,” he said. “How many students can say they have secured a patent before they graduate from college? Or created a business that employs 24 people and generates six figures in revenue? We have students who are doing that now as undergraduates. People will notice that.”

The grant’s rules require that two student co-founders of Acoustic Shield use some of the grant funding to attend a Stage 1 workshop in Cambridge, Mass., July 30 through Aug. 1. The focus of the workshop is to learn how to validate the market opportunity for the team’s innovation. The team will be expected to develop near-term milestones during the workshop. Any remaining funds can be used for further development of Acoustic Shield. Designated as Stage 1, the students’ E-Team has until Oct. 7 to apply for Stage 2 of the E-Team program.

“Acoustic Shield represents a high-quality student team pursuing a high-impact solution for the world around them,” said  Blake Petty, director of the CNVE and one of several mentors to the Acoustic Shield team. “It only makes sense for them to be recognized by a first-class organization like VentureWell, whose dedication to the support of innovation and commercialization by student entrepreneurs is unparalleled.”

The team’s lead mentor is Rodney Boehm from the Dwight look College of Engineering.

VentureWell is a higher education network that has been on a 20-year mission to launch new ventures from young inventors to improve lives and help the planet. That goal aligns with those of the Acoustic Shield team, Ge said. “It’s our dream to save lives with technology,” Ge explained. “Startup Aggieland helps make the dream come true. We are very excited to participate in VentureWell’s E-Team program. I am sure we will learn a lot from peers and mentors. I’m glad to see Acoustic Shield accelerate in the near future.”

ABOUT STARTUP AGGIELAND
Startup Aggieland is an award-winning business accelerator for student startups launching from Texas A&M University.  Startup Aggieland is sponsored by the Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship; Dwight Look College of Engineering; College of Architecture, the Office of the Vice President of Research and the Research Valley Partnership.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Media contact: Shelly Brenckman, Startup Aggieland, 936-537-6011

Categories: Centers, Mays Business, Students, Texas A&M

 Knocki - Ohad

 

A Mays Business School MBA graduate, mentored six years ago as a student, is working this summer on an invention called Knocki. The portable device had not yet been “born” when Ohad Nezer ’08 was featured in a prophetic blog post, titled “Opportunity Knocks,” published in 2009 on the Mays website. (http://maysbusiness.tamu.edu/index.php/opportunity-knocks-during-economic-crisis/)

Knocki can be attached or embedded into any hard surface, making the surface interactive. The battery-operated device can also be hard-wired to an electrical system and embedded behind a wall, eliminating unattractive light switches. The interactive area is large, so when the device is placed on the underside of a table, the entire table becomes interactive regardless of size. Possible uses for Knocki include turning off all the lights in a home by knocking on a night stand and sending a text message to a user at work if someone knocks on his home’s front door.

Nezer and cofounder Jake Boshernitzan are building a prototype of their startup’s product at Seed Sumo in Texas A&M’s BioCorridor. Seed Sumo is a for-profit business accelerator that helps launch investable early-stage ventures in 90 days. It opened last summer, and this summer is hosting seven companies.

Nezer, a former public relations officer in the Israeli Army and co-owner of Swan Solutions, founded his first startup as a student in an entrepreneurship course taught by Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays. Lester is also a clinical professor in the Department of Management at Mays and one of several cofounders of Startup Aggieland at Research Park.

“I do not always remember past students, particularly from years back, but I specifically remember Ohad and his teammate from SeatKarma as they worked on that project during my class six years ago,” Lester said. “It was evident that Ohad had a great career as an entrepreneur, and I am extremely pleased to see his venture is going well.”

Knocki was one of 1,200-plus ventures that applied for seven spots at Seed Sumo, guaranteeing a $50,000 minimum investment.

The company’s other invention is Sleepra, a patent-pending device that enables users to control smart homes from their mobile device while in bed. The project was temporarily shelved after Seed Sumo accepted the innovative duo, which opted to launch the more portable version Knocki.

Boshernitzan, co-owner of Swan Solutions and co-inventor of Knocki, is a serial entrepreneur who founded Ridester, the first online ridesharing marketplace, in 2006. Ridester foreshadowed the more popular Uber, but still received accolades in Time Magazine, Austin Business Journal and other media outlets. It was one of the first five startups flown to San Francisco for Facebook’s first app pitches.

“Working with Ohad is exciting,” Boshernitzan said. “He definitely sees things on a unique wavelength that brings creativity, innovation and fun to our venture.”

Nezer’s history with Lester dates back to when Nezer was an MBA student. He helped found SeatKarma with fellow MBA student Chris Nicolaysen for $30,000 in seed capital. The two developed SeatKarma during study breaks at Ag Cafe on West Campus and in Lester’s class.

“Dr. Lester was very influential in helping us sort through the early struggles with SeatKarma,” Nezer recalled. “We welcome his experience and advice working on Knocki.”

SeatKarma was an event search engine that scoured ticket resellers to find the best second-hand market prices for athletic, theater and music events at more than 1,600 venues nationwide. Though it was founded during a shaky economy, SeatKarma received a boost from positive reviews by TechCrunch and LifeHacker and a 2009 feature in TechCrunch.

Nezer said he and Ohad enjoyed returning to College Station to work on their current venture. “It feels like going full circle,” he said. “Getting reconnected with Mays professors has been very useful. We are fortunate to be so close to such a great pool of business minds.”

 This summer, the cofounders meet at least once weekly with their mentor, Startup Aggieland Marketing Coordinator Shelly Brenckman, during the team’s “Deep Dive” roundtables at Seed Sumo. Those meetings are also attended by Seed Sumo Managing Director Bryan Bulte, Seed Sumo associate Steve Tinkle and other Seed Sumo personnel.

“We didn’t accept Ohad and Jake into Seed Sumo because of their idea,” explained Bulte. “We accepted them because they are extremely talented entrepreneurs. They understand ‘lean’ and can maneuver a business model.”

Mays professor Don Lewis, a Startup Aggieland cofounder and its manager, works with Brenckman to recruit mentors and help about 120 student startups annually. They have facilitated nearly $3 million in equity funding for students.

Brenckman said the Seed Sumo alliance contributes to the area’s reputation as a fertile climate for investors. She said the startup culture embraces entrepreneurs as “family.”

“Ohad and Jake are great to work with and exemplify all that is fun and rewarding about mentoring startups,” Brenckman said.

ABOUT STARTUP AGGIELAND

Startup Aggieland is an award-winning business accelerator for student startups launching from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Opened January 2013 with one full-time employee and one part-time manager, Startup Aggieland was named among the top three U.S. programs for student entrepreneurs by C-E-O in 2014.

Startup Aggieland is sponsored by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School; Dwight Look College of Engineering; College of Architecture, Office of the Vice President of Research; and the RVP.

 ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School has partnered with Retail TouchPoints and CashStar to identify a new profile of empowered and engaged digital shoppers.

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Ram Janakiraman, a marketing professor and a Mays Research Fellow, was the lead researcher for the project. He analyzed survey data from Retail TouchPoints, the online publishing network for retail executives, to profile the influential “Brand Maven,” or enthusiastic brand advocate.

“It was good to get the reassurance that both digital and social media were the two big channels for consumers when it comes to engagement and interaction,” Janakiraman said. “I expected that people would prefer to use gift cards, but there was overwhelming evidence that digital technology is present throughout many transactions of retailers.”

The report, published by CashStar – a leader in prepaid commerce solutions such as branded gift cards – stands to influence the way retailers interact and view the impact of branded currency and behavior of usage. Its findings also explain how the relationship between a consumer and digital payment evolves, from the introductory point of giving or receiving a gift card to the transition into becoming a loyal customer.

According to Janakiraman, Brand Mavens are among us, with more than 53 percent representing the current shopping population and contributing approximately $1,800 of purchasing power annually through redeemable gift cards and loyalty credits.

Pleased with the collaboration efforts of Texas A&M University with CashStar and Retail TouchPoints, Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies, shared the impact of generating thought leadership. “By leveraging the unique analytical expertise of [our] faculty, the Center for Retailing Studies can help retailers identify their best customers or in this case, Brand Mavens, and quantify their financial value to a firm,” Hollinger said.

Last fall, the Center for Retailing Studies and Janakiraman partnered with Knights Apparel and Texas A&M University for the Back-to-College Roadshow promotional campaign, measuring the impact of social media engagement and evaluating sales of Aggie apparel at Costco Wholesale locations across the state.

According to Hollinger, partnerships like these can help “retailers better know where to invest their money to improve marketing efficiency and effectiveness.”

Janakiraman agrees.

“As researchers, we take a lot of pride working through case studies, marrying practice with academia,” he said. “But each time I work with the Center for Retailing Studies, I learn a lot.”

See the full report at CashStar.com.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers, Mays Business, Research Notes, Texas A&M

[cycloneslider id=”zale-lecture-series”]

From the stockroom to the boardroom, Blake Nordstrom has spent nearly his entire life devoted to the success of his family’s 115-year-old, Seattle-based business.

On March 11, the first-time visitor to Aggieland presented the 2015 keynote at the M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series, honoring innovation and the advancement of retail in the name of the M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation and hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS).

Venkatesh Shankar, the CRS’ research director, led a question-and-answer session in which Nordstrom detailed the company’s keys to success, promise and outlook for growth, and career advice for a full house in Mays Business School’s Ray Auditorium.

Since 1901, the Fortune 500 Company has set its sights on being a forward-thinking retail business and has received numerous awards and recognition for its contributions to the industry. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Nordstrom, Inc. expanded beyond shoe sales and began the fast track toward its current position as a leader in fashionable apparel.

In 2014, Nordstrom named Texas A&M University a core partner school for recruitment in stores, headquarters roles and increasingly tech-savvy hires.

Nordstrom said he was attracted to visit Texas A&M by its sense of community, reputation and “the key ingredient for our business [of] people – talent.”

When he spoke, Nordstrom quickly dove into sharing the company’s business strategy by emphasizing the importance of paying attention to customers. “We live in an age where we have immediate access to things, especially at our fingertips, concerning fashion, product, price and availability,” he said.

Four-legged chair
Nordstrom provided an illustration of a four-legged chair to explain the company’s composition, which has created a launch pad for success and growth. He identified:

  1. 1. Full-line Nordstrom stores: Posting $7.7 billion in sales, Nordstrom’s brick-and-mortar sites make up 60 percent of the business. Although there is a large investment nationwide, the company has experienced multiple challenges from housing their stores in mall-based environments.
  2. eCommerce and online sales: This is the fastest-growing area of business for the company.
  3. Nordstrom Rack stores: Attracting the younger, aspirational generation, the Rack is an expanding channel for Nordstrom. The off-price model targets an entirely new demographic and method to gaining new customers and paving way for new merchandising in full-line stores.
  4. On-line off-price: As Nordstrom said, it’s all about acquisition “in the name of speed.” By acquiring flash sale site HauteLook in 2011, the company can compete with Amazon, offering dynamic price strategy online, increasing momentum and sales, something that cannot be done quickly in-store.

The “multi-channel” chair, combined with Nordstrom’s exceptional and unique approach to customer service, creates a seamless environment for the company that cannot be replicated. When companies follow the inverted pyramid and place the customer on top and senior executives on the bottom, “When we think about what [they] value the most, it gives us the most clarity of how we should focus our time, energy and money where the business is going,” Nordstrom said.

Challenges faced

Death of the mall
As Nordstrom mentioned, malls pose a unique challenge but also provide opportunity for looking outside the confinements of being in-store. With the increase in ecommerce, retailers, including Nordstrom, are sensitive to a third-year decline in foot traffic in malls across America. The company has had to identify, expand and take more risks, because “if you don’t take [them], you just add age to yourself as a retailer.”

Amazon.com
Although Amazon was identified as one of the top competitors for the company, Nordstrom was quick to commend the online giant as a leader in expedited decision making and “laser focus on the customer,” even when it means taking a financial loss. Especially in Seattle, the two compete for jobs, talent and square feet. Amazon also has infinitely more fulfillment centers than Nordstrom, coming in at around 50 versus Nordstrom’s two, with an additional three on the way.

People culture
Nordstrom uses the saying “from service to sales,” because customer-based service influences every aspect that makes the company run successfully, including board members and stakeholders.

The company is working on a number of ways to cater to different audiences and customize service. According to Nordstrom, “If someone wants to spend an hour [in our stores], great, we should be able to do that. But, if they want to get in and get out in five minutes, that’s good service too.”

He also emphasized the importance of his 60,000 team members, saying he hopes each person comes to work highly motivated and knowing they are making a tremendous impact as the face of the company.

This is also true of how the family operates the business. “We have a team approach,” he said, “Everyone leaves our meetings on the same page and because we all work together, our outcome is richer.” In fact, Nordstrom would rather be invisible as to not detract from the company’s mission of people, not person, first.

Maintaining a company culture of treating everyone with value and importance remains at the forefront of Nordstrom, Inc.

Words of wisdom
As a father of two, Nordstrom understands the stresses of transitioning from higher education to the job market. With anywhere from five to eight career changes in a lifetime, he said, it’s important to shift your focus early on to your “experiences [and] how you are in control of the few things you actually own, which are your character, reputation and integrity.” Instead, he advised, ask yourself how those traits can help you open doors.

He also mentioned the importance of having a “truth teller” or mentor with whom you can be open and honest, even in your failures. Often, the biggest learning moments occur during the worst situations and it’s essential for you to be able to put it all into perspective. Having someone else to talk things through can help you do that.

Goal setting
During the final portion of the lecture, Nordstrom touched upon the company’s expansion into Canada and plans for future growth across the United States.

Nordstrom has set some high goals in the next several years, including a goal of $20 billion in sales by 2020 and a new store in New York, opening in late 2018. The 300,000-square-foot store will span seven floors and employ more than 2,000 team members. It will be located in the second-highest building in the city and will overlook Central Park and Columbus Circle.

Nordstrom added, “We don’t really need more stores, but instead need to expand and improve on what we are currently doing.”

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers, Executive Speakers

[cycloneslider id=”thought-leadership”]

Over the course of three days in late January, thought leaders from around the world bridged the gap between academia and industry at the 2015 Thought Leadership Conference at Mays Business School.

During the course of three days in late January, thought leaders from around the world bridged the gap between academia and industry at the 2015 Thought Leadership Conference at Mays Business School. During several intense think-tank discussions, participants tackled topics relating to mobile marketing for the opportunity to be published in a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Marketing, the premier journal on direct, digital and interactive marketing.

The importance of being responsive

Shawn Morrissey, vice president for mobile engineering at Macy’s, began the conference by justifying the need for conversations about the mobile space. A former student at Texas A&M University, Morrissey earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mays.

Morrissey shared an example of Macy’s ability to capture data on consumer behavior throughout the day and across mobile channels, working from the Macy’s Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley. Customers begin their morning on their smartphones, and then shift to a desktop while at work. “We see a little uptick around 9 in the morning for online sales, a similar uptick at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a switch back over to their phones, and then back to their tablets at night,” he said.
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However, because of the hyper movement across mobile channels, companies must pay close attention and embrace change. Macy’s is constantly testing new services to better engage consumers connected to smart phones, even when ROI is unclear. Morrissey said Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren encourages such innovation and investment so that Macy’s is seen as a leader rather than a follower in delivering an omni-channel experience.

Companies must also keep up with the changing sizes of desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones year after year and design a user interface that is friendly – especially now that Macy’s is equipping their associates with technology on the floor so as not to disrupt the in-store experience.

Before smartphones, shoppers came to the store to seek styling advice and product recommendation. Now, a peer relationship has evolved, removing the assistance needed from a sales associate. The “well-armed consumer,” as Morrissey identified, instead comes highly informed – possibly even more than the associate – about products. Often, he or she only needs a purchase to be fulfilled, which can be done through mobile payment.

It’s an app world

Steve Holland, chief technology and digital officer for 7-Eleven, served as Thursday’s morning keynote speaker. Providing an overview of the chain, Holland shared that 7-Eleven currently operates with more than 54,000 stores in 16 countries and opens a new store every 2.2 hours.

With the tremendous growth, the company is also working to expand its product assortment beyond convenient CPG products, such as beverages and snacks, into fresh and healthy choices.

Holland also described the 7-Eleven customer as value driven and time conscious. Therefore, his team is constantly assessing their Current Situation Analysis (CSA) to be able to create a better emotional relationship with each customer and reach each one differently, especially through the 7-Eleven digital app.

Downloadable in the App Store and available with Google Play, the 7-Eleven app is a portal for savings, recommendations, upcoming events and exclusive deals and an “idea hub” where user are empowered to suggest how to make the company and their user experience better. The app is also adaptive to the weather and the user’s location, and will only display a hot drink on a cold day or a cold drink on a warm day. As Holland asserted, “apps rule only if they are relevant and contextual.” In the meantime, he said, 7-Eleven is only focusing their efforts on winning with mobile strategy. Development of the tablet applications will come second.

Similar to Morrissey’s presentation the previous day, Holland also mentioned the importance of the path to purchase. Products shown online and in-store should be a collaborative effort between marketing, IT, app development and inventory to showcase digital relevancy.

Profit is king and whereas most would identify impressions with success, Holland and his team prefer to measure the “yield,” to determine the dollars, reach, engagement, conversion and profit from across all efforts.

As he closed, Holland shared the future of 7-Eleven with the company taking the iconic Slurpee into new territory at Six Flags theme parks and Cinemark theatres, as well as a self-practiced word of advice: “Fail fast, fail early and fail cheap.”

Creating a lasting impact

A goal of the Thought Leadership Conference is to identify key future research topics.

During the final morning of the conference, team leaders from each group – Mobile Advertising, Mobile Channels and Supply Chain, Mobile Shopper Marketing, Mobile Promotions and Mobile Services, Gaming and Global issues – shared the framework for their papers going forward.

Several big ideas that emerged from presentations and discussion included:

• Information privacy and the digital footprint
• SMACIT (social, mobile, analytics, cloud, Internet of things)
• Integration of on/off-line pricing strategy
• Transaction integration and virtual currency
• Behavioral targeting
• Millennials
• Gamification

With 20 minutes to summarize and 10 minutes of Q&A, the accelerated-learning format allowed for each group to receive critical feedback that will be beneficial for continuing the conversation away from campus.

During the next several months, teams will continue to work together to refine their research for publication in 2016.

In attendance at this year’s conference were:

Academic participants

Baohong Sun (Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business), Charles Hofacker (Florida State University), Dhruv Grewal (Babson College), Joseph Pancras (University of Connecticut), Kelli Hollinger (Texas A&M University), Ko de Ruyter (Maastricht University), Mark Houston (Texas A&M University), Martin Spann (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich), Michelle Andrews (Temple University), Mirella Kleijnen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Nicholas Lurie (University of Connecticut), Peter Zubcsek (University of Florida), Puneet Manchanda (University of Michigan), Ram Janakiraman (Texas A&M University), Sam Hui (University of Houston), Subodha Kumar (Texas A&M University), Suresh Ramanathan (Texas A&M University), Venky Shankar (Texas A&M University), Yakov Bart (INSEAD)

Industry practitioners

Jeff Donaldson (SVP, GameStop Technology Institute), Bharti Mishra (Vice President, CITI GROUP), Jody Goehring (Head of Business Development, RetailMeNot), Lance Thornswood (Senior Director, Omni channel Digital Platform, JCPenney), Michelle Skupin (Sr. Manager, B2B Communications, RetailMeNot), Shawn Morrissey (VP, Mobile Engineering, Macy’s), Steve Holland (CTO/CDO, 7-Eleven), Wendi McGowan-Ellis (VP, Strategy, Brierley+Partners)

Ross Rizley (Research Director, Marketing Science Institute)

The 2015 Thought Leadership Conference was graciously supported by the Marketing Science Institute, the American Marketing Association, Mays Business School, Center for Retailing Studies (CRS), the Office of the Dean, Center for International Business Studies (CIBS) and the Department of Marketing.

Marketing Professor Venkatesh Shankar served as the chair of the conference.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers

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Texas A&M University participated in the first Silicon Valley Bank Trek, which strives to challenge the next generation of innovators to create a unique learning opportunity with tech industry leaders.

Over a three-day trek, students from nine universities traveled from Silicon Valley to San Francisco, including two students from Texas A&M. Texas A&M’s two delegates are Sarah Knop, a junior finance and business honors double major, and Wesley Vance, a senior computer science major.

On the trek, 18 undergraduate and graduate students visited locations that represent innovation in Southern California, such as Stanford’s d.school, StartX, the offices of Andreessen Horowitz, BIRST and Mattermark, co-working facility WeWork Golden Gate and Silicon Valley Bank’s offices on Sand Hill Road.
Students were led by Trek Guides, a “who’s who” of influential investors and entrepreneurs in the tech industry, including Ben Horowitz, Jason Mendelson and Danielle Morrill, and the members of the Silicon Valley Bank team. These guides provided first-hand advice on subjects from getting started in the tech industry to best practices on pitching your idea to investors to bouncing back after failure.

In addition to receiving knowledge and advice, the students were able to form valuable relationships with other enterprising students on the Trek and the top-level entrepreneurs and investors. Knop says, “I am fully confident that these relationships, along with the wisdom and knowledge gained while in the Valley, will prove instrumental as I progress throughout my career as an entrepreneur.”

Knop serves as a student ambassador on the Startup Aggieland Seed Fund Committee, which evaluates startup company profiles and pitches to determine funds for expansion and development. Her experience on the Trek taught her this: “Entrepreneurs, especially in technology, must exhibit the ability to observe, analyze, improve, and iterate in a dynamic environment to identify opportunities, execute strategies, and capitalize on their success.”

The event was designed to inspire entrepreneurship in up-and-coming students, and the student innovators were challenged to make improvements on big world problems. “This was the beauty of the trek, raising the bar of what we think we can accomplish,” Vance said. “Whatever problem you want to solve, it’s not out of reach, it’s just a matter of devoting yourself to do it.”

Vance has participated in programs through the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, including 3 Day Startup, and has developed a small business renting GoPro action cameras online.
The additional 16 participating students represented Cornell University, Harvard University, Ohio State University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The Wharton School.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers

During the weekend of Nov. 7, students from all over the Texas A&M University System came together to do the impossible: create a business in only three days. Every semester, the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) hosts 3 Day Startup and challenges students to compress three months’ worth of work into one weekend. This semester was the first time West Texas A&M, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M at Galveston and the Texas A&M School of Law sent student participants to College Station.

3 Day Startup aims to teach students through experience about the trials and triumphs of starting a business. The students are encouraged to use the risk-free environment of the weekend to work on ideas they are passionate about and would be interested in pursuing after the program has ended. Mentors and professors from Texas A&M are present throughout the weekend to help the students fine-tune their businesses.

Students began their weekend by meeting that Friday at Startup Aggieland and brainstorming ideas that they then pitched to one another. When pitches were completed, the students voted on the top seven ideas worth pursuing and then broke into teams. They had until Sunday to turn their idea into a feasible startup venture.

Participants returned to Startup Aggieland early Saturday morning to begin researching market viability, creating logos and business plans, and building their mid-point pitches. That evening, students presented their startups to a room of mentors and fellow participants and gained feedback on how to improve their ventures. At this point many groups had changed their names, logos or entire business models multiple times and now only had 24 hours to perfect their startup for Sunday’s final pitches.

By Sunday evening, the participants were ready to face the judging panelists. Each team gave a 10-minute presentation to a panel of mock investors and answering five minutes of Q&A. Their knowledge about their startup was tested, but each group of participants rose to the challenge. Once final pitches concluded the groups received final feedback comments from investors.

This semester’s teams focused on solving consumers’ problems. Their ideas included:

A phone app to help those fighting substance addiction
High-quality modular housing that could be used overseas in relief efforts
A phone app that provides users with information on how busy their favorite places are
Visual information mapping that could help doctors easily identify correlating diseases
For many groups, their hard work paid off when they were approached by possible investors or were invited to become Entrepreneurs in Residence at Startup Aggieland.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers

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The Center for Retailing Studies hosted the annual Retailing Summit on Oct. 2-3 at the Adolphus hotel in Dallas. During the two-day accelerated learning forum, more than 275 C-suite executives, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and rising professionals were pressed on the topic of CHANGE! by representatives from Starbucks, Barnes & Noble College, RetailMeNot, Salvatore Ferragamo, GoldieBlox, Kurt Salmon, Nordstrom, Walmart and Frito-Lay.

Starbucks’ growth journey and the impact on the global supply chain

Jump-starting the 2014 Retailing Summit, Steve Lovejoy, SVP of Global Supply Chain at Starbucks Coffee Co., outlined the company’s position as a continually innovative brand, striving to maintain a creative culture.

Spanning an international presence of 21,000 stores, Starbucks’ 300,000 employees serve over 70 million customers a week with help from 16,000 suppliers, one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

The company also upholds its mission statement by following a “blueprint for growth” that includes acquiring new businesses, introducing new beverages (Refreshers), experimenting with new foods in stores and more recently, introducing the concept of Starbucks “coffee trucks” on university campuses.

Lovejoy works specifically in the China and Asia Pacific region, combating issues of food safety and quality control, while managing consumer expectations in-store and online.

The coffee giant has plans to drive performance with its new plant in Augusta, Ga.; supply chain integration with Starbucks’ subsidiary companies, La Boulange and Evolution Fresh; local relevance; new store formats; local roasting and capital investments.

Capturing millennial attention: Why retail resonates

Utilizing data from a recent study conducted by Barnes & Noble College with more than 3,000 student respondents, SVP of Marketing and Operations Lisa Malat shared remarkable statistics regarding the effects of millennials within the retail industry.

Future predictions slate millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025. This generation will be heavily responsible for supporting the economy, in both jobs and spending.

However, data has also shown a decline in retention of those working in the retail industry post-graduation. Less than 1 percent of students will pursue a full-time career in retail.

Companies must now find a way to increase engagement with the 63 percent of millennials working in retailing while they have a chance.

Malat listed three ways for leadership to best achieve this:

Share the big picture with your employees
Give them the opportunity to seek ownership and responsibility
Be intentional about leadership development

As proof of Barnes & Noble’s “formula for success,” 80 percent of participants in the Bestsellers Management Program will be employed with the company one year from now. Those who attain a senior management position will average 15+ years with Barnes & Noble College.

But, as Malat put it best, today’s part timers are tomorrow’s future retail leaders. Treat them well.

Going digital and reinventing the mall experience

Joined together in a fireside chat, Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief of Retail TouchPoints, and Steven Pho, SVP of Corporate Development for RetailMeNot, turned the conversation towards the emergence of technology in retail.

Founded in 2006, Austin based RetailMeNot operates the world’s largest marketplace for digital promotions and coupons.

Pho believes that while his company operates solely online, traditional brick and mortar stores will not disappear anytime soon. The retail industry has now been presented with the challenge to creatively integrate and drive traffic to the original storefront.

However, companies must also take advantage of the increased use and development of smartphones.

Unsurprisingly, the average American shopper admitted to checking their phone over 150 times a day with 75 percent admitting to using the phone while in the bathroom. For retailers, 60-80 percent shared they had conducted research on their devices before shopping.

RetailMeNot uses this information to partner with brands such as Kohl’s and Macy’s, to promote their products and services using consumer data through an app like feature, for example, beacon technology and geo-fencing. But now, brands themselves are competing with RetailMeNot for wallet share.

While a customer visits a shopping mall or specialty department, geo-fencing utilizes the Global Positioning System technology to create a radial map of the area they are within. Once the user has subscribed to an app with geo-fencing capabilities, the program will send push notification for promotional offers in the area.

But companies be warned.

While RetailMeNot has collected this data to show a positive response rate to targeted messaging, participation and subscription significantly decreased on the second touch point with more than 300 percent of users opting out and disengaging.

With some messaging, you may only get one chance.

Driving the Ferragamo Business through our A, B, College Station

Together, Vincent Ottomanelli, CEO and Regional Director and Amy Zuckerman, SVP of Human Resources at Salvatore Ferragamo — The Americas, shared the secrets to the historic company’s 100 years of success.

As described, A stands for Associates, B stands for Brands and C stands for Clients.

To ensure top-talent acquisition of associates, Ferragamo uses Talent Plus to strategically evaluate skill sets and personalities for optimum placement in the stores.

The company has also developed an extensive recognition program to reward those who contribute a strong work ethic, teamwork and outstanding sales. Corso Talenti is a development program for associates interested in advancing to an executive position. Candidates are selected based on performance, experience, talent, potential and fit. Super Stelle honors those who have exceeded sales goals and have provided superior customer service by developing unique client relationships.

The Amazon.com story

For the afternoon program, Brad Stone, Senior Writer for Bloomberg Business Week and best-selling author of “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” took the stage to offer up his insight on America’s largest online-only retailer.

Across the audience, Amazon was noted as a top competitor, disrupting the retail industry and causing companies to rise to Amazon’s example of change.

Amazon became a pioneer for absorbing every niche of the retail industry starting with bookselling and its Kindle readers. It changed the way we shop, how we read and more importantly, how companies are made.

By maintaining a price advantage through e-commerce, Amazon’s rise could best be attributed to how the company took initial risks. Providing variety, ease, convenience and value, the company set the bar for how retailers should attack the digital landscape.

During the break, attendees were treated to signed copies of Stone’s book.

Disrupting the pink aisle: Rethinking the retail conversation

Adding a bit of entrepreneurial inspiration at the Retailing Summit, Debbie Sterling, Founder and Chief Officer of Fun at GoldieBlox, reaffirmed Brad Stone’s claim that successful businesses take risks.

Determined to break down stereotypical gender roles in a predominantly male environment, Sterling channeled her engineering background and passion for youth to create a reading series starring female heroine “Goldie,” integrating problem solving and skill development, using axels, pulleys and building blocks.

Sterling used the internet to promote her idea through Kickstarter, leaving GoldieBlox’s future in the hands of the online community.

And in just a short amount of time, the project was fully funded, raising more than $285,000.

Since its launch in 2013 the demand and consumer enthusiasm for GoldieBlox has skyrocketed, even winning the team a Superbowl commercial spot. Last year, the company was a top seller on Amazon and has international product placement in over 4,800 stores.

Omnichannel = Engagement

Longtime veteran of the retail industry, Tom Cole, Partner at Kurt Salmon and retired CAO of Macy’s, concluded Thursday’s program with a case study evaluation of how retailers can best define Omni channel capabilities.

Because the internet is a powerful tool as well as a threat, brands must be able to tailor content, product and experience, so that it may be widely shared and communicated. Cole mentioned that social media is a platform in which customers and consumers can be truthful about their engagement with companies.

Cole also listed seven steps to be successful in Omni channel:

Secure and communicate commitment from the top
Make one person ultimately responsible for Omni channel transition
Invest heavily in customer analytics, supply chain and IT architecture
Redesign the organization to specify cross channel vs. single channel roles and all their interaction points and processes
Establish clear accountability for inventory within and across channels
Realign P&Ls and KPIs to drive the right behavior
Embrace risk, move fast and stay focused

In more than 41 years of professional experience in the department store, Cole agreed that the single largest change that has affected retail is that the customer now has all the power to push retailers into competition for their business.

Pioneering the digital rush and creating one customer experience

Beginning Friday’s program, Todd Buntin, recently promoted VP of Customer Experience at Nordstrom, shared his rise up the ranks within the 113-year old company, along with goals for his new position.

Realizing the need to establish a connection with consumers from all sides of the purchasing process, Nordstrom developed the “Customer Centric Strategy.”

With the creation of Nordstrom Rack, businesses opportunities increased and more customers are introduced to the company through the off-price, value-driven channel.

As well, sales associates have much less of an influence on consumers today.

Nordstrom has developed many diverse touch points to connect with an expanded audience including: mobile commerce through Nordstrom.com, Nordstromrack.com and HauteLook.com, a members only flash side acquired in 2011 and Trunk Club, an online personal styling service based in Chicago.

The company has also embraced digital communities as they understand them to be Nordstrom’s best form of advertising. Word of mouth + customer service = social media.

Recently, Nordstrom developed the “Instalog,” believed to be the first of its kind for a retailer.

Uniting social media, the catalog, creative and web teams Nordstrom was able to reach new and younger customers by partnering with top social media influencers and bloggers.

For Nordstrom, the aim was – and still is – to break down barriers between traditional and digital worlds.

WALMART AND THE CHANGING RETAIL ENVIRONMENT

As a world leader in retail, Walmart prides itself on momentum, discipline and investment, all factors that make the company successful to many different audiences.

Ashley Buchanan, SVP of Dry Grocery for Walmart, outlined the significant role that attitude and purchase behavior of the consumer can have on the overall customer experience.

Walmart has reported seeing an overall growth in technological change, citing an influx in smart phone usage in-store.

With over 50 percent of customers shopping online electing to pick up in-store, mobile influence has increased four times since 2012 and 74 percent of consumers prefer mobile as their device of choice during their shopping experience.

However, Buchanan also cautioned that retailers will forever be challenged to meet expectations about convenience, price, product selection and shopping experiences to best serve the customer.

He stated that “ultimately, the customer is in control and we will serve them where and however they want to shop.”

The new age of marketing: The convergence of the consumer and the shopper

Ann Mukherjee, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer for Frito-Lay, rounded off the final keynote presentation at the 2014 Retailing Summit.

Mukherjee began by stating “growth comes from those who are humble and hungry.”

Second, she mentioned that the U.S. food and beverage industry has begun to slow down, prompting the increase in macro-snack food options. She predicted by 2019, more people will eat out rather than at home.

In the consumer space, there are strong demographic changes and shifts with a rise of the millennial generation and a desire to control the hypothetical bidding process for the customer’s business.

Similar to Debbie Sterling’s talk about GoldieBlox, Mukherjee also hinted that successful companies are the ones that have disrupted the industry.

Examples of energetic and bold risks that Frito-Lay has taken include the Doritos #BoldStage at SXSW, the empowering Lays “Do Us a Flavor” campaign and Tostitos’ “Party Time Anytime.” Each campaign provided consumer generated content and was primarily pushed out by millennials within the mobile and digital technology space.

However, Mukherjee also emphasized that millennials are not homogenous. It is imperative for retailers to dig into this target market with an open mind.

Along with attention to how different brands interact, consumer demand is the focus of the future.

Between networking breaks, attendees also heard from breakout session leaders Ted Vaughn, Partner, and Bob Snape, Managing Director at BDO, as well as Matt Schmitt, President and Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at Reflect Systems.

The 2015 Retailing Summit will be held Oct. 8-9 at the Westin Galleria in Dallas. Visit retailingsummit.org for more information.

Categories: Centers