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

By Stephanie Courtright ’14 and Lauren Ragsdale ’11

3 Day Startup
3 Day Startup

Fifty students from around Texas A&M University spent a recent weekend working in teams to create tech startup ventures. The Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School hosted the fourth 3 Day Startup (3DS) event the weekend of March 28.
The driving force behind 3DS is learning by doing — in this case, compressing three months of hard work into one weekend at Startup Aggieland in Research Park. The five- or six-member teams create logos, business plans and prototypes and work on developing a final pitch to investors.

3 Day Startup

Students get the experience of starting a business in a controlled, risk-free environment. They are provided with all the necessary tools to help them transform their ideas into sustainable business models. The over-arching goal of 3DS is to create a business that fills a market need and that can be a viable entrepreneurial investment lasting beyond the weekend.
The event started on Friday evening, when the students brainstormed startup ideas and pitched their ventures to one another. The top ideas were chosen, and mentors and students broke into groups depending on their personal interests. The rest of the evening was spent nailing down the details of each venture and product.

3 Day Startup

Participants returned to Startup Aggieland early Saturday morning and spent the day researching market viability, building business plans and honing their pitches. On Sunday, teams fine-tuned their prototypes and practiced their presentations before delivering a seven-minute pitch to an investment panel consisting of prominent entrepreneurs and business leaders. After each pitch, there was a seven-minute question-and-answer period. After all the pitches concluded, the investors provided feedback to each group.

This year’s startups were focused on social media and serving others. Ideas included:

• A phone app to connect fitness enthusiasts with dietitians and personal trainers
• A pen pal app connecting speakers of different languages
• A web service that helps people share rides around town
• A battery that can be charged through the user’s movement
• A device that can detect gunshots and alert emergency responders

As a result of the event, many groups were approached by possible investors and are looking into becoming 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: Featured Stories

MBA Venture Challenge
MBA Venture Challenge

In the 2014 MBA Venture Challenge, more than 100 business and academic leaders from around the Brazos Valley judged companies created by the MBA students at Texas A&M University. The judges ranked early-stage startup companies and provided valuable feedback.

Taking first place in the competition were Janette Barnard, Matt Johnson, Lloyd McGuire and Robyn Peters, with “MyHeroClassifieds.com.” Their prize was sponsored by AT&T.

The second-place winners were Joseph Cole, Ben Feldman, Aiden Johnson, Ankit Talwar, Sabrina Wade with “Loco Inc.” Their prize was sponsored by Aggie Angel Network.

The third-place winners were Benjamin Holler, Shaune Kolber, Eric Piskura, Eric Snowder and Rachel Turner, with “Scepter Medical Devices.” Their prize was sponsored by JBKnowledge.

New to the competition this year was an Elevator Pitch Round.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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, Departments, Featured Stories, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Grant, Nathan '89, Joy '88 and Trey Moore
Grant, Nathan ’89, Joy ’88 and Trey Moore

An MBA is the most common advanced degree for business school graduates, but a Juris Doctor is a close second. Mays Business School students who are pursuing law school will receive financial assistance through a new scholarship: The Joy W. ’88 and Nathan P. Moore ’89 Endowed Award. Funded by a $100,000 gift from Joy and Nathan Moore, the award is designated for a Mays student who has been accepted into a law school and will support studies at that law school. Preference will be given to a student who was a member of the Business Honors Program during his or her undergraduate studies at Texas A&M.

Nathan, who serves as Mary Kay’s Chief Legal Officer and Secretary, received a finance degree at Texas A&M and a law degree from St. Mary’s University. Joy received an education degree from Texas A&M.

“Our main goal was to give back to the school that taught us so much and has provided such a good foundation for us both,” Nathan explains. “It was also important to know we could customize our giving to include the acceptance to law school. The flexibility to expand beyond the business programs was key. So much of what I do right now is business-related, but what initially opened the doors for me was my law degree.”

“Many times, an impediment for students pursuing advanced degrees is the additional cost of that education,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “The Moores’ most generous commitment will make a significant difference in the ability of our students to pursue studies at leading law schools across the United States.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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: Donors Corner, Featured Stories, Texas A&M

National Retail Federation Student Challenge winners
National Retail Federation Student Challenge winners

Children are twelve times more distracting than mobile phones. They can also be messy as their Cheerios spill on floors and stuffed toys roll under seats. To solve parental problems of car safety and organization, Mays Business School students developed a proposal for the “Backseat Bib” as part of the National Retail Federation Student Challenge, a national competition to bring a new product to the retail market. The team for four Aggies won against 13 universities and schools, and gained the attention of Babies”R”Us, America’s leading retailer for baby products and safety.

The competition began in September 2013 with the critical step to come up with a big idea that customers will buy. Next, the team created a 90-second video pitch and 10-page business plan demonstrating its understanding of target market, trends, competitors, marketing, finance and retail concepts. Over a dozen retail executive judges from companies like H-E-B, REI, Sur La Table, and others critiqued the business plan and advanced the Aggies to Round II. In November, a different panel of judges grilled through group via a phone Q&A session about their business plan. Two days after exams ended, the team learned they advanced to the final round and would have a lot of work to do over the winter break!

Four M.B. Zale Leadership Scholars, or student ambassadors of Mays retail education program, competed. They included: Christina Tharp ’14, Allie Miller ’14, Diandra Esparza ’15 and Jamie Roy ’15. Last year, Christina and Allie won top presenter awards in the Stanley Marcus Retail Audit competition, though they did not know each other going into this competition. Allie is president of the Student Retailing Association; Diandra and Jamie are officers in the organization and both juniors. All are earning the Certificate in Retailing through the Department of Marketing, and aspire for professional retail careers.

By advancing to the final round, the team netted $10,000 to cover their travel to New York City and participation in the National Retail Federation Big Show, retail’s largest educational and trade show event attracting an international audience of 30,000. On January 10, 2014, the team pitched the Backseat Bib product to executives from STORY, Shop.org and HSNi. On Sunday, competition sponsor careerbuilder.com announced that Texas A&M University won first prize in front of a general session audience of 5,000. The top finish earned each student an additional $2,500 in scholarships.

Kelli Hollinger, Associate Director of the Center for Retailing Studies, coached the team and said she was impressed with their creativity, passion, depth of research and competitive spirit. “The Backseat Bib is a truly original product.”

Christina Tharp, who delivered the original video pitch, said, “We all brought different strengths to the table, and learned to work so well as a team.”

The group is not finished. With an invitation from Toys”R”Us to “call us” about the Backseat Bib, the team is reaching out to Aggieland Startup for guidance in applying for a provisional patent. They now also think about retail careers not just as store operations and merchandising, but entrepreneurship. Tharp said, “We fully expect the Backseat Bib to be a must-have baby registry item.”

Additionally, Allie Miller received a $10,000 Next Generation Scholarship through the National Retail Federation. Only five retailing students across America were nominated for this prestigious award.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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, Featured Stories, Students, Texas A&M

Kyle Lawrence with the Arab Student Association at Texas A&M
Kyle Lawrence with the Arab Student
Association at Texas A&M

Senior business honors major Kyle Lawrence is passionate about problem solving – analyzing processes and making them better. He has taken a special interest in technology and has spent time on his own teaching himself about IT and web design. “I like to think outside the box and teach myself new things,” said Lawrence.

His entrepreneurial spirit led him to apply his technology and problem-solving skills to help the Aggie community twice this year. Lawrence was instrumental in launching two new student organizations on campus — BUILD and Challenger 17’s Run of Heroes — by designing and building the websites for both organizations. He currently serves as media coordinator for Run of Heroes.

His commitment to serving others extends far beyond the Texas A&M campus. Another of Lawrence’s passions is helping others overseas, specifically the people of Lebanon. Lawrence has spent the past two summers in Lebanon working with Arabs for Christ to help Syrian refugees. After graduating this month, Lawrence plans on returning permanently to Lebanon, where he will continue to help with the Syrian refugee crisis.

“I love the Lebanese culture and the way of life there,” he said. “Everyone there is very communal.” He is also treasurer of the Arab Student Association at Texas A&M, where he has enjoyed getting to know others at Texas A&M from this cultural background.

BUILD, which was created in honor of the Aggie Bonfire tradition and those who died constructing the 1999 bonfire, BUILD aims to bring together students from across campus through a new tradition benefitting the local community. This year’s project encouraged students from across the campus to “swing a hammer” by partnering with Habitat for Humanity to help build a new home for a local family.

Lawrence designed the BUILD website to allow visitors to learn more about the family receiving the home, view photos of the construction progress, read testimonials and view more information about the organization’s purpose.

“It’s really great to be doing something that gives back to the community,” he said. “I admire BUILD’s vision of bringing together all kinds of people at A&M to work on one project.”

Run of Heroes is a 4.25-mile run through campus hosted by the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets’ Squadron 17. Run of Heroes aims to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, which offers services such as mentoring, stress recovery programs and family support for wounded service members returning to everyday life.

Among other features, the group’s website design enables visitors to view information about the event, sign up for the run, donate to the cause and connect with Run of Heroes through social media.

“There are a lot of problems that come with [soldiers] returning home and readjusting to normal life” said Lawrence. “Run of Heroes is a great organization that works to help service members overcome these issues.”

Lawrence expressed happiness at being able help others by doing what he enjoys. “It’s been a fun experience, and I really enjoy helping other people and organizations,” he said.

Lawrence’s long-term plans include using his business background to become an entrepreneur. He credits the business honors program for preparing him with a wide range of business skills. “As a business honors major, I was able to take whichever classes I was interested in,” said Lawrence. “I was able to take a wide range of classes in different areas.”

Lawrence was recently named the gonfalonier for Mays Business School at the upcoming December 2013 commencement ceremony. Gonfaloniers represent each college at Texas A&M by carrying the gonfalons (or banners).

“Kyle’s designation as gonfalonier is a reflection of his excellent academic record and the core values of Texas A&M that he has displayed throughout his student tenure,” said associate director of undergraduate programs Linda Windle. “Of special note was Kyle’s help with starting two new philanthropic organizations during his final semester.”

Lawrence expressed gratitude at being chosen to represent Mays. “Being named gonfalonier was definitely unexpected, but I’m excited and truly feel honored,” he said.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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: Featured Stories, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Aggie 100

Texas A&M University is churning out some of the nation’s best and brightest business leaders. On Oct. 25, Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University announced the recipients of the 9th Annual Aggie 100, honoring the fastest growing Aggie-owned or Aggie-led businesses in the world.

From the nation’s leading energy firms based in Houston to digital empires like Roku out of Satatoga, Calif., Texas A&M’s Aggies are transforming the way we do business and impacting Americans day-to-day. Honoree JBKnowledge recently released a new Augmented Reality App for the commercial construction industry that garnered international interest for its unprecedented visualization of build projects. Leftfield Pictures, based in New York, N.Y., has been a major unscripted player since 2009 when it launched the History Channel breakout “Pawn Stars,” which brought record ratings and several spinoffs. The stories of entrepreneurial spirit and success continue with each of these Aggie 100 honorees who live it every day.

“Our Aggie 100 honorees demonstrate that the character and traditions developed at our great university continue to play a significant role in their success across industries and generations,” said Richard H. Lester, Executive Director of the Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship. “Aggie leaders have proven time and time again that no matter the situation, solid business ideas, strong character, tenacity, and hard work pay off.”

For the full list of recipients, go to cnve.tamu.edu.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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, Featured Stories, Texas A&M

EBV Class of 2013
EBV Class of 2013

United States Army (Ret) Staff Sergeant Shilo H. Harris spent a recent Saturday evening in Aggieland, explaining to a group of two dozen disabled veterans how a Texas A&M University program helped him get his life back on track following a 2007 improvised-explosive device attack in Iraq.

Harris, who spent 48 days in a coma and underwent roughly 50 surgeries, was the keynote speaker at the July 27 opening ceremony for the sixth annual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Center for Executive Development and Mays Business School.

“It changed my life in so many ways,” said Harris, who was presented with the 2013 Robin ’76 and Robert Starnes ’72 EBV Outstanding Alumni Award. “It changed my family, my professional career and my outlook on life. When I finished the EBV program, I left like an Aggie graduate.”

The EBV initiative offers cutting-edge training in entrepreneurship and small business management to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines disabled as a result of their service. The intent of the EBV is to open the door to entrepreneurial opportunity and small business ownership by developing competencies associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture and helping coordinate efforts with programs and services for veterans and others with disabilities. The program consists of a three-week online self-study, a nine-day residency period on the Texas A&M campus, and a year of mentorship and support as participants launch their new ventures.

Opening remarks for the event, held in the lobby of Texas A&M’s Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center, were provided by Jerry Strawser, Dean of Mays Business School. After welcoming the assembled crowd of honored guests, participants and sponsors, he announced to the EBV participants that they will learn how to become entrepreneurs. Strawser explained how participants have become leaders through the EBV program. “You will be learning the best, here at Texas A&M,” he said.

Dr. Richard Lester, CNVE director, introduced the participants, who each had the opportunity to speak about their branch of military service, hometown and the type of business he or she would like to begin — visions that ranged from real estate to music consulting.

In presenting his namesake award, Robert Starnes ’72 called Harris a “truly remarkable man and a contributor to the entrepreneur spirit.” Harris, now a motivational speaker, has worked with Congress to assist disabled veterans, raised $1.5 million dollars to have homes rebuilt for veterans and appeared on a recent episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Starnes said Harris “is a national ambassador to veterans throughout the United States.”

In accepting his award, Harris said he was truly honored and felt like he was back home. Harris explained how the fear on 9/11 prompted him into action to serve his country, noting that he felt called to join the armed forced because he was raised by a family of veterans. His faith also played a major role in his recovery, he said. Harris and his wife, Katheryn, reside in San Antonio, Texas where he is actively involved in supporting veterans and giving them resources to succeed in life.

Harris said the EVB Program opened up new possibilities for him. “Everybody needs to be open to new ideas,” he said. “If you are open and listen to new ideas, you can add those ideas to your original plan. We all share ideas and with all the participants here tonight, it soon becomes personal. It is a good way to keep in touch.”

For more information on the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities or other Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship activities, visit http://ebv.tamu.edu.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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, Featured Stories, Texas A&M

Three business school graduates were given the 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award by Texas A&M and the Association of Former Students: Robert A. Epstein ’44, R.H. “Steve” Stevens, Jr. ’62 and Glenda C. Mariott ’79.

Epstein earned his degree after serving in the Army. His career began in insurance, then he founded and operated Risktech, an independent risk management consulting firm. He served as CEO until his retirement in 1991.

Stevens served in the Air Force after graduation, then became a CPA. He worked for Arthur Anderson, then in 1999 became managing partner of accounting firm Stevens & Matthews. He previously served as a Regent of the Texas A&M University System.

Mariott began her career in the banking industry, and now owns GCM Designs, a design, build and remodeling firm. She served on the Texas Residential Construction Commission and on the board of the Association of Former Students, where she was the first female chair.

The annual award is reserved for alumni who have made significant contributions to their professions, their local communities and Texas A&M University, and is the highest honor a former student can receive.

“Each one of our 2013 Distinguished Alumni is a true inspiration as they serve as outstanding examples of the impact that Aggies can have on their alma mater, their communities, and the world,” said The Association of Former Students’ 2013 Chair of the Board of Directors David Heath ’76. “They all share the same deep commitment to Texas A&M and epitomize our core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service.”

The association will honor all of the recipients at the annual Distinguished Alumni Gala on Oct. 18 and will also recognize them at the Oct. 19 Texas A&M football game against Auburn.

A detailed profile of all the recipients is available at http://www.aggienetwork.com/DistinguishedAlumni/

Robert A. Epstein, Class of 1944
Robert A. Epstein, Class of 1944

R. H. Steve Stevens, Jr., Class of 1962
R. H. “Steve” Stevens, Jr., Class of 1962

Glenda C. Mariott, Class of 1979
Glenda C. Mariott, Class of 1979

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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: Featured Stories, Former Students, Texas A&M

Rodney Faldyn ’88 says obsession drives the success of Academy Sports + Outdoors, which led to his recognition as the 2013 M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Award. “We are obsessed with always getting better. We build a team, align our goals and let them execute them.”

Rodney Faldyn '88, CEO/President of Academy Sports + Outdoors
Rodney Faldyn ’88, CEO/President of
Academy Sports + Outdoors, with wife Karen

Faldyn says the company’s goal is to be a nationally recognized, regionally relevant and locally merchandised sports, outdoor and lifestyle store. “The market for sporting goods and outdoor gear changes every 100 miles, and we stay on top of that.” With sales projected to exceed $4 billion in 2014 and 21,000 store associates, the company seems to be on the right track.

Faldyn described during his lecture at Mays Business School how his years at Texas A&M University, where he received an accounting degree, prepared him for his career in more ways than one. His juggled a rigorous academic schedule with a job as an assistant manager at a retail store. “I don’t think I could do my role as a manager now if I had not put in that time.”

He says he also learned from the failure of the company he worked for back then — Furrow Building Materials. “So many companies lose touch with the changing consumer landscape and they don’t make adjustments they need to, so they get left behind,” he says, naming other businesses such as Linens ‘n Things and Circuit City.

Before his promotion to CEO of Academy, Faldyn was president and chief financial officer of the company. Prior to Academy, he worked at N.F. Smith & Associates, a privately-held international electronics distributor. He spent eight years at Enron Corp. in several capacities, including vice president in international finance, chief accounting officer for a publicly-held subsidiary and vice president in accounting. Prior to that, he spent eight years at Deloitte & Touche LLP, working in the energy, wholesale trade and construction sectors.

The annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) highlights the role of innovative merchandising in the success of retail businesses. M.B. Zale was a legendary retailer, visionary merchant and esteemed philanthropist. Past recipients of the Zale award represented companies ranging from Walmart to Crate and Barrel to Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Faldyn’s lecture concluded an invitation-only conference for retail executives, the Center for Retailing Studies’ annual Retail Sponsor Forum. Speakers for the one-day event included Mays faculty members and industry experts who addressed topics such as showrooming, supply chain security, shelf-space allocation and motivating employees for top performance.

Center director Cheryl Holland Bridges said the CRS at Mays has helped prepare thousands of Aggies for careers in retailing. As she introduced Faldyn, she added, “You all are going to have your interest piqued in retailing. If so, come see us at the center on the second floor.”

Mays Dean Jerry Strawser said Faldyn differed from many speakers in that he is involved in an area of retail that directly impacts the students’ lives. The company that started as an Army surplus store now has 159 stores in 13 states, and is still expanding.

“Our culture is very similar to the culture at Texas A&M: friendly, energetic, the highest integrity, respectful and based on family values,” Faldyn says. “We strive to bring active families what they need to stay active.”

Faldyn and his wife live in Houston with four 16-year-olds — two sets of twins they each brought to their marriage.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 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, Featured Stories, Texas A&M