A student team from Texas A&M University won the grand prize at the Rice Business Plan Competition for their startup company TriFusion Devices, which has developed customizable, 3D-printed prosthetic leg devices. The Aggies collected four checks totaling nearly $400,000; it was the first time a Texas A&M team has ever won the competition.
TriFusion Devices consists of two Ph.D. engineering students, co-founders Blake Teipel and Brandon Sweeney, and Mays Business School MD/MBA student Britton Eastburn, who later joined the team.
The Rice Business Plan Competition is the largest student-centered business plan competition in the world; over $1.69 million in prize money was awarded to 42 companies this past weekend. The companies represented schools from across the U.S. and around the globe, including the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon University, which took second and third place, respectively.
The TriFusion team was actively involved in many of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) endeavors, including the Raymond Ideas Challenge having won twice, Silicon Valley Bank Trek, NSF Innovation Corps and significant mentoring through Professor Don Lewis and his team at Startup Aggieland.
“TriFusion is a great example of a team that leveraged the significant resources in the Texas A&M University entrepreneurship ecosystem. All of our team could not be prouder of what this great group of talented Aggie students has accomplished,” says Richard Lester, executive director of the CNVE.
The Mays Leadership Initiative Conference (LINC) started out as one student’s idea. Andres Bustos ’15 wanted to see Mays Business School welcome admitted high school seniors into the Mays family for an immersive weekend experience, before they ever stepped foot on campus for a New Student Conference or to move to Aggieland.
Bustos graduated last year and now works at Shell, but he attended the second annual conference and was honored for his contribution to Mays by having the event renamed BLINC – the Bustos Leadership Initiative Conference.
LINC brings to College Station students who are leaders in their high schools and communities—students who may or may not have decided to call Mays home for the next four years—to introduce them to much of what Mays and Texas A&M University have to offer. From interacting with leading faculty members to exploring our top-notch facilities and resources to engaging in hands-on learning opportunities, students experience Mays Business School’s seven core competencies in a unique environment that shows why Mays Business School students truly love their undergraduate experience and why top career recruiters from across the globe come to Mays to continually find the next generation of business leaders.
On April 8, Mays sent charter busses to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to pick up 82 admitted students from across the state. LINC “delegates,” most of whom are first-generation college students, are able to attend the conference at no cost. The students brought sleeping bags and stayed in the dorm rooms of Texas A&M students for two nights.
The conference is organized and run by a group of student volunteers led by Eduardo Zaldivar and Prerna Kamnani. Mays staff members Corey Stone and Jeana Simpson assisted them. The students heard from faculty members Ben Welch and Mike Schaub and current students, and had the opportunity to participate in a case study activity facilitated by David Flint. In addition to learning about leadership from the speakers, they were treated to fun activities at Kyle Field and the Recreation Center.
With a legacy dating back 163 years, the King Ranch enjoys a reputation forged through the vision, hard work and loyalty of generations of family members and employees. Bill Gardiner ’76 believes maintaining the company’s iconic brand is critical to the ranch’s continued success in the face of economic and environmental challenges.
In a presentation to Mays Business School’s Business Honors students, the senior vice president and chief financial officer of King Ranch, Inc. said the company brand is built on the King family’s legacy and the ranch’s reputation and livestock as well as its famous logo. Gardiner, who received an accounting degree from Texas A&M University, said the company’s brand promise is to “share the unique history of uncompromising quality and integrity.”
However, Gardiner said care needs to be taken to maintain and extend a company’s brand. Gardiner, who has been with the company since 1996, noted that many individuals and businesses would like to use the King Ranch’s well-known logo on their products. “People want to be associated with something that is real and authentic,” he said, pointing to the company’s well-known collaboration with Ford Motor Company on the F150 King Ranch truck. However, King Ranch’s leaders also regularly protect their brand through taking appropriate legal action to stop unauthorized users.
A strong brand is not a given; a company also can easily destroy or ignore its brand, which causes the brand to drift away. Gardiner pointed to Buick, which lost its footing as one of the nation’s premier automobile companies after its heyday in the 1960s. He noted that the company is now spending millions of dollars to create advertising to revamp its brand to appeal to younger generations.
Understanding the value of sharing the King Ranch’s brand with new generations, the company embraces the opportunities inherent in social media. Two decades ago the King Ranch was primarily known by white men over the age of 50; now the company is active on Facebook, YouTube and Google+. “Social media has been a godsend to us,” Gardiner said, adding that a King Ranch video about its quarter horse business accumulated 150,000 views in eight hours after being uploaded to Facebook. The Houston native also noted that a picture of two bobcats snapped during a King Ranch wildlife tour had a strong reception on Facebook.
A private company with seven divisions
Now in its seventh generation of owners, the King Ranch, Inc. is a private company that is run like a public company with the exception of SEC filings. Gardiner describes King Ranch as “a land-based agriculture production resource management company.” The ranch was founded on the strength of its cattle business, but diversified into oil production in the mid-1930s. It then expanded into farming, followed by citrus farming in 1993. Its primary niche is livestock and crops. The company has seven core business areas: ranching and wildlife, Texas farming, Florida farming, citrus, retail, minerals and corporate activities, and owns properties in Texas and Florida. The diversity helps the company remain viable during off years caused by drought or other agricultural issues.
Business Honors major Frances Andrews ’19 said Gardiner’s most impactful statements came toward the end of his talk. “He told us that confidence is one of the most important qualities to have as you enter the business world. He said natural confidence is rare and people will want to work with you if you have this.”
Mays Business School placed 7th in the 2016 College Choice rankings.
Factors considered were cost of attendance (annual tuition), where each school falls in existing ranking data and each program’s reputation and track record in the business community. The data was gathered from U.S. News & World Report, individual school websites, The Economist, Bloomberg Business,PayScale.com and other public sources.
Business major Allison Kornher started a company – GiftHer.gift – during her first semester of her freshman year, and has been spending the months since pitching it in competitions, refining her business plan and recruiting a team.
Kornher is part of Startup Aggieland, which is powered by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School. She is often one of the youngest people in the room. Shelly Brenckman, marketing coordinator for Startup Aggieland and Mays Lecturer for the introductory entrepreneurship course that encouraged Kornher to pursue her idea, describes Kornher as someone who is “very eager to try new things” and determined to achieve her goals.
Kornher was one of nine freshmen in Startup Aggieland’s Startup Living Learning Community who were accepted into 3-Day Startup / Texas A&M out of more than 200 applicants. She came up with the idea for GiftHer.com while enrolled in MGMT 289, which was open to all majors. She was inspired by the ineffective way that her dad picked out gifts: searching “gift” on the Costco website and choosing the first item that popped up. Kornher was determined to come up with a better way, so she created a system on GiftHer.gift in which customers take a quiz that uses an algorithm to select the perfect gifts for such occasions as holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.
3 Day Startup is a 72-hour workshop and competition in which student entrepreneurs can refine their startup ideas and pitch them to a wide range of students, mentors and faculty. Fifty students are chosen to pitch their idea to other students at the beginning of 3DS, and only eight ideas advance to the final pitch. Kornher competed against upperclassmen, including master’s and Ph.D. students, and secured one of the coveted eight spots. She formed her team from among some of the remaining students whose ideas were not selected.
Throughout the remainder of the event, the entrepreneurial students work with mentors to further develop their business ideas in preparation for the final pitch to highly respected mentors and investors. GiftHer.gift is one of the only startups featured in last fall’s 3DS that has continued launching through the spring semester as a client company of Startup Aggieland.
Kornher has used her business acumen to identify and target potential customers. She and the GiftHer.gift team have developed social media sites to work as marketing tools for their company. In their recent Facebook advertising campaign, the team saw impressive engagement rates that led to many qualified leads.
In addition to her success at 3DS, Kornher was one of 25 students in her region chosen to compete in Princeton University’s entrepreneurship competition, TigerLaunch. She was also accepted into Exosphere Academy, a two-month program in Chile in which participants learn about web design, coding and biohacking.
Most recently, GiftHer.gift was one of 40 ideas selected to advance in the Raymond Ideas Challenge powered by CNVE.
Kornher aspires to grow her company and, after securing a dedicated customer base within Texas A&M students, she hopes to expand to other universities as well.
Deloitte held a case competition at Mays Business School this year – a first at Texas A&M University. Of 150 applicants, six teams of four were selected.
The competition was open to all majors, and the top two winning teams were comprised of Mays Business School students. Taking first place was “It’s Business Time,” with members Aniket Patel, Hannah Walsh, Aakash Pai and Chris Eumont. Members of the second-place team, “The Real Consultants of Mays,” were Andrew Hitscherich, Daniel Moore, Amanda Parkman and Kyle Bratton.
Deloitte regularly holds case competitions at Rice University and the University of Texas. This was their first time to hold the competition at Texas A&M. The Deloitte consultant organizing the event is Clayton L. “Clay” Whitaker ’90, who received a marketing degree at Texas A&M.
A case competition presents a business situation that the team must devise a solution for and then present. The teams generally create a PowerPoint to present their solutions. They are judged on the validity of their recommendations, their presentation skills and their creativity in creating their solutions.
Left: Hannah Walsh, Aakash Pai, Chris Eumont, Aniket Patel. Right: Andrew Hitscherich, Daniel Moore, Amanda Parkman, Kyle Bratton.
In its seventh Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) series, Texas A&M’s Mays Business School recently explored the issue of “Power and Influence: Leading in Typically Male-Dominated Environments.” Following a networking event at Mays’ CityCentre Houston campus, the panel tackled tough issues such as the barriers to leadership for women and the challenges surrounding career advancement.
The panel, moderated by Shannon Deer, director of the Mays Full-Time MBA program, featured Susan Clifton, Assistant Chief of Police, City of Pasadena; Jessica Keiser, Senior Vice President, ES&H Targa Resources Corp.; and Mary-Olga Lovett, Trial Lawyer and Chair of the Board at Greenberg Taurig.
According to the panel, the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders in their professions is attracting and retaining women leaders. “There is still a lack of women leaders at the top,” noted Keiser. Clifton agreed, adding, “It’s difficult to attract women to my profession and especially my leadership position because of the sacrifices that need to be made, especially since it’s not a Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. commitment.”
According to Lovett, the conversation needs to be broadened beyond typical gender roles. “The next generation of leaders will be raised by working moms. We should broaden the conversation to topics like flextime for men – looking at everyone in an organization and not putting them into a demographic.”
On the issues of power and influence, the panelists shared experiences from their own professional journeys. Keiser said, “The biggest ‘aha’ moment in my career was when a career coach helped me realize that I was acting like the daughter of the organization and treating my male colleagues like a father. I did not assert my position even though they opened the door. I had been leaving my power on the table, and I realized that I did not have to act so timid anymore.”
Clifton offered advice especially for women, “Don’t take the easy route. You have to pay your dues at every step of the way. That’s how you’re going to get the respect of your peers.”
Lovett shared two situations – one in which a male colleague refused to shake her hand, and another in which a male colleague dropped her name in recognition that she was more influential than others. “The challenge for you and me is to figure how you use it (power) – either way. There is that possibility in all of you,” she advised.
The panelists were also asked to share the most significant barriers to leadership they have experienced as a woman that a man might not have encountered. Keiser noted that she and her husband work in the same profession, and her challenges are different. “You reach a point in your career when being the best at what you do doesn’t get you to the next level. It’s a quiet barrier,” she noted. Clifton added, ”I don’t think we have adequate role models in our careers. There has never been a woman in my position.” Lovett shared an experience that made her realize that women often “gloss over” discriminatory behavior. “That tells you how much you are willing to put up with,” she noted.
After the panel dialogue, Deer opened up the discussion to the 100 women leaders in attendance. The audience raised questions relating to the resources available for women, ways to build confidence and how to change the conversation – including how to answer questions that are not typically asked of male professionals.
“Practice a response like, ‘That is a very interesting question, and I am here to talk with you about…’ and then steer it back to the important issues,” was the advice given by the panel.
Lovett noted, “I don’t want to be recognized in my profession with an asterisk. Like my male counterparts, I will miss a ballgame or party for my kid. It’s part of the sacrifice. However, the best advice that I got as a woman is to hire as much help as you can afford. It is not being snobby or lazy…It is life.”
Clifton advised, “You market you. Don’t ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’ Talk yourself into your success. Your biggest fan should be you.”
At the conclusion of the event, Deer offered simple ways that women can support each other.
“Help other women negotiate fair pay. Walking in as a woman and negotiating your pay is difficult,“ she noted. “When writing letters of recommendations or support, be careful about only using terms like ‘kind,’ and other softer terms often used to describe women, and replace it with ‘smart.’ And finally, avoid criticizing other women based on their appearance like size or weight.”
“Together, we can change the larger conversation about helping women succeed throughout the business community and the broader workforce,” Deer concluded.
As a member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), Mays Business School is committed to efforts to expand opportunities for women business leaders. The Mays Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is a series of seminars and networking events that seeks to connect women leaders and equip them with the tools for continued success.The next event will be held in October 2016.
Kathy Milthorpe ’82 is one of the few speakers at Mays Business School who will encourage the students to play while on the clock. The chief financial officer and treasurer for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and The LPGA Foundation said time on the golf course is a tried-and-true process for developing business relationships.
“It’s one of the few places where you can get three to four hours of uninterrupted time with a client, a customer, a colleague or a supervisor – and with a scramble type format used in most corporate and community events, it’s not necessary to be an experienced golfer,” said Milthorpe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M University and was named an Outstanding Alumna of Mays in 2015.
Milthorpe started her career at professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, then went to work with the LPGA, which was a client. This is her third stint with the organization, each time in different roles. Now she oversees IT, finance, human resources and strategic planning. She said she enjoys the varying roles, and its entrepreneurial feel.
David Jordan ’16, a Business Honors and finance major, said he enjoyed learning about the LPGA’s utilization of its global television presence, which will allow the sport to thrive while developing a stronger domestic presence. For instance, Milthorpe said every time an LPGA event is broadcast, it is distributed to more than 170 countries with an average 182 million viewers worldwide.
Milthorpe said she enjoys working for the LPGA because it is global, the players are very engaging and the sponsors generously support the organization’s goals. She urged the students to develop the mindset of athletes on their jobs. “Have that passion and that drive to not give up,” she said. She also encouraged them to get involved in civic organizations, serve on local boards and work with local charities. “That way, you can develop leadership skills outside the workplace while also making a positive impact in your local community.”
Business Honors major Daniel Moore ’18 said he gained insight on some of the skills necessary to hold a high position within a company. “She explained how having sound technical skills is important, but having excellent leadership and social skills can be the key to setting oneself apart,” he said. “Furthermore, this opportunity reminded me that accomplishing simple tasks – such as writing a hand-written thank-you note or attending social events outside of work – can open many doors within the business world.”
Milthorpe also reminded the students they can start networking before they leave college. “You have the power of networking right here in your building,” she said. “You can talk to your professors and to representatives from companies that visit and recruit at Texas A&M. And you should be working toward finding a mentor – usually someone a little ahead of you, with a little more experience. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It’s actually a sign of a good employee, and one who wants to advance professionally.”
Connor York ’16, an accounting and Business Honors major, said Milthorpe affirmed the adage: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” “Mrs. Milthorpe solidified this concept even further and it caused me understand the need to use your network to spread your interests, work hard to achieve those interests, and be open to new opportunities,” York said. “The most prominent way to further your career is to express with enthusiasm and passion what your goals are to those who are willing to listen.”
Business Honors major Catherine Carbery ’19 said Milthorpe’s talk motivated her to develop her Linkedin profile to make new connections and help find new opportunities. “She stressed the importance of finding a career that you are passionate about and that exposes you to many different things,” she said. “She explained the importance of networking and encouraged us to create our own personal brand that is unique to us.”
Ring Day for the Regents’ Ambassador Program (RAP) marks a day of victory for those who received their Fightin’ Texas Aggie Rings. This is the fourth year of operation for the program, which started with a desire to develop and empower others of similar socioeconomic status. The program’s first successful group of mentees is the same group of students who received their rings on Friday, April 8 – including myself.
RAP is more than a community; it is a family for those who participate in its outreach. It is a supporting network of students who genuinely care and uplift each other. RAP students are there because there is no one else. We motivate each other when times get tough. We can count on one another to take on each other’s burdens and offer an ear of understanding.
Friday was a special day for our executive board. It was a day of demonstration to the freshmen we develop and the mentors we lead. We proved to the masses that students with our backgrounds could accomplish anything and everything we set out to. Each of us brought to the university a story. Each of us shared our individual strife in hopes of making an impact. Each of us made sure we were the best supporting mother, father, sister or brother we could be in the absence of our own family. Our victory was evident for those who needed an example. Our victory was evident to everyone who believed in our passions. Our victory in total was for our family, not limited by blood.
– By Corey Smith ’17
Nelda Gonzales ’17
Amairani Fajardo ’16
Daniela Garcia ’17
Myroslaba Martinez ’17
Yaddy Rojas ’17
Shivam Vakil ’17
Corey Smith ’17
Sammy Vu ’17
(Note: The Regents’ Scholars program at Texas A&M is designed to assist first-generation college students in achieving their educational goals at Texas A&M University. Nine hundred recipients receive up to $5,000 per year for up to four years.)
Texas A&M University placed third at the 2016 SEC MBA Case Competition, held Saturday at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.
The University of Alabama placed first, the University of Florida placed second and Mississippi State University placed fourth.
At the competition, teams of four MBA students from every SEC university were presented a business case by Henkel, a multinational company that produces consumer and industrial products. The teams, who were separated into four divisions, proposed their solutions to a panel of judges, including Henkel executives, on Saturday morning in divisional rounds. The top proposals from each division moved on to the final round to determine the winner of the competition.
Team members from Texas A&M’s Mays Business School were Kendall Daniel, Lillian Niakan, Maulik Mehta and Jared Sprunk. In other awards given during the divisional rounds, Lillian Niakan was named Best Presenter in her division and Kendall Daniel won the Best Q&A Award. Full-Time MBA Director Shannon Deer accompanied the team and Dean Eli Jones surprised the team by joining them on Saturday for the finals presentations.
Before the competition, professors Janet Marcantonio and John Krajicek provided coaching on problem-solving and presenting.
Deer said the entire Mays community is proud of the team and the faculty coaches who helped them prepare. “The team represented Texas A&M well all weekend through polished presentations, excellent ideas and in their interactions with other teams,” she said. “The students worked very hard before and during the presentation, which showed in their success in the competition.”
This marks the fourth year for the SEC MBA Case Competition, which provides an opportunity for SEC business schools to showcase their students’ skills at solving simulated, real-world problems that cover the spectrum of business disciplines. The 2017 SEC MBA Case Competition will be held at the University of Florida in Gainesville.