If you entered the Grand Stafford Theater on the evening of August 13, you would have been surrounded by some of the biggest proponents of entrepreneurship in Bryan/College Station. Business owners, Texas A&M University faculty, and members of local agencies such as the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation came together around one common interest: Startup Aggieland.

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship hosted the Startup Aggieland Reveal Party after hinting that those in attendance would have a chance to “meet the new Startup Aggieland.” Attendees were treated to canapés provided by Chef Tai Lee and enjoyed the industrial-chic atmosphere of the historic downtown Bryan concert venue. Conversations drifted among clusters of attendees, each of them buzzing about what exciting new plans the McFerrin Center had in store for Startup Aggieland.

Director Blake Petty kicked off the night with a booming “Howdy!” and introduced Assistant Director LauraLee Hughes. Hughes joined the McFerrin Center in early 2018 and has brought with her a background in technology commercialization and an undeniable passion for early-stage ventures. “It is an exciting time for entrepreneurs at Texas A&M,” said Hughes. “There is more awareness than ever among students, faculty, staff, and the community about entrepreneurship and they are all looking for resources that can help navigate the path to becoming an entrepreneur.”

Unveiling the entrepreneurial journey

As the night unfolded, Hughes shared her new vision for Startup Aggieland, which is centered on a multi-phase “entrepreneurial journey.” Students and clients of Startup Aggieland will work with staff members to see which of the three phases they’ll most benefit from; Explore, Pursue, or Launch. Students who engage with programs in any phase will be introduced to a wide array of workshops, meetups, and mentor nights that will allow them to grow and develop their knowledge of entrepreneurship.

In addition, Hughes debuted Startup Runway, a first-of-its-kind pre-accelerator program that will allow students to determine whether their businesses will have a viable place in the market. Hughes also announced the development of the Startup Aggieland Business Incubator that will provide validated early-stage ventures with the resources necessary to formally launch and grow a business. The Business Incubator and many of the Startup Aggieland resources and programs will now be available to Texas A&M faculty and staff along with members of the local community. “Through our new programs at Startup Aggieland, we are providing an environment in which aspiring entrepreneurs can learn, test their ideas, network, and hopefully achieve their dreams of owning their own business,” Hughes said. “I am excited about the impact these programs will have in growing the community at Startup Aggieland and helping more people realize that entrepreneurship can be for them too.

The packed audience also enjoyed presentations from three student teams who have been a part of the Startup Aggieland Summer Program.

At the end of the evening, Hughes spoke to attendees directly, calling upon “the friends and supporters of the McFerrin Center” to help ensure Startup Aggieland continues its success. “The involvement and support of mentors is critical to the success of the McFerrin Center and Startup Aggieland. The real-world experience, expertise, and guidance mentors offer to our entrepreneurs is more valuable than anything they will learn in the classroom.”

During her closing remarks, Hughes announced one of Startup Aggieland’s newest programs, Mentor Network. The program is specifically designed to engage with mentors and professionals in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways. “As our programs grow, we hope to expand our mentor network and be able to provide more opportunities for our mentors to engage with the Startup Aggieland community,” she said. “Whether you are interested in being a speaker, holding office hours, or working with individuals or teams on their business venture, I’d like you to join us at Startup Aggieland and help us in developing the next generation of Aggie entrepreneurs.”

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Spotlights, Staff, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Chelsea Anderson recently traveled with 42 other members of the Professional MBA Class of 2019. Stops included Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.

July 30, 2018:

Every so often in life, an opportunity arises that cannot be missed. For me, that opportunity is the international trip with my Professional MBA program at Texas A&M University. Each cohort is able to select their trip destination and my class picked South Africa. I’ve only been here three days and I can already say that we couldn’t have come to a better place.

As I begin my trip, a recurring thought has been: why am I here? Arvind Mahajan, associate dean of graduate programs, put it best when he asked us to reexamine our own biases and integrate this information to determine: What is my truth? Sunday provided our first chance to determine our truth when we attended the Apartheid Museum and afterward visited the Kliptown township in Soweto. We spent time at the Kliptown Youth Program which provides much-needed education and computer training for the youth of the township. We even got to play a quick soccer game with the KYP students.

As we toured the museum and visited Kliptown, it caused me to consider the narrative of history. Whose voices are we hearing? Whose voices do we not hear? Part of reexamining my biases is considering these voices, both in South Africa and at home in America. The purpose of this trip is to learn and grow, to move beyond my comfort zone and seek out shared values and common ground with those that I meet. It is not enough to stand on the outside and rely on my own assumptions. If I hadn’t actually gone into Kliptown and met some of the people, I never would have had the same understanding. I feel fortunate to have started this week in such a powerful way.

Aug. 3, 2018

Businesses exist all around the world, however, the manner of conducting business depends on each country and culture. As I continue my reflection, I again ask: Why am I here? In the most simple sense, I’m here to learn about international business. 

 Of course, it’s more complicated than that. We need to understand a culture before we try to do business in a culture. This is part of the reason we first toured the Apartheid museum and visited a township. That helped prepare our understanding before meeting with business leaders in Johannesburg. 

 On Monday and Tuesday, we met with business owners, entrepreneurs, and private equity firms. All the entrepreneurs had different ideas and products and the shared thread between them was passion. We visited the WIBC (Wouldn’t it Be Cool) Start-up Incubator. The WIBC gives support to young entrepreneurs and helps shepherd them through the process of starting a business. 

 During our roundtable sessions with the seven young entrepreneurs, I heard the word ‘journey’ many times. That is a perfect fit for both our visit that day and for business in general. It’s a journey. Rather than continue describing my visit, I think one of the entrepreneurs put it best when she said it was about “changing communities one day at a time.”

This was never more evident than with one of the start-ups, which seeks to provide fresh, quality produce to local restaurants. It seeks to reduce the food desert that exists in the neighborhood. In their rooftop garden, they have a greenhouse of about 3,000 spinach plants. From these plants, they can harvest 10 leaves per plant and earn 1.5 South African Rand per leaf. Not only is it a profitable business, it also uplifts the local community. 

 I can certainly say that I met my goal of learning about international business. Fortunately for me, I learned more than that. I was able to witness first hand the power of passion, and the ways that caring for your community benefits not just the company but the entire community as well. 

Aug. 10, 2018

Businesses exist all around the world, however, the manner of conducting business depends on each country and culture. As I continue my reflection, I again ask: Why am I here? In the simplest sense, I’m here to learn about international business. 

It feels like I just barely returned and in some ways never left. Now that I’m home I know I need to be the ambassador of this experience. Thursday and Friday were truly special days. On Thursday we visited Khayelitsha Cookies, a company that employs women from the townships. Its purpose is to provide social change and break the cycle of unemployment in the townships. Every 1,000 cookies sold employs one woman, and in turn helps her feed her family. After we met the owner we went out on the floor and helped the employees make cookies. I worked with Vuyokozi Ntantani. She has three children, two boys and one girl. She’s worked at Khayelitsha Cookies for seven years and it has changed her life, giving her access to opportunities that aren’t normally available to unskilled workers, especially women in a country with a high unemployment rate like South Africa.

That night about 30 students participated in Dine with Khayelitsha, a program that gives people the opportunity to go into the township and eat dinner prepared by a host family. In addition to the generous meal, we took part in a candid conversation about people and culture, and listened firsthand to the challenges of coming from a township. 

Friday found us volunteering at iThemba Labantu, an educational and after-school program for children in the township. We broke into groups and played sports, danced, played music, or made crafts with the children. They are so talented, and I feel fortunate that they were willing to share their talents and voices with us. 

 

As in my first two posts I return to the question: why am I here? Writing this in hindsight I ask: why was I there? The Mays Business School mission statement is to advance the world’s prosperity. Prosperity doesn’t have to be relegated to a few; the world can benefit from it. Considering the case of Khayelitsha Cookies, both the company and the female employees benefit from a mutual prosperity.

As our trip came to an end I made the rounds and asked the fellow members of the cohort to share their favorite experiences. Time and again, each person I asked had similar replies. Being able to volunteer with the children and see a glimpse into their life for a brief moment affected our lives forever. The other common refrain was that the highlight was all the wonderful people we met. Offering service is not a one-time thing. As Aggies we should live our lives in service, being good Aggies to all those we meet. After speaking to my classmates I feel confident that each and every one of us will move forward in service following this trip. 

For the final time I’ll ask: why were we there? Was it to learn about international business? Most certainly. But on a much bigger scale, we were there to learn about ourselves. And as Dr. Mahajan stated at the beginning of our trip, we were there to learn our truth and then challenge it. Over the course of eight days we were stretched and challenged, molded and reformed. Moving forward, it is incumbent on us to take this new truth and share it with everyone who asks about our trip. That responsibility means that we don’t take these experiences like souvenirs and place them on a shelf. For it to be truly transformative we need to take it into our hearts and lives and be better people, better Aggies. 

Categories: Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

’Jon (Sean) Jasperson has been appointed to the newly-created position of Assistant Dean of Learning Transformation and Academic Technology to be the keeper of data for Mays Business School. Jasperson is uniquely qualified for this position, as he has served as a clinical professor in the Department of Information and Operations Management and as the academic director of the MS-Business program.

“This appointment has been made in the spirit of Strategic Initiative #3, Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan for Mays Business School,” Mays Dean Eli Jones wrote in an email to the faculty and staff of Mays.

Jasperson’s main objectives in his new role will be to:

  • Provide strategic oversight for digital technology and learning pedagogies
  • Provide leadership in learning design and distance education
  • Serve as the IT liaison with Texas A&M University …Read more

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Staff

Award-winning research publisher and prolific scholar David A. Griffith has joined Mays Business School as its new Marketing Department Head. From Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, he was inaugurated as the Hallie Vanderhider Chair in Business and named the recipient of this year’s Hans B. Thorelli Award by the American Marketing Association.

“In terms of choosing to come to A&M, there were many draws,” said Griffith. “The outstanding faculty in Mays, Dean Jones’ vision and passion for A&M, former colleagues who have joined Mays and love it here. The core values of the institution were also a big draw for me, and of course the outstanding reputation of Texas A&M in both academics and athletics.” …Read more

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Staff, Texas A&M

Accounting senior Juan Ortiz received a national award this week from the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) – the first recipient from Texas A&M University in five years.

Ortiz received the Daniel Zamora Student of the Year Award at ALPFA’s national conference, where hundreds of students attended and sessions covering topics like leadership development, networking, and professional development.

This award is given to an individual who has shown an excellent balance between academics, community involvement, and the student ALPFA chapter. They are also looking for candidates who have demonstrated the leadership qualities that are essential to a promising future career. Candidates are individuals who have devoted countless hours in their chapter of ALPFA and has promoted the organization amongst their peers. …Read more

Categories: Accounting, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, RAP, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

Fifty years into his career of studying marketing, Leonard Berry continues to garner accolades. The Mays Business School leader is only the second person in history to receive the “Big 4” national marketing awards – a grand slam of sorts.

Berry is a University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Regents Professor, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, and holder of the M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership at Mays Business School,

He received the fourth prestigious award, The Sheth Foundation Medal for Exceptional Contribution to Marketing and Practice, during the American Marketing Association (AMA) Summer Academic Conference on Aug. 10. …Read more

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Spotlights, Texas A&M