The Center for Retailing Studies of Mays Business School hosted its annual Retailing Summit on Oct. 11-12 at the Westin Galleria in Dallas.

The conference featured keynotes from Blue Bell, Dunkin’ Brands, Walmart, Sephora, JCPenney, REI, YETI, Orangetheory, Citi, Mattress Firm, Root Inc., and Brierley+Partners.

Key themes for the 2018 Retailing Summit included:

  • Inspiring retail stories
    Creating meaningful customer experiences
  • Brand authenticity
  • Adapting to meet the needs of consumers
  • Dealing with change


“At Mays Business School, we are committed to developing transformational leaders who challenge the status quo and inspire others,” says Kelli Hollinger, Director of the Center for Retailing Studies. “Through the proceeds from this conference, we are able to support the next generation of retail leadership.”


How JCPenney is sizing up its men’s business to meet BIG expectations

Kicking off the 2018 Retailing Summit was James Starke ’97, Senior Vice President and Head of Merchandising at JCPenney – a graduate of Mays Business School.

Starke described how JCPenney has become the department store leader in the “big and tall” category of men’s clothing, explaining that the population of men that fit into the “big and tall” category is growing rapidly as the average size of men in America continues to increase. Despite the fact that 34 percent of the men’s population fits into the “big and tall” category, “big and tall” clothing only represents about 8 percent of apparel carried in the menswear business. Recognizing the need for accessible “big and tall” clothing, JCPenney stepped in to serve the underrepresented population while effectively growing their customer base. Taking into account that men are very brand loyal, JCPenney created a selection in which over 50 percent of their “big and tall” clothing was nationally branded.

Starke showed campaign videos from JCPenney’s collaboration with Shaquille O’Neal for their “big and tall” selection. The audience of the summit loved them, and it was clear how successful this partnership was for both Shaq and JCPenney. Not only is Shaq passionate about making “big and tall” clothing accessible to the average middle-class American, his likeable personality, charm, and fit for the brand was impeccable. Perhaps the most memorable of the videos featured Shaq as the best summer intern at JCPenney.

Special sizing has grown to be a huge market in America and is projected to continue to grow. Retailers would do well to learn from JCPenney to grow their customers by serving neglected consumer groups. For JCPenney, inclusivity has brought immense success.

A different kind of company: How REI creates connections and uses purpose to lead a business

Rachel Ligtenberg, Vice President of Retail at Recreational Equipment Inc., Co-Op, spoke about how the company creates purposeful connections with consumers. The key differentiator between REI and other outdoor companies is popularly coined as their “quadruple bottom line”: business, employees, members, and society at large. Last year REI brought in over $2.6 billion in revenue and runs all of their facilities and operations on one hundred percent renewable energy. With over 12,000 partners, they have contributed over $56 million in profit sharing and other incentives for their employees. Additionally, REI partners with 400 nonprofits, reflective of their commitment to the community.

In 2016, REI launched a campaign hoping to inspire vision and courage during a divisive time in national politics. From their belief that nature can be an aligning and convening place they launched a campaign centered around the slogan, “Left side, right side, united outside,” to promote bipartisan legislature that ensures access to high-quality outdoor programming for all, regardless of political affiliation. More recently, REI has taken on the mission to empower women, particularly in the outdoor industry. One area of the company that brought this issue to light is the disproportionate representation of women on staff in technical roles. Their latest campaign, #forceofnature, aims to encourage women to step out of fear of what society says they “should be” and embrace who they want to be. REI believes that their people are the engine and soul of what drives their vision – women being a vibrant and vital part of that vision.

One of the cornerstones of keeping their stores focused on keeping people as a priority are community events such as group camping, wilderness certifications, and even an Adventure Craft Club. To conclude her keynote, Ligtenberg cited the poet Mary Oliver, asking “ What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” as a charge to the 25 young business students in the audience. Rachel Ligtenberg demonstrates how REI has leveraged connection and people to lead a different kind of company that prioritizes purpose over profits. Now that’s an inspiration.

Making the ordinary extraordinary

Mattress Firm is facing bankruptcy, leading everyone to wonder how the company will react. Sunni Goodman, Mattress Firm SVP of Communications & CX, explained that their solution is not something new and outstanding.

Goodman explained the first step of turning the typical into tremendous is value. When mattress sales slowed, Mattress Firm decided to run a special featuring a free adjustable base and cheaper mattresses. When the advertisement was released, sales skyrocketed with lines of people trying to get a new mattress. But with this huge success, the company realized they created too much value. Most customers were content on having either the adjustable base or cheaper mattress and the extra was lost profit for Mattress Firm. However, Goodman says this opportunity helped the company build better relationships and gain insight on customers that couldn’t have been dreamed up.

The second step of turning the regular into remarkable is people. Goodman states Mattress Firm focuses on giving everyone a voice, even local workers on the floor. The company creates opportunities to foster creativity and voice through million-dollar idea contests, national employee chat boards, and annual “Bedtalks” (Mattress Firm’s version of Tedtalks) for all its employees. She shared an example of an idea that improved mattress shopping that came from a floor worker. They suggested color coordinating the levels of mattress softness, a simple idea that made the shopping experience more seamless and boosted sales. By always having a channel for associates to talk, Mattress Firm can capitalize on strokes of genius and enhance employee morale.

The last step of flipping the everyday into exceptional is viewpoint. Traditionally, mattress selling isn’t glamorous, however, Mattress Firm looked to change that perception. To create more buzz, Goodman explains they decided to make boring things fun. When hiring a new intern, Mattress Firm wanted candidates to be excited to apply. The solution: the Snooztern, “the internship where they pay you to sleep.” They required applicants to send in a video on why they should have the position and then posted them on social media for people to vote. It went viral and was featured in the news as they were picking the winner. By creating a more interesting story, Mattress Firm attracted quality candidates and marketing that was nothing to snooze on.

Goodman ended with a quote that summed up Mattress Firm’s motto when it comes to everyday business: “It’s the ordinary moments that make life extraordinary.” Because finding the right mattress shouldn’t put anyone to sleep.


Kirk Zambetti, SVP of Sales for YETI, spoke on the importance of authenticity, a concept that can often be lost in translation for retailers experiencing growth. He posed two questions to audience members, regarding their respective companies, “…you have to answer, who are you? [And] what will the customer allow or want you to be?”  The tone in this presentation was set with YETI’s “never settle” attitude, which has transformed them from a small family company founded in 2006, into becoming an inspirational brand with a nationwide presence.

Zambetti mentions that in order for a brand to remain sustainable, it must be authentic in the marketplace place, which is often driven by consumer faith in the product. The YETI brand focus emerged from being product focused, so quality and problem solving remain central to what they stand for. YETI continues to seek “opportunity to find frustration and create a solution,” according to Zambetti. A direct example of such product quality is YETI’s classic Tundra cooler. The product itself remains the same as it was in 2008, yet sales continue to grow year after year.

In addition to product value, the company also focuses on hiring employees and brand ambassadors that make YETI a “DNA-driven” organization. The company continues to reap the benefits of having sales people, or “Yetizens,” who “passionately convey the YETI story in a way that’s authentic, premium, and inclusive” as stated by Zambetti. YETI also leads in authenticity through their interactions with brand ambassadors. Instead of using these individuals to increase brand awareness, the company is more focused on remaining relevant among each of their communities. YETI partners with professionals in a variety of outdoor sports and activities, such as fishing, hunting, barbequing, and ranch handling. YETI’s goal in bringing new ambassadors to the team is simply to be used in their “pursuit.” YETI supports each ambassador’s journey in a way that coincides with the company purpose to find solutions for their customers.

The company’s following has grown to include people coming from all walks of life, which is driving the brand to be the connection between inspiration and aspiration in the outdoors space of retail. YETI’s redefined brand pillars include “restlessness, togetherness, toughness, and playfulness,” and encompass what the company has set out to be, and how they will remain authentic in the marketplace.

Change starts here

Back by popular demand, this marked Gary Magenta’s second appearance at the Retailing Summit. Senior Vice President and Chief Change Architect for Root, Magenta always brings high energy and helpful growth strategies that retailers can apply to their businesses. This year, Magenta’s keynote revolved around change. More specifically, how to change, how to communicate change, and the secrets to making change within an organization stick.

“Change fails 70 percent of the time because it isn’t easy, it’s actually really hard,” Magenta explained. The biggest reason change fails? People. Within the 70 percent of change that fails, 90 percent of the time it is due to front line employees and managers. However, it is not their fault. They have not been given the proper tools to understand what, why, and how to change.

Magenta provided examples of several corporations that have successfully changed to help us define “what” change is; from Apple’s development of its first computer to the Apple Watch, Pepsi’s roots as an elixir business, and Tiffany’s starting as a stationary company. However, Starbucks was his biggest example of change. Starbucks’ beloved Frappuccino started as an idea from a store manager. The idea worked its way up, and continues to be a large portion of Starbucks’ business. According to Magenta, it serves as a great example of how a company should utilize front line employees to drive change. Discussing a case study of Pepsi, he explained how the company foresaw carbonated beverage sales decreasing and created new strategies to ensure the company would continue to grow and be successful. The change Pepsi needed would never have happened if they didn’t explain the “why” behind the change.

Magenta closed with advice on how to create lasting change. “Change is a marathon not a destination,” he emphasized. Companies must equip managers and invest in front-line employees to get people excited to buy into the change. In this way, the change won’t just be managed but taken care of. His last thought, that people don’t resist change but resist being forced to change. This lesson is one companies can learn from as a whole and something each individual can apply to their own lives.

Aggie Entrepreneur Showcase

For the second year in a row, student entrepreneurs from Texas A&M University presented their products before attendees at the Retailing Summit.

Andy Ellwood ’04, President and Co-Founder of Basket, presented in last year’s entrepreneur showcase. This year he returned to moderate the session. A new feature this year included a live poll vote that gave attendees the opportunity to choose a winner after each student presented. The 2018 Aggie Entrepreneur Showcase included:

Ben Omonira ’20 Chemical Engineering


After conducting more than 100 interviews, Ben Omonira discovered that first responders are actively seeking methods to neutralize criminal threats with non-lethal force. As a result, Ben seeks to provide another mode of threat neutralization through bullet-like projectiles that are designed to minimize bleeding out. The use of Lazarus by police, border security, or federal agents may help preserve life in the aftermath of a gunshot.


Gavin Lynch ’20 – Management 


SlapEyewear has designed an innovative pair of sunglasses using the Slap Band technology from 1990s to create shades that slap to your wrists and stay on your head. SlapEyewear provides you with an affordable, polarized, and innovative pair of shades that go where you go so you can focus on the adventure.


Bailey Glenewinkel ’16 – Agricultural Economics, MS Business `17


SKNZ Studios created and markets 3.5-inch silicone sleeves with a raised honeycomb grip. They are reusable and interchangeable, allowing them to be used on many different tumblers, bottles and cups. The silicone allows the sleeves to stretch to fit larger drinkware. They help make drinkware easily identifiable and help the user more easily grip tumblers that are hot, cold, or slippery. SKNZ sleeves are perfect for displaying logos for businesses, organizations, and events, and are a great marketing tool.


Alfredo Costilla Reyes ’19 Electrical Engineering


Alfredo Costilla Reyes is a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M University and the founder of BitGrange. A system for urban farming, BitGrange evaluates environmental variables, such as temperature and light, in real time and notifies growers through BitGrange’s app to take necessary actions, such as adding more water or plant food. Through its four-step process of “Plant-Connect-Sync-Play”, BitGrange aims to gamify agriculture for a new generation of farmers, encouraging and engaging youth to participate in food production

The winner was Ben Omonira of Lazarus.

Leveraging financial strength for profitable growth

Michael Dastugue ’86, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Walmart U.S. and Mays Business School graduate, sat down with CRS Research Director Venky Shankar and Ted Vaughan, Assurance Office Managing Partner at BDO.

Dastugue described the key action items necessary to achieve profit with a financially strong entity like Walmart. In the discussion, Dastugue explained that Walmart is beginning to change, and continues to stay flexible in order to match the needs of industry.

He left the audience with two key points he attributes to their profitable growth and financial strength. The first was investing in associates by providing a better and more comfortable environment, and equipping them with the tools to excel at their job. He strongly believes happy employees create value that is unparalleled. His second key point was giving value to customers. Dastugue is set on relentlessly providing the best experience for the customer by making sure everything is low priced. Dastugue and his team are relentless when it comes to identifying competitive pricing strategies. Through the idea of serving the customer, Dastugue has incorporated customer-face and associate-face technologies for better communication, productivity, and minimal expenses. In order to leverage financial strength, Dastugue discussed how Walmart is incorporating technology to rival and surpass competitors like Amazon by developing new app features.

More than just ice cream

One of the most impactful sessions came at the end of the first day from Blue Bell President Ricky Dickson. His topic centered around leadership and passion, providing three characteristics of a leader: vision, discipline, and servant leadership. These characteristics are engrained in the culture and reputation of Blue Bell.

The first characteristic Dickson discussed was vision. Leading with vision “essentially means focus on what matters the most, this will lead you to the type of leader that you want to be”, he explained. Being a leader requires having vision for the future and what you want to make of yourself and your team. When talking about the past Dickson said, “Being rooted in your past can pull you back. If you are rooted in the future, you will move forward and deliver the product you are expecting.”  He shared the story of a woman who wrote him a letter about her grandfather who had recently passed. He was a huge fan of Blue Bell, and some of her fondest memories were sharing a bowl of ice cream with him. As the years went on, her grandfather developed dementia and his mind began to deteriorate – but when they gave him a bowl of Blue Bell’s homemade vanilla, his eyes would light up. She thanked Blue Bell for giving them some of their grandfather back.

Dickson turned the focus to discipline, and how it relates to change. “If you really wanted to, you would do something about the problem you’re facing,” he explained. Dickson briefly alluded to the listeria outbreak that caused them to shut down production for a time, emphasizing Blue Bell’s desire to make things right, move forward, and stay true to who they are as a company. According to Dickson, leadership is about listening. Being a servant leader is instrumental in his leadership style, and that is reflected through the Blue Bell brand. He explained that Blue Bell is about family, and family is about serving and loving others.

Passion was the final point of Dickson’s keynote, and he delivered one of the most impactful points of the conference. He referenced an article that talked about how people can often get derailed by their passion because it can lead to failure. He refuted this idea by giving the example of Rudy, the walk-on player at Notre Dame who never gave up on his passion to make the football team – despite all of the failures and challenges he met along the way. Dickson closed by saying, “God places a passion in us like Rudy. Passion represents why we do what we do at Blue Bell.”

Where do you find your challenge? The key to productive change and practical innovation

Nigel Travis, Executive Chairman at Dunkin’ Brands, kicked off the second day of the Retailing Summit. Attendees were treated to Dunkin’ donuts for breakfast. Travis been on the forefront of change with Blockbuster, Papa Johns, and Dunkin’ Brands, which is the parent brand to both Dunkin’ and Baskin Robins. He is currently promoting his new book The Challenge Culture: Why the Most Successful Organizations Run on Pushback, in which he writes about changing the status quo and the ability to challenge a company from all angles.

Travis opened his keynote by declaring, “The power of anticipation is the ingredient for the next 10 years.” Organizations need to think about where they want to go first, then work towards that end goal. And one of the important stepping stones in achieving that end goal is curating a “culture that counts.” Travis perfectly explained this through his experience with Dunkin’. Being a franchised company, it is important that Dunkin’ remains a “franchisor of choice.” He stated that not only is it important to stay on top of the numbers and to think about who your successor will be, but that it is passion that “keeps America running on Dunkin’.”

The success of Dunkin’ comes from making this front line happy. Travis explained how he created a culture that starts in stores because it is important to “serve the people who serve the people,” making sure his employees spend at least 90 percent of their time on their people. He added that the average amount of time we spend on others is between 30 to 40 percent.

“If we can double that human interaction time, we can double our bottom line,” Travis concluded.

Using research to build digital experiences

Head of Global Cards Customer Experience Digital and Journey Strategy at Citi, Rebecca Wooters ’93, began her keynote by applauded the transformation technology has on the banking industry, explains how she was able to fly to New York without a wallet.

With the rise of cardless ATMs and mobile wallets, Wooters’ job becomes increasingly critical. “People are connected all of the time,” she says. In fact, the most common place people do banking is in the bathroom.

Customers expect a polished user experience, and in the banking industry, this can equate to reducing stress. Citi’s process of delivering a seamless app experience has four phases: discovery, design, development, and monitor/improve. Wooters focused on the discovery portion of the process, which is explains how to find the target customer, and exploring what he or she wants.

Discovery begins with journey analytics, or the sequence of a events a customer experiences when using a product or service. Although Wooters oversees the customer’s journey through the app, she realizes that a customer’s journey may not start there. For instance, if a Citi customer loses a credit card, they may call the bank first. That customer’s journey started with picking up the phone. This poses challenges for Wooters, as she has no control over the customer-support experience. Journey analytics is also about understanding customer behavior, and what activities successfully initiate customers to stay in the digital space. Wooters also mentioned first touch resolution, or the ability for customers to accomplish their needs on their first attempt.

Wooters’ job is primarily to integrate technology to create a seamless core experience for Citi customers’, and she recognizes that human connection is an integral part of a good customer experience. Wooters works to balance the humanistic qualities of a customer’s journey with Citi, while maintaining the convenience that technology provides.

Plug into the emotional power of loyalty

Don Smith, Senior Managing Director and Chief Analytics Officer at Brierley+Partners, designs customer relationship management systems and implements company loyalty programs.

He mentioned that although consumers are largely satisfied with the loyalty programs that they are currently a part of, this satisfaction does not necessarily make them more loyal to the company. In fact, less than half of consumers enrolled in retail and travel loyalty programs agree that the programs make them feel special. Smith and his company saw this as an opportunity to increase the customer experience through improving loyalty programs. This could prove to be a challenge considering “a sales associate only has an average of seven seconds to convince a customer to enroll in a loyalty program,” according to Smith.

Smith shared his company’s strategy to increase customer loyalty. They start by finding the places where a customer “stubs their toe” or has difficulties with a brand. In order to cultivate emotional loyalty, Brierley+Partners anticipates the customers’ needs, proactively provides post-purchase support, introduces surprise and excitement, curates exclusivity, implements gamification, rewards customers for engagement, and recognizes the customer for their individual enrollment and loyalty. Each of these tactics ties a customer more deeply to a brand or company, thus increasing a stronger loyalty base.

Furthermore, Brierley+Partners helps companies introduce reward choice for customers, optimize their tier structure, encourage customer engagement, propagate soft benefits, and balance their value exchange by forging a symbiotic relationship between vendors and brands.

Inspire more life

Mike Metter is the Senior Vice President of Development at Orangetheory Fitness, which is the fastest growing company to one-thousand global units in franchise history. They have more than $1 billion in revenue and 800,000 members at 986 U.S. locations. The company has never closed a studio since opening in 2010 – which they have achieved through being intensely selective when opening franchises.

Orangetheory is an industry disruptor. Their entire business model is based around a 1-hour, full body workout. The class is set up with half endurance training and half strength and power training. The high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is proven to burn more calories post-workout. Heart rate monitors show real-time results on studio TVs, keeping members in five heart rate zones. Members work to stay in the “orange zone” at 80 percent capacity.

“Orangetheory is a science-backed, technology-tracked, coach-inspired group workout designed to produce results from the inside out, giving people a longer, more vibrant life,” Mettler explained.

He added that Orangetheory is not just another fitness company, it is about “changing lives, one member at a time.” Their current goal is to broaden the reach of the company, making fitness more accessible for everyone. The brand purpose is to give people a longer, more vibrant life. Everyone involved must aspire to “deliver more life” every day, in every aspect of the company. From their corporate office to their trainers, alignment and purpose is vital for the company. Orangetheory is about impact; impact on its members, on the community, and the industry.

Mettler believes that people need to “look through a lens of competing against yourself not others, trying to become the best version of yourself.” Orangetheory values a sense of community, and fostering these relationships encourage customers to keep coming back. They do not want people to just hold a membership and never use it, like many traditional fitness companies do.

Orangetheory partners with Buxton to help learn where to locate studios, making sure they stay on the cutting edge. The company has studios in a variety of types of markets, from rural to urban. Trade areas are defined by drive time, looking where customers are in proximity to the studios, including home, workplace, traffic, and competition. Mettler closed by emphasizing that Orangetheory is a great co-tenant with multiple real estate options, and they’re looking for more future locations to continue expansion.

Celebrating beauty: How Sephora personalizes shopping experiences across all channels

The closing keynote came from Amy Eschilman, Senior Vice President of eCommerce at Sephora. She discussed how the vision of the iconic brand is to be the most loved beauty community by creating experiential retail through Teach, Inspire, and Play, and across Stores, Digital, and Home.

Sephora’s core belief is that “beauty is yours to define and ours to celebrate.” This vision shapes their overarching personalization strategies, community omni innovations, and tactics to personalize shopping experiences. Before creating their strategy, Sephora identified key trends that would affect their overarching strategy and tactics. These trends included: personalized shopping experiences, customizable products, and increased mobile content. The trends steered Sephora toward strategies to increase investment in personal messages based on clients’ behavior and lifecycle, and personalized omnichannel experiences.

To improve their omnichannel experience, Sephora aims to roll out an update to their app which includes the ability for customers to snap a photo of their face and simulate what products would look like. This new technology enables potential consumers to utilize their device, experience the store in a new way, and share their opinions with others. To further involve the consumer, Sephora has engaged in omni innovations such as product tagging and crowdsourcing, a program where community members can weigh in on packaging and formulation. These innovations allow Sephora to provide feedback to brands to better their products as well as to make their consumers feel like Sephora as a company values their input. As the retail industry continues to rapidly change, Sephora is showing a strong ability to adapt with the consumer.

Scholarship Awards

Samantha Hunt ’19 Marketing

Mona Williams – Women Making A Difference in Retail Scholarship

The Container Store

Caleb Haywood ’18 Supply Chain

Texas Retailers Education Foundation (TREF) Scholarship

Texas Retailers Association

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

The Executive MBA program (EMBA) at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School maintains its place among the top programs offered exclusively by U.S. public universities in the U.S., according to the 2018 rankings released by Financial Times.

This year’s rankings are based on feedback from the Executive MBA Class of 2015. The Mays Executive MBA Program ranked 11th among public schools located in the U.S. In addition, the Mays Executive MBA program ranked 1st in work experience in both Texas and U.S. public institutions.

Eli Jones, dean of Mays Business School, said he is pleased the program remains in the Top 20. “This is a great track record for such a young program,” he said. “We will continue to fine-tune our offerings to enhance the experience for the executives we serve.”

Mays fared well in the 2018 Financial Times rankings in other areas, as well. Based on research productivity in the top journals in business, Mays faculty ranked 7th among U.S. public schools and 15th among U.S. public/private schools.

A new measurement this year focused on the number of hours of Corporate Social Responsibility taught in each program. The Mays Executive MBA Program ranked 1st in Texas with a 3-credit-hour course dedicated to corporate compliance, governance, and ethics. In addition, faculty members address ethics within their courses. This ingrained focus on ethics aligns with the Mays Strategic Mission and Vision of developing transformational leaders.

In July, Mays Business School welcomed its 20th class of 50 Executive MBA students with an average of 16 years work experience. The two-year program meets on alternate weekends in Houston, led by elite faculty experts at Mays who are renowned for their research and are passionate about teaching.

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Arvind Mahajan said the program is thriving in its customized space, which was built in an intentional location. “We are centrally located for thousands of executives who want to expand their knowledge base,” he said. “We really strive to cater to this population, and I think it is paying off.”

Program Director Julie Orzabal believes participants experience a journey of personal leadership development through discovery, transformation, and impact. “This journey is the foundation of Mays Business School’s commitment to developing transformational leaders who work to advance the world’s prosperity,” she said.

A new class begins at Mays July 2019. For more information, visit

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Programs, Texas A&M

Competition is no stranger in the SEC. Whether it’s athletic or academic prowess, students at each university are driven by the desire to be recognized as “#1.” The 2018 SEC Student Pitch Competition boasted an unrivaled level of innovation, skill, and grit that could only be found in the Southeastern Conference.

This year’s competition was hosted at Texas A&M University by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.

On Sunday, Oct. 7, all competitors and their respective directors were invited to a private welcome reception. To kick off the evening, the group was led to a private room where they were greeted by Chef Mikeal Frey of the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center and given a short lesson on how to “make your own” guacamole. The students were then let loose for the first-ever “SEC Guac-Off.” Cross-conference teams were assigned to different tables and they each had 12 minutes to make their own avocado masterpiece. Afterward, the multiple judges and center directors attending the reception voted on their favorite recipe. This cleverly executed icebreaker helped to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

“We wanted to give the students a fun and uniquely Texan opportunity to get to know each another as colleagues versus competitors,” commented Blake Petty, director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. “Being a student entrepreneur can be difficult and lonely, and many can become isolated from their peers. We wanted them to understand they are not alone, that there are students all over the SEC pursuing similar passions.”  Students carried their culinary creations back to the dining room, chatting with one another like they were friends rather than rivals.

The SEC Student Pitch Competition was a day-long affair during which each SEC University Champion Team (one per university) presented in front of two preliminary round panels of three to five judges in parallel sessions. This ensured that all teams were seen by the same judges. The judges were all alumni of an SEC school to help keep the scoring as unbiased as possible. Teams were evaluated on the quality of their pitch and the viability of their business. On Monday, Oct. 8, 13 teams competed, but only three would be selected as finalists.

Final pitches were held at the All American North Club in Kyle Field ,and open to the public. Local entrepreneurs, SEC alumni and family and friends braved a stormy evening to see if their team would be announced as a finalist. Blake Petty emceed the evening and held the crowd in suspense as he recapped the day. Finally, Petty announced that the finalist teams were Roo Storage from University of Missouri, Lapovations from University of Arkansas, and Navibās of University South Carolina. Teams were allowed 10 minutes for their pitch with five minutes of Q&A. Each pitch was remarkably well structured and involved the innovative use of existing technologies in a novel manner.

After a long deliberation, Lapovations was announced as the 2018 SEC Student Pitch Champion – the second year in a row for an Arkansas team to take the title, and with it a $5,000 cash prize. Second place and $3,500 was awarded to Roo Storage, and third place and $1,500 was awarded to Navibās.

When asked what makes the SEC Student Pitch Competition unique, Petty said, “There are hundreds of business plan competitions at universities around the globe, just as there are hundreds of athletic events each week. What sets the SEC Student Pitch Competition apart is its convergence of athletic and academic competition, against the backdrop of entrepreneurship and innovative, real-world problem solving. Just as exciting as it is to see our favorite student athlete make it into the pros, how exciting is it to see our fellow SEC student entrepreneurs competing to make a real difference in tomorrow’s marketplace?”

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

Lifelong learning is critical to navigating a world that changes at an ever-increasing rate. Leaders who have this mindset remain fresh and engaged in their role in organizations. Ben Welch, the executive director of Mays Center for Executive Development’s Halliburton Programs and former assistant dean for executive education, described the characteristics of lifelong learners during Mays’ 50th Anniversary Celebration Sept. 7. …Read more

Categories: Center for Executive Development, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Texas A&M

Former students and friends often express gratitude to their former professors with gifts in their honor to the Texas A&M Foundation. In recent years, several Mays faculty members have been honored through these types of gifts.

In Fall 2018, a group of former Business Senior Fellows surprised Executive Professor John Van Alstyne ’66 and his wife Anita with the establishment of the Mays Fellows Endowed Excellence Fund in the couple’s name. This endowment through the Texas A&M Foundation will support the Business Fellows program’s students, teaching, and professional development.

…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Departments, Donors Corner, Faculty, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Programs, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

By Richard Gay ’22, Business Honors

A company can set itself apart with strong and intentional relationships with clients and employees. Main Street Capital Corporation has developed its entire business around this idea. Their primary service is providing capital solutions to lower middle market companies – hence the name Main Street and not Wall Street. Main Street strives to build relationships and customize transactions to meet the unique needs of each of their portfolio companies.

Mays former student Brent Smith ’97 (accounting) and ’98 (PPA), Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Main Street Capital Corporation, spoke on Sept. 27 to Business Honors students. He said Main Street’s unique business model involves more than just a financial investment as it truly “takes an investment in people.” Main Street does this by working closely beside the ownership and management of all the companies in their portfolio and committing to the long haul. Building these relationships drives Main Street’s success. Smith also discussed Main Street’s culture in the office feels like a family where everyone is fully invested in the success of the company. “Even the receptionist owns our stock,” Smith said.

…Read more

Categories: Accounting, Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

Healthcare: it’s more than just an annual check-up with your doctor. At the Healthcare Careers Forum hosted by Mays Business School on Sept. 25, leaders and innovators in the healthcare industry spoke on the abundance of opportunities within this constantly changing industry. 

Leonard Berry, University Distinguished Professor and Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, hosted and organized the event. He opened it by providing an overview of the Mays’ Grand Challenge of healthcare. The acclaimed researcher and author of Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic explained how Mays is committed to advancing the world’s prosperity by enhancing human health.

J.R. Thomas, Founder and Co-Managing Principal of Thomas Marshall Group, talked about lessons he learned in healthcare and why one should choose a career in healthcare. He said healthcare is the best industry for you and your family and to always remember that passion and hard work will provide invaluable experience. …Read more

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Finance, Health Care, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M


October Startup Spotlight

When YouTube was founded in 2005, no one could have foreseen that the video sharing platform would become an entrepreneurial hot-spot. Professional YouTube creatives generate a product, work with key strategic partners to achieve business goals, develop healthy revenue streams, and engage with their customers to better direct their products and brand. Sounds a lot like running a business, doesn’t it? A professional YouTuber is now, well, a thing. Not only a thing, but a legitimate commercial venture for hard-working creators.

Tyler Anderson ’19 is one such creator. His YouTube channel, TylersReelFishing, has more than 112,000 subscribers, and he’s uploaded more than 800 videos that have garnered 15 million total views. Did I mention he’s done all of this in just five years?

…Read more

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

The Center for International Business Studies (CIBS) at Mays Business School has been awarded a four-year federal grant totaling $1.23 million. The U.S. Department of Education awards the funds as part of its Center for International Business Education (CIBE) program. The grant commences on Oct. 1 and will cover the 2018-22 period.

Mays was among the 15 high-impact business schools in the country – and the only one in Texas – to be awarded the grant out of some 50 applicants. CIBS has successfully competed nationally for the four-year award since 1990.

…Read more

Categories: Center for Business International Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Programs, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Ricky Griffin didn’t plan to have an academic career. Therefore, Mays Business School’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Research and Scholarship wasn’t an honor he anticipated receiving.

He now is among a handful of Mays’ legendary scholars who have received this prestigious award. “The Lifetime Achievement Award is rarified air,” said Mays Dean Eli Jones during a Sept. 14 ceremony marking Griffin’s honor. “It’s the highest honor that Mays Business School gives.”

Griffin put his selection to receive the award into perspective. “When I’ve attended these award presentations in the past, I’ve always been in awe when I hear people talk about the intentionality with which they chose to become a scientist,” he said.  “They talk about the time when they wanted to become a professor. They knew they wanted to study finance or marketing or management because they were interested in this topic. I’m in awe because nothing like that happened to me. I became a scholar truly by accident.”

Yet, Griffin’s impressive body of work over his 40-year career sets him apart. He helped frame discussions in a diverse range of research areas, including job characteristics, work design, emergent leadership, social information processing, and workplace violence and aggression. He also served in administrative roles where he strived to work collaboratively to create policies and programs that would enhance Mays standing in the academic community. …Read more

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Management, Mays Business, News, Selfless service, Spotlights, Texas A&M