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

The ventures at this year’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Disabled Veterans (EBV), hosted by Mays Business School’s McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, ranged from network solutions for small businesses to artisan products to novel applications of artificial intelligence. The 21 veterans in this year’s class came from across the United States and represented nearly every branch of the military.

Since 2008, the McFerrin Center has hosted the intensive training program developed to help disabled veterans develop the competencies and skills necessary to create and sustain an entrepreneurial or small business venture.

‘Boot camp’ a fitting name

The term “boot camp” is not used lightly when it comes to EBV. In order to graduate from the program, each participant must complete a 30-day online training program and a nine-day residency hosted at Texas A&M University. During the in-residence portion, the participants were in class from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day and worked on their business plans and final presentations every night during mentoring hours. McFerrin Center Executive Director Richard Lester referred to the program experience as akin to “drinking from a firehose.”

The lectures and presentations throughout the week covered topics such as finance and accounting, government contracting, human resources and marketing. The deluge of information caused a visible shift in the veteran’s energy levels throughout the week. Participants bounded into class on Sunday morning full of excitement and by Thursday they shuffled into the classroom, coffee cup in hand.

An Aggie integration

While EBV does consist of a significant amount of hard work, McFerrin Center goes to great lengths to ensure that none of the veterans burn out from information overload. On Tuesday, participants enjoyed a relaxed evening of networking at the Benjamin Knox Wine Gallery. The Southwood 4-H club hosted their annual evening of fellowship with home-cooked Tex-Mex food and a table filled with hand-made desserts on Wednesday. Thursday evening, the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets hosted a dinner at the Sanders Corps Museum and participants met current members of the Corps of Cadets and learned about the history of Texas A&M.

The week-long residency culminated with final presentations and closing ceremonies on July 21. Mentors from the Bryan/College Station community attended final presentations at the Center for Executive Development and provided feedback and final words of encouragement to the veterans. The program officially concluded on Saturday evening with closing ceremonies. There was a distinct celebratory feeling to the event as each veteran was awarded their program diploma. Honored guests such as Nancy Williams of the Cockrell Foundation and Eli Jones, the dean of Mays Business School, were in attendance. The evening was made even more special when Brigadier General Joe E. Ramirez, Jr. ’79, Commandant of the Corps of Cadets, delivered a poignant speech on what it means to be a leader that resonated with the entire room.

After spending the week with the participants and watching them grow as entrepreneurs, it can be hard to say goodbye. However, the journey isn’t over. Being an EBV graduate from Texas A&M means becoming a member of the Aggie family. As each veteran returns home with renewed fervor for their venture they will receive continued support from both the McFerrin Center through mentorship and guidance.

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Diversity and Inclusion, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Programs, Texas A&M

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship welcomed 22 veterans to Aggieland for the 11th annual Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) on the evening of Saturday, July 14.

EBV at Texas A&M University is an exceptional initiative that leverages the resources and infrastructure of higher education to provide entrepreneurial skills and small business management training to post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities. Part of a nationwide consortia of nine universities offering EBV to disabled veteran entrepreneurs, the overall goal of Texas A&M’s program is to open the door to economic opportunity for our veterans and their families by developing their competencies in creating and sustaining a commercial venture.

The opening ceremonies were held at the Association of Former Students with a welcome address made by Kathryn Greenwade ’88 of the Association of Former Students and opening remarks made by David Shimek ’86 of the program’s underwriter, The Reynolds and Reynolds Company.

Honoring the past, encouraging the future

Ron Poynter, retired Army helicopter pilot and EBV Class of 2012 graduate, was recognized with the Robin ’76 & Robert Starnes ’72 EBV Outstanding Alumni Award and delivered an encouraging and thoughtful speech to this year’s participants. Poynter encouraged the 2018 class to stay focused and engaged in their industry’s trends and to be prepared for a lot of hard work.

The program consists of a 21-day online course followed by a nine-day residency at Texas A&M. During the in-residence portion of EBV, participants will spend the week attending lectures and workshops at Mays Business School’s Center for Executive Development, where they will learn about enterprise basics, lean startup methodologies and small business growth strategies. The bootcamp extends well into the evening hours with individual breakout meetings between participants and volunteer mentors from the local community. Thanks to the generosity of the program’s individual and private-sector sponsors, EBV is offered at no cost to the participants.

This year’s class includes business ventures ranging from an eco-friendly flower alternative to healthcare to drone-imaging services, with nearly every venture focused on employing and giving back to fellow veterans.

Categories: Centers, Diversity and Inclusion, Entrepreneurship, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Selfless service, Spotlights, Texas A&M

 Four years ago, Jared ’03 and Risa ’05 Meyer were looking to start their own business. The Mays Business School former students wanted to start a business that directly reflected the values of their marriage: compassion and service. Values for them were determined by their faith and wanting to be people who look outside of themselves to serve others. “Texas A&M holds true to that, as well. It is about everyone making an impact beyond your own world, which Texas A&M does a good job instilling in their students,” Jared described. …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

Mays Business School students have traveled for the past five years across the Atlantic to take part in a faculty-led winter trip to South Africa and Swaziland. Led by Clinical Professor of Management David Flint and Clinical Assistant Professor of Information and Operations Management Matthew Manley, students spend part of their winter break in South Africa visiting local businesses and national parks. Then they travel to the neighboring country of Swaziland to learn about the non-profit orphanage Bulembu, the businesses that support it, and the challenges of Swaziland’s market environment.

“I thought it was a really interesting combination of not-for-profit work, developing market conditions, and entrepreneurship, so they encouraged me to go visit,” Flint said as he recalled the suggestion from some of his church friends to visit Bulembu.

After visiting the orphanage in the summer of 2013, he came back with a vision of guiding a group of Mays students through South Africa and Swaziland to enhance their cultural understanding and global mindset. 

“The purpose of the trip is to discover how business education and skills can be brought to bear in solving very real and pressing social issues,” Manley said in describing the business aspect of the trip. “There are problems to solve, there is a real urgency, and there are people who are committed to working out the solutions.” …Read more

Categories: Center for Business International Studies, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Former Students, Management, Mays Business, Selfless service, Students, Texas A&M

Put the phone down, earn prizes.

That’s the premise of SAFE 2 SAVE, a mobile app that rewards users for staying off their phones while driving. Since its launch in Fall 2016, it has grown to attract more than 70,000 users. And its founder Mays former student Marci Corry ’01 is continually working to improve it and increase its reach.

While having a conversation with a Texas A&M University student, Corry noticed everyone around them was on their phone. “As I reflected on that and the dangers of texting, especially while driving, it hit me that I should start a positive app that targets adults as well as teens that would encourage people to be hands-free,” said Corry.

The tipping point came when she heard the news of a 19-year-old student who lost his life after he was struck by a driver who was texting. “That’s when I knew I needed to start this company to help grow the awareness and prevent distracted driving as much as we could in Aggieland,” said Corry.

…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Startup Aggieland, Students, Texas A&M

Categories: Alumni, Dean Eli Jones, Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Mays Business, Mays Innovation Research Center, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Selfless service, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The first-place team in the inaugural Aggie Pitch competition on April 20 was Bezoar Labs – a team familiar to McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship because it received honorable mention in the 2017 Raymond Ideas Challenge.

Of the 10 finalists in the competition in which students from Texas A&M System schools and branch campuses pitch their business concepts, eight had been involved in McFerrin programs (3 Day Startup, Ideas Challenge, and Startup Aggieland).

Bezoar Lab team members said their invention “tackles every element of our planet’s complex web improving its health by creating a safer, more nutritious protein sources for all.” Team members were Ryan Springer, manufacturing and mechanical engineering technologies; and Grace Tsai, nautical archaeology.

McFerrin Center Director Blake Petty said the first competition was encouraging. “Our inaugural Aggie Pitch event showcased the dedication and entrepreneurial spirit behind our top student entrepreneurs,” he said. “McFerrin Center looks forward to enabling the next wave of students within our Aggie Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to be even stronger competitors in 2019 and beyond.” …Read more

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

The public is invited to watch the finals on April 20 for Aggie Pitch, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s inaugural pitch competition in which students from Texas A&M System schools and branch campuses pitch their business concepts.

 

Registration will start at 9 a.m., and the program will begin at 9:30 a.m. The awards luncheon will begin at noon. RSVP here: www.AggiePITCH.com

In recent weeks, the participants have gotten a chance to showcase their ideas. In addition to a cash prize pool of $50,000, the winners potentially will be considered for nomination to additional business plan/pitch competitions across the nation.

Finalists invited to the April 20 event will be evaluated and scored by a panel of prestigious entrepreneur/investor judges who volunteer with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. The judging panel includes Blake Teipel, Ph.D., a local entrepreneur and former student collaborated with the McFerrin Center in 2015 to win a number of business plan competitions around his company concept, including the Rice Business Plan Competition. The Aggie Pitch award winners will be announced at the luncheon shortly after noon.

The goal of Aggie Pitch is to encourage all Texas A&M students to explore entrepreneurship and learn how to deliver their business concepts in the most compelling fashion.

…Read more

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

Mays Business School takes great pride in its commitment to being on the leading edge of business, education, and research. The latest evidence is the hiring of corporate management and marketing executive Bill Peel ’74 as the school’s executive director of innovation and strategic planning, a role that is unique in higher education.

Peel’s diverse professional background and knowledge of design thinking will be a tremendous asset to Mays. “Bill comes to us with an extensive business background and is someone who is very creative and has a high level of integrity,” said Mays Dean Eli Jones. “Plus, Bill’s an Aggie so he understands and embraces Texas A&M’s unique culture and inherent values.”

In his new position, Peel – who holds degrees in environmental design and architecture from Texas A&M – will facilitate the implementation of the school’s strategic plan. He also will oversee Mays’ marketing, communications, public relations, corporate relations and alumni relations. …Read more

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, Mays Innovation Research Center, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Staff, Texas A&M