Entrepreneurship | Mays Impacts

Out of 42 finalists, ten teams were given top honors and awarded cash prizes for their innovative and entrepreneurial ideasr

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS May 7, 2022 – The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its second annual and first in-person Texas High School Ideas Challenge today, with competitive presentations held at Texas A&M University’s Memorial Student Center and The Crowd Fund Showcase and Awards Reception (sponsored by Education Advanced) held at the McFerrin Center. Open to high school students across the state of Texas, the challenge, designed to encourage students to explore entrepreneurship and foster development of an entrepreneurial mindset, awarded more than $10,000 in cash prizes to the top ideas.

Launched in 2021 by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, the Texas High School Ideas Challenge is modeled after the Raymond Ideas Challenge, one of the McFerrin Center’s longest standing programs open each fall to current Texas A&M students. Due to restrictions in place, the inaugural event in 2021 was held exclusively in a virtual format, but the 2022 event was held in person at Texas A&M, giving high school students from across the state the opportunity to visit campus and be introduced to Texas A&M, the McFerrin Center and the Aggie entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In addition to prize money for the top idea winners, this year’s challenge also awarded $3,750 in prizes based on “investments” from “The Crowd Fund,” with showcase guests having the opportunity to visit each of the ideas to meet the student teams and learn about their service or product concept and “invest” in their favorites via “McFerrin Money.”

For the 2022 event, Texas high school students aged 14-18 were invited to apply beginning in late 2021, submitting their idea as a team or individual, via a compelling application demonstrating creative, careful and methodical planning. Following a screening process, a total of 42 finalist teams, comprised of more than 100 students from 18 Texas cities, were selected as finalists and invited to compete in person on the campus of Texas A&M.

Throughout the day, each team presented their idea twice, each time to a different panel of judges. The presentations consisted of a 5-minute pitch of the idea, followed by a 5-minute “Q&A” with the panel. Judges, selected from the McFerrin Center’s network of mentors, successful entrepreneurs and Texas A&M faculty, were looking for competitors who have an outstanding idea and clearly indicate that their idea creates values, can defend their idea against other ideas in the competition, and demonstrate to the judges that the idea is viable in the marketplace with clear evidence that the idea is attractive to a customer. Ideas were scored based on idea uniqueness, target market, competitive advantage, resources, goals and presentation content.

Rudy A., a junior from Centennial High School in Frisco, walked away with top honors and $2,500 for his pitch of WorkBee, a business concept developed with his partner Sarthak D., also a junior, who was unable to attend the competition. WorkBee solves the problem of low inventory of quality holiday decorations and the hassle of installing decorations by enabling customers to purchase customized holiday decorations and labor from local, reliable, responsive, fair-priced contractors.

“A friend who applied for this challenge knew I had this idea, and he suggested I apply as well. I did, and then suggested a different friend also apply with his idea,” Rudy said. “I feel like that sums up entrepreneurship. Healthy competition, but always looking to help and assist others who are also trying to pursue and build their own ideas.”

Following high school graduation in 2023, Rudy plans to attend college, pursuing a degree related to technology and business. “The best takeaway from today was the feedback I received from the judges following my pitches,” he said. “One judge suggested I consider a subscription option, and one even told me it was probably the best pitch he’d ever heard, including from college students. That really made me feel like not only do I have a great idea, but the time, effort and energy I put into preparing for this challenge really paid off. I’m already thinking of a new idea to apply again and come back to Aggieland next year.”

“In only its second year, this is quickly becoming one of our Signature Programs, and one that brings so much positive energy and excitement to the Center and our partners. As a competition focused solely on inspiring, encouraging and celebrating our next great generation of entrepreneurs, the ideas this year did not disappoint, nor did the students themselves, who have been nothing short amazing,” said Blake Petty ’98, executive director of the McFerrin Center. “While we realize not all of these students will choose Texas A&M as a destination after high school, our ultimate goal and purpose is to pour into them at this earliest stage of their entrepreneurial journey and help fan the flame of their entrepreneurial spirit. If we can create a few new Aggie entrepreneurs along the way, we’ll consider that icing on the cake!”

The McFerrin Center is already planning the third annual event, scheduled for May 5, 2023. Updates and more information will be made available at tx.ag/TexasHSIdeasChallenge.

2022 Texas High School Ideas Challenge Winners

Top Idea Winners
1st Place ($2,500): WorkBee | Centennial HS | Frisco
sponsored by Active Industrial Fire Protection
Student receiving a big check
2nd Place ($2,000): FYDER, LLC | Alamo Heights HS | San Antonio
sponsored by CareerPhysician, LLC
3rd Place ($1,750): Com.Post | Round Rock HS | Round Rock
sponsored by Education Advanced
Honorable Mention ($750): Stoozies: The Heated Shoetree | Canyon HS | New Braunfels
sponsored by Critical Environments Group
Honorable Mention ($750): iPath American English | Centennial HS | Frisco
sponsored by Education Advanced
Honorable Mention ($750): sMile | Centennial HS | Frisco, TX
sponsored by Startup LLC
Honorable Mention ($750): Traverse Marketplace | Vista Ridge HS | Cedar Park
sponsored by Mays Family Foundation

The Crowd Fund Winners
1st Place ($1,500): M.T. Equipment Backpacking Table | Westlake HS | Austin
sponsored by Nexersys (XFit Inc.)
Students receiving a b
2nd Place ($1,250): FYDER, LLC | Alamo Heights HS | San Antonio
sponsored by Startup LLC
3rd Place ($1,000): Let’s Keep Talking | Elkins HS | Missouri City
sponsored by Mays Family Foundation

2022 Texas High School Ideas Challenge Sponsors

Education Advanced, The Crowd Fund Showcase & Awards Reception sponsor
Active Industrial Fire Protection
CareerPhysician
Critical Environments Group
Mays Family Foundation
Nexersys
Startup LLC (Living Learning Community)

 

About McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship serves as the hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University. The McFerrin Center’s goal is to enhance entrepreneurial education by providing training, networking and assistance to enterprising students, faculty and former students.

The McFerrin Center enables the startup and growth of countless businesses and provides competitive opportunities, professional development and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the Aggie community through the support of a robust volunteer mentor network, corporate supporters, faculty and staff.

The McFerrin Center defines entrepreneurship as an attitude that acts upon opportunity. In this spirit, the McFerrin Center strives to deliver programs and events that are inspiring, engaging, motivating and life-changing. This philosophy has resulted in the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship offering more than 30 unique programs each year that positively impact the lives of thousands of students, veterans and other professionals seeking to blaze their own trail as an entrepreneur.

###

Media Contact: Lara Robertson, communications manager, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, 979- 845-1724, lrobertson@tamu.edu

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

Twenty Aggie-led startups competed in the only university-wide business plan pitch competition.

By Lara Robertson, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS March 8, 2022 – The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its fifth annual Aggie PITCH at the Doug Pitcock ’49 Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center Monday evening. Now open to both current and former students, Aggie PITCH is the only university-wide business plan pitch competition at Texas A&M and seeks to identify the best Aggie business pitches from across industries and sectors.

For the 2022 event, a total of 20 startups were selected as finalists to compete for the coveted McFerrin Cup and a share of more than $35,000 in prize money. Split into three divisions —Full Pitch for both current and former students and Elevator Pitch open to both — the competition gives startup founders the opportunity to pitch their business in a fast-paced, high-energy format to a panel of anonymous judges and an audience of students, professionals, mentors, possible investors and fellow Aggie entrepreneurs.

In the Full Pitch divisions, 10 teams were each given 10 minutes for their pitch. In contrast, the Elevator Pitch competitors were only given a 1-minute allotment for their pitch. Although the anonymous panel of judges was tasked with ranking and selecting the winners of the Full Pitch division, audience members were invited to take part and cast their vote to select for the winners of the Elevator Pitch division.

Finalists’ ventures at this year’s Aggie PITCH represent a variety of industries including agriculture, information technology, consumer products and energy technology, among others, and are now automatically admitted into an exclusive group of startup founders who are eligible to represent Texas A&M University at national and global entrepreneurial competitions.

Flux Works LLC took home first place in the Full Pitch division for current students and was awarded $7,500. Bryton Praslicka ’24, startup lead, reacted with, “Winning to us means that people are excited about our technology. People believe in our technology. And winning this demonstrates that, and that’s really incredible.” Flux Works LLC, a developer and manufacturer of magnetic gears, has now met their fundraising goal and plans to use the prize money to buy back their intellectual property from Texas A&M and move into product development.

Taking home top honors and also $7,500 in the Full Pitch division for former students was Wide Afternoon, LLC (Ovie). Ovie aims to solve the problem of food waste in homes with a digital smart tracking system and plans to use their winnings to purchase prototype samples to get their product into user homes for testing. “Winning Aggie PITCH is so amazing because it validates our idea, where we’re at. And to have our peers and industry professionals that we respect acknowledge that our company is on to something, and believe in us, it means the world. It’s fuel,” stated Ovie lead Stacie Thompson ’02.

“Aggie PITCH continues to be a highlight of our year at McFerrin. The energy in the room is palpable, from both the pitch teams and the audience members getting to experience an event like this,” stated Blake Petty ’98, executive director of the McFerrin Center. “In only our fifth year of Aggie PITCH, we’ve continued to see growth in both the quantity and quality of pitch competitors. Seeing entrepreneurs, specifically Aggie entrepreneurs, pitch their startup businesses to such a diverse, engaging crowd is something I’ll never grow tired of.”

2022 Aggie PITCH Winners

Full Pitch Division | Current Students
1st Place ($7,500): Flux Works LLC [Bryton Praslicka ’24, Daniel Zamarron ‘22]
2nd Place ($5,000): Teale [Narendra Vishnumolakala ’22, Connor Ust ’22]
3rd Place ($3,500): Flow-Pax [Haley Clark ‘23]

Full Pitch Division | Former Students
1st Place ($7,500): Wide Afternoon, LLC (Ovie) [Stacie Thompson ‘02]
2nd Place ($5,000): ClaraTech [Clara Orlean ‘20]
3rd Place ($3,500): SageSpectra [Madi Heck ’21, Mark Golla ‘22]

Elevator Pitch Division
1st Place ($1,500): South Texas Security Gates [Carson Neal ‘22]
2nd Place ($1,000): Imperium [Donald Bowen ‘25]
3rd Place ($750): Unravl Hair [Zanbria Asante ‘18]

A list of past Aggie PITCH winners can be found at aggiepitch.com.

About McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship serves as the hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University. The McFerrin Center’s goal is to enhance entrepreneurial education by providing training, networking and assistance to enterprising students, faculty and former students.

The McFerrin Center enables the startup and growth of countless businesses and provides competitive opportunities, professional development and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the Aggie community through the support of a robust volunteer mentor network, corporate supporters, faculty and staff.

The McFerrin Center defines entrepreneurship as an attitude that acts upon opportunity. In this spirit, the McFerrin Center strives to deliver programs and events that are inspiring, engaging, motivating and life-changing. This philosophy has resulted in the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship offering more than 30 unique programs each year that positively impact the lives of thousands of students, veterans and other professionals seeking to blaze their own trail as an entrepreneur.

###

Media Contact: Lara Robertson, communications manager, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, 979- 845-1724, lrobertson@tamu.edu

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

Clara Orlean ’20 sees her family’s influence emerging strongly in her life’s professional path. Her father opened her eyes to entrepreneurism and both of her parents encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree. Now the recent graduate of Mays Business School’s Full-Time MBA Program has created ClaraTech, which assists older adults with their growing need for technology support. The idea for this start-up business was based on her mother-in-law’s experiences during the pandemic.

Orlean’s efforts thus far in building her business have proven successful. The increasing demand prompted Orlean to leave her full-time job at ExxonMobil to devote herself to ClaraTech in February 2021. Nine months later, Orlean had the winning pitch in the services category of the Lift-Off Houston Business Plan Competition, hosted by The City of Houston and Capital One Bank.

Getting Her Bearings

However, her entrepreneurial path took some unexpected turns. After studying Global Supply Chain and Operations Management as well as Business Management at the University of South Carolina, the sixth-generation Texan joined Gexpro, an electrical distribution company formerly owned by GE. She participated in the leadership program, rotating to work in a different division every 6-8 months. “In every rotation, I had a different focus, including warehousing, operations, inside sales, outside sales, and pricing,” she said. “I received a really holistic view of how a company is run from a lot of different roles and management perspectives.”

Eventually, Orlean decided to pursue an MBA, a dream sparked by her father’s experiences. “My father has always been very entrepreneurial. He started his own law practice and is a real estate investor in his free time in Fort Worth. He’s always looking for new ways to fill an unserved need,” she said. “I knew that my undergraduate degree only would get me so far in the corporate arena—or it would just take a long time to rise up the ranks and get promoted the natural way. An MBA helps you fast track.”

Orlean’s plans for graduate school were almost derailed when she didn’t score as well as she initially hoped on the GMAT. While contemplating what to do next, she found herself checking out the website of her mother’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, and noticed the admissions deadline for Mays FTMBA program. She reached out the next day and was encouraged by Assistant Director Katie Stober to retake the GMAT. After earning a much higher score, Orlean soon found herself moving to College Station.

Starting a New Chapter

The young professional decided to fully commit to the full-time 18-month program at Mays Business School in College Station, instead of combining graduate school and work. “I knew myself and that wasn’t going to work for me after trying to work and study for the GMAT,” Orlean explained. “I knew I was going to be able to make a good jump in my career because I pressed the pause button and attended the FTMBA program. That allowed me the opportunity to interact with the myriad of companies who were coming to interview Texas A&M students and attending the career fairs.”

She quickly found that the program was preparing her to take her business knowledge and skills to the next level. “I took basic business courses in my undergraduate degree, but the FTMBA program at Texas A&M took that subject matter to a deeper level,” she said. “I learned to look at things from a manager’s perspective. I was able to connect my learnings and prior work experience, connections that would be very useful in my career.”

The FTMBA program’s self and leadership assessments, as well as intimate coaching sessions, also provided a transformative mirror for improvement and building confidence. “I had never really looked at myself under a microscope,” she said. “It was very insightful and caused me to strive to be a better version of myself. The Full Time MBA Program promoted a culture of continuous improvement. You get really comfortable giving and receiving feedback.”

Orlean believes the FTMBA provided a strong foundation for her entrepreneurial venture, even though she wasn’t aware she would be launching a business at the time. “The practical knowledge I gained in the FTMBA coursework has allowed me succeed as a new business owner. I understand my financials and know how to speak to them in pitch competitions and business meetings,” she said. “My critical thinking skills, self-awareness, and ability to work with others have improved. These are skills that have been extremely helpful as a new business owner.”

The Aggieland environment

She credits the FTMBA program with creating a special comradery among her cohort, which continues to this day. “Since we were all in College Station and solely working on our MBAs, we spent a lot of time together inside and outside the classroom,” she said. “From tailgates to football games, to intramural sports, and nights out in Northgate, we really grew as friends.”

She also found time to become involved in key Mays leadership roles. “I really enjoyed giving back to the program by serving on the MBA Association Board and working in the admissions office for the FTMBA program,” Orlean said. “I loved talking to prospective students, helping them through the application process, showing them around Aggieland, and celebrating with them when they were accepted into the program.”

As an added benefit, she met her soon-to-be husband, Alex Orlean ’11 ’20, in the FTMBA program, and they grew close working together on group projects. She noted that the FTMBA’s assessments helped her better understand the complimentary nature of her own personal work style as well as that of her future husband. “We found that we worked really, really well together,” she said. “When there was conflict on the team, we worked through it together.”

Finding Her Own Path

After graduation, Orlean joined ExxonMobil, where she worked in procurement for the transportation and logistics team. But the COVID-19 pandemic soon forced the company into lockdown. Orlean began working from home, and re-evaluating the type of life she wanted to lead.

A few months later, her mother-in-law, Terri Orlean, reached out for advice on how to organize the various Zoom links for meetings as well as help on other technology issues. Soon her mother-in-law began advertising Orlean’s skill and patient counsel to her friends, who all needed help. “I saw the very rapid and uncontrollable dependence on technology that we all had to figure out quickly. I also saw that there was such a need for a service here that wasn’t being offered,” the resident of Houston, Texas said. “I started helping older adults with tech before work and during my lunch breaks.”

The need continued to grow, soon leading to Orlean’s realization that a promising business concept had found her. She created ClaraTech in October 2020—and five months later, the company had grown enough that its founder left ExxonMobil to concentrate full-time on building her new venture.

The young company takes a personalized approach to service. Orlean develops a tailored technology plan for each client, including identifying the best technology for a specific situation and then training the older adult how to use it. In some cases, this technology supports older adults who have mobility or hearing impairment. “People don’t know what opportunities are out there to make life easier,” she said. “If we can introduce some tips, tricks, or ways in which older adults can use technology to stay safe, connected, and independent, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Over the past year, she’s refined her business model based on what she’s learning from multiple datapoints. While she continues to work primarily with individual older adults, Orlean also has received invitations to train care providers and employees of small businesses.

She also is initiating technology workshops in Houston-area retirement communities, which she sees as a huge gap in services. “Tech education is not provided at retirement communities, and I really believe it should be,” she said. “They want to learn, but nobody’s taking the time to show them how to use their iPhone or how to FaceTime. My goal is to change that so retirement communities regularly have tech education on their activity calendars.”

Increasing Tech Literacy

Realizing the growing opportunities for ClaraTech, Orlean decided to participate in the Lift-Off Houston Business Plan Competition. Impressed by ClaraTech’s business plan, the organizers invited the Aggie to pitch in a Shark Tank-like competition in front of influential decision-makers. “It was my first pitch competition, and I hadn’t done anything like that before,” she said.

Her pitch in the services category earned her first place and $10,000 to cover costs associated with growing her business—and she credits the FTMBA program for preparing her for the intense competition. “The MBA program gave me the confidence to stand up in front of the room and pitch my business. It was nerve-wracking,” she said. “My big transformation in the MBA program was my confidence and belief in myself. Texas A&M’s MBA program allowed me so much time to progress and to get over my fear of public speaking. It turns out that I’m pretty good at public speaking once I got over the fear.”

She’s also really good at identifying the needs of older adults and is committed to figuring out how to help them incorporate technology more seamlessly in their lives. “I want to impact more people and help more older adults stay safe, connected, and independent through technology,” Orlean said. “I want to change tech from being this frustrating thing that is a barrier making their life more difficult into a tool that can enhance their lives. Tech can and will change the lives of older adults if we provide this service, education, and training in a way that is tailored to them.”

Orlean is grateful for how her family and her “chosen family” from Mays FTMBA Program have influenced her life, both in personal and professional life. Now she wants to remain connected to Mays to reciprocate—and to keep learning. “I have a deep desire to stay involved and give back. I have really enjoyed staying involved with the admissions team to serve as a panelist and just helped with a marketing campaign for the MBA programs,” she said, adding that she remains close to her classmates. “We had our annual reunion for the FTMBA program called Brisket Bowl back in October of last year and had about 20 of our classmates come from all over the country to be together. It was like we didn’t skip a beat.”

Categories: Entrepreneurship, MBA

Tara ’91 and Todd Storch ’91 have embraced a life of entrepreneurship, using their passion, knowledge, talents, and network to bridge emerging gaps and build strong teams to help companies improve their service. Those same resources have been instrumental in their efforts to build their personal passion project.

This project emerged in the aftermath of great tragedy, when the couple’s eldest daughter, Taylor, died in a skiing accident on a family vacation in March 2010. Realizing that Taylor would not recover, the couple chose to donate their daughter’s organs to give life to others. “Out of all the hard decisions we were making, saying yes to organ donation was an easy one. Taylor was such a giving child that we knew she would have wanted to help others if she had the chance. Tara and I both knew our family had the opportunity to make something good out of this very terrible situation,” Todd said, a testament to their resilience.

With their decision, Taylor’s organs saved and improved five lives. Realizing the need for more organ donation registrations and understanding, the Aggies created a 501(c)(3) named Taylor’s Gift Foundation. The non-profit has united all aspects of the Storches’ lives—from their education at Mays Business School, to their personal friendships, to their corporate careers—and now they are leaders in a societal movement.

From West Texas to Aggieland

Both Tara and Todd have West Texas roots—Tara was raised in Abilene while Todd’s earliest years were spent in Sweetwater and Midland. Both also are the first Aggies in their family.

But each took a different path to get to Texas A&M. Tara initially planned to follow in the footsteps of her two older brothers, who attended Texas Tech University. However, she changed her mind after visiting Aggieland with a friend late in her senior year of high school. “Texas A&M had a completely different feel. That was the biggest thing, how friendly and warm people were,” she said. “It just felt like where I belonged.”

In comparison, Todd always knew he was College Station-bound, but attended the University of Texas at San Antonio as a freshman to stay close to home. “I always wanted to be an Aggie, and quite honestly, I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “But, I do think it came from other people I talked to who were Aggies. There was just something special about Texas A&M and I knew I had to go there.”

The couple’s paths first crossed during a Business Analysis class, taught by Professor Louise Darcey, soon after Todd enrolled. “Todd sat behind me, and I thought he was cute, so I passed him a note saying something silly, I’m sure. Passing notes was the 1988 form of texting,” Tara remembered with a laugh. “That note started a great friendship.”

Both were drawn to studying business, with Tara focusing on marketing while Todd embraced accounting and finance. Tara was involved in Fish Aides, Fish Camp, MSC Hospitality and with sorority life as a Kappa Alpha Theta. Todd was a leader in Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity. They both appreciated the university’s commitment to students and the wealth of opportunities that Texas A&M and the business school offered to explore emerging areas of interest. For example, Todd credits his business classes and Texas A&M’s computer lab for giving him a deeper context about technology’s role in business and hands-on skills at a time when personal computers and the internet were just emerging. While a student, he was one of IBM’s first sales staff at Texas A&M, encouraging Aggies to buy new IBM laptops. “Looking back at it, I feel that Texas A&M was on the forefront,” he said. “They exposed me to this entire new digital world that was like a gold rush about to start back in those days.”

The couple gives special credit to the College of Business Administration Fellows program (now known as Mays Business Fellows) for increasing their professional opportunities. They pointed to the Business Fellows’ week-long trip to New York City and the many professional speakers who came to the Fellows’ meetings as opening their eyes to the wide range of possibilities they would have after graduation.

Being Business Fellows also offered the additional benefit of getting a paid internship with a major company, which has the potential to result in a job right after graduation. As an outcome of her internship, Tara accepted a position at Kraft General Foods in Dallas. Her decision prompted Todd, who was the first in his family to graduate from college, to reconsider his initial plan to move to New York City to work for Arthur Andersen; instead, he took an accounting and operational consulting job at the company’s Dallas office.

Changing Directions

Tara worked at Kraft for three years before shifting to selling advertising at KPLX Radio, one of the biggest Metroplex radio stations. “I worked at Kraft because I had an internship there and enjoyed the work and the people, but knew it wasn’t the best fit for me about a year in,” she said. “It was just time for my next step. My manager knew I was losing interest, so she encouraged me to interview elsewhere. She was so supportive and knew I was good with people and sales. She knew the sales manager at KPLX Radio, so she made an introduction. I really respected her for being actively involved with me moving on instead of trying to hold me there.”

Using her characteristic approach of making the most of her current situation, Tara committed to being the best sales representative possible while working for KPLX. However, she didn’t hesitate to step away from corporate life after giving birth to Taylor in 1996. “Being a stay-at-home mom was something Todd and I had desired from the moment we started a family,” she explained. “It was important to both of us. This was a no-brainer decision for me to leave corporate life to focus on being a full-time mom.”

As Tara stepped away from her corporate career, Todd’s career began to skyrocket. He remained at Arthur Andersen for another year before moving into radio sales and sales management for 11 years. He then transitioned to the Center for Sales Strategy (CSS), a privately-held consulting company that helps organizations develop sales management and salespeople to improve revenue and strategic outcomes. Todd’s timing in joining CSS proved to be auspicious as digital social media platforms were just emerging and were not yet viewed as game-changers in marketing. “I helped develop a digital plan for one of the largest sales organizations in the country, Katz Media,” Todd said. “We built out a digital plan back when Twitter and Facebook were seen as a joke.”

Outlive Yourself

Everything irrevocably changed in 2010 after Taylor’s death. The Storch family, which also includes Ryan ’21 and Peyton, a nursing student at Texas Tech Health Science Center, never had a conversation about organ donation before Taylor’s death. Yet when they were approached by a nurse about considering organ donation, Tara and Todd said yes without hesitation.

Even in their initial heartbreak, they realized that their decision honored Taylor’s legacy. “People flocked to Taylor, and she inspired people,” Todd said. “We’ve heard many beautiful stories about her over these last 11 years on how kind, caring, and respected she was. She was truly loved by others and had a true gift in lifting others up that was mature beyond her years.”

Seeing the impact of this decision on the rest of the family and close friends triggered their curiosity to learn more about organ donation. The couple was surprised to learn that only 2% of Texans were registered as organ donors in April 2010. That sparked a fire in Todd to do what he could to encourage organ donor registration in hopes of significantly raising that number.

As true leaders and entrepreneurs, the couple stepped into this societal gap to encourage organ donor registrations and spark others to share about the importance of organ donation. That decision also included Todd resigning from CSS to start a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Taylor’s Gift Foundation. It quickly became a national award-winning non-profit, winning “Best New Charity in the Nation” by the Classy Awards after only one year of being established.

The couple began to put themselves out there publicly, sharing their story to help other families in the same devastating situation. “The pain of losing Taylor was very difficult to talk about publicly when I first started doing speaking engagements, but I found that sharing our story was also helping others,” Tara said. “Sometimes hearing from someone who has walked a very difficult path, but still has joy in their life, can help others who are in a dark place find some hope. That was the spark that helped me continue.”

The family’s experience continues to grow Taylor’s Gift, which uses the marketing tagline “Outlive Yourself” to encourage individuals to consider the power of organ donation. “When people think of organ donation, they usually think of death. But organ donation is all about life,” Tara said. “Outlive Yourself is all about leaving a lasting difference in the life of others, and organ donation can be a beautiful way to outlive yourself.”

The couple wrote a book titled, “Taylor’s Gift: A Courageous Story of Giving Life and Renewing Hope” about their experience, which was a best-seller and won “The Most Inspirational Book” at the Books for a Better Life Awards in New York. Additionally, they began to increase organ donor registrations and helped others discuss organ donation more openly. This happened through national features on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and People Magazine. They were honored with being People Magazine’s “Heroes Among Us” for their efforts surrounding the importance of organ donation.

Todd and Tara also realized that they needed something creative to make Taylor’s Gift more tangible. The couple reached out to OPI, which agreed to create OPI “Taylor Blue,” a nail color that was inspired by Taylor’s beautiful blue eyes, and that helped share the Outlive Yourself message globally.

And, unsurprisingly, the Storches relied on the Aggie Network for assistance. Near the top of the list was Hans George ’91, another Business Fellow and Todd’s fraternity brother and first roommate after college. George, who was a vice president at Nike, helped champion the company’s creation of “Outlive Yourself Socks” that incorporated the “Taylor Blue” color of Taylor’s eyes and five stripes to symbolize the individuals who were saved by Taylor’s gifts of life through organ donation. The proceeds of the sales support Taylor’s Gift Foundation and Taylor’s Place at the new Southwest Transplant Alliance Organ Recovery Center.

The non-profit continues to evolve, as Todd stepped into the role of chairman emeritus and Tara took on the role as the volunteer President. Tara continues to speak regularly at different events around the nation, sharing the heartfelt story of her daughter’s legacy. The next chapter of Taylor’s Gift also is broadening to start providing emotional support to families who have donated their loved ones’ organs through their Kindred Hearts Program, which is a partnership with Heritage Health Solutions. Also, to expand the program, Johns Hopkins University and NYU have partnered with the foundation on a pilot program and research study about the Kindred Hearts Program.

Back to Business

After dedicating three years to Taylor’s Gift, Todd built and executed a transition plan for the foundation’s sustainability and continued growth. He then returned to the corporate world in 2013 where he continues today focusing on technology and leadership. He’s worked as a vice president and general manager for a technology company called FormStack, a software-as-a-service platform, as well as CEO of Kindrid, a high-tech payment platform delivering solutions to non-profit and church sectors. After working in strategic development with companies in technology, Todd was recruited to become CEO of a national media publishing company. He recently was named chief revenue officer for Futuri Media.

These companies value Todd’s deep experience, his vulnerability and how he has learned to strategically leverage his knowledge and skills to benefit the company as well as its customers. “A strategic entrepreneur is constantly looking to innovate and improve an existing organization or company where you work or belong,” he said, adding that this mindset requires, “the constant curiosity and ability to find, unlock and implement value with people, processes, new markets, new customers, and new products.”

Tara believes it’s this ability that sets Todd apart. “He has this innate skill to hone in on people’s talents to bring out the best in employees and teams,” she said. “He’s so good at developing teams, culture, and talent in people, all the while being very approachable.”

Always Ready to Return

Now married for 28 years, Tara and Todd remain firmly committed to both Texas A&M and Mays Business School. Both are regular speakers at various Texas A&M events, including Fish Aides, Musters in Texas and Arkansas, Mays Business School marketing and non-profit classes, Business Fellows, and fraternity and sorority meetings. Tara was on the board of the Aggie Women network while Todd serves as a member of Mays MS Marketing Advisory Board. “It’s been such a joy to give back,” said Tara, who received the Aggie Women Network’s Legacy Award for her work with Taylor’s Gift. “Whenever we’re asked to do anything to help at A&M, we do everything we can to be there.”

The Storches also have come full circle personally in relation to the class where they initially met. “In 2016, we were on a campus tour with our son, and we called Professor Darcey to let her know that because of her class, we met, got married and now have a son who was going to be an Aggie,” Tara said. “Then our son, Ryan ’21, who was in the Business Honors program in marketing and a Maroon Coat, had Ms. Darcey as a professor before she retired. It was just amazing to us that our son had the same teacher as we did at the business school!”

Focusing on the Good

Years ago, the Storches had to make the best out of the worst situation, so they decided to focus on the good, which is not easy to do. “The good was that Taylor saved lives and so we decided to create something to honor her legacy and keep her spirit alive, while helping others,” Tara said. “Our sweet girl is still impacting lives to this day.”

Despite enduring one of the most difficult crises—the death of a child—that a family can face, Tara and Todd have found ways to thrive professionally and personally. Both credit their faith for their strength and Texas A&M for creating a strong business foundation that has helped them succeed in a variety of professional roles where they were able to leverage change as entrepreneurs. They also are thankful for the power of the Aggie Network. “When you have an Aggie Ring, you immediately have a bond with Aggies everywhere,” Todd said. “So many of these Aggies came to our side to carry us during those dark days of grief and have celebrated with us in times of joy and success.”

Todd and Tara Storch truly exemplify the Aggie Core value of Selfless Service. What they have done nationally brings to light the importance of organ donation, which is a selfless gift in itself. By contributing their time and talents to Mays Business School and Aggieland, they are outliving themselves by making a lasting difference in the lives of Aggies across the globe.

Categories: Entrepreneurship

A $20 million gift from Adam C. Sinn ’00 will support students and programs in Mays Business School’s Department of Finance.

A $10 million gift—and a pledge for an additional $10 million—from Adam C. Sinn ’00, a commodities trader and owner of Aspire Commodities, will help Mays Business School’s Department of Finance enhance the quality of education it provides and offer financial support to undergraduate and graduate students.

“I applaud Mr. Sinn’s willingness to invest in our university,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, president of Texas A&M University. “Contributions such as these not only help elevate the department but provide a brighter future to our students for generations to come. We appreciate his support of our mission.”

In recognition of Sinn’s $10 million gift through the Texas A&M Foundation, the department has been renamed the Adam C. Sinn ’00 Department of Finance. This is the second named department at Mays, following the naming of the James Benjamin Department of Accounting in 2017.

“On behalf of Mays Business School, I want to extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Mr. Sinn for his extremely generous support,” said Dr. Duane Ireland, interim dean. “Through Mr. Sinn’s gift, we will have opportunities to continuously increase the value of our students’ educational experiences. The type of support we are receiving from Mr. Sinn reflects the unique relationship between Mays Business School and Texas A&M University with former students.”

Sinn’s gift includes $7.5 million for undergraduate and graduate scholarships to assist finance students whose financial challenges might prevent them from attending college. The gift will support students from Sinn’s hometown in Hoopeston, Illinois, and nearby Cissna Park, Illinois, as well as those from Dorado, Puerto Rico, where he maintains a residence today.

If there is an insufficient number of eligible finance students from those regions, a portion of Sinn’s gift will benefit Aggies enrolled in Mays’ Trading, Risk and Investments Program (TRIP), which prepares participants in the fields of energy trading, investments and risk management by combining exceptional class instruction with hands-on, internship-based experience. Sinn’s gift will cover part of participants’ graduate fees as well as a portion of their undergraduate tuition.

“Considering that the cost of education is increasing for most graduate programs, this gift will allow us to provide a significant level of financial support to TRIP students across the program annually,” said Mays Reliant Trading Center Director Detlef Hallermann ’89, who serves as the TRIP director. “This is a monumental achievement.”

In addition to the current gift, Sinn pledged an additional $10 million gift to be funded over the next five years in support of student and faculty success initiatives in the department.

Continuing Success

Sinn’s gift offers the department’s latest indicator of success. “In our world of higher education, philanthropy is more than a fundraising tool; it is actually a metric of performance,” said Mays Executive Associate Dean Sorin Sorescu. “Named departments can be seen as a seal of approval from influential, successful individuals like Mr. Sinn, who has had tremendous career success and is encouraged by what he sees in our programs at Mays. We are so honored to have his support.”

The department’s undergraduate program ranked 34th nationally in 2021 by U.S. News and World Report. In 2021, Eduniversal Best Masters rated the department’s Master’s in Real Estate Management 3rd globally and the graduate portion of TRIP 15th globally. Also in 2021, the department’s Master of Science in Finance Program was ranked 10th among U.S. public programs by TFE Times.

Prospective student interest in the department’s programs is also increasing. More than 1,000 Aggies are enrolled in finance programs for the 2021-22 academic year, a 30% increase over the past five years.

The department prides itself on cross-campus interdisciplinary partnerships and high-impact programs that provide students with cutting-edge academic knowledge and industry best practices. Additionally, innovative opportunities such as Aggies on Wall Street and the Reveille Fund, a student-run investment fund, require students to apply their learning.

The remaining portion of Sinn’s gift will support the department’s efforts to recruit top faculty and create and expand these types of innovative programs. Funds may also support the Master of Science in Finance, career development offerings, educational travel opportunities, etiquette dinners, and training in personal skills. These offerings are designed to create well-rounded graduates who can make an immediate impact when they start their careers.

“When we can do more as a finance department, it’s not only our department and the students in Mays who win. Texas A&M also wins,” said Interim Department Head Christa Bouwman. “These interdisciplinary programs and partnerships are very valuable.”

Luck and Hard Work

 

Sinn grew up in Hoopeston, Illinois, which like many Midwestern small towns, particularly those not proximate to an interstate, had its share of successes and struggles in the 1980s and 1990s. The area’s economy primarily revolved around agriculture and particularly growing and canning corn and other products; Hoopeston is the Sweetcorn Capital of the World.

Minimum-wage jobs like one Sinn held at a hog farm during high school and good-paying blue-collar jobs in the local industries remained to a degree but became less available over time. However, Hoopeston maintained a strong Midwestern work ethic that influenced Sinn. That work ethic was bolstered greatly by his parents and grandparents, who he described as being part of “hard-working Middle America,” and his role models for hard work. Sinn’s father started a small business as an electrician and his mother performed office functions for the business. His parents saved ardently so they could provide some assistance to their sons if they chose to pursue college degrees.

Sinn was also fortunate that his local Rotary Club was a strong supporter of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. He studied abroad in Japan for a year through that program, which was instrumental in him learning to be open to new experiences and places.

After consideration, Sinn set his sights on Southern Methodist University, which offered degrees in international business and Japanese, and qualified for numerous scholarships, which paid for his entire education there.

However, he soon realized that he didn’t feel at home at SMU. Several of his college friends transferred, including one who enrolled in Texas A&M—and Sinn quickly followed. “Texas A&M was exactly what I was looking for. I liked the culture and the camaraderie,” he said. “It was an easy place to flourish, and I liked the college town environment.”

But he also discovered Texas A&M was harder academically, and he found himself in the mid-tier of students scholastically. He said, “I decided that if I couldn’t get the grades, I would beef up my resume. I had three internships, was involved in several organizations, and held jobs while I was a student.”

His penchant for hard work paid off. After initially being declined for an internship with Dell, Sinn offered to work for free. Impressed, the company representative invited him to reapply. He did when another opportunity arose—and was quickly offered a job when the interviewers realized that the Aggie knew more about the company than they did.

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in finance in 2001, Sinn wanted to pursue a career in trading, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who bought and sold livestock in the small livestock business founded by his great-grandfather and sons. However, it took him a while to find his niche. He briefly worked in accounting and finance jobs before he was in the right place at the right time—without a job when Lehman Brothers folded—to step into energy trading. “People sometimes end up in a spot due to sudden life circumstances,” said Sinn, who now operates one of the largest speculative trading firms in the commodity market. “It’s what you do with that situation that can determine the course of your future and whether you reach the next level.”

Sinn has embraced Texas A&M’s core values during his career. Now, his selfless service through creating this endowment will help middle-tier students avoid taking on student loan debt. “I want others to not have a financial burden so they can attend the best university on the planet,” he said, adding that these scholarships will also help position finance students to be successful in their lives after college. “I hope to lay the foundation so that at some point in time, these students can bet on themselves like I was able to do when they need to. The person who is financially burdened by rising educational costs may be unable to take that shot.”

Mays faculty, staff and students appreciate Sinn’s commitment to selfless service as he opens doors for the next generation of Aggies. “He wants to give people an opportunity,” Hallermann said. “He’s got an unbelievable talent for trading power and electricity, but when he looks around, his focus is always, ‘How do I help people get to where they need to be?’”

About Mays Business School

At Mays Business School, our vision is to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing, and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools for its programs and faculty research.

About the Texas A&M Foundation

The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aspires to be among the most trusted philanthropies in higher education. It builds a brighter future for Texas A&M University, one relationship at a time. To learn more, visit txamfoundation.com.

Categories: Alumni, Departments, Donors Corner, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Finance, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Selfless service, Spotlights, Texas A&M

McFerrin Center has received the Nasdaq Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award celebrating the unique achievements and outstanding efforts of top entrepreneurship centers around the world.

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University is pleased to announce it is joining an elite group of academic entrepreneurship centers as the newest recipient of the Nasdaq Center of Entrepreneurial Excellence Award. Bestowed upon McFerrin Center leadership at the 2021 Global Consortium for Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC) annual conference in Baltimore, MD, this award recognizes the dedication and impact the McFerrin Center has made in serving the entrepreneurial community at Texas A&M, across the State of Texas, and beyond.

NASDAQ Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence - 2021 Award Winner

Founded in 1999 and housed in the Mays Business School, the McFerrin Center serves as the campus-wide hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M and is at the core of a flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Central to their mission is the belief that anyone can be an entrepreneur and that successful entrepreneurial skills are best developed through cross-disciplinary and experiential learning. Embodied in the variety of experiences and programs offered, the McFerrin Center has become established as a leader in co-curricular education, applied research, and community engagement in entrepreneurship. Specific accomplishments recognized by the Nasdaq award include:

  • McFerrin Center’s annual offering of 30 unique programs and engagement of 14,000+ students from across 13 different Texas A&M colleges and A&M System campuses, along with countless other Former Student, non-student, and veteran entrepreneurs.
  • Leading innovations in entrepreneurial curriculum through the launch of the Master of Science in Entrepreneurial Leadership (MS-ENLD), an online Graduate Entrepreneurship Certificate (pending approval), as well as many other individual courses and modules taught across campus by the McFerrin Center team.
  • Support of world-class research initiatives that have resulted in over 20 research publications and recognition of research faculty with multiple prestigious awards within the last 5 years.
  • Engagement of multiple corporate and community partners, such as the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation, along with a robust Mentor Network of over 220 individuals from a variety of fields and professional backgrounds.
  • Achieving long-term financial support, including a $10M naming gift from the McFerrin family, a $2M endowment by Reynolds & Reynolds Corporation for the Texas A&M Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans program, and numerous other grants, sponsorships, and charitable donations.

Created in 2000 by Nasdaq in association with GCEC, this Excellence Award honors select centers that have made and will continue to make enormous contributions in advancing entrepreneurship as the force in economic growth throughout the world. It also represents the highest honor that a university entrepreneurship center can receive.

Spencer, Petty, and Hughes accept the GCEC award for Texas A&M's McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

When asked what this award means to the Center, Executive Director Blake Petty responded, “No one performs great work simply for the recognition they may receive. However, there are certain honors reflecting such a high standard of excellence, that acknowledgment reinforces the value and importance of that work. The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship has a small but fierce team doing amazing and impactful things across the entire university, and beyond. We are both humbled and proud to receive this recognition of excellence in our efforts.”

The Nasdaq Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award adds to a number of other recognitions that the McFerrin Center has earned in recent years, including GCEC’s 2020 Award for Exceptional Contributions in Entrepreneurship Research, and consistent rankings in the top 30 institutions for both undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs by Princeton Review.

About the McFerrin Center

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s goal is to enhance entrepreneurial education by providing training, networking, and assistance to enterprising students, faculty, and Former Students. The McFerrin Center defines entrepreneurship as an attitude that acts upon opportunity. In this spirit, the McFerrin Center strives to deliver programs and events that are inspiring, engaging, motivating, and life-changing. This philosophy has resulted in the McFerrin Center offering over 30 unique programs each year that positively impact the lives of thousands of students, veterans, and other professionals seeking to blaze their own trail as an entrepreneur.

The McFerrin Center enables the startup and growth of countless businesses and provides competitive opportunities, professional development, and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the Aggie community through the support of a robust volunteer mentor network, corporate supporters, faculty, and staff.

For more information on the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, visit mcferrin.tamu.edu.

 

About the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers

The GCEC is the premier academic organization addressing the emerging topics of importance to the nation’s university-based entrepreneurship programs. It has become the vehicle by which the top, established entrepreneurship programs, as well as emerging programs, can work together to share best practices, develop programs and initiatives, and collaborate and assist each other in advancing, strengthening, and celebrating the role of universities in teaching the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The GCEC membership includes 250 of the top university-based entrepreneurship programs from across the globe, and each year their conference is held on the campus of a GCEC member school. For more information on the GCEC, including its awards, visit their website.

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

Mays Business School’s McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship is proud to publicly announce the companies that were honored at the 17th Annual Aggie 100®. The celebration, held on Friday, October 22, recognized the fastest-growing Aggie-owned or Aggie-led businesses from across Texas and around the world.

Companies earning their way into the Top 10 in 2021, with growth rate, are:

10. Coleman & Patterson of College Station, Texas – 85.332%

9. Trinity Hughes Construction of Wichita Falls, Texas – 95.496%

8. Selery Fulfillment of Carrollton, Texas – 100.591%

7. Bradley Construction Management of Dallas, Texas – 101.979%

6. WPForms of West Palm Beach, Florida – 107.037%

5. Farmer Law PC of Austin, Texas – 108.415%

4. Bowie Capital of Richardson, Texas – 132.767%

3. Clavis Capital Partners of Dallas, Texas – 142.241%

2. IDC Valores of Guatemala, Guatemala – 221.711%

1. The Albers Group LLC of McKinney, Texas – 321.829%

MB2 Dental, LLC of Carrollton, Texas was also recognized as the 2021 Summit Award Winner, having achieved an average revenue of $303,313,667. In addition, MB2 Dental ranked #24 in this year’s Aggie 100® and is joining a select number of companies to achieve both of these recognitions in the same year.

Launched in 2005, Aggie 100® has become one of the McFerrin Center’s most recognized programs and an aspirational goal for Aggie entrepreneurs around the world. To be considered for the Aggie 100®, companies (corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietorships) must operate in a manner consistent with the Aggie Code of Honor and in keeping with the values and image of Texas A&M University. They must also meet specific criteria, such as being in business for at least five years and having at least one Aggie as an owner and/or in a select leadership role.

“As we mark our 17th Annual Celebration of the Aggie 100® program, we applaud the ingenuity, determination, and success of Aggie Entrepreneurs across the globe by raising up our newest class of Aggie 100® honorees,” says Blake Petty ’98, Executive Director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. “Despite the tremendous challenges that all businesses have faced in the recent past (and present), the astounding levels of growth and prosperity exhibited by each member company in the Class of 2021 demands our respect, our recognition, and our privilege of welcoming them as the newest additions to our Aggie 100® family.”

A full listing of the 2021 Aggie 100® honorees with detailed ranking information was publicly released Friday evening and can be found at Aggie100.com.

About The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

Aggie 100® was created by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship which serves as the hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University. The Center’s goal is to enhance entrepreneurial education by providing training, networking, and assistance to enterprising students, faculty, and former students.

The McFerrin Center enables the startup and growth of countless businesses and provides competitive opportunities, professional development, and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the Aggie community through the support of a robust volunteer mentor network, corporate supporters, faculty, and staff.

The McFerrin Center defines entrepreneurship as an attitude that acts upon opportunity. In this spirit, the Center strives to deliver programs and events that are inspiring, engaging, motivating, and life changing. This philosophy has resulted in the McFerrin Center offering over 30 unique programs each year that positively impact the lives of thousands of students, veterans, and other professionals seeking to blaze their own trail as an entrepreneur.

 

###

Media contact: Shanna Spencer, Assistant Director, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, shannaspencer@tamu.edu

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Programs, Texas A&M

Mays MBA Student Leads Aggie Team That Earns 3rd Place in International Case Competition Focused on Addressing International Food Production Problems

Ryan StaplesA Texas A&M University interdisciplinary team led by Mays Business School Full-Time MBA student Ryan Staples ’22 earned third place in the 2021 Norwegian Business School Global Case Competition. The Aggie team–which included Danette Philpot, Garrett Brogan, and Meikah Dado, who are graduate students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Agriculture Leadership, Education and Communications—earned this international recognition by proposing an innovative use of technology to improve food production in Uganda by empowering women.

The Mays-sponsored group competed against 85 teams from 60 top-tier universities to generate game-changing solutions to food production issues involving obesity, malnutrition, and climate change. These topics will be discussed at the United Nations Food Systems Summit in Fall 2021.

Uganda

Once the case problem was released, Texas A&M’s team decided to focus on Uganda, which Brogan had visited through his studies. That focus was important because more than one of every three Ugandans suffer from chronic malnutrition.

This issue is compounded because the nation has a significant gender inequality issue in its food production system. Eighty percent of the food consumed by the nation’s residents is produced by women. However, for every one pound of food produced by a woman in Uganda, a man can produce three. “Our whole idea is how can we bridge this knowledge and gender gap between men and women so that the country of Uganda can produce more food,” Staples said. “With 80% of the food producers only one-third as productive as their counterparts, there is a huge area of opportunity. “

Tech Solution

The team proposed providing the women farmers with electronic tablets filled with agricultural knowledge so they can become empowered. Using technology allows the nation’s women farmers–who often do not attend extension programs because they are doing the farm work and caring for the children and elderly—to have ready access to extension resources, such as videos. “This is supplying them with knowledge so they can help themselves,” Dado said. “It is a bottom-up approach.”

The team projects that if this initiative is implemented over a 10-year period, 3 million women would be empowered. This would lead to a 30% increase in overall agriculture productivity and a $450 million boost to Uganda’s GDP.

Interdisciplinary Aggies

The Aggie team, which was the top-performing team among North American and South American colleges and universities, benefitted from the support by Mays Business School faculty members Dr. Daniel Usera and Dr. Mary Lea McAnally and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Dr. Jack Elliott, a professor and senior scientist at the university’s renowned Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. These faculty members were able to provide feedback before the team moved into the semifinal round of the case competition.

Staples believes that the team’s interdisciplinary representation was critical to the Aggies’ third place finish. “Our success was truly a testament to the power of synergistic team effort,” he said. “The true kudos go to my three new friends in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who shared this case competition journey with me.”

His counterparts agreed and appreciated Staples’ openness to learning about agriculture and his facilitation and leadership skills. “Ryan had knowledge in so many different ways that we didn’t have, but we had that knowledge of the agriculture aspect,” Dado said. “We were able to come together, and I do not think we would have been as successful if we hadn’t been interdisciplinary.”

Go to Market Plans

The Aggies are now seeking ways to bring their idea to the marketplace. They have presented to the Borlaug Institute’s director and senior faculty, who have offered positive feedback and are considering including the project in future grant proposals. In addition, Staples is using Mays’ contacts to pitch to Fortune 500 companies about corporate funding. The team also may receive an invitation to present at the United Nations Food Systems Summit.

These types of high-impact learning experiences that challenge Mays students to solve real-world problems are aligned with Mays’ vision to advance the world’s prosperity. “Case competitions offer students the opportunity to practice being transformational leaders through combining theory, research, and practical application while working in a team,” said Mays Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Arvind Mahajan. “We feel so strongly about the power of these learning experiences that Mays collaborates annually with Humana Inc. to host the Humana-Mays Healthcare Analytics Case Competition, which challenges 1,300 U.S. masters-level students to analyze the company’s data to identify innovative healthcare solutions.”

Ultimately, Staples credits Mays Full-Time MBA program for helping to polish his leadership skills to be able to successfully focus the team’s efforts. “The program helped me first to identify my leadership strengths, and then taught me how to leverage them. Apart from that, I have had the opportunity to lead team projects among my peers since last July,” Staples said. “The combination of understanding the unique skills I possess and the practical opportunity to practice those skills has been invaluable to my development as a leader.”

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Featured Stories, Health Care, Mays Business, MBA, News, Perspectives, Selfless service, Students, Texas A&M

Mays Business School’s master’s in management degree gives students in-classroom and high-impact experience

On December 2, students and faculty of the Master of Science in Business (MS-B) program gathered virtually to celebrate and share their semester-long projects from the Integrated Business Experience (IBE) class.

Young woman wearing mask around wrist, on face, and holding hair

Handy Mask, one business run by MS Business students

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Arvind Mahajan said, “It’s an important day for our students as well as for our program. MS Business admits diverse undergraduate majors and invests in many ways to develop them as transformational leaders with entrepreneurial mindsets. This course is a perfect example of that change.”

The MS-B program is a graduate degree designed for non-business majors who want to grow their business knowledge to supplement their bachelor’s degree.

Various soaps with framed picture of Aggie skyline

Century Tree Soap Company’s soaps

 

Student Rigor

MS Business Program Director, Richard Castleberry, said of the students, “Other than students with great academics and backgrounds, a primary component we look for is students who show the Aggie Core Values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service. We insist these traits display in our students, and I can say that the 62 students that are here today exhibit those Aggie core values.”

…Read more

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

#aMAYSing former student, Stephanie Murphy, Owner and Chairman at MEI Technologies, Inc. and Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, LLC, recently shared some news with the EMBA Class of 2020 during their celebration ceremony…

First, get to know her:

I received my undergrad in AgriBusiness from Texas A&M and then went on to work at MEI Technologies (then is was Muniz Engineering).  My father founded MEIT in 1992, I began working there in 2001.  Over the next ten years, I worked in various corporate departments and had taken on leadership roles within the company.  We began succession planning for MEIT and I was interested in additional formal education (MBA) to help prepare me for my next roles within the company as an executive and an owner.  I attended an Aggie 100 lunch with my father who was receiving an award, and Ricky Griffin happened to be a guest at our table.  He was talking about the Executive MBA (EMBA) program and the new location at City Centre.  I applied to the program and found it to be competitive with other programs and very convenient in terms of location and my work schedule.

After graduating in 2014, I had an opportunity to take an idea developed at MEIT and launch a new business providing testing in the harsh environment of space as a service.  In 2015 I founded Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, and in 2018 we launched a testing platform that is permanently attached to the International Space Station.  We privately own the facility, known as MISSE, and offer government agencies, academia, private companies, and now individuals access to the low earth orbit space environment.  We are part of a small group of companies offering commercial services in space and at the forefront of developing a new space economy.

My EMBA prepared me for the launch (literally) of this new company not only through the academics, but also set a cadence of hard work and efficiency for me.  I made great relationships and connections, and have gone on to participate and serve in other organizations as a direct result of the network I built during my time in the EMBA program.

 

Mays: How did the idea about sending the EMBA Class XX Coin come to gain traction?

Aggie Ring in front of a Space CertificateSM: I was meeting with Julie [Orzabal, Director, Texas A&M Executive MBA Program] and had expressed an interest in staying engaged with the EMBA program. We were chatting about the Class XX graduating and their program coming to an end. I shared with her that I sent my husband’s Aggie ring into space, and I commented to her how cool it would be to send their class coin, which typically travels around the world with students, on the ultimate trip into space.  I committed to sponsor that trip for the Class XX coin, and Julie let me announce it to the class via Zoom on their last program day.

 

Mays: Can you detail exactly what will happen, as planned, for the EMBA Class XX Coin?

SM: The EMBA Class XX coin was delivered to our headquarters in Houston.  It will be put into our vacuum chamber and the pressure will reduced to 10-6 torr (0.000000001 atmosphere) and the temperature will be raised to 60oC (140oF).  This removes contaminants and particulates from the coin and prepares it for space flight. It is then moved into our 10K clean room, where our engineers integrate the coin into a MISSE carrier along with other experiments bound for the space station.  Our carrier is packed and delivered to NASA Johnson Space Center, then shipped along with all the other cargo manifested on our flight to the International Space Station.  NASA will ship the cargo to the launch site, either Florida for a SpaceX launch, or Virginia for a Northrup Grumman launch, and it will be packed for launch.

It will launch in spring 2021, where the coin will experience acceleration forces of about 3X to 4X gravity.  Once docked to the ISS, the astronaut crew will unpack our carrier from the cargo.  An astronaut attaches our carrier, containing the Class XX coin, to the MISSE transfer tray and send them through the airlock into space attached to the ISS robotic arm.  The robotic arm and other robotic tools plug our carrier into the MISSE facility, which we will then control from our operations center here in Houston.  The Class XX coin will be exposed to the harsh environment of space, including extreme temperature changes that can range from -40oC to 60oC (-40oF to 140oF), while it orbits the Earth approximately 16 times per day.  At this point, the coin is traveling almost 5 miles per second and is about 240 miles above the Earth.  We expect it to stay for about 6 months totaling over 75,000,000 miles on its trip in space.

At the end of this mission, the carrier is returned into the habitable portion of the space station by the robotic arm and the transfer tray.  The astronauts load it, along with other cargo, for a ride back to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon capsule.  Once retrieved by NASA, the carrier is returned to our office in Houston, where our engineers de-integrate and unpack the carriers.  At that time, the coin will be returned to Class XX and happy hour to follow!

 

Mays: What’s next after the EMBA Class XX Coin?

SM: In 2019, we were the first company to sign a reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA to allow us to purchase resources from NASA (launch, astronaut time, etc) to send commercial items to the International Space Station.  This allows us to open space access to private individuals, not just researchers, for personal use.  In 2021, we will be selling space for Aggie Rings and other personal mementos to fly in one of our carriers just like the Class XX coin.  For about the price of an airline ticket for international travel, an Aggie ring can complete a mission to the space station and return to its owner.

 

Mays: Why is this special and important to you – and why you think it’ll be special for others?

SM: Sending an item into the space environment and having it returned is such a unique experience that has been limited to very select scientists.  We have the opportunity to enable that experience for private companies, organizations, and individuals on a limited basis for the first time in the history of space exploration.  I think it’s amazing that one could send their Aggie Ring, which connects Aggies instantly and represents Aggie values, on a unique mission into space.  The eagle on the ring symbolizes agility, power, and the ability to reach great heights, and what better way to celebrate that than by sending it beyond the sky?

Explore Stephanie Murphy and Texas A&M’s MBA Programs

Stephanie Murphy  TAMU EMBA

Categories: Alumni, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, MBA, News, Perspectives, Programs, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M