Meet Connor Pogue, Startup Aggieland’s newest entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR). Connor is the CEO and co-founder of Exosphere Fitness, a consumer fitness product that looks like a yoga mat, but functions as a full gym.

Ever since he was a little kid, Connor dreamed of being a doctor. “The plan was that I would be an orthopedic surgeon and my brother would be a physical therapist and eventually we would open a practice together,” he said. However, during an internship at a hospital, Connor quickly realized his dream had changed, “I was already getting frustrated with the paperwork and healthcare industry. I would look around and think about how I could make things better but wasn’t actually able to make a difference.” After graduating from Texas A&M in 2016 with a BS in Kinesiology, Connor made the difficult choice to turn down his acceptance into medical school. Instead, he enrolled as a graduate student in Mays Business School and eventually earned his MS in Business. “I enjoy what I do now,” he commented. Connor still achieved one of his childhood dreams though; his brother is the co-founder of Exosphere Fitness. “I’ll never forget the moment my mom saw our first prototype,” he recalled, “she looked at it and then just hugged me and said ‘I love you, but you’re crazy.’”

Now, Connor is working on his startup full-time, serving as Startup Aggieland’s newest EIR, and has several contracts as a business consultant. Connor is most excited about helping Texas A&M students achieve their goals as entrepreneurs. “I love working with students,” he said, “I love the passion of student entrepreneurs. I don’t care what their idea may be. I’m driven by their passion and the work they’re putting into their dreams.” As an EIR, Connor will help students engage with the Startup Aggieland community and provide guidance and support as they explore their ideas and launch their companies.

About Exosphere Fitness

The Exosphere Gym is deceptively powerful. The entire system weighs a little over 20lbs, but users can do over 100 exercises with 5-200lbs of resistance. “Our slogan is ‘this isn’t a gym you put in your home. It’s a gym made for your home,’” said Connor. The entire gym is designed with today’s modern lifestyle in mind, allowing for maximum benefit while taking up minimal space in your home. When your workout is complete, the gym folds in half with a single movement and can be stored under a bed, in a closet, or behind your sofa. The founders also developed the system to be safe for users and their families. Free weights and heavy, gear-laden machinery can injure or fall on children but not the Exosphere Gym. “The entire device is completely self-contained and incredibly safe.” Exosphere Fitness is a finalist for the 2019 Extrapreneur Award presented by Extraco Bank.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

Ahad Azimuddin ’20 is a born entrepreneur. He sees opportunity everywhere he goes and can’t help but want to solve every problem he encounters. He’s also whip-smart and on a personal mission to serve as a pioneer and champion for innovative medical devices. “I really think I can help bridge the gap between medicine and commercialization,” he stated. Azimuddin knew the next step in his career path was medical school but still wanted the ability to explore his interest in entrepreneurship. What do you do when you want to combine your passion for medicine and business? You enroll at Texas A&M University.

Azimuddin is a medical student in the MD Plus program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. The MD Plus coursework is incredibly rigorous, but when he graduates in 2023, Azimuddin will have obtained both an MBA and an MD. “The resources provided at A&M are just incredible. Other universities and medical schools simply don’t provide these opportunities,” he said.

Texas A&M University is home to the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, a nationally ranked entrepreneurship center that offers over 30 programs and events that develop and support Aggie entrepreneurs. The McFerrin Center also runs the on-campus student business incubator, Startup Aggieland. “So many other people around you are doing incredible things. Being able to connect with those people and learn from those people is huge, and the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship gives you that opportunity. I was always thinking, where are the startups at a university? Where on campus are they? I found Startup Aggieland and realized this is the environment and community where people are doing really cool stuff, and this is where you can learn from them.”

During his first year at Texas A&M, Azimuddin developed a medical device called LCLIP, a laryngoscope attachment that alerts a physician when they’re in danger of causing dental damage and injury to a patient. The inspiration behind LCLIP actually came from his co-founder, Kevin Kotamarti, who dislodged a patient’s tooth while using a laryngoscope as a resident. “We have a provisional patent that’s been converted to PCT and have a year to nationalize. We’re at the point where we’re looking to license our product to manufacturing companies. LCLIP is classified as a 510K addition to an already cleared device. FDA approval is relatively simple compared to a new medication or a completely new device. It’s the path of least resistance which is actually a big value proposition to the manufacturers.”

When asked why he chose to solve this particular problem, Azimuddin said it was because he wanted to serve patients. “People look at a consent form, and no one cares that they saw vocal and dental damage. The patient is focused on brain damage or death. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there and it’s not costing the healthcare industry. 90% of anonymous survey takers said they caused some kind of dental damage in their career. That’s the opportunity that LCLIP has. We’re solving a problem that exists, but no one has given attention because it’s not a big flashy problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.” Azimuddin doesn’t say “if LCLIP succeeds” instead he says, “when LCLIP succeeds.” It’s not that he believes failure isn’t an option; it’s simply that he already sees his first foray into entrepreneurship as a success. “So far, our first try is going really well. But if something doesn’t work out, if something doesn’t happen, we’ve gained so much knowledge for the next time we’re trying to get a device off the ground. We’re not treating LCLIP as if it’s our last idea. It’s our first idea of many, and it’s been an amazing learning experience. Hopefully whatever we gain from LCLIP, whether it’s knowledge or capital, will be immediately invested into the next project.”

In addition to launching a startup, in 2019 Azimuddin took home 1st place at Aggie PITCH and Raymond Ideas Challenge. The cash prizes from these competitions have helped offset the cost of LCLIP. Azimuddin was also recently hired by a local medical device startup, Saber Corporation after he met the founder through the McFerrin Center’s Mentor Network. “Through Startup Aggieland, I actually got a job, and I’m now employed by Dr. Alan Glowczwski. He’s been the best mentor for LCLIP and also for medical school in general. He’s someone I’ll probably be 20 years from now.” Azimuddin pointed out that this support system has been invaluable to LCLIP and that it’s important for entrepreneurs to remember that you can’t do everything alone. “At Startup Aggieland, you meet a bunch of mentors, and I’m really glad I found a mentor who has gone through medical school and who I have so many similarities with. This is an opportunity that I get because I’m here at Texas A&M. I don’t think I’d have these same opportunities in many other places.”

Earning your MD is difficult enough but combining it with the rigor of an MBA program seems like a recipe for exhaustion. However, Azimuddin says that pursuing his passion for entrepreneurship will make him a better doctor in the long run. “Yes I can be a doctor, but there’s so much more to being a doctor. This initial year has attuned my brain. Going through medical school with this mindset I’ve developed, I’m going to be spotting things left and right. I’m kind of worried that I’ll lose track of everything because there are so many things I want to fix.”

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

As the fashion world converged in New York for the Fall 2019 Fashion Week, marketing majors Addison Holcomb ’20 and Shannon Perkins ’20 from Mays Business School were treated to a one-of-a-kind educational experience thanks to a collaboration between Texas A&M University, Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), the university’s exclusive trademark licensing agency, and IMG’s fashion events division. Holcomb and Perkins were two of 21 students from 12 universities that participated in the program designed to support innovation and the development of future leaders in the fashion industry.

Marketing students at New York Fashion Week

This program provided a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry, including entry into select runway shows, panel discussions and networking opportunities with industry leaders, as well as on-the-job shadowing with collegiate licensees.

The students experienced two New York Fashion Week (NYFW) runway shows, as well as backstage tours to observe the production and execution of a fashion show. The group also participated in the screening of the film “THE REMIX: Hip Hop x Fashion” and participated in a panel discussion with director/producer Lisa Cortés and director Farah X.

“This unique collaboration with IMG’s fashion division allows us to offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience and insight into the fashion industry to some of the best and brightest students from our partner institutions,” said Cory Moss, SVP and Managing Director of IMG College Licensing. “In providing resources and opportunities beyond what a traditional licensing partner can provide, we deliver greater value to their campuses and communities while promoting innovation and learning.”

In addition to the experiences at New York Fashion Week: The Shows, the students also spent time with key staff at sports fashion brand Champion and College Vault licensee Original Retro Brand. The students also had an opportunity to visit collegiate jewelry licensee KYLE CAVAN where they interacted with designers and marketers from the company, as well as online fashion outlet Storr and licensee Hillflint.

The program delivered unique academic enrichment opportunities for the students with costs covered by the universities. Institutions that participated in this collegiate enrichment program at NYFW: The Shows included University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of Arkansas, University of Delaware, Northern Arizona University, University of Pittsburgh, University of South Carolina, Syracuse University, TCU, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and West Virginia University.

“We are committed to delivering opportunities for future leaders in the industry to engage and learn from others that know what it takes to be successful,” said Leslie Russo, Executive Vice President, IMG Fashion Events. “This unique experience aligns perfectly with our mission, and we are happy to partner with our colleagues at CLC to welcome these great students to NYFW: The Shows.”

Participating students were asked to chronicle their experiences through social media using #UofNYFW and share their learnings with other students upon their return to campus.

“It was so fun interacting with other aspiring professionals who value similar things and are pursuing a career in the same industry,” Holcomb explained. “Their stories and backgrounds were inspiring, and I cannot wait to witness the amazing things they accomplish. Who knows, their designs may be featured on a NYFW runway someday!”

“To say this was the experience of a lifetime is an understatement,” said Perkins. “I have never felt more affirmed in my passion for retail and fashion, and I left this weekend motivated to go after my dreams.”

“At Texas A&M, we are committed to providing our students with transformational learning experiences that prepare them for successful careers in a number of areas within retailing,” added Scott Benedict, Director of the Center for Retailing Studies. “We’re so excited that Addison and Shannon had the opportunity to participate in this event, and gain an understanding of the fashion world first hand.”


About the Center for Retailing Studies
Since opening in 1983, the Center for Retailing Studies has been respected throughout the world as a leading source of industry knowledge and a pipeline for developing future retail leaders. In collaboration with the outstanding performance of the faculty at Mays Business School and excellence in student education programs, each year, more than 150 students complete coursework, internships, and leadership programs that prepare them for a professional career within the industry in store management, buying, merchandising, planning, business analytics, and supply chain.

About CLC
CLC is part of Learfield IMG College, which unlocks the value of college sports for brands and fans through an omnichannel platform. The company’s extensive commerce, experiential and media solutions create ultimate opportunities for fan engagement. The Learfield IMG College suite of services includes licensing and multimedia sponsorship management; publishing, broadcasting, digital and social media; ticket sales and professional concessions expertise; branding; campus-wide business and sponsorship development; and venue technology systems. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, the company has long had the privilege of being an advocate for intercollegiate athletics and the student-athlete experience. Since 2008, it has served as title sponsor for the acclaimed Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup, supporting athletic departments across all divisions.

About IMG
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events, and media. The company manages some of the world’s greatest athletes and fashion icons; owns and operates hundreds of live events annually, and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in licensing, sports training and league development. IMG is a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global entertainment, sports, and content company.


For more information, please contact:
Andrew Vernon, Center for Retailing Studies
avernon@mays.tamu.edu

Tammy Purves, CLC
(404) 932-3266 or tammy.purves@clc.com

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

First Generation Mays Leaders

As the state’s first public institution of higher education—and today, by far the largest—Texas A&M has always had the land-grant mission (and now, sea-grant and space-grant mission) of educating a broad cross-section of the population.

This means providing a world-class education that prepares graduates for leadership roles from the very start. Former students not only have less college-related debt than their counterparts elsewhere, but they are much more satisfied with the education they received at Texas A&M.

About one-quarter of the 10,757 members of the Texas A&M freshman class of 2018-19 are the first in their families to go to college.

These first-generation students come from low-income families or families that do not have a tradition of attending college. Some were encouraged from the start to get a college degree and others were pressured to skip college and enter the workforce.

Nearly all students find it difficult to navigate the challenges of financial aid, academic advising, and career mentoring without help. With no one in their families to turn to, first-generation students often don’t know what questions to ask or where to go for answers.

But Mays Business School has changed all that.

Mays leaders understand the value these students bring today and their great promise for Texas and the world tomorrow.

In 2013, lecturer Henry Musoma ’00 and then-student Marlen Cornejo ’15 founded the Regents’ Ambassador Program, the Mays learning community for first-generation students.

Mays leaders help first-generation students, like all Mays students, become transformational leaders equipped for today’s global business context. Mays does this by ensuring a welcoming and inclusive community, by providing academic support and professional development, and by encouraging global learning and awareness.

First-generation students are a high priority for Dean Eli Jones ’82.

After all, Jones knows what it’s like to be a first-generation student at Texas A&M.

“I clearly remember sitting in a calculus class, struggling with understanding what the professor was saying and thinking, ’Now where do I go for help?’” he says.

“It was a wake-up call for me since I had no one in my immediate nor extended family to talk to for help.”

“I am very thankful for fourth- and fifth-generation Aggie families—and those who have even deeper roots here at Texas A&M. But I also have a heart for first-generation students who don’t have that kind of support.”

Jones then describes what happened just a few weeks ago, at a meeting with his executive team.

Looking around the conference table, all of a sudden, it hit him… Jones’ eyes light up at the memory.

“We talk about transformational leadership. We talk about being one of the nation’s top business schools and what we can do to climb even higher.”

“Looking around the table at my team, I realized that seven of us are first-generation college graduates ourselves. Talk about transformative!”

James Benjamin (pictured on the cover) says, “I had a good experience during my undergraduate program at the University of Maryland, but I wish that I would have been at a school like Texas A&M. The culture at A&M is unique and helps students develop lifelong skills.”

David Griffith says, “My mom talked a lot about the importance of college and saving for college. She did her best to squirrel away what she could in the hopes of helping pay for college. I started saving from my paper route money when I was nine.”

Duane Ireland says, “During my Ph.D. program, my grandmother asked me if I ever intended to do something other than be a student. First-generation students may feel a bit alone in their family because others have not had a university-level experience.”

Greg Marchi says, “My parents didn’t know about the different colleges and universities, or about the application process or choosing a major. The focus was simply on attending and graduating. If I had known more, my undergraduate decisions would likely have been different.”

Annie McGowan says, “I grew up working in my dad’s store, and I hated it. I felt like I didn’t have a childhood. But I learned how to keep track of inventory and keep a ledger, and by the time I was 12, I went over our financial reports with our CPA every month. That led me to become an accountant and an accounting professor.”

Richard Metters says, “I grew up in a lower-middle-class environment in the Philadelphia area where physicality and macho masculinity ruled. You had to fight to be socially accepted. I didn’t want to fight, so I was the oddball. It took me a year at Stanford before I realized that no one was going to beat me up.”

These stories are powerful reminders of the transformational impact that a college education can have, especially for first-generation students. Texas A&M and Mays hold a heightened focus on first-generation students to enable bright, young people to earn a college education through scholarship funding and student success programs. First-generation college graduation is a Texas A&M tradition worthy to be pursued.

Life is full of firsts – first steps, first loves, first jobs. With every “first” comes a change of your future. For first-generation college students, being the first person to attend an institution of higher education redefines not only their future, but their community’s future, too.

First Gen mark

Categories: Uncategorized

After a decade of shaping the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Dr. Richard Lester has decided to step down as Executive Director and return to teaching full-time as a clinical professor at Mays Business School.

Before he was ever formally employed, Dr. Lester was already dedicated to the growth and success of the McFerrin Center. During his time as a Ph.D. student at Mays Business School, he established Texas A&M as a founding member of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) Consortium. “They wanted a guarantee of $150,000, and I told them it was not a problem. I had no idea what I was doing.” This dilemma was a perfect example of Dr. Lester’s entrepreneurial grit. He simply got things done. He raised the $150,000 necessary and EBV has been a signature program of the McFerrin Center since, recently celebrating its 12th anniversary.

In 2008 Dr. Lester accepted the role of Executive Director. He quickly became aware that the Center, then known at the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, was in trouble. “We had two months of salary for our Assistant Director in the bank, and that was it.” The Center had found itself in a position that many startups are familiar with. However, Dr. Lester put his feet to the pavement, quite literally, so he could guarantee the survival of the Center. “I would get out of class at 6 pm on Wednesday and would drive around Texas for the next three days meeting with people to ask if they’d be willing to sponsor an EBV veteran or fund a program.”

Startup Aggieland was the next major milestone in the growth of the Center. “We received a TOP grant out of the University that helped to support us and establish Startup Aggieland.” The five-year grant provided funding for staff, programs, and students involved with the Center through Startup Aggieland. “After that, Startup Aggieland really began to grow organically. The students were all over it.”

In 2017 the McFerrin Family Foundation provided a generous $10 million endowment and renamed the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship to the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. When he received formal confirmation of the endowment, Dr. Lester described it as a truly a heartfelt moment. “Artie was such an accomplished man with an unbelievable work ethic and love for Texas A&M. He was so bright and articulate, but at the same time, he was just a regular guy. We were all in agreement that we wanted the Center to help develop entrepreneurs like him.”

The Center has grown tremendously under Dr. Lester’s guidance and now boasts over 30 programs including EBV, Raymond Ideas Challenge, Aggie 100®, and 3 Day Startup. It was hard for Dr. Lester to pin-point a favorite program. “I’ve always thought that was the beauty of the Center. There are all of the opportunities that you can get involved with, all of these “on-ramps” for students to discover if entrepreneurship is really for them. Entrepreneurship is a very practical skill, and we teach it to students in experiential ways. It’s common at a University for us to focus too much on the theoretical or research aspect of academia. I see the McFerrin Center as a link between the theoretical side of Texas A&M and the practical skills needed for students to succeed in their careers.”

The McFerrin Center would not be the entity it is today without Dr. Lester’s efforts and guidance. He spearheaded the efforts that have enabled the Center to grow from a struggling two-person team to an endowed center that serves as the hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University. Please join us in offering our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Lester for all he has done to secure the presence of the McFerrin Center for all Aggie entrepreneurs.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

  On the evening of Saturday, July 27, 2019, a group of 24 veteran business owners graduated from the Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV). The program, which just celebrated its 12-year “Maroon Anniversary,” is hosted by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and serves as an intensive, experiential training program for post 9/11 veterans with a desire to launch and maintain a successful business.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect after completing phase I and arriving at Texas A&M for phase II,” said Calvin Allen, retired Army. “After completing Phase 1, my vision for a business was still not clear. After the fourth day of Phase 2, I had a clear direction in mind as to how I should go about my business goals.” Allen plans on opening a start-up classic auto shop focused on the continued evolution of Jaguar’s XJS and classic Porsches. “Attending the EBV program at Texas A&M is a must and a huge step in the right direction towards becoming a Veteran business owner! I feel ready and better prepared to aggressively pursue my business goals,” noted Allen.

EBV is a 12-month long program divided into three phases. Phase 1 is a three-week online, instructor-led course where participants build their business acumen and knowledge. Phase 2 consists of an intensive eight-day residency at a university where participants learn the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership from established entrepreneurs and educators. Phase 3 provides post-graduation support and mentorship through EBV Technical Assistance — managed by the IVMF.

This year’s Texas A&M EBV boasted a record number of mentors. Seventy-five men and women from across Texas volunteered their time, wisdom, and personal networks to help support the EBV Class of 2019. One of the most beneficial resources to EBV participants is the networking opportunities they receive throughout the week. “The mentor sessions are invaluable,” said Gilda Mitat-Del Valle founder of CBD Relief in San Antonio, “and were my favorite part of the program. You receive advice from successful entrepreneurs who really care about helping you.”

An instant camaraderie emerged between this year’s group as if they weren’t 24 strangers who had met only eight days ago. They became one another’s advisors, cheerleaders, and troubleshooters. The Texas A&M EBV Class of 2019 included a record number of participants whose businesses were already generating revenue. “The EBV program has something for everyone. Whether you have an existing business or thinking about starting one, you will benefit from this amazing program. I grew as an entrepreneur and as a person.” commented Mitat-Del Valle.

When asked what advice she would give to future EBV participants, Mitat-Del Valle stated “the best advice I can give a future EBV attendee is try as much as possible to make the most of this amazing opportunity. Try to get your home support system to take care of everything back home and try as much as possible to disconnect and focus 100% on the program for the full eight days. This program is life-changing, so be ready!”

To learn more about the Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, visit ebv.tamu.edu.

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

Next week, a class of 25 veteran entrepreneurs will be traveling to Aggieland to participate in Texas A&M’s annual Reynolds & Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV). EBV is hosted by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, a member of the Mays Business School. From July 20-27 participants will engage in an intensive, experiential training program where they will learn and practice the skills needed to succeed as small business owners. They’ll be taught by Texas A&M faculty and staff, network with local entrepreneurs, and will depart as honorary members of the Aggie family. This year’s program marks the 12th anniversary of EBV at Texas A&M.

When asked why the McFerrin Center views EBV as an invaluable program, Director Blake Petty responded, “We take pride in the quality and impact of each of our Center’s 30 annual programs, but EBV holds a truly special place in our hearts. For these military veterans – many of whom deal with service-related disabilities – we recognize that transition back into civilian life can be daunting. Accepting additional risks by deciding to launch their own business only compounds these challenges. We aim to provide a comprehensive educational experience and support network to help ensure the success of our EBV participants. We’ve seen this one-week intensive experience save careers, change lives, and build lasting relationships between Texas A&M and these military heroes. As we prepare to launch our 12th annual EBV program – our ‘Maroon Anniversary’ requires that we once again raise the bar on our commitment to serve those who have served our country, and help them successfully launch and grow their entrepreneurial dreams.”

EBV is a 12-month-long program divided into three phases. Phase 1 is a three-week online, instructor-led course where participants shape their business plans. Phase 2 consists of an intensive eight-day residency at a university where participants learn the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership from established entrepreneurs and educators. Phase 3 provides post-graduation support and mentorship through EBV Technical Assistance — managed by the IVMF.

Founded in 2007 at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, EBV has expanded to include ten world-class universities. These institutions deliver EBV to post-9/11 veterans who desire to develop the skills and tools needed to launch and maintain successful businesses. Assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), corporate partners, foundations, and private donors allow participants to attend the program cost-free.

Visit ebv.vets.syr.edu for more information.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

The Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) at Mays Business School is pleased to welcome Scott Benedict as its new director. An accomplished retail executive, he comes to Texas A&M University with more than 35 years of experience spanning traditional brick-and-mortar, eCommerce and international retailing.

Scott Benedict

Benedict most recently served as the Divisional Merchandise Manager for Health, Beauty & Grocery at eCommerce leader Groupon in Chicago. He has also held positions at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Best Buy, Service Merchandise and Montgomery Ward.

Leveraging extensive experience in retail business strategy, process refinement, and multichannel eCommerce, Benedict brings a track record of helping companies seize opportunities to increase operational efficiencies, control operating costs, and optimize profits while serving customers across multiple business channels.

“We are pleased to have Scott joining us as the Director of the Center for Retailing Studies, and he comes to us with significant executive experience and an impressive record of accomplishment across retail formats,” said David Griffith, Marketing Department Head. “We are happy to welcome Scott into the Mays Business School family and look forward to his leadership of the Center for Retailing Studies.”

With a desire to help influence the next generation of retail leaders, Benedict spent time keeping an eye on various retailing programs across the country on social media, including CRS. When the opportunity came along to join one of the top retailing programs in the nation at a Tier 1 institution, he didn’t hesitate.

“I have a strong passion for retailing, developing future leaders, and working with retailing professionals to share challenges and best practices,” Benedict explained. “CRS gives me the opportunity to do all of those things. We have a wonderful foundation in place.”

At Walmart, Benedict particularly appreciated the company’s core basic beliefs of respect for the individual, service to the customer, striving for excellence, and operating with integrity. His affinity for organizations with strong cultural beliefs is something that makes the transition from the corporate world to the academic world in Aggieland a seamless one.

“I have really enjoyed being a part of organizations with strong values and cultural beliefs,” said Benedict. “Texas A&M’s Aggie Core Values align strongly with what I feel strongly about, and have been taught to believe in my entire professional career.”

Some of Benedict’s areas of expertise include the development of category strategies, supplier performance management, retail merchandising, product marketing, inventory management, omnichannel strategy, and competitive price strategy. In an ever-changing era of retail, he seeks to bring that industry experience and perspective to Mays, and to the Center for Retailing Studies.

“I was taught as a buyer the concept of ‘divine discontent’,” he explained. “In other words, never be satisfied with the status quo and always seek to improve the business and your people.”

Benedict sees the opportunity to deepen the relationships already formed between CRS and its industry partners while examining how the program can grow and change to better equip the retail leaders of the future. “We need to continuously evolve and change in order to serve the dynamic needs of the retailing community now, and in the future” he added.

For more information, please visit crs.mays.tamu.edu

Follow us on social media: @crstamu

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Staff, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The first step is the hardest

If you have ever asked a 6-year-old what they want to be when they grow up, you know that there are few things that dissuade them from their dreams. In their mind, the possibilities are endless. However, at some point in their journey of becoming, they’re told there’s a step that has to be made, a benchmark to be accomplished, a kink in the plan. Often, higher education can feel like that. When I finish all my research, then I can genuinely make a difference… If I could get one more certification, then I can prove I’m a world-changer… Once I have my degree, I can really do something… Jim Kolari’s Finance 462 “Live Bank Case” students are already changing the world for a bank in Hondo, Texas.

Humble beginnings

Community National Bank (CNB) has found itself between a rock and a hard place. A mostly rural town, Hondo has been watching the Texas giant, San Antonio, slowly encroach on their city limits. CNB board member, Bill Freed said, “Our community is changing, and if there is anything I’m interested in seeing in the overall growth product, it’s what can help us define our community and what happens when a community changes so rapidly.” Freed likened the Hondo/San Antonio growth to that of Sugarland to Houston and McKinney to Dallas. “They were their own well-defined communities for years, then the sprawl of the metropolis comes in and not only encroaches but actually acts like a tsunami and washes over the area,” Freed explained.

For a once small-town bank like CNB, the imminent danger of large-city encroachment with big bank players like Frost and Wells Fargo could be detrimental to the local bank. CNB was started with a group of businessmen who formed a small-town community financial institution and obtained their charter in 1980. CNB Chairman of the Board, Tom Rothe, said, “The bank opened in 1981 with $1.6 million. That sounds like nothing now: you can’t get a bank off the ground without $10 or $15 million capitalization, but then that was a lot of money.”

Banking in the real world

And Kolari’s students know that. The 41 commercial banking students who took the field trip to the bank are either graduating seniors or graduate students and have taken multiple banking classes, completed internships, and are all about to enter into the real world of banking. Kolari said, “This (live bank case) is ideal for us. This portion of the program is focused on community banking. They get to get in here and find out real problems that community banks are having in the U.S. and Texas, and they’re happening all over, with small, community banks being challenged by the growth that they have in their communities, and also the survival, against bigger banks.”

This Live Bank Case is the first that Kolari has executed in his 40 years at Texas A&M, and Kolari could not have predicted the outcome. For the study, the students were broken into small groups to come up with solutions to maintaining business, while creating new customers and establishing a sustainable strategy. “I was flabbergasted,” Kolari said. “I had a front-row seat to the Aggie Spirit at work. [The students] took this project to heart – it wasn’t just a grade to them. They sought counsel from industry professionals, drew on experience from past internships and jobs, and even looked into the fine details (like finding the coordinates of the busiest intersection and calculating the cost of a billboard installation) to create actionable plans.”

Kolari mentioned, “I can tell you that 99% of schools don’t have a banking class in their college of business. We’re a very rare program; we have a little over 100 students, graduate and undergraduate.”

CNB executives saw the effort and knew that the Commercial Banking Program students would deliver, so they traveled from Hondo to College Station to hear the students’ presentations.

“We had not been able to share the presentations with all of our board members before the May board meeting, but now we have all seen the presentations and it is on our agenda to discuss at the June meeting,” Rothe explained when talking about the solutions they were presented. “[Other board members] and I have been discussing many of the ideas presented and have been scouting locations and opportunities for growing our brand using the input received.”

High impact learning yields high impact results

At Mays, it is common to hear that we are committed to providing high-impact learning experiences. That means we commit to educational experiences that deepen learning and foster student engagement. Rather than simply listening to a lecture, learning by rote, and taking an exam, Mays students are given the opportunity to actively pose and solve problems, work collaboratively in a community of peers, experience real-world applications of knowledge, and reflect on their learning processes. Through these high-impact learning experiences, Mays students change the world, a degree in hand or not.

Categories: Finance, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Mays Business School hosted the 2nd annual Interactive Marketing Research Conference (IMRC) during March 27-29 at the CityCentre campus in Houston. Dr. Venky Shankar, Coleman Chair Professor of Marketing at Mays, chaired the event. Approximately fifty researchers from all over the world attended to showcase their research on data and market trends, featuring over twenty topics.

Keynote Presentations

The event kicked off on Wednesday, March 27, with a research poster session, followed by a reception at the nearby Hotel Sorrells with an address from Mays Business School Dean Eli Jones.

Thursday morning began with an industry keynote address from Damian Fernandez-Lamela, VP Analytics at Fossil. Fernandez-Lamela spoke on the watch market experiencing continuous negative growth from since 2015, with major disruptions in two areas, product technology and distribution/supply chain. The goal of the Fossil marketing department now is to improve the ROI and make smarter decisions using analytics. The company is also working on expanding its focus from just the U.S. to the global market. He also highlighted two marketing challenges: analyzing every touch point along the purchase journey, and determining consumer willingness to pay using surveys.

The academic keynote address came from K. Sudhir, James L. Frank Professor of Marketing at Yale University. Sudhir discussed changes associated with the big data revolution in the customer journey (marketing, engineering/CS, social science) and transparency across firm silos (cross-functional coordination). Sudhir is director of the Yale China India Insights (CIIP) Program. He leads the data-driven consulting and research collaborations with a range of Fortune 500 companies at the Yale Center for Customer Insights.

Thursday concluded with a dinner and a keynote address from Puneet Manchanda, Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Manchanda focused on the topic of how society achieves content creation and consumption through a historic analysis of online behavior with the news publishing industry as the focus. Going forward, “if you’re not willing to reward people for creating content, you won’t have it,” he explained.

Award Winner

Mays Marketing Ph.D. student Unnati Narang was presented with the 2018 Shankar-Spiegel Award for the best dissertation research in interactive marketing. Her proposal was chosen from a large competitive pool of research proposals. Her research is on mobile marketing, in particular, retailer mobile apps

Research Presentations

The research presentations by academics covered a gamut of topics, including social media, mobile marketing, robots, digital consumer behavior, and artificial intelligence. A wide array of methodologies were on display, ranging from econometrics to field experiments to machine learning.

Panel Discussion

Friday’s events included a panel discussion on interactive marketing with Pat Coyle, Chief Revenue Office for Texas A&M Athletics, Sarah Darilmaz, Head of Audience Excellence for Annalect , and Vineeth Ram, Chief Revenue Officer for OLI Systems.

Coyle focused on identifying the anonymous customer/fan and using data to track their behavior. He explained how fans wants camaraderie, consistency, recognition, and access to sports and their team. He talked about how to engage fans who approach athletics with a lot of passion through digital marketing.

Darilmaz spoke about digital billboard marketing and using geolocation data to support marketing content for the audience. She also discussed the difficulties with digital advertising against the privacy vs. personalization trade-off.

Ram discussed his experience in Business-to-Business (B2B) eCommerce, working with artificial intelligence technologies, and collaborating with digital publication companies, to grow OLI’s social media presence. He added that comparative metrics on digital media is what governs strategy.

 

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

At Mays Business School, we step up 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, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Categories: Faculty, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M, Uncategorized