Courtesy: Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner. So, what should we expect from this year’s holiday retail shopping season and the Thanksgiving period? Similar to the past few years, this year will also be a blockbuster holiday season. Retail holiday sales will be a substantial chunk of the expected 2019 retail sales of $5.5 trillion. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts retail holiday sales to grow by about (3.8-4.2)% to $730 billion. e-Marketer and Deloitte Consulting are even more optimistic, pegging expected holiday sales at $1.0 and $1.1 trillion, respectively, growing by (3.8-5.0)%. Holiday e-commerce sales are anticipated to range from $144 to $149 billion (Deloitte Consulting). But returns will also likely be higher this year at almost 39% (Tinuiti).

The expected higher holiday sales this year is remarkable given that the holiday season is shorter than the past few years because of the late occurrence of Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, a record number of about 165 million people are expected to shop during the Thanksgiving period. 114.6 million shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday, while 68.7 million intend to shop on Cyber Monday (NRF). However, the average spending per shopper will likely be $313, down from $335 last year (NRF). But more than a quarter of the shoppers are likely to spend over $500 (Tinuiti). Cyber Monday sales will continue to outstrip Black Friday sales this year and may touch a record $9.5 billion.

Amid the expectation of this upbeat sale, the most interesting trend is how shopper habits are changing. The number of shoppers likely to start shopping in stores (47%) and online (41%) are comparable (NRF). Surprisingly, brick-and-mortar stores are popular across age cohorts, including Gen Z. Shoppers expect retailers to be omnichannel, with more than two-fifths of them planning to buy online and pick up in-stores (Tinuiti).

Academy, Costco, Ikea, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, and Sam’s Club remain closed on Thanksgiving day. But two major retailers, Bed Bath & Beyond and GameStop, have reversed their course from past years and will open on Thanksgiving day. These retailers may want to cash in on more people wanting to shop on Thanksgiving day this year (58%) than the previous year (45%) (MiQ).

What items are likely to be hot during the Thanksgiving weekend and how are shoppers going to get their holiday gift ideas and deals? As always, the iPhone is a coveted item. Nintendo Switch Lite, Sony PlayStation PS4, Amazon Echo Buds, and Apple’s Airpods Pro and Airpods will be popular. All shoppers will be on the lookout for the best gifts to buy for their loved ones. Millennials are twice as likely to learn about holiday gifts from social media than baby boomers and Gen X’ers (Qualtrics).

What are the best days for getting the best deals and on which items? The hot deals will be on the day before Thanksgiving for apparel, Thanksgiving day for jewelry, appliances, computers, tablets, TVs, and sporting goods, Black Friday for X-mas décor, devices, kitchen items, and other expensive items, Cyber Monday for gadgets and toys, and Giving Tuesday for furniture and bedding.

The Thanksgiving shopping experience is becoming almost a weeklong affair. There is something exciting for everyone every day. Whether you are a touch-and-feel consumer at a physical store, a desktop clicker, a mobile shopper, or an omnichannel buyer, you have plenty of choices. If you are a retailer, there are ample opportunities to gain through omnichannel retailing. If you are an analyst and researcher like me, it is fun monitoring, analyzing and predicting shopping behavior and sales.

Categories: Uncategorized

SKYPaws, LLC, founded by Stephanie Young ’21 and Brianna Armstrong ’20, was awarded first place and $3,000 at the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge. The idea behind SKYPaws came to Young while she was working at a Veterinary Clinic in her hometown. “We had a dog named Charlie that came in for a routine procedure and passed away shortly after due to improper monitoring. The entire mission of SKYPaws is to equip Veterinarians with the accurate information that they need to know about their patients when they need it most” said Young.

Veterinary clinics must visually monitor patients post-operatively as animals will often chew through wires and tubing, or remove other monitoring devices. Unfortunately, this means that veterinarians and their staff don’t receive accurate information regarding a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs that typically alert physicians of critical issues during recovery. SKYPaws provides veterinary clinics with a wireless monitor that provides them with accurate, real-time data to better monitor patient recovery. “Right now, SKYPaws is in the process of working with a professional engineering firm. This prize money will allow us to continue our discussions with them until we get Angel investment in the next 4-6 months” stated Young. Young encourages students who are interested in entrepreneurship to “take the plunge” and get involved with campus resources such as McFerrin Center, Startup Aggieland or Aggies Invent. “These resources will gradually allow you to get your feet wet in a structured way, so you don’t feel lost or helpless! Entrepreneurship is a major portion of my life and I feel as if my college experience would be lackluster without it” she added. Young is a sophomore Animal Sciences major and Armstrong is a 4th-year student in the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine Professional Program. SKYPaws is a client of the Startup Aggieland Business Incubator.

Over 130 industry professionals judged this year’s 40 finalists. Recent Texas A&M graduate Rhett Bruck competed as a finalist at the 2018 Raymond Ideas Challenge and returned in 2019 as a judge. When asked why he decided to serve as a judge he commented on the impact that McFerrin Center programs had during his time at Texas A&M and his desire to help aspiring student entrepreneurs. “I thought it would be fun and I wanted to give back,” said Bruck “Startup Aggieland and the McFerrin Center put me on this amazing track where I can use the skills I developed everywhere.” The 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge awarded $10,000 in prize money to student entrepreneurs at Texas A&M University. Second place winner Luke Raglin of SimpleSeat is the first Texas A&M Corpus Christi student to place at a Raymond Ideas Challenge. In addition, Axle Box Innovations has awarded all 40 finalists with access to their brand new “Fab Lab” that will open in January 2020. Raymond Ideas Challenge is held annually each fall semester. For more information visit mcferrin.tamu.edu.

2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge Winners

  • First Place: Brianna Armstrong, Stephanie Young; SKYPaws, LLC.
  • Second Place: Luke Raglin of Texas A&M Corpus Christi; SimpleSeat
  • Third Place: Shreedevi Arun Kumar, Kaivalya Deo; 3D Bio-Printed Pancreas

Best Video

  • Bruce Kelly, Stephen Lorenzen; Lit Seating

Honorable Mentions

  • Daniel De Clute-Melancon; Changing the World by Providing Local Access to Urban Air
  • Seth Polsley; Accessible Fitness Tracking for People with Disabilities or Injuries
  • Mary Chandra, Molly Coon, Elizabeth Matthews; G-Sense
  • Hassan Anifowose; Chronos 360
  • Nash Porter; Kisby Virtual Lifeguard

AXLE BOX Award

  • Nash Porter; Kisby Virtual Lifeguard

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

Venky Shankar, Coleman Chair Professor in Marketing and Director of Research, Center for Retail Studies (CRS), was recently invited as a Thought Leader at the Thought Leadership Conference hosted by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He worked with an expert team of academics and practitioners and made a presentation entitled “How Technology is Changing Retail.”

The presentation started with a typology, or classification, of technologies that are impacting retailing.  Shankar presented different theoretical frameworks for a better understanding of the role of technology in retail. He covered technology adoption by shoppers and retailers, and presented some interesting future scenarios and concluded with research questions for scholars to pursue.

Shankar covered a gamut of technologies starting with 5G telecommunication, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, drones, robots, and 3D printing with many powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and how they are changing shopper experience and retailer business model. He discussed different organizations of technologies by stakeholder type (customer-facing, employee-facing, and supplier-facing), information technology (IT) versus non-IT, incremental versus radical, facilitating versus disruptive, and commoditizing versus value-adding. Among the drivers of retail technology adoption, his team identified advancement in core technology, consumer push, competitor innovation, and regulation as the main factors. His presentation highlighted customer and partner adoption, customer outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, purchase), supplier outcomes (e.g., on-time delivery) and financial outcomes (e.g., revenues, profits, shareholder value) as the key consequences of retail technology adoption.

From a retailer standpoint, Shankar discussed the “what, when and how” of technology adoption, management of technologies, and strategic versus tactical elements of technology. He presented different theories, including innovation adoption, technology acceptance, technology management, and option value theories.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the presentation was the articulation of possible future scenarios. Shankar presented his team’s ideas under four areas: retailer disintermediation, hybrid bundles, sharing economy, and retailer types. He speculated a scenario in which all consumables such as laundry for washers are replenished by AI in the machines directly ordering with the manufacturer and retailer becoming more of a repair agent—a possibility being tested by Proctor and Gamble. Another scenario he depicted involved consumers sharing or renting almost everything including, housing, clothing, and transportation. He discussed the near future possibility of, in addition to pervasive omnichannel retailing, smaller format stores for quick replenishment and instant gratification, stores that exclusively demonstrate new products, pop-up stores, repair stores, large experience stores, and community retail outlets, will start to dominate the landscape.

An article based on his presentation is being prepared and will be featured in a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Retailing.

Categories: Uncategorized

It is extraordinarily fitting that the 2019 Mays Scholarship Banquet was held in the Hall of Champions at Kyle Field. Everyone who attended the banquet is a champion in their own right. Whether the champion was a student blazing new trails for their friends and family or a champion for students to attend Mays Business School by giving their time, talent, and treasure, all 1,000+ people at the banquet were stalwart members of the Mays Family.

Dean Eli Jones ’82, the emcee for the night, noted how the banquet was hosted in a month ripe with gratitude. “November is a month synonymous with gratitude. While Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, tonight, we give thanks. We give thanks for the generous supporters of Mays who make a difference in the lives of students. We give thanks to the dedicated students of Mays, who will be our future leaders. Finally, we give thanks for the ability to gather this Mays family for an evening of thanksgiving.”

Keynote speaker David Shimek spoke about his gratitude to be there after his humble beginnings in a very small town. Shimek is now the Senior Vice President for Hardware Operations at Reynolds and Reynolds Company. He spoke about the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute and how selling is a critical piece of their career. Shimek mentioned not just selling products, but themselves as well. To sell themselves, he gave them two responsibilities. The first, to be a good steward of their scholarship by striving for success and being involved in their school and community. The second responsibility was to give. To be a donor and give monetarily when the time is right, to give physically through mentoring programs, and to give corporately by championing for their future companies to give to Mays.

The night was full of exchanged handshakes and stories. Donors were able to spend time with their scholarship recipients, and students were given a chance to update some of their biggest champions on their activities and ambitions. Three students, in particular, shared stories with the banquet about their scholarships. However, rather than listing their numerous accolades, Hannah Grubbs ’20, Nicholas Menchaca ’20, and Gabrielle Orion ’20, shared stories of how the scholarships are about more than the money. The students told how scholarships grant students the ability to persevere through hardships and give them access to experiences and opportunities that would otherwise be impossible.

Grubbs shared how her family fell apart in her first semester of college, and her mom and brother moved across the state. Because of her scholarship, the money she earned from her part-time job could help her family move without the fear of not being able to pay for school. Also, because of the scholarships she received, she could move through school with urgency, not haste, as she uncovered her passions.

Menchaca told the audience how he was raised by a single father who worked hard. Despite his father’s best efforts, Menchaca grew up acquainted with financial insecurity and with a slim chance to attend a higher education institution. Menchaca said, “Financial insecurity is a towering barrier that consumes your every thought. Growing up, I didn’t have time to chase passions because I needed to help pay bills. These scholarships give students like me the ability to knock down those barriers and an opportunity to put education first.”

Orion spoke of the donor impact she’s felt. Her family was affected by Hurricane Harvey. For six months, her childhood home in Houston was unlivable, and she worried about her family and their mounting bills, but never once did she have to worry about pausing her education, because of the generous donors at Mays.

Grubbs wrapped up their time on stage imploring everyone to have the seemingly hard conversations about just how much scholarships mean to those receiving them. “For most of us in this room, the money you so graciously give back to our school allows us financial freedom from hardship both now and in the future. Your generosity gives us the freedom to find passion and pursue excellence. In that pursuit, we aim to someday sit in your chair as scholarship donors.”

Categories: Mays Business, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

SIA Solutions has been ranked as the #1 Aggie 100 Company for 2019 with an astonishing growth rate of 284.88%. At the helm, Dr. Srini Neralla, CEO of SIA Solutions, LLC, leads the company with an entrepreneurial attitude that seamlessly incorporates his academic background. His innovative and solution-oriented mindset lends itself to an uncanny ability to poignantly serve clients in a way that benefits their local community and the surrounding environment.

Dr. Neralla credits the growth of the company to their client-first attitude which serves as the foundation for SIA Solutions’ company culture. “Our culture is based around a client-first attitude,” he said, “if we can take care of our clients and we can take care of our people there’s nothing better than that.”  Dr. Neralla believes that SIA Solutions is able to successfully deploy a client-first culture because “[We] focus on understanding the needs and challenges of our clients and providing them solutions as appropriate.  We help them navigate through the maze of technical, regulatory and funding challenges, which makes our clients successful and hence we are successful.”  SIA Solutions believes in building strong and trusting relationships with their clients. In fact, approximately 95% of their clientele are repeat customers. “Our philosophy is establishing ourselves as a trusted advisor to our clients. That is the key to our success.”

Although SIA Solutions is a small-sized business they aren’t afraid to take on challenges that many firms their size may shy away from. “Because of our client-first philosophy, we’re willing to take on tough challenges and deliver. It’s in our culture. It’s natural to us. We put together strong teams comprising of firms our size or larger, including universities, in order to deliver what our clients want,” said Dr. Neralla. SIA Solutions is constantly pushing boundaries, including their own core business lines. One such example is a project that SIA Solutions is working on right now for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The project’s mission is to support and protect the mainline levees across the Mississippi River in order to keep excess material out of the channel and maintain a favorable channel alignment and depth. “This is currently done through the use of a Mat Sinking Unit (MSU) which, due to its age, requires significant upgrades to its infrastructure and health and safety of its operations,” said Dr. Neralla. SIA Solutions was selected to develop and field a full-scale prototype system that employs modern technologies to automate the processes of handling, assembling, and placing articulated concrete mat on the banks of the Mississippi River.  The system is purposefully designed to utilize robotics to help ensure the safety of the USACE employees and/or contractors implementing the program.  This modernized system will also help to reduce the time it takes to place the mats and increase the operation’s cost efficiency. SIA quickly recognized the unique opportunity for the company to take on one of their client’s biggest and most challenging projects in a way that has never been done before. “We put a team together that included Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) to develop a process that includes robotics that will allow this project to be automated. We are willing to take on challenges and we’re willing to deliver.”  SIA’s willingness to think and work outside the box paid off and they were recently awarded the next project phase during which they’ll build the actual robotics system on a barge and begin placing the mats.

A large part of SIA Solutions’ portfolio includes their infrastructure asset management services where they deploy sophisticated strategies and processes to help solve complex asset management challenges for government and industry clients. Many times, this requires innovative solutions to existing assets such as underutilized property or facilities that are beyond their useful life. Dr. Neralla recalled one project where a Department of Defense (DoD) base had invested in a state-of-the-art water/wastewater treatment plant, but a few years later the base was downsized due to BRAC actions. Although DoD didn’t need the full capacity of the plant moving forward, the plant still had a high market value. The surrounding local communities needed additional water treatment capacity because of their own population growth. “We were able to assess the value of the plant and basically marry the local communities’ needs with the excess capacity of the DoD plant. This is a “win-win” situation for everybody, by providing a solution and reducing costs for both government agencies through the transfer of the asset! At the end of the day, anything we do has an impact on the community and an impact on the environment. Whether it is disposing of radiological waste properly or providing increased energy efficiency within a community around a military base.” SIA Solutions is a multi-faceted company that is able to identify innovative opportunities regardless of the project size or scope.

Dr. Neralla says that a key component in providing clients with unparalleled service and solutions is building the right team at SIA. He humbly expressed the integral role his staff has had in the growth of SIA Solutions. “You need to hire the right kind of people with the right mindset and right mentality,” said Dr. Neralla “You need a good staff that believes in your culture and believes in your vision. We could not have been as successful without the wonderful staff that we have at SIA.  Our clients have given us the opportunity to do what we do best and helped us in our growth and success”. “If you can develop solutions to address client needs in an efficient manner, that helps the community and helps the environment then it’s a win on all fronts,” said Dr. Neralla.  SIA Solutions has also developed a robust teaming network that allows them to leverage the resources of partner corporations. “There are a few small and large businesses that we team with that have helped us in our delivery to our clients. Such mutually beneficial relationships are possible due to a similarity in culture and values.”

Dr. Neralla stressed that entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with a supportive network, “hire quality staff that believes in your company culture, values and vision; surround yourself with a network of individuals and resources to guide the success of your company.” He believes that patience, persistence, and perseverance are key elements for success, and he has even woven these characteristics into the culture of SIA Solutions. He also noted that his success, and the success of SIA Solutions, would not be possible without the continuous support of his wife and family. Dr. Neralla is a truly inspiring Aggie entrepreneur and it comes as no surprise that his leadership and hard work have led SIA Solutions to new heights of success. Congratulations to Dr. Neralla and the team at SIA Solutions for being awarded the 2019 Aggie 100 #1 ranking.

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

As the largest electrical contractor in the state of Texas, it’s no surprise that Walker Engineering is the 2019 Aggie 100 Summit Award recipient with $342,698,749 in total revenue. Brent Walker, President of Walker Engineering, said that receiving the award was incredibly meaningful, “it’s something we’re very humbled by but also very proud of. We’re really excited.” Walker Engineering’s portfolio ranges from museums to hospitals to corporate campuses, and even includes Texas A&M University’s beloved Kyle Field. But Walker Engineering is more than a company, it’s a family. Founded in 1981 by Charlie Walker the company is now led by his son Scott Walker ‘00 and nephew Brent Walker ‘97. “We’ve learned a lot over time, about what not to do to avoid making mistakes and our goal is to be the best partner we can for our collaborators and customers.” Brent attributes the continued growth and success of Walker Engineering to Charlie’s mentorship which has shaped both him and Scott as leaders and entrepreneurs. “[Charlie] taught us about the necessity of keeping our employees happy and motivated. Having good, talented folks around him was how he built his business.” Charlie also taught them to prioritize and respect their employees. “The best leaders have a natural social awareness and empathy of others,” said Brent. “When you have thousands of employees who are coming to work each day they each have their own things going on in their life. That can make them great at their job one day and maybe they struggle the next because they have something that’s taxing their well-being. Being conscientious of that is something we learned from Charlie and something we try to continue to emulate today.”

Although Walker Engineering is a family business Scott and Brent had to first prove themselves as employees before they could pursue a leadership role within the company. “It didn’t matter that my last name was Walker,” said Brent, “without question we had to earn our stripes. No one would have respected us if we were given the keys to the kingdom without earning them.” Both Brent and Scott have worked for Walker since they were teenagers. “We started working in the warehouse when we were in High School. We were working on job sites when we were in college. We were in the field, learning how hard it is to be an electrician. Without question, the empathy I have for those in our field and our employees is because I’ve done their job and I understand that it’s hard and challenging. Having to do that earned us the respect of our employees and in turn, gave us respect for our employees.” In total Brent has been working for Walker Engineering for 28 years and now as president, he has a deep understanding of the mechanics of the company.

Brent comes from a family of proud Aggies and estimated that there must be over 30 Walkers who have graduated from Texas A&M throughout the years. “I grew up in a maroon household and I knew the Aggie War Hymn before Jesus Loves Me” he joked. Although Brent learned many things during his time as a student in the department of construction science, one key lesson he gained from Texas A&M was that “you’re going to have to work hard to be successful.” In addition, Walker Engineering tries to incorporate a bit of Texas A&M’s culture within their own. “There’s a family environment at A&M and we very much try to incorporate that into our own company.” Peer-to-peer support and mentorship is a pervasive cultural aspect at Walker Engineering. They aim to create an environment where people enjoy coming to work. “Even though we’ve grown so big we try to continue to keep that small-town family feel, just like Texas A&M.”

More than anything Brent stressed the value that Walker Engineering places on their people. “We are nothing without our employees,” he said. “Finding folks who want to come in and work hard and rewarding that is what we’re all about. We’re not micromanagers. We hire people to do a great job and have great ideas. We very much like to recruit, train, and promote from within our company.” They’re trying to change the culture of their job sites as well. Gone are the old guard ways of running a site like a military operation. “We’ve tried to really promote a different mindset. We want young people to come into the trade and feel like they have a chance to succeed. You can share your wisdom without screaming at some poor kid.” When asked what advice he would give to a leader who wants to develop a strong company culture, Brent emphasized the importance of hiring the right people. “Identify talent that organically has that mentality. You get a better environment of collaboration and long-term tenure when you have a family culture. There are a lot of folks who are smart and good at their jobs that we don’t hire because they don’t fit our culture. A lot of folks job hop and we look for that. We want someone to be here for the long-term.”

Walker Engineering is also dedicated to making an impact outside of the industry. “In every community where we build we owe it to be generous with our success.” Walker Engineering is a charitable giver to many non-profit organizations including Joey’s Dream Builders, Make a Wish, and March of Dimes. “When we have big fundraisers we involve our employees whether that’s through volunteering or helping to raise money.” As a company, they’re aware of the power that they have to be a force for good. “We want to continue to be a great place to work, provide for thousands of people’s families, and continue to build cool buildings.”

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

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, McFerrin Center for 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