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“Your cost is more than your competitors, so how are you different? Why would someone want to invest in you?” asked Patrick Albus, M.B.A. ’92, global chief of staff/senior vice president, global business services for kgb.

“Have you thought about liability?” questioned assistant professor of accounting Roberto Mandanici, M.B.A., C.P.A.

“I’m curious about your cash flow projection,” added Ted Abrams, M.B.A. ’83, president and chief executive officer for Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company. “How do you plan to pay your debt back?”

For MacKenzie Faight ’16, Nicholas Glass ’16, Rylan Sweed ’17 and William Harrison ’18, the questions came at rapid-fire speed following their presentation of Access to Assets, a business-to-business rental equipment company, to a panel of five sharks…er, lions…at Albright’s inaugural Lion’s Lair competition in May.

Mimicking the structure of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning “Shark Tank” reality television series, Lion’s Lair gave students in business instructor Bonnie Rohde’s “Small Business Management” course the opportunity to present their final projects—plans for the startup of a small business—to a panel of five professionals, who  then chose first, second and third-place winners.

Seven teams had eight minutes each to present their ideas, which ranged from Body and Mind (BAM), a company offering personal trainers for student athletes, to Flavorfolds, a potato chip company producing a folded chip for “extra crunch and flavor with every bite.” After each presentation, the panel of experts had eight minutes to question team members about their plan.

Business management major David Gavrilov ’17 took an idea that he had in high school and, together with his teammates, created a first-place plan.

As a high school football player, Gavrilov attended summer camps where he met with college coaches. “At camps, players are identified by the numbers that they receive, and that is all the information that the college coach had about the player,” Gavrilov says. “When it was time to talk to the player during the camp, the player would have to explain all about himself while the coach was taking notes. It isn’t easy to take notes on 500 athletes.”

Along with his father, Gavrilov created ReQRuitme, a personal QR code that takes a coach to a player’s information—highlight film, grades, personal message from the athlete, coach recommendations and more—with the click of a mobile device.

Although he was unable to pursue the idea while focusing on his high school studies, Gavrilov says Rohde’s class assignment was the perfect opportunity to revisit it. He and his teammates, Andrew Potter ’17, Derek Stump ’17 and Jhoalixon Lopez ’17, confidently presented a business plan complete with a prototype QR code printed on a backpack that linked to a sample webpage.

“I think you guys are on to something here,” admired Albright trustee and panelist Richard Ehst ’68, president and chief operating officer of Customers Bank. “Me, too!” echoed panelist Radene Gordon-Beck, M.B.A., founding member of Barnes and Beck Financial Consulting Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. “I have a 20-year-old who’s an athlete. I can see how this would be helpful.”

Gavrilov and his teammates were thrilled to win, but even more excited to have had the experience. “At first it was overwhelming and nerve-racking,” Gavrilov says of being in front of the panel, “but having confidence in our business idea and having a great team who were all on the same page helped ease things. The panel of business professionals are the people we aspire to become. I felt as though our group earned a lot of their respect.”

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For Faight, a business administration and finance major whose team Access to Assets placed second, those eight minutes of questions were intimidating. However, Faight says, “The project and presentation encouraged my team members and me to step out of our comfort zone. Presenting to five business professionals was not easy,” she says, “but it showed me that I am able to do it. In the future, I may have to present to upper-level management, COO s, CEOs, etc., and this experience gave me a taste of what that may  be like. It taught me how to prepare for a high-pressure situation and execute what is expected either independently or as a team.”

While Albus says some common themes were missed by each team, such as underestimating back office support and how much legal fees cost, he was impressed with the presentations in general. “They were very thoughtful and well planned. Every presentation had good stuff in it,” he says.

Gordon-Beck was also impressed by the realistic nature of the event. “This is a great, real-life experience, because it’s exactly what happens in the business world,” she says. “When you go up in front of investors, you get hammered.”

From Classroom to Boardroom

Rohde, a 1992 Albright graduate with a master of business administration degree from St. Joseph’s University, began teaching “Small Business Management” at Albright as an adjunct in 2002. Although this was the first year that students had to present in front of professional “lions,” creating and presenting business plans has always been a part of the course. “It’s an exceptional learning opportunity,” Rohde says. “The students who go through the process remember it for life.”

In fact, some even pursue the plan they created for the course.

“I had a student 10 years ago who came to me this past fall and said, ‘I’m moving to North Carolina and starting that business I created in your class.’ He made it happen,” Rohde says proudly of Jeremy Speicher ’06, who is now owner and president of Speicher Performance Tennis, a full-service racquet sports programming and management company.

Also “making it happen” is business management major Rachael Lassoff ’14, founder and chief executive officer of Dream Day Events. Lassoff spoke to Rohde’s class this past spring, sharing some of what she’s learned over the last year as she’s worked to get her event planning and photography business off the ground.

“In the first four and a half months all I did was network,” she says. “I went to every event, developed relationships, made calls, went out to coffee with people, and now those people refer me to other people. They tag me on Facebook and share my information with brides. It’s all about networking,” she says. “You have to get out there and talk to people.”

Lisa Wilder, associate professor and co-chair of the business, accounting and economics department, isn’t surprised that recent alumni are seeing success as entrepreneurs. “A lot of our students in this generation are very entrepreneurial,” Wilder says. “They don’t want to work for someone else. We’re hoping to open this  (Lion’s Lair) up to all of campus next year.”

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