Professor Jay Ebben’s Entrepreneurial Finance class will be thrown to the sharks on Oct. 11 and Oct. 13 as they face a panel of investors in Schultz Hall, recreating their own version of the TV show “Shark Tank.”
Nine teams of students will be facing a panel of St. Thomas entrepreneurship alumni, pitching ideas of products or services that they invented themselves. Ebben believes that this hands-on learning is important for their growth.
“The whole idea is that I’m a strong believer in experiential education,” Ebben said. “I think we all learn best when we’re on the spot.”
The students will have 60 seconds to pitch their ideas to the panel, asking for an investment between $50 and $150 and offering a percentage of equity. If they have no investors, they have six weeks to find investors elsewhere.
Sophomore Brianna Herdering, junior Hannah Louiselle and senior Jordan Nead have been working throughout the semester to come up with an idea to present to the sharks, which hasn’t been an easy process.
“We didn’t have an idea – none of us did – so we had to work together and figure something out,” Herdering said.
“To find something that three different people are going to be passionate about isn’t always easy either, because you’re pretty much put together by random,” Louiselle added.
The other students in the class have come up with a variety of different ideas, including a pub crawl for charity, a leaf removal business and stickers that will be sold to donate to the Humane Society.
Herdering, Louiselle and Nead banded together and eventually came up with Minnesota-themed metal bracelets that they feel confident about, but they are still a bit nervous about confronting a panel of investors.
“We need to sell it in 60 seconds. End of story,” Louiselle said.
“We’re also a little nervous if you do get an investment to give that money back, so that’s kind of weighing on us,” Nead said. “Someone else’s money is in your hands.”
The students have to present a six-week forecast of what they predict their numbers will be, and plan a follow-up meeting with their investor at the end of the semester to go over how their sales went. Ideally, they would be able to give them their investment back plus equity.
“The students need to have a sense of responsibility and duty to go out and perform when someone has put money into you and believed in you,” Ebben said.
Despite the pressure of facing a panel of investors, the students are viewing this as a learning opportunity.
“There’s so many facets about entrepreneurship that you don’t really think about upfront until you’re arms-deep in it,” Nead said.
“It’s a good experience all around … You don’t just study it and learn equations, you get to go out and do it for yourself,” Louiselle said.
Mary Brickner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org