The first week of each Spring Term at Proctor engages students in small group experiential learning opportunities called Project Period. Since it is impossible to spotlight all of the sponsored projects, today's post provides insights into the student learning that took place during Entrepreneurial Entree
(the project I co-sponsored with Athletic Director Gregor Makechnie).
Having been assigned reading over spring break, eleven students returned to this project prepared to immediately engage with a variety of businesses, understanding the end goal of developing and presenting a complete business plan to a panel of investor Saturday morning.
Tuesday evening, the group of eleven students learned about the general structure of business plans and split into three development teams to brainstorm ideas. Early Wednesday morning, the group traveled to Waltham, MA to meet with executives at SavingStar
, the nation's first fully digital, grocery eCoupon service. David Rochon
(P '13), CEO at SavingStar, teamed with alum and VP at SavingStar, Brendaen Makechnie ('92), to discuss the company's history before splitting students into two groups to problem solve SavingStar's next big hurdle as a relatively young start-up company.
Immediately following our visit to SavingStar, we drove across town to meet with Mike Pehl
(P '13) at North Bridge Growth Equity
. Pehl (a long-time supporter of Project Period including lending his home to Patty Pond and Annie McKenzie's project that was working at the Carroll School
) helped students become acquainted with both venture capital and growth equity business models before he led each student development team in an in-depth brainstorming session allowing each group's business plan to begin to take shape.
At 5:00 am Thursday morning, the group departed campus for New York City to meet with David Kessler
(P '13) at his firm, Starfish Marketing Co
. An in-depth discussion of product marketing helped students better understand how their developing business models would fit into the current landscape in their given industry. On the long ride to New York and back, students worked diligently in their small groups to further develop their business models and start to skeleton their presentations. Nothing like an 18 hour day on the road to make us all appreciate the life of a business person!
Friday served as a 'work day' for each group, as Mike Pehl joined us for an 8:00 am conference call to discuss progress on presentations and provide critical feedback as each group moved forward. Throughout the day on Friday, students learned valuable lessons in group dynamics, leadership, and time management. Researching and building a complete business plan presentation in a day is no easy task and each group ran into its share of obstacles. The key for all groups, however, was figuring out how to navigate different ideas by focusing on a shared end goal. Real life challenges and real life learning taught in a way no formal classroom could replicate.
Beginning at 10:00 am Saturday morning, each group spent nearly an hour presenting its business plans to our investors (Mike Pehl and David Kessler who generously made the trip to Proctor!). Fielding difficult questions throughout their presentations, students were forced to defend their research, financial models, and proposed marketing strategies. While gaps existed in each presentation, Mr. Pehl and Mr. Kessler unanimously agreed that the presentations were outstanding given the time constraints on the project.
The week was a whirlwind of activity, but each student clearly departed Saturday's presentations with an undeniable sense of accomplishment. Each learned far more during this week of intense business study than he or she could have imagined.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Project Period lies in the simple fact that the experience described above is just one example of the learning that takes place during week of varied activities. Each of the thirty-seven Project Period groups
explores unique content reflective of the diverse passions kindled within this amazing community. To see more on variety of projects offered, see this week's Chuck's Corner