Jenkins PopCo wins first NC State MBA Marketplace

Jenkins 2015 MBA Marketplace winners: Raymond Lyuu, James Hollifield, Heather Rand, Jasmin Geisel

This post was written by Anna Rzewnicki, Poole College Communications, and originally posted on the NC State Poole College of Management news site. More photos are located with the original post. The video was produced by VergeNC, of which the Jenkins MBA is a sponsor.

The atmosphere was energized; the target audience, a sector of the Triangle’s entrepreneurship community; and the money, ‘funny,’ at the first NC State Jenkins MBA Marketplace, held on Friday, August 14, at HQ Raleigh.

The Marketplace was the culmination of a two-week orientation program for 50 graduate students starting the Jenkins MBA program this week at the NC State Poole College of Management.

Following a day of workshops on marketing, innovation and entrepreneurship on August 7, the students, organized into 12 teams, conducted market research, developed their business concepts and product lines, and then ‘sold’ their products at Friday’s Marketplace. Each of the 100-plus guests at the event received a $50 packet of pretend money that they could spend at the various stations in the Marketplace.

But before the Marketplace shops opened for business, the teams and their concepts were evaluated by a panel of three judges. Their scores were added to points received by the teams for their sales earnings.

The teams’ target audience for their products was the community of entrepreneurs at HQ Raleigh who, according to the students’ market research, sought healthy snacks and beverages, ways to de-stress and help with reducing the level of ambient sound in the shared work environment. Those needs seemed to resonate with the Marketplace guests as well; many of the products were sold out by the time the shopping hour ended.

The Marketplace winner was Jenkins PopCo, a ‘locally handmade popcorn’ that responded to HQ Raleigh members’ needs to “be creative, be active, be healthy,” according to the team’s executive summary. “We are the first popcorn company in the market that focuses on the social aspect of popcorn and strives to bring people together to network,” they stated. “We are especially targeting entrepreneurs to spur creativity and collaboration by including different questions on our bags, our so called ‘Popcorn conversations.”

In addition to the social component, the team offered “an inexpensive and healthy product which offers endless combinations of flavors.” Each bag of popcorn contained about three cups of popcorn and could be topped with a variety of seasoning options.

The Marketplace also offered plenty of de-stressing options: brief petting sessions with a very calm puppy in the Cuddle Club, creating a mini-Zen garden and, just for fun, a kit with supplies for pranking your office mates. A percentage of purchases made at the Cuddle Club was donated to an animal shelter.

Several teams met two needs: de-stress by blowing bubbles and popping bubble wrap sheets while enjoying frozen juice cups or by playing a free video game while deciding how many raffle tickets to ‘buy’ for a high quality noise reducing set of headphones.

Another team created a soundproof box that could be used when recording on a mobile phone. Their recording kit included a portable green screen.

Filling the healthy snacks need were an organic produce station, a mixed snack bar with pretzels, nuts and more; and stations with ice cream, shaved ice treats with alcoholic and non-alcoholic toppings, an organic cold-press fruit juice, and popcorn.

“The MBA Marketplace provided the students a microcosm of the larger environment, a way to experience limitations on time, funding and market reach,” said Lewis Sheats, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Poole College and director of the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic based at HQ Raleigh. He hosted the Marketplace experience which was led by Claire Jefferies, director of student and academic engagement for the Jenkins MBA program.

“The process the student teams used to develop unique solutions for the Marketplace is similar to what they will experience and practice throughout their time earning a Jenkins MBA,” he said. “The MBA Marketplace also positioned the students to use critical thinking skills, be creative and quickly understand an identified target market. It’s all part of the think and do mentality of NC State,” he said.

It also introduced them to each other, providing the students a chance to get to know their fellow classmates, at least on a first-name bases, along with an understanding of what skills and experiences each is bringing to the classroom and future team projects.

Sheats thanked the role of volunteers from the entrepreneurial community in helping to make the Marketplace a success. Melissa Kennedy, a 2005 graduate of the Poole College Jenkins MBA program and a self-described “intrepreneur turned entrepreneur” presented the innovation and marketing workshop on August 7 and was available to consult with teams throughout the week.

Additional Marketplace mentors included:

  • Doug Kaufman, CEO of TransLoc
  • Scott Brown, owner, Stone House Management Consulting, LLC
  • Mital Patel, attorney, Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton, LLP, and
  • Richard Averitte, owner-operator, Good Vibrations Consulting.

Marketplace judges were:

  • Jon Spinney, co-founder of Malartu Funds
  • Catrina Veinrich, vice president of sales and marketing for EmployUS, and
  • Derrick Minor, innovation and entrepreneurship manager, City of Raleigh.

In addition to the Marketplace experience, the new MBA students provided a half-day of community service on August 7. Service projects included helping prepare packets at Marbles Kids’ Museum for its Marbles Family Science Olympiad held August 15, providing basic financial and budgeting information for clients of the Passage Home, and shopping for and organizing back-to-school supplies for at-risk youth.

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