Engaged Learning

Classmates Learn to Be Entrepreneurs For Good

They donate to USF Food Pantry more than $700 from class project

by Mary McInerney, USF News

Professor Nicole Nguyen calls it “the Ninja Project.”

In the first week of their capstone class this semester, 19 School of Management honors program students were given $50 in seed money and a task by Nguyen: Break into teams, start a venture, and make a profit — in one week. The team that sees the highest profit wins.

“It’s good stuff,” said Nguyen. “They came up with amazing ideas. They learn everything they need to know the first week of class.”

At the same time, the students learn how to be people for others. The teams combined their profits and gave more than $700 to the USF Food Pantry.

“I know students who have gone to the food pantry,” said Anson Tan ’23, who is double majoring in finance and in business analytics. “The money we raised goes to buy essentials to help other students.”

Ready, Set, Go

Nguyen loaned each team $50 of her own money to get started. As with many investor partnerships, students signed a promissory note agreeing to return the money to her at the end of the week.

“We were counting the days to figure out if we could get out a product or service in one week,” said Idea Fatarida Phuwadonanon ’23, majoring in psychology and in business management. “After a day, we decided to sell something easy to make — brownies and Thai tea.”

Phuwadonanon and her team came up with a price list: $2 per brownie, $5 for three brownies, and $5 for a Thai tea in a mason jar with a lid. They sold the brownies and tea to students on campus.

“My friend and I were actually sleepless for the week, because we spent our days baking and making the Thai tea and making posters and putting this on social media,” she said.

In the end, her team raised the most money ($464), but because the mason jars cost $1 each, their profit was $302.

Another team also focused on tea, riffing on the “Little Miss” trend and naming their venture “Little Miss Charity.”

The team blended their own teas and packaged them in individual tea bags, accompanied by a Little Miss or Little Mr. sticker they designed. “Little Miss Anxiety” came with lavender chamomile tea and “Little Mr. Works Three Jobs” came with rose black tea.

“We sold 200 tea bags and raised $270,” said Lara Ismail ’22, a marketing major with a fine arts minor who graduates in December. They charged $2 for each tea bag and sticker, and followed Nguyen’s advice to offer discounted bundles: three tea bags and stickers for $5 or five tea bags and stickers for $8.

Good Cause

Tan said his team opted to create a service, not a physical product, for their venture.

The team built a lottery and offered personalized credit consultations to customers in return for each ticket purchased. “Buy a raffle for a dollar and each dollar went into a prize pot,” he said. “If your ticket was chosen, you would win 10 percent of the prize pot.”

Students were eager to buy the tickets, he said, and when they learned the project would benefit the food pantry, many paid more than a dollar for a ticket. The team sold more than 300 tickets on campus, gave dozens of credit consultations, and won the venture challenge posed by Nguyen.

Although the timeframe was tight, the students said they enjoyed the project.

“We were all shocked and nervous about it in the beginning, but in the end, it was all about trying to do our best,” said Ismail.

“It felt wonderful, because when we were selling (on campus), we met people who use the food pantry,” said Phuwadonanon. “And we learned that with determination and hard work, you can get better results than expected.”

SOM students in food pantry project
Students in Professor Nicole Nguyen's Honors Capstone Class, with a check for more than $700 they Raised for the USF Food Pantry.