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Drew Business Students Step Into the Shark Tank

Undergrads get feedback on projects from business insiders, including alums

December 2019 – Drew University students got a taste of the real world during the annual Shark Tank event.

Nearly 150 students from eight different business and economics classes presented investment, product and business ideas to an array of judges who provided pragmatic feedback.

Shark Tank is one of many immersive, hands-on learning experiences emblematic of Drew’s new Launch undergraduate program.

“This is one of the most valuable experiences that business students have at Drew,” said Professor and Executive Director of Business Programs Marc Tomljanovich.

“Students are forced out of their comfort zone by publicly presenting their work to a group of expert panelists who are outside their direct Drew community. They need to work collaboratively, remain confident under pressure and think on their feet as local business experts and alums fire questions at them.”

Nearly half of the 23 judges were Drew alums, including Kevin Fischer C’18, G’19, Davis Fouts C’19, Jonathan Katz C’13, Joe Grossane C’19, Jeffrey Noss C’75, Michael Ravensbergen C’80, Marianna Goncalves Severgnini C’18, Forrest Shue C’87, Vanessa Van Brunt C’92 and Chris Walsh C’80.

A panel of Van Brunt and Walsh sat in on five business communications proposals ranging from a real-time music streaming service for live events to an environmentally responsible clothing and shoe company.

“You can’t try to bowl the ocean, so to speak,” Van Brunt told one group pitching an ad company catering to local businesses.

Van Brunt suggested they focus more locally before trying to expand their business into New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. “You’re a startup and you’ll get eaten unless you’re very, very targeted.”

Walsh focused his feedback on the financial side of the group’s business model before making them consider how they would prove their value to a client.

“We tried to explain that our business would produce assets in-house rather than paying outside companies, so we’d save money that way,” said Mike Bliss C’21, one of the presenters.

“We also explained that the photographs we’d deliver to the clients for advertising could be shared on social media like Facebook and Instagram and that you can track shares and metrics that way. Their questions definitely made us think.”

This year’s Shark Tank experience was not every students’ first rodeo, as many participated in previous years, nor will it necessarily be their last.

“We have our business students participate in Shark Tank several times throughout the major, so they can learn and improve after each event,” explained Tomljanovich.

Starting in fall 2020, students in the recently announced marketing and accounting majors will participate as part of their capstone experience.

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