GREENSBORO — A pair of UNC Pembroke graduate students won top honors in the second UNC Social Entrepreneurship Conference on Feb. 28 held at N.C. A&T University.
MBA candidates Daniel Bougt and Lewis Adams, who’s originally from Lilesville, bested 13 teams from 10 UNC graduate programs and walked away with a $5,000 prize. The pair submitted a business plan and made two oral presentations that would establish a retail outlet for STARworks NC, a non-profit center for creative enterprise in Montgomery County.
UNCP’s MBA program director Nick Arena was the project advisor. He said Bougt and Adams are outstanding students who worked diligently to produce an outstanding plan.
“The judges read the business plans, but there was a lot of pressure on the presentations,” Arena said. “In the finals, they presented and answered questions in front of 450 people.”
Bougt and Adams agree that the pressure was intense in the finals. “We only had about 10 minutes between the announcement of the finalists and the presentations,” Bougt said. “We had a lot of practice with the other UNCP teams and input from many faculty. We were happy with our performance.”
Interest in the event was very high in the School of Business and in the Office of the Chancellor. In the audience were Dr. Ken Kitts, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, Chancellor Kyle R. Carter and Dr. Ramin Maysami, dean of the School of Business.
The School of Business was at a disadvantage because it did not sponsor a team in the inaugural UNC Social Entrepreneurship Conference in 2012. The Dr. Maysami said the collaboration between all four UNCP teams and faculty was critical to success.
“This is the highlight of my year,” Dr. Maysami said. “Our School of Business and its diversity were on display.”
UNCP entered the maximum number of teams — two undergraduate and two graduate — with a total of nine members. Five of the participants are (or were) student-athletes and five are international students.
Bougt, who is from Stockholm, Sweden, played soccer at UNCP, and Lewis continues to play on the golf team. Both student-athletes “redshirted” a year and entered the MBA program with athletic eligibility remaining. Bougt finished his undergraduate work and graduated in three years, Adams in three-and-a-half.
Adams said the UNCP contingent made themselves heard. “When they said we had won, it got loud real quick,” he said. “I was impressed by how excited Mr. Arena and Chancellor Carter got.”
Bougt worked long and hard on the project, logging approximately 400 hours. He started the project in October, and Adams joined him in January as he started graduate school. They collaborated via Skype and email over the holidays.
“I got my U.S. driver’s license just so I could go visit STARworks,” Bougt said. “It is an awesome place, and I think that helped with the judges. We told the judges that there is some really beautiful art work that needed to be seen.”
STARworks plans to opens the retail outlet in 2015, Bougt said. It will give their artists visibility as well as compensation, and it will help fund the entire art community.
The students’ performance made Chancellor Carter proud. “It’s really nice to be able to prove our capability among our colleagues and peers in the UNC system,” he said. “It’s even more special that our graduate team was composed of student-athletes enrolled in our MBA program. In fact, five of the eight UNCP participants were student-athletes. This is a testament to UNCP’s commitment to integrate academics and athletics.”
When the winners were announced Arena said he was stunned and excited. “I cannot even remember who came in second,” he laughed. “This adds to the credibility of our MBA program. We have outstanding students and a great program. That was on display in front of an important audience.”
Arena advised both graduate teams, and Dr. Howard Ling and Dr. Rebecca Gonzalez advised the undergraduate teams. UNCP’s other teams included, Graduate team II: Deyu Zeng, Siyi Liu and Brittany Jones; undergraduate team I: Samuel P. Miles (Soccer) and Michelle De Obeso Hernandez (Soccer); undergraduate team II: Lashaude L. James (Football), Sam K. Deshield and Adam J. Crews.
Forty teams entered the competition from all 17 UNC institutions. Sponsored by Wells Fargo, the conference was initiated by UNC General Administration and its Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) to showcase students’ talents in solving social problems with sustainable business solutions. “I learned a tremendous amount, and the cool part was applying what you learn in class to a real project,” Adams said.
“You use what you know, and make it work in a real situation,” Bougt said. UNC President Tom Ross offered closing thoughts: “As a public University, we need to remember our obligation to serve our communities, our state, our nation, and our world,” he said. “We desperately need new ways of thinking, new approaches to old problems. We need to produce graduates who see themselves as responsible for creating the future and who know that they have the knowledge and capacity to make it happen.”