Seven University of Mount Olive students have taken what they have learned in their Business Practicum class to the next level as part of a unique integrative business experience (IBE). Led by Tillman School of Business Assistant Professor of Finance Dr. Ana Dickson, the students were challenged to incorporate what they have learned in class into an actual business plan.
Crystal Burchette of Troy, NC; Johanna Anderson of Sweden; Jesiah Orr of Canada; Alfie Pope of the UK; Jack Middleton of the UK; Anthony Wren of Fayetteville, NC; and Joshua Bentley of Canada were the students involved in the IBE. Each team member was given a business role in the organizational chart. However, they collaboratively worked towards their common goal. They decided to create, market, and sell athletic apparel using a unique and aesthetic logo design. They named their business, Gym Pickle Fitness.
“We wanted something that would be catchy and tie into Mount Olive, the pickle town,” said Burchette, a senior finance and business management double major.
“We chose fitness attire, because we have a large number of student-athletes on campus,” said Wren, a senior finance major. “We thought it would also appeal to community members that use Pope Wellness Center for their workouts.”
With a solid plan in place, the students worked with a UMO art major to create the actual design. They then met with executives from Southern Bank in Mount Olive, who had agreed to partner with the students, on the loan application process for the venture.
“Pitching our idea to the bank was a bit nerve-racking,” said Wren. “Although we were nervous, we came very prepared, and it showed during our presentation.”
Gym Pickle Fitness received the green light and the loan needed for their business start-up. Pre-ordered shirts were sold for $14.99 each with an additional $3 added to the cost after any initial orders were placed.
“We have sold roughly 120 shirts and have made roughly $1,600 after all transaction fees,” Burchette said.
According to Professor Dickson all profits from the project will be contributed to the Tillman School of Business Scholarship Plan.
“It has been very gratifying to see the students’ enthusiasm and passion to succeed throughout this process,” Dickson said. “It has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an educator.”
As with any business, Gym Pickle did experience its set of challenges. Chief among those was the closing of campus due to the COVID-19.
“We had to ramp-up our marketing strategy,” said Burchette. “Our six-week business plan became a two-week reality. It was very challenging, but we were able to adapt and persevere.”
“There were a lot of times that things were going against us,” Wren agreed. “However, this project showed us that you have to trust the process, and everything else will fall into place.”
“I am so glad that I was able to be a part of this experience,” said Burchette. “It gave us real-world experience that we will be able to use outside of college. The executives from Southern Bank gave us great pointers, and we were able to ask them important questions to help us improve. It was a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved.”
Pope, a junior business management major concluded, “The whole experience was so much more valuable than any business course alone. It was a real business venture with real risks, and it was a taste of the real business world.”