Prof. Eberhart's Management 164 class, spring 2016

Prof. Eberhart's Management 164 class, spring 2016

Boba, Yoga, and Pie

How 33 students turned $30 into $1,135 for charity

A professor's challenge to create a startup with $5 turned into $1,135 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

One weekend in April, six teams of students in Prof. Robert Eberhart's Introduction to Entrepreneurship class turned $30 into $1,135 in 48 hours -- and recently donated the proceeds to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

This impressive feat -- a nearly 3,800 percent return on the base investment -- represented the largest collective profit yet in the three years that Prof. Eberhart has been challenging his students to take $5 per team, and turn it into as much profit as they can in one weekend.

It’s an exercise in startup creation, and teaches students that the amount of startup capital doesn’t matter as much as their ability to solve a problem with their business model, says Eberhart. For students, this tends to mean identifying problems their fellow students are willing to pay to eliminate.

So what were the biggest profit makers?

This being a campus, selling food turned out to be the quickest route to riches -- beating other ideas like a yoga class and a raffle.

Students sold musubi for a startup challenge

One group decided to add their own capital to buy several hundred dollars’ worth of supplies to sell boba drinks -- flavored drinks with tapioca pearls. After recouping their own investment, they made just over $300 in profits. Another team took a similar approach and sold Spam musubi (sushi-like rolls) outside the Learning Commons. They netted about $300 as well. A group that offered students the chance to throw a pie at two students for $5 a pie didn’t do too badly either. Net profit: $210.

The class -- if not the $5 startup challenge --- has helped launch at least one going concern in its three-year history.

Senior Zachary Lamb is CFO of Runner Inc., which serves five universities including Santa Clara with an app that helps students pay someone to handle tedious chores -- from delivering groceries to doing laundry. The twist: the folks doing the tasks are fellow classmates who have signed up to make a few bucks and to help one another out. The app is appealing because “it makes big communities smaller,” said Lamb, who co-founded the company with fellow Santa Clara University seniors Mike Roletti and Sam Kujovich.

Lamb said he used skills learned in Prof. Eberhart’s class to get Runner off the ground -- including knowing in advance what venture capitalists (VCs) were going to want when he presented his business plan to them. Runner has already received one round of “angel investor” funding, and is anticipating a VC round shortly, Lamb said.

This year’s class said the $5 startup project taught them a few things about entrepreneurship, too. Kyle Merrigan – one of the students who volunteered to get pies thrown at his face – said he learned that “sometimes you gotta do some dirty work” to make money. His teammate Laura LaBombarda added that -- at least for a weekend startup -- “you can make up for a lack of preparation time with a good attitude and good people skills.”



Students in Prof. Robert Eberhart's Introduction to Entrepreneurship class were given $5 and told to create "startups" to maximize profits in one weekend. They collectively raised $1,135 for charity.