As I mentioned in my last post, I was determined to provide students with a real-life entrepreneurship experience. Sprott’s BUSI2800 is an intro to entrepreneurship course open to all; therefore there is quite a diversity of programs and expertise in the classroom. Searching for an online gamified platform, I came across the concept of the VentureChallenge this past summer and decided to pilot it this fall. Developed by Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia and in partnership with Shopify, the online Venture Challenge takes students through the entire entrepreneurial process, from the idea stage to launching and running the business, with the help of built-in learning resources and a gamified platform that includes a class leaderboard. Students learn about ideation, product development, marketing, sales, cash management, e-commerce, social media and more.
In this experiential approach, student teams conceive of a new business idea for a NFP mission-driven e-commerce venture that runs for 30 days to raise money for a selected charity organization. This is not a simulation but rather an online approach to support the creation of a non-profit mission-driven online business. Students are running real businesses, selling real products and services to real customers through an online store. With Shopify, student teams can set up their business very efficiently since a streamlined process guides them through launching their online store with no technical skills required.
At Sprott, our philosophy for our entrepreneurship offerings is for our students to ‘Live entrepreneurship, not just learn about it’. This project is a low risk experiential learning experience that provides concrete knowledge and skills in new venture creation. This specific project also emphasizes aspects of social entrepreneurship given its mission-driven goal. An additional innovative aspect is the extensive online learning resources and tasks so that students can acquire crucial skills in the business management of popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Adwords and Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, and social metrics to promote, sell and monitor effectiveness of marketing campaigns and offerings. These skills are in high demand with employers. Carleton University is currently the only Ontario university using this experiential learning approach to entrepreneurship.
In all, the class created 22 venture teams who ran a wide range of businesses. The businesses were active for the month of November and together served nearly 700 customers, raising $18,700 in revenues with $4,700 in profits going to local charities. The results surpassed all expectations. I was very impressed with the creativity and dedication of the students to this exercise. They experienced every aspect of conceiving and running a small business. They also developed an awareness of social entrepreneurship.
The top team VESI Bottle, sold nearly $2,500 worth of glass water bottles sandblasted with custom messages, predominantly targeted at the millennials market, and pulled in about $1,400 in profits that were donated to the Ottawa Humane Society.
The second team, Groceries2Go, created a grocery shopping and delivery service for Carleton Students. They generated $3,300 in revenues, the highest among the teams. Their profits went to the Carleton University Food Center. Feedback from the students has been very positive, even though the challenge required an intense and sustained effort from the teams. The School is quite happy with the results and we will be offering it in future BUSI2800 classes.
A research project is also in the works to assess the impact of this entrepreneurship education approach on entrepreneurial intentions and behaviors, and also link to research on social entrepreneurship. Although it required commitment and effort on my part to learn and use it, the outcomes are really worth it. I received appreciation letters from some of the charities that brought tears to my eyes…. Never expected such outcomes and impacts. I should add that the support from the OVC team has been simply phenomenal. In conclusion, I highly recommend the Venture Challenge.