AEMM gives back through business
When students consider Columbia, they factor in the professors, the faculty who are working professionals, the college’s location and internship opportunities. Another important aspect is the hands-on learning that teachers incorporate in their courses.
The Arts, Entertainment and Media Management Department offers an entrepreneurship class in which students can experience the reality and challenges of starting a business. Students in each section of the class are divided into groups of five with the goal of forming a profitable business.
At the end of the semester, the group from each individual class that raises the most money picks a charity to receive 50 percent of its class earnings, while the group that raises the most money overall decides where 50 percent of the total money raised by all the sections will go.
“We really wanted to make this a hands-on class because you can talk about arts management, particularly entrepreneurship, but it’s really not the same as having the students dive in,” said Terri Lonier, the AEMM assistant professor who first introduced this revamped entrepreneurship class during the fall 2011 semester.
Last semester, the students raised a total of $1,635.77. The winning group raised $287.22 by creating a business called Coffee! that sold coffee and cookies in the 618. S. Michigan Ave. Building. With half the proceeds plus their winnings, the group decided to send $600.52 to Save the Children’s Thailand Floods Children in Emergency Fund and $400.34 to the Kinship Circle’s Animal Disaster Aid Fund.
Other charities given money were DNA Foundation, $314.41; Rocks for Kids, $179.79; PAWS, $101.58; and CharityWater, $39.13.
The project takes up half the semester and starts with the students making minute-long pitches to the class about a business idea, Lonier said. Next, students vote for their top three choices. Teachers then assign groups to develop the top business plans.
According to Lonier, each group is given $10 to start its business.
“My thinking was that you can start out with $10 and you can either buy two drinks from Starbucks, or you can go to the movies—no popcorn—or you can buy an album on iTunes, or you can actually start a business,” she said.
Junior AEMM major Ashlee Schultz was a part of Coffee!, which operated Monday – Thursday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. The group thought the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building was the perfect location for the coffee stand because the nearby Starbucks is too crowded for students to get a drink during a 20 minute break and Dunkin’ Donuts is too far away, she said.
Baking cookies during weekends and making coffee at the stand were just a few of the jobs Schultz had to do. She also worked on advertising to draw in customers.
“We would give discounts through Twitter, like 50 cents off your cup, just to get people coming in,” Schultz said.
According to her, the team decided to always have two people selling coffee at the stand and used class time to discuss solutions to issues that arose during the week.
“The first week we ran into a lot of problems that we came to deal with every week,” Schultz said. “That was actually fortunate for us just because that helped us find solutions early.”
As an example, Schultz remembers running out of cookies and needing to get a second pot for coffee during the first week.
After this, the group brought two coffee pots, nine dozen cookies and all other supplies to the stand.
Samantha Andolsen, a junior AEMM major, first pitched the idea of selling coffee on campus. She agreed that running out of supplies was a challenge along with scheduling servers for the stand.
“That was pretty much the only thing we had to work out, which we didn’t necessarily anticipate from the beginning,” Andolsen said. “So it was kind of a learning experience along the way.”
Both students said they enjoyed the hands-on learning experience this class offered, but they agreed that the project should last longer than eight weeks. Lonier said she has taken that into consideration and has since extended the amount of time spent on the project.
Lonier said she and the other teachers are enjoying the business ideas and progress the students are making.
“I am delighted,” she said. “The businesses have been really fun, and it’s real-time learning in a real-world setting.”