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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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College of Business, United Prairie Team Up for New Program

Students take out loan, start business.

Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 3-24-2012

Students in the College of Business at Minnesota State University were sure they had a winning idea for a simple product to sell at a low cost to students on campus: a bottle- opener.

Even a loan consultant at the bank they worked with thought the product was a winner, knowing many college kids in their early 20s did an awful lot of bottle- opening of varying kinds.

But as the students learned, market research is oh-so important. As they spoke with and surveyed students on campus, few said they’d want to buy a bottle- opener for $3.

“Nobody wanted those,” said Jared Wasik, in the marketing department on the team.

That was OK, as it turns out. The stu­dents — enrolled in a program that allows them to develop and run a real-world busi­ness, called Integrated Business Experience — had half a dozen product ideas. And they have landed on two that they are sure will be winners.

The first is a collapsible water bottle, which is $5. It’s reusable, which is environ­mentally friendly, and when it’s empty, it can be collapsed and stored in a person’s pocket or bag.

The second product is a T-shirt with a vintage Maverick logo that originated on campus gear in the 1970s. The athletic department gave the OK to the group to resurrect the logo exclusively for their T­shirt, which they will sell for $10. The cheap price tag, as well as the unique logo, should make the shirt appealing to college kids, said CEO Tom Odegaard.

“The Maverick logo itself is a throwback,” Odegaard said.

The students will then have until the end of April to sell at least 300 of each item to pay back the $2,500 loan they acquired from United Prairie Bank at the end of February to start the company. The loan is an actual business loan, and if the students default, it reflects on their credit just as it would with anyone else.

“It’s real,” said Brenda Flannery, dean of the College of Business. “It’s not just an exercise.”

But the students aren’t too concerned. They figure they could sell a few hundred products in just a couple of days at a booth in the student union. Their thoughts are on reordering product, after they sell out on the first order. They’re also planning to customize T-shirts for area businesses after they branch out from selling on campus.

“We’re pretty confident in our abilities,” Brett Murtha said.

All of this is about experience, they said, not profit.

All proceeds after the loan is paid off will go to Kids Against Hunger. And the students plan to volunteer their time packaging meals with the organization as well.

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