Five Bucks to a Grand

Scalability is a two-way street. Students learn big concepts through small startups

Call it an exercise in startup creation. Teams of students in Robert Eberhart’s Intro to Entrepreneurship class take $5 and try to turn a profit in one weekend. Sound dubious? Not at all.

Last spring, six teams in Eberhart’s class turned $30 into $1,135 in just 48 hours—the largest collective profit in the three-year history of the challenge. Eberhart is an assistant professor of management.

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.

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 ideas, he says, were mostly straightforward, but the impact was lasting. Zachary Lamb ’16 used skills he learned from class to launch Runner Inc. with Mike Roletti ’16 and Sam Kujovich ’16, an app that lets college students pay classmates to carry out basic chores, like laundry and grocery shopping.

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. 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.”

post-image Photo by Shutterstock
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