BUIES CREEK - When Dr. Elizabeth Lange asked her students to create a business model for their course on sports business, she didn’t expect her students to actually deliver on a full-fledged business … much less, a handful of them.
But three months into the senior-level course, under the department of Exercise Science, Lange’s students are selling their products, obtaining business licenses and seeking patents on items that could change the sports world for the better.
“I feel like a proud mom,” said Lange, a first-year assistant professor who holds a doctoral degree in kinesiology and a masters in physical education. “It’s been great to see how engaged and excited these students have become about their products.”
Melbourne, Australia senior Annabelle Gibney and Delaware senior Marisa Muller - both members of Campbell University’s women’s soccer team - focused on school spirit for their business plan and devised “What Would Gaylord Do?” wristbands, the “Gaylord,” of course, referring to Campbell’s camel mascot.
Following the popularity of yellow Live Strong wristbands and “What Would Jesus Do” merchandise; the black, white and orange WWGD bands currently go for $2 … a price Gibney and Muller feel won’t break the bank for cash-strapped college students.
“We realized college kids don’t carry a lot of cash, so we wanted a cheap product that everyone could have access to,” Gibney said. “We could have always done T-shirts or rally towels, and there’s always that option to expand, but we thought we’d start with something small and see where it goes.”
The duo ordered 500 wristbands in the fall, and they began selling them at football games and other sporting events. Now that the soccer season has come to a close - Campbell’s squad advanced to the Big South Championship before falling 1-0 to Radford - Gibney and Muller say they have more time to focus on selling their product.
And so far, the response from students has been positive.
“Gaylord’s been more up and coming since when we were freshmen,” Muller said. “The University is promoting him more now, and he’s at more games than I’ve ever seen.”
In response to the obvious question, “What Would Gaylord Do?” Gibney didn’t hesitate with an answer.
“That’s up to the individual,” she said. “People see Gaylord as a fun guy. He’s exciting, and he’s passionate about what he does. We hope people take that mindset in whatever they do.”
A MOTOR CITY PLAN
Seniors Jared Bodary and Craig Eury wanted to create a business to help bring positive vibes to the economically hurting city of Detroit, Bodary’s hometown.
And that business revolves around football.
“Believe it or not, Detroit doesn’t have any adult recreational flag football leagues … at least none that are professionally run,” said Bodary. “So that’s something I’m trying to start up there. If it grows, we’ll get in to more sports.”
Eury, a North Carolina native who has no plans on moving to Detroit (or anywhere north of North Carolina, for that matter), is assisting in creating the business plan. The league, Great Lake Athletics, is already listed as an LLC (limited liability company) and has a website (greatlakeathletics.com) and business license. Bodary hopes to get it up and running as early as the summer of 2012.
“I’m not really doing it to make money, but because I enjoy it, and I want to bring a little bit of happiness back home,” he said.
The economic downturn has hit Detroit hard, particularly because of the fledgling auto industry, Bodary said. His idea was to create a recreational alternative for adults who can’t necessarily afford memberships at a gym.
“I want this to get known in Detroit as a commodity for the community,” he said. “It’s for people who want to stay in shape and have fun, but don’t have the money to really ‘work out.’”
Eury said the two have focused hard on the “quality” aspect of the business. They want it to not only look professional, but function professionally.
“What we’re really trying to drive home in our business plan is quality,” he said. “How can we make this something different than your normal recreational league? How can we sell this to someone as something superior to other leagues?”
That means quality equipment, Eury said. Flags, balls, fields, referees … the list goes on.
“I spent three or four years in Wilmington, and there I played a beach style of flag football that I just loved,” Bodary said. “We don’t have beaches in Detroit, but I wanted to bring that fun back home. It’s gotten pretty gloomy up there. Hopefully, this can help.”
Seniors Matthew Sergey of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Frank Zier of Frederick, Md., are a little more discreet when describing their business plan.
And for good reason … they’re seeking patents and copyrights, and they’ve got competition to worry about.
What they could say was the name of their product - the Surge Sleeve - and its purprose … to keep baseball pitchers’ arms warm between innings. Both Sergey and Zier are pitchers on Campbell’s baseball squad, and both have suffered injuries as a result of not being loose enough on the mound.
“This product will help pitchers last longer throughout games,” Sergey said. “We’re building a website right now for it, and we’d like to eventually sell it online and at major sporting goods stores like Dick’s.
Zier said there are several similar products on the market, but none that he thinks will match the quality of the Surge Sleeve.
“Everything out there now is too bulky and doesn’t look good,” Zier said. “That’s not what we’re going for.”
The two hope to have a prototype in place by the summer.
There are other products and business plans that require too much money for a college student to get them off the ground in the near future. One student is planning a mobile cupcake truck called “Sugar Rush,” and another has drawn up an impressive plan for a batting cage and driving range business for families in Lillington.
Another student, Christopher Weber, has obtained an LLC, website and license for his coin business, Liberty Numismatics, which will buy and sell your gold and silver and other various coins.
Whether these businesses succeed or fail, launch or remain a dream isn’t the important thing to Lange. She’s happy that the course has her students thinking outside the box and excited about whatever career paths they choose.
“My goal as an educator is to inspire students to be their best selves,” Lange said. “I have high expectations for them, and the higher those expectations, the more they seem to rise to them.”
And important lessons are being learned along the way, according to Muller.
“I’ve learned to definitely not take things personally,” she said. “If they don’t want a wristband, they don’t want a wristband.
“That’s just business.”
STORY: By Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications
PHOTO: Marisa Muller and Annabelle Gibney show off their "What Would Gaylord Do?" wristbands on the Campbell University campus. (Photo by Billy Liggett)