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Making It

Business students have fun learning real-life lessons in entrepreneurship

Glob of pizza dough in hand, an enthusiastic student flings his homemade creation into the air to give it that classic hand-tossed shape. He and his classmates gather around a kitchen countertop to assemble various ingredients onto the soon-to-be pizza pie. But the result is not dinner; it’s their class project.

This was the scene of a class-group meeting during spring semester for Maison Steyer, BSBA ’17, a recent accounting graduate from Tiffin, Ohio. The group was working on the “Make-It” project in Dr. Jill Christopher’s intermediate managerial accounting class, which requires students to brainstorm an idea for a mock startup business by creating a product. Over the course of two semesters, the students have to budget expenses, prepare a business plan, market the product, account for and explain variances in cost and, lastly, actually make the product from scratch.

Eric Chen and Ari Tomasula assemble pizza ingredients.For their startup business, Steyer’s group members chose to brand “Polar Pizza,” a frozen pizza business targeting the ONU student body and Ada community. The group plotted through several phases of the project, from brainstorming the product idea to assembling the physical product. To cap off the venture, the group gave a class presentation at the end of the fall and spring semesters. 

A walk through the classic entrepreneurial experience certainly taught the students a thing or two about how risky it is to start a new business. One real-life lesson that especially hit home with them was that things often do not go as planned.

“You have this budget that you want to stick to, but you’re never actually going to be at your budget. You’re going to be up, or you’re going to be down,” Steyer says. “Being prepared for those things and then thinking logically on how to react to them is very beneficial to anyone interested in learning what it’s really like to start a business.”

Maison Steyer presents with his group.Over the years, Christopher’s class has produced several clever product ideas, including original music CDs, corn hole games and Polar Bear-shaped soap. It’s a fun way for the students to spread their wings creatively and constructively.

But even though the project is plenty of fun, the primary takeaways are the real-life lessons learned. Completing the project has been a great help to many of the students whose aim is to pass the certified public accountant (CPA) exam.

“This is a really high-impact learning experience that prepares students who take the CPA exam extremely well for the business and economics portion of the exam,” Christopher says. “There are students on campus right now in the master’s program who passed this part of the exam based heavily on what they learned doing this project.”

High-impact learning is a hallmark of any student’s education in the Dicke College of Business Administration and the University as a whole. Examples include capstone projects, internships and undergraduate research. From a student perspective, high-impact learning really does get you thinking like a professional.

I think this project helps you brainstorm a lot of things and gets your mind moving in different ways that you’re not necessarily used to in the classroom,” Steyer says. “This really helps in the real world when you’re in a situation where you don’t necessarily have a right answer but you have to figure out the best thing for that situation.

Of course, planning for the inevitable obstacles is beneficial no matter what line of work you end up in. Luckily for these students, it’s something they’ve already learned to adapt to, with some fun along the way.