Tag Archives: MBA

Catching Up With Dingman Venture Fellow Bethy Hagan

By Danielle Bennings

Second-year MBA student, Bethy Hagan was not the traditional MBA candidate. After completing her undergraduate degree in liberal arts at the University of Virgina, she wasn’t interested in the corporate culture and stumbled into a job at a startup in California. Although it wasn’t what she initially envisioned for herself, Bethy fell in love with the exciting startup culture on the west coast. Knowing she wanted to move back to her hometown of Baltimore, MD, she searched for top-tier entrepreneurship centers in the area, which brought her to the Smith School and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Bethy dove in head first during her first year as a Smith MBA. You may remember her as one of the guest bloggers from the AdVENTURE Challenge: China and as a member of the winning team at the China Business Model competition!

 

Grand Prize winning team, Wireless ISP, with Smith School and Peking University leadership.

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AdVENTURE Challenge: China – Preparing For the Competition

By Gwen Gurley

In less than a week, my classmates and I will be setting foot in China; a part of the world I never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit. I have to say, it is going to be awesome.

This trip is certainly a lot more than a sightseeing adventure though. For the last seven weeks, my classmates and I have been meeting with our teams, researching the Chinese market, writing and rewriting business models, pitching our businesses and reaching out to experts and experienced business people, all in an effort to have the best business idea for China. Each of the teams is made up of four or five members and each team constitutes one business. In total there are 12 teams in the program with business models ranging from mobile travel apps, wireless internet service providers, and even a robotic cocktail making machine.

The members of the class are not only geographically diverse (we have classmates in College Park, Beijing and Tel Aviv) but they also have extremely different backgrounds. As you can imagine, this makes the process of building a business model with so many individuals extraordinarily interesting and rewarding.  Every other week the students based in College Park meet to hear each other’s pitches and make suggestions on areas of development for each business. Our pitches are also videotaped and posted so that foreign-based students can leave feedback as well.

While preparing for the AdVENTURE Challenge: China competition hasn’t been easy, it certainly has brought all of us a great appreciation for the complexities of international business and entrepreneurship. In these last few days leading up to the trip, the teams will be meeting to finalize changes in their business models and continue with their research. But once we’re in China the work doesn’t stop there! We’ll still have prep time to rework our businesses in between sightseeing, company visits and meeting with our Chinese classmates at Peking University, a.k.a. Beida (pronounced Bay-da).

Beida is one of the most prestigious universities in China and was the first modern national university in the country when it was established in 1898 to replace the ancient university of Guozijian. Not only is Beida considered a top research university, but it is also widely recognized for the beauty of its campus as it is situated on a former royal garden with lots of green open space, a lake, and plenty of traditional Chinese architecture. While there, we will meet with our Chinese classmates and review our business models one last time before the competition is held there. Then, we’ll compete head-to-head in front of local business professionals, VCs and entrepreneurs, a winner will be announced and prizes will be claimed!

It feels like we’ve already been on this trip for the last several weeks, and the culmination of the journey in China is going to be truly amazing. Wish us luck and safe travels!

Gurley_G-21Aug13-14 (1)Gwen Gurley is a 1st year MBA student focused on Marketing Strategy and Business Development. She is a former teacher and small business owner who decided to follow her passion for business and entrepreneurship to the Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is currently working with local DC startup Betterific as their head blogger and content marketer. Upon returning from China she will begin a summer marketing internship with Distil Networks in Arlington.

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MBA Students Work for Tipton Equity Partners in Venture Practicum Course

In this post on the Venture Practicum series, Dingman Center marketing graduate assistant Grant Lee interviews Aditya Dokania, a second-year MBA student focused on general management.

Grant Lee (GL): Hi Aditya. Good to see you. Why did you decide to participate in Venture Practicum?
Aditya Dokania (AD): I went to the Smith Experience information session to learn about the program and immediately gained interest.  Before coming to Smith, I had experience working in a startup in India and knew I wanted to work with startups in the United States.

GL: What startup are working with this semester?
AD: I am working for Tipton Equity Partners with Brian Banes. It is a private equity fund. Although my major is general management, I always wanted to utilize the resources that our school can offer for new venture finance and thought this would be a good opportunity.

GL: Tell me more about your project.
AD: My current project is to analyze the deals from last year. My goal is to understand the risk for the company and for the industry. I conduct data analysis that helps identify which startups to invest in the future and can also help us to understand how they get funded. I also write a biweekly newsletter.

GL: What do you want to achieve through this experience?
AD: The company’s goal is to improve communication and I can help to identify new targets for investment. Personally, I want to gain more insight about the private equity industry and to learn how people do research and identify targets. Back home in India, new venture financing is a relatively new field. I believe I can leverage this unique experience when I return to India.

GL: Do you think working at a startup will be unlike any other job you’ve had?
AD: Before my MBA, I worked as a consultant at Ernst and Young for more than two years. The scale was tremendously different. At Ernst and Young, it felt like there were thousands of other people there. At Tipton Equity, where there are around 6 or 7 people, I feel more valuable to the company.

GL: What skills or expertise do you offer to your startup?
AD: Research and industry analysis. My graduate assistantship experience has helped me a long way in doing research. I work in the Department of Decisions, Operations and Information Technology department here at the Smith School. My job is to do research on various subjects and prepare case studies for faculty members. I apply this experience to the projects that I am working on for Tipton Equity.

GL: How do you think the MBA program has helped you thus far?
AD: Coming from a consulting background, my goal after graduation is to go back to the consulting field in the US or India. A prestigious MBA will help me to move up the corporate ladder a bit faster. Moreover, the MBA has given me training in public speaking. I have had many opportunities to present on stage and that has helped me to improve my confidence and my communication abilities overall.

Aditya DokaniaDokania-23Aug12-11 (1)
Aditya spent two years in risk and assurance consulting prior to coming to the Smith School for his MBA. He focused on performing systems audits and identifying systemic weaknesses that may lead to leakage of financially significant information. While pursuing his MBA, he interned with the International Monetary Fund where he worked on enterprise architecture and roadmapping for the Information and Knowledge Management division.

Brian Banes
Brian spent three years in management consulting for financial services companies prior to his MBA. While pursuing his MBA, Brian has worked with a number of public and private investment firms. Post-MBA, he will be working in investment banking with a focus on healthcare.

Grant Lee
1512432_10100192309098222_25303874_n1
Grant Lee is a second year full-time MBA student focused on Marketing at Smith School of Business. Prior to Smith, he had four year experiences in retail marketing and sales management. He is passionate about sports, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is currently seeking career opportunities in sports and marketing management. To know more about him, check out his blog: mrgrantlee.com 

About Tipton Equity Partners 

logo small copy Tipton Equity Partners is a middle-market private equity firm investing in promising enterprises in the US and in select emerging markets globally. Tipton Equity Partners primarily focuses on investments in healthcare, software and business services.
Tipton’s principals are experienced investors and operators who contribute strategic insight and execution experience to new ventures and growth-stage companies, in addition to equity capital investment. Tipton’s portfolio companies and managed interests are spread throughout the United States and across international locations, from southern Europe to the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Australia.

 

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MBA Students Work for MD Startup VisiSonics in Venture Practicum Course

In the second installment of our Venture Practicum series, Dingman Center marketing graduate assistant Grant Lee interviews Salomon Camhi, a second year MBA student focused on marketing strategy. Camhi joined Venture Practicum to experience what startup life is all about.

Grant Lee (GL): What startup will you be working with this semester?
Salomon Camhi (SC): The startup I am working for is VisiSonics. Specifically, I am working for the product, RealSpace 3D Sound. RealSpace creates 3D immersive sound effects that allows users to use headphones enjoying sounds from 360 degree. The traditional sound effect is more flat and comes from 2D, whereas the RealSpace is more complete and exciting.

Grant Lee (GL): Describe your project? What are the deliverables?
Salomon Camhi (SC): My focus in the MBA program is marketing strategy, and this project is all about marketing and new product development. For the project, my MBA team partner, Semret Lemma, and I will be working on the competitor and SWOT analysis. We need to analyze VisiSonics’s own SWOT, create a go to market strategy and find a channel to enter. Other things that we might be tackling include webpage design and product positioning.

Salomon

Grant Lee (GL): What do you want to take away from this project?
Salomon Camhi (SC): Prior to Smith MBA, I had ten years experience in the sales, but I have never been involved with the strategic planning process. This project serves a good opportunity for me to develop the strategy and actually implement it. Also, this is a real company not just a school project. I will see the impact of my work in real life.

Grant Lee (GL): Have you worked in a startup before? Describe the experience.
Salomon Camhi (SC): Yes, last summer I worked as a marketing and development intern for UberOffices in Virginia. My project was similar but the scale is much bigger this time. Working at a startup is different from a traditional corporate environment. It is less structured and the organization is more flat so communication is faster.

Grant Lee (GL): Describe the working environment. Is your startup located in a co-working space–like an incubator? Or, do they have their own office space?
Salomon Camhi (SC): Visionics belongs to Technology Advancement Program on the UMD campus. It is a cool place. I know two people who currently work there are UMD graduates. It used to be a chemistry lab, but now it is more of a demo-testing center. There is little office space there.

Grant Lee (GL): What skills do you think you can contribute to Visisonics?
Salomon Camhi (SC): Coming from the sales background, I understand the sales process. This specialty allows me to think from a sales’ perspective when creating marketing strategy. I will be able to develop more realistic and actionable strategy for the company to implement. Also, personally I like technology, especially gaming. This will help me to be familiarized with the industry.

Grant Lee (GL): How do you think the project will help you in your career?
Salomon Camhi (SC): This project will give me hands on experience in developing marketing strategy. It also gives me a picture of how a new technology product will be launched into the market.

About Salomon Camhi
Salomon Camhi is a second year full time MBA student at Smith School of Business. He was born and raised in Guatemala City, Guatemala. He graduated from Purdue University with dual degrees; one in Management with a Minor in Marketing and a the second in Computer Programming Technology. Professionally, he work as a sales representative for two different construction material companies in DC area. Solomon worked for a lumber yard in the DC before beginning his MBA journey.

Grant Lee1512432_10100192309098222_25303874_n1
Grant Lee is a second year full-time MBA student focused on Marketing Strategy at Smith School of Business. Prior to MBA, he had four years of experience in retail marketing and advertising in Taiwan. During first year, he differentiated himself by participating in three business plan competitions and won top five in Wake Forest Retail Innovation Challenge. Now in his second year, he is dedicated to learning more about entrepreneurship by working as a Marketing Graduate Assistant for the Dingman Center, where he enjoys every moment of it. Grant shares his perspectives in his personal website mrgrantlee.com 

About VisiSonics
VisiSonics’ was spun out of the department of computer science at UMD, and is led by the original scientific team working with experienced entrepreneurs. The technology, based on a deep understanding of how the human brain perceives 3D sound, allows creation of immersive sound over any headphones with pinpoint precision. This allows stunning virtual realism in gaming, movies and music. VisiSonics hardware also can capture and stream sound at live events with precision, creating a “best seat in the house”  experience.Visisonics Logo

Follow the Dingman Center blog for updates on the other students and startups participating in Venture Practicum.

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MBA Students Work for DC Startup Homesnap in Venture Practicum Course

Dingman Center recently launched the second year of Venture Practicum, a course that provides MBA students with hands-on experience at startups. Selected students are paired with a local startup based their skills and interests. We invited Jimpei Harada, second year full-time MBA student from Tokyo, Japan, to share his experiences thus far in the course. Along with part-time MBA student, Tadhg Moriarty, Jimpei will be consulting for Homesnap, a real estate search platform for people to explore homes online or from a mobile phone. Dingman Center Board of Advisors Chairman, Mark Walsh serves as Executive Chair of this D.C. based startup. You may also remember Homesnap from last year’s Cupid’s Cup Showcase.

Grant Lee (GL): Tell me how and why you decided to participate in Venture Practicum?jimpei
Jimpei Harada (JH): Last summer I interned in the Amazon Japan leadership program in the Supply Chain Department. My role was more of a consultant than a supply chain intern. Traditionally, in the business world, people tend to collect and analyze data and then come up with possible solutions. However, at Amazon, my boss, who was an experienced consultant in McKinsey, taught me a different framework which is to develop the potential solution first and then prove that work by gathering and analyzing data. For this project, I want to leverage the skills I have learned through my internship and MBA coursework and apply them to Homesnap. Plus, I have never worked in the US; I believe it will be a valuable experience.

GL: Describe the startup will you be working with this semester?
JH: Homesnap is a real estate broker platform. Users can download the app, take and upload pictures, and search information using the property search.

homesnap

GL: Describe your project. What is the goal?
JH: The goal is to create a platform to measure user engagement. The company wants to know how users test, track, and behave with the website and app. Tadhg Moriarty and I will investigate website analysis like Google Analytics and create tutorials in the end.

GL: Do you think working at a startup will be unlike any other job you’ve had?
JH: Definitely. Prior to beginning MBA, I had ten years of corporate experience as an IT engineer in Japan. Through the MBA program, I have learned that startup companies have a fast decision-making process, and now I am going to see how it works.

GL: How do you think the project will help your future career?
JH: I hope I learn to have an “entrepreneurship mindset” while doing this project. This project will help me to ease the pain of transition period from a student into a full-time employee.

Founded in 2008 and based in Washington DC, Homesnap is a trusted real estate search platform for people to explore homes and search real estate listings online or from a mobile phone. Using the Homesnap app (available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices) you can snap a photo of any home, nationwide, to find out all about it. For listed homes, you may be able to see interior photos too! When you’re ready to buy or sell real estate, you can contact a real estate agent within Homesnap to schedule a showing or list your home in the Multiple Listing Service.

Follow the Dingman Center blog for updates on the other students and startups participating in Venture Practicum.

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Dispatches from Inside the Classroom: Day 2

Best Marketing’s Liz Sara, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, started off last night’s “Business to Business Marketing,” course with a how-to on developing a company’s value proposition. Two guest speakers from local tech companies Mindseye and PublicRelay, who both previously pitched the Dingman Center Angels investor network, provided case studies on how THEY crafted the value statements for their companies. Following are Sara’s key takeaways from the case studies:

  • Maintaining a pulse on the marketplace and changing market conditions are key to having a value proposition that resonates.
  • Competitor reactions, new trends, economic changes – all play a role in what matters to the business buyer.

Are you interested in strengthening your value proposition and differentiating your company from the rest? Sara recommends reading Business Market Management, by Anderson and Narus and Differentiate or Die, by Jack Trout.

Tonight’s class will cover identifying target business markets and monitoring the competition featuring case studies from guest speakers Nikhil Palekar, CEO, nVeloped and Logan Soya, CEO, Aquicore. Check out the first post in this series and stay tuned for our next dispatch.

Sara-05Aug13-97Liz Sara has 20 years of experience in the local high tech community as an entrepreneur, business leader, angel investor and philanthropist. In 2001, she founded Best Marketing, LLC to provide early stage software companies with strategic marketing, PR and business development services. Her company offers clients all the benefits of a full-scale, seasoned marketing department on a ‘virtual’ basis — eliminating overhead and headcount associated with full-time staff. Previously, she played a principal role as co-founder of SpaceWorks, an eCommerce software company, where she facilitated its startup and growth to nearly $25 million in revenue; at America Online, where she designed the PR program and investor road show for the IPO; at United Press International, where she facilitated a turn-around strategy; and for LEXIS/NEXIS, where she was instrumental in the creation and successful launch of a new division. Ms. Sara holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Maryland. She is a member of the Business & Professional Women’s Committee of the Corcoran; the Women’s Committee of National Museum of Women In the Arts; and the Board of the Capital City Ball. In addition, Ms. Sara is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

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The Smith Venture Practicum Program – A Student’s Perspective

One of my favorite things about going to school at Smith is the ability that we have to learn and grow outside of the classroom in a variety of ways. Don’t get me wrong, the classroom is a great learning environment. But in a job market where employers are constantly looking for “real life” experience, it’s necessary to have tangible application stories to tell. But I was also interested in seeing what it looked like under the hood of a startup. What are the building blocks? What is the mindset required? What are the challenges that they face every day?

That is why I took the Venture Practicum for my Smith Experience. Venture Practicum connects MBAs with startups sourced through the Dingman Center.  The course was the perfect combination for me to combine experience in marketing with exposure to an early stage venture. My team paired with DC tech startup Homesnap, which has an app that allows you to take a picture of any home to find out all about it. The project for the semester was to help drive downloads of the app at a make-or-break inflection point in their business. We did this by going to South by Southwest to promote the app (and winning awards in the process), launching new versions of the app and preparing for a round of fundraising.

134135_Homesnap-Logo-HorizontalWe worked hand in hand with the Homesnap team to develop digital ad campaigns, targeting strategies and analyze their effectiveness in driving downloads. It was a great way to learn about a thriving career area, digital marketing. At the same time we got an insider perspective on why the Homesnap team is so successful: the ability to think on the fly, experiment, and be adaptable are all critical elements to their success. What a great way to learn about “real life”!

0c24dbbShurid Sen is a 2014 Full-Time MBA Candidate at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. In addition to participating in the inaugural Venture Practicum program, Shurid is the 2013-2014 President of the Smith Entrepreneur’s Club as well as a regional finalist in the 2013 Venture Capital Investment Competition.

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The End of an MBA’s Summer in the Start-up Nation

Israel is a start-up nation! The statistics say it all. Israel has the highest density of startups and these startups attract an enormous amount of venture capital – more venture capital per person than anywhere else in the world. And when it comes to R&D, no other country can compete.

When I lived in Tel Aviv, often times I’d forget that I was living in a country where a good part of it was covered by desolate deserts. What I encountered daily were people who were creative, driven, and who never took “no” for an answer. These characteristics – or chutzpah as some people may call it – have no doubt contributed to Israel’s spectacular economic success. One day over a coffee break, a co-worker at Medtronic and I discussed the economic downturn that the United States was facing and how it has affected people’s lives and the way people do business. We inevitably compared it with Israel’s economic situation  At the end of the conversation, the co-worker simply said, “Israel faces many challenges. It is small and lacks resources. However, that forced us to become more resourceful at solving our problems.”

What my co-worker said was consistent with what I observed. While I was in Israel, I rented a car so I could travel to other cities for sightseeing. Gas was very expensive, at least more expensive than what I was used to in the States – nearly $8 per gallon.   What stood out from all the many gas stations on the sides of the road were stations called Better Place. They are battery-swapping stations for electric cars.  Instead of waiting hours for an electric car to be charged, it only takes five minutes to change a battery. Just as electric cars were born out of the desperate need to wean away from oil, Better Place was founded on the idea that easy and simple battery replacement would convince more people to drive electric cars.  In Israel, whenever there is a need, there are entrepreneurs working on solutions.

Another Israeli technology that I found very useful was the iPhone app Waze (www.waze.com) – a community-based GPS traffic and navigation app. Before I headed out in my car, I would turn to Waze to get driving directions in English and, more importantly, to find out which streets were congested. I would rely on Waze to find the best route based on traffic patterns, to warn about road hazards (including speed cameras), and even to find the cheapest gas stations – all based on user-generated content. The idea for Waze originated when its founder was dissatisfied with traditional GPS devices that did not have the ability to characterize real time conditions. So a software engineer became an entrepreneur when he took actions to overcome the problem with a better invention.

A lot people have asked me about how I liked my trip in Israel. I have told many that I’d love to go visit again. This summer, I completed a course in Technology Commercialization at the Technion, had an amazing internship with Medtronic, and tasted some of the best food in Israel. Above all, it was an eye opening experience.

Allen Lu received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.  He completed his academic research training at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School and worked as an assay development scientist with Meso Scale Diagnostics.  At Smith, Allen is completing his MBA with a focus in Finance and Business Development.  He was recently in Israel as a Global Technology Entrepreneurship Fellow at the Technion and a business development intern at Medtronic WTC.

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An MBA Student’s Take on China

Everything in my Washington, D.C. apartment had been to China but me. The Rogue acoustic guitar I was learning to play Greenday songs on? Chinese. The University of Maryland sunglasses I’m packing for the trip? From China. Even the “Japanese” Toshiba laptop I typed this on was actually made in China. Once, I bought frozen organic broccoli at our local Whole Foods Market. I honestly assumed I was doing my part in reducing my carbon footprint, but printed in unmistakable 6-point font on the edge of the bag: Product of China.

This January, I joined forty of my classmates from the full-time, part-time and executive MBA programs at Smith, along with a couple masters and undergraduate students and two MBAs from the Technion in Israel in making the trip to China for the 2012 edition of the Dingman Center’s China Business Plan Competition trip. We were all super excited to see how entrepreneurs fit into China’s “harmonious society.” We toured factories, met with business owners and managers, and did a little sightseeing, too. Learning about doing business in China was nothing short of amazing.

We began our trip with a visit to the U.S. Embassy office. Kevin and Sally, two state department employees, gave a fascinating overview of the business climate in China. It’s a wondrous, fast changing place, they said. There is a lot of money to be made…

…as long as you are very, very careful.

IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) is a phantom! Enforcement of law is more political than judicial! This room you’re sitting in is bugged, and if you brought a computer on this trip, know that the government has already hacked into it! We heard stories of Chinese-U.S. business partnerships going sour for all sorts of reasons. “Do heavy due diligence on your Chinese partners before you make deals,” they told us. “You don’t want to hear the phone calls we get every day.” More than one head was spinning as we headed back to the bus.

A thought-provoking afternoon of speakers from the law firm Jones Day, Venture Capital group CVCA and accounting firm Bernstein Pinchuk lead us to a delicious banquet at Jin Xiang You. Chinese students competing in the next day’s competition met us for the dinner. Much of the conversation focused on the complicated rules of dining etiquette, though a few custom business pitches were passed around the tables as well.

The competition finals at Beida, the so-called “Harvard of China,” were electric. Teams had traveled from as far as 13 hours away by train, with diverse ideas from increasing rail efficiency in northern coal mining cities to teaching newborn babies to read. “Tenacity,” a team of Chinese undergraduate students from near Shanghai, took first place with their idea for an innovative new cane for the blind.  The students proposed a “smart walking stick” that used radars to precisely identify obstacles in the path of a blind person.

Grand Prize Winners from Zhejiang University

Second place went to Smith first-year MBA Marvin Yueh. Along with his partner, first-year MBA Angela Suthrave (not present on the China trip), Marvin has been working on Live-a-Betes, a program of lifestyle education for people who have diabetes.

Second Place Team, Live-a-betes, from the University of Maryland

Smith E-MBA team “Integrata” also placed, winning with their  comprehensive personal executive security system. Honorable mentions went to Smith teams Comrade Brewing, Avatravel and Spark Computing.

In two more days of company visits after the competition, we had our preconceptions challenged again and again. We took a bullet train to visit factories in Tianjin, a huge quickly-developing city closer to the coast. After passing hundreds of boring 30-story apartment buildings that seemed randomly sprinkled along the hour-long rail route, we went right into the boring one-story warehouse buildings where all those people work.

We talked with managers who run the composites factory that makes airplane components for Boeing; saw the manufacturing lines for 20,000 Otis Elevator parts, and even glimpsed the clean rooms where 36,000 bottles of Pepsi get filled every hour, 24/7/365 [read about us inadvertently shutting down the line on the trip blog here]. We met with TenCent, the enormous internet service provider responsible for QQ and several other popular Chinese social media apps. We heard about IPR struggles at Danfoss, as well as the major benefits of doing business in such a huge, dynamic market.

After a week of inside views and privileged conversations I was even more amazed and impressed by the Chinese business world.  What’s more, the Dingman Center’s China trip highlighted for me the beauty of the Smith MBA. We learn about business globalization in the classroom from top-rated faculty, then travel to business hotspots to test what we’ve learned. Whether with CIBER, Dingman or student-initiated trips, classrooms are only one part of our Smith education.

Frankie Abralind, MBA Candidate 2012

Frankie Abralind loves selling new ideas. Before pursuing his MBA, he operated what was once Maryland’s largest biodiesel plant, having designed the facility himself. In the years after finishing his undergraduate degree in Interior Architecture at Cornell University, Frankie also worked as a grassroots organizer fighting global warming, founded and published a real paper magazine with thousands of readers, and learned to love performing improv comedy. Frankie came to the Smith School of Business to learn how to start a profitable business that would make a difference. He’s now the president of the entrepreneurship club.

http://umddingman.blog.com/

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