It’s not often that college freshmen get a private tour of the New York Stock Exchange, a shopping spree at Niketown and a celebratory dinner with professionals from Accenture.
But every year, the winners of Lehigh’s business plan competition get to do just that.
The competition is the centerpiece of “Introduction to Business,” a class that uses an integrated case study of Nike to introduce incoming business students to the various aspects of business, such as accounting, management, finance and marketing.
“We started this class to introduce business to students in their first year at Lehigh,” says Karen Collins, associate professor of accounting and the coordinator of the class. “We want them to see how all the pieces of business fit together before they take more focused classes.”
Each section of the class is taught by an instructor with extensive business experience. This year’s winning team was taught by Martin Strayer, the CEO of Central Penn Nursing Care, in Lancaster, Pa.
Strayer, who has more than 40 years of executive experience, calls the class “the most exciting thing I do in my business life. It gives me the unique opportunity to share my professional business experiences with Lehigh students.”
'A good foundation to stand on'
In addition to studying business fundamentals, the students also learn how to start and run a business. They break into teams of three to four and develop a fictional business in the athletic shoe, apparel and equipment industry.
They have to develop a plan for their business and seek funding from real bankers, many of whom are Lehigh alumni.
Then the students present their businesses to the class. These presentations are videotaped and the 28 best presentations are sent to professionals at Accenture for final judging.
The top three student teams go to New York, where they visit the stock exchange and Niketown before sitting down to dinner with the judges.
This year’s winning team was headed by Marcus Risland ’14, from Stockholm, Sweden. Risland is majoring in finance and hopes to follow his father into investment banking.
“There’s no limit in finance,” he says. “There are so many opportunities to connect and communicate with the world.”
Risland attended high school in Sweden and the United States. Before coming to Lehigh, he worked at several large banks, hedge funds and financial firms both here and at home.
He always wanted to attend a top U.S. university and applied only to Lehigh, in part because he wanted to meet and work with other motivated, ambitious people.
Risland and his teammates—Maximilian Wessel ’14, Chad Efaw ’14 and Emily Bestwick ’14—developed a plan for Supplemental Engineers, a company that provides people with advice on fitness and matches them with appropriate supplements and other products.
They were thrilled to win the competition.
“This is a good foundation to stand on for the rest of my education,” says Risland. “I don’t think my business education could have started in a better way.”