Kaela Gilbert, Amity Christie and Mia Winans

To say that Kaela Gilbert was excited to take one of Stephen Haag’s courses is an understatement.

“Dr. Haag’s a legend,” Gilbert said. “Everyone knows who he is. All the freshmen coming in think, ‘I gotta take a class with this man.’”

The director of Entrepreneurship, better identified as the professor in flip flops (or no shoes at all), is well-known at Daniels. Haag has taught the “Gateway to Business” course for incoming first-year students for six years. But this year, as he rolled out the revised Entrepreneurship minor, many of those students also took EVM 3350, “From Idea to First Dollar Sale.”

Gilbert was one of those students who had 10 weeks to spin up a new business, get it to market and generate revenue … real revenue.

Stephen Haag

“You know how socks were lame, but now they’re cool,” she said. “Well, that’s what we wanted to do with pillowcases.”

Gilbert says in the first few classes, Haag had students do activities to get to know one another and learn each other’s passions. Then, they could form groups, or work alone, to develop an idea for a business. She and two other students decided to create Denali, a customized pillowcase company.

“We had to develop an MVP, a minimum viable product,” Gilbert said. “The idea was to sell the most basic version of the product to see if there was any interest or demand. We set up a table and sold four of them.”

From there, Haag helped the team buy a heat press machine and find pillowcases to buy in bulk. They printed their product, took photos, built a website and immediately started driving traffic to the website.

“We asked our parents to send out the link to the website to their friends,” Gilbert said. “It was amazing to get our first sale. We still have some orders to fill.”

Gilbert’s team wasn’t the only profitable group. Sixty-one students formed 22 teams that created for-profit businesses. Those businesses had:

  • Total gross revenue of $10,135
  • Total costs of $4,676
  • Total net revenue of $5,459
  • Average gross revenue per business $460
  • Average net revenue per business $248

The top performing business grossed $2,250 and netted $999, and the average profit margin across all teams was 52 percent. The other 16 students in the course formed nonprofit businesses that focused on donations, raising awareness and creating support groups.

“Here at DU, we focus on Generation Entrepreneur: the entrepreneurial and innovation mindset that knows no age, race, ethnicity or gender boundaries,” explained Haag.  “Everyone has the ability and capacity to bend business and significantly reshape the landscape of the business world.”

Gilbert already has ideas for her next business endeavor. Until then, she’s appreciative of the skills she learned in the class.

“It was such a cool experience to be in the class. I developed a business plan, got a team and launched a business,” she said. “There were times when professor Haag would only talk for 20 minutes and then let us go to work on our businesses. But, everyone would stay; people were so passionate about it. No one would leave. It was really special.”