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Entrepreneurship road trip program enhances experiential learning

The Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community sponsored three road trips this semester to expand student learning from the classroom to real-world settings.

Students most recently traveled to Sports Endeavors, Inc. headquartered in Hillsbourough, N.C.

Elon’s Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community recently sponsored a student road trip to Sports Endeavors, Inc. in Hillsborough, N.C. The company is the operator of SOCCER.COM, one of the largest online soccer retailers in the world.

Ten students visited the company’s headquarters on Nov. 5 for a tour of the facility and to learn how the company went from a high school project in the 1980s to one of the largest online soccer retailers in the world. Sports Endeavors was founded in 1984 and is now an online superpower generating more than $150 million in revenue and employing more than 1,000 employees during peak seasons.

The students met with Paul Vandre, who is the company’s online marketing manager and is responsible for growing the company through internet channels such as Google AdWords and Instagram. Students gained an understanding of how companies can leverage the power of digital marketing by using data to test, measure and adjust marketing strategies.     

The ELLC also sponsored two road trips earlier this semester. The first road trip of the semester took students to North Carolina State University for the grand opening of the university’s Innovation Hall. The students learned how N.C. State structures their living learning communities around entrepreneurship. They also spoke with N.C. State students about the new products they were developing.

The trip included a tour of the new innovation lab inside an N.C. State residence hall, which houses 3D printers, a laser cutter and other tools to create prototypes.

Students speak with the founders of American Underground in Durham, N.C.

The other road trip was to the entrepreneurial hub American Underground in Durham, N.C. Students toured the site space and met with three of the founders, Jack Stauch, Neurospire; Tatiana Birgisson, Mati Energy Drinks; and Aaron Averill, Sport Tracks. Students engaged the entrepreneurs by asking questions about how they turned their ideas into a valuable venture.

“The trip helped show me to not be afraid to take risks and that small businesses can thrive when equipped with resources tailored to their needs,” Arianna Brown ’16 said about the American Underground trip. “These include low costs, a low-stress/high innovation workplace and being surrounded by other start-ups in the same position.”

“It has been eye-opening to see the different ways in which innovators solve problems that everyday people face,” said Cole Krajeski ’16, the resident advisor for the ELLC. “As future entrepreneurs, we hope to use strategies that both turn a profit and make people's lives better, so these trips are incredibly useful in developing ideas of our own.”

Scott Kelly, coordinator of student entrepreneurship and instructor of marketing at Elon, arranged the road trips and accompanied the students.   

“A Stanford professor, Steve Blank, says, ‘There are no facts inside the building.’ So, our purpose is to get out of the building and engage entrepreneurs," Kelly said. "We feel the more visionaries we engage the better we will be at identifying the problems we want to solve in the world.”

The ELLC opened in fall 2013 to provide a residential space for students of all majors to live together and collaborate on innovative ideas. The community's goal is for each member to develop their own product or service that solves a problem. While not every idea will turn into a viable venture, the students walk away with a systematic approach to tackling problems.

The community is located on the third floor of Colonnades A. The community's main activities include weekly lunches, road trips to visit innovative companies and entrepreneurial hubs, startup challenges, and promoting entrepreneurial thinking across campus.

Brittany Wenner,
11/14/2014 3:00 PM