December 4, 2009
Contact: University Relations
The Fall 2009 Sales Lab Competition, sponsored by the UB chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization and the University of Baltimore's Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center, saw a semester of growth and development as five student groups participated in the lab's competition to bring a retail venture to a campus-based market. The effort, now in its second semester, involves a team's plan to market and/or create an actual product or service for sale to the UB community during a pre-determined period at a kiosk in the William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center (the Merrick School of Business), on the UB campus.
The team with the strongest net sales wins the competition, and is allowed to use the kiosk for an additional week this semester and gain the first choice of slots in the following semester. Participating students keep their profits—but more importantly, they take away lessons about marketing and sales techniques, as well as some key fundamentals about merchandising, customer relations and other business basics.
"Sales Lab is a great way to introduce future business proprietors and entrepreneurs to the realities of selling and marketing," said Jim Kucher, executive director of the center. "Anybody who has ideas about how to create, package and sell something can understand the appeal of this approach. It's real selling, and that instills the right kind of pressure. But the environment allows and even encourages mistakes, which makes for a better business student, and, hopefully, a more thoroughly prepared graduate of the University."
This semester, the organization's five participating groups sold cosmetics, baby gear, jewelry and art pieces made from reclaimed materials, winter apparel, cell phone and mp3 accessories—even CDs and collateral materials for a local musician. Each group had to apply to the competition, abide by the rules and commit to an agreed upon level of participation. They were encouraged to link their Sales Lab activities to their Web sites and other marketing platforms, as well as print flyers, buy ads and make use of other more traditional marketing techniques.
The winning group this semester is headed by Sybil Martin, a business administration-management major who is a franchisee for Mary Kay Cosmetics. She used the kiosk as well as other methods to promote the brand's products among campus audiences and passersby.
"In all of business, there is nothing more honest and more telling than the exchange between a customer and a retailer," Kucher said. "It's an experience that even the greatest textbook cannot replicate. To be a participant in those moments can set the stage for a lifetime of self-reliance and human understanding, not to mention simply catching what we call the 'sales bug.' It's one of the best things we do for the students in the Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center."
The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the School of Law, the Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts and the Merrick School of Business.