Business School Shark Tank event demonstrates principles of entrepreneurship to students

The Lundy-Fetterman School of Business’ Shark Tank event was held in the student union theater yesterday, allowing two business classes to observe as entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to three investors and investing partners.

Orchestrated by professor Scott Kelly, the event was held in two sessions in which investors introduced their firms and then heard from an entrepreneur about their ideas. The shark panel was made up of Tim McLoughlin of Cofounders Capital, Jennifer Hensel, who is kick-starting the Camel Accelerator program at Campbell and Keith Daniel of Resilient Ventures. Each investing expert gave the entrepreneurs valuable feedback and advice to students.

The presenting entrepreneurs included Sara Hall, founder of Talus Ridge, Jason Johnson, founder of H.U.B.B. Kitchens, Steven Waltham, founder of Continuous Precision Medicine, Britnee Harris, founder of Reliable Credit Solutions and Melissa Turner, founder of Carolina Pharmacy.

Steve Waltham opened the 9:30 a.m. session with a presentation on Continuous Precision Medicine’s mobile app, which is designed to help people keep up with their prescription medications. Waltham’s company is looking for a lead investor to raise capital— around three million dollars— and hoped to show the panel how his app is useful and valuable to multiple stakeholders.

“When you start on an entrepreneurship project, you should assume that if it’s a good idea, there is probably someone else doing it.” Waltham told students in his pitch. “Your focus should not be on the competition, but on the way your product brings value in its market. The focus for my company is prescription pain management, which costs the US court system over a trillion per year. That problem is big enough that there is room for us in the market.”

The investor panel agreed. “Even if you think you’re the only one solving a problem, don’t say it in a pitch,” said Keith Daniel. “Focus on why your ideas work instead. It leaves you room to stand out if competition arises or is already working in your market.”

Students were able to hear investors deconstruct each pitch, point out its pros and cons, and describe how investment firms grow and change in ways that mean they not be immediately helpful to a business, but might be useful down the road. They also learned about channel partners—more established companies that already have the same target audience and can help smaller companies drive revenue by selling its solution—and discussed Waltham’s exit strategy from his company.

“When you build a company, don’t think about exit strategy right away,” Waltham advised the students. “Build it like you are going to do it forever, so it has strong foundations.”

The next competitor, Melissa Turner, was a retail pharmacist whose demanding hours took a toll on her happiness at work. She discovered a passion for the study of how DNA affects how drugs work in individuals, became PGX certified, and took a leave of absence from her retail position. Today, she partners with three labs to do PGX testing on her own clients, testing their DNA and letting them know which drugs they should not take. Her business model targets people who are frustrated with ineffective medications and who are tired of going back and forth to the doctor and pharmacy. 

“With a PGX test, we can guide people who are straining themselves and pharmacies trying to figure out correct dosage and avoid hassle for both parties,” Turner said. “We can make recommendations and help people get their lives back.”

The sharks questioned Turner on her 3-5 year plan, her marketing strategy, how she would like to expand and what team and resources she wants to be surrounded with. This year, Turner will have two interns from Campbell to help her with the business side of her new practice.

The final competitor of the day, Brittnee Harris (‘13), is a former probation officer who created Reliable Credit Solutions after a financial hardship her family faced because of poor credit. Harris became a self-taught credit expert while working on her own credit, and now helps people with credit scores below 640 improve their numbers and get loan approval. 

Initially, Harris found clients by working with her realtor and helping others with credit who were looking for home loans. She moved on to working with mortgage companies who sent her customers to help them get approved. In 2020, she left her job as a probation officer and officially incorporated her company. Students learned about residual income from Harris, whose plan for finding new clients now involves a client referral system with a bonus for each person who sent her someone to enroll. 

Harris said her criminal justice experience has influenced her perspective on credit repair. 

“Just like hiring an attorney to help get out of a speeding ticket, hiring a credit repair professional does not guarantee 100% absolution of debt, but it can help expunge your record,” Harris said. “My main goal is to connect with young people, educate them on credit, and help them understand how important it is so they are able to get approved for the things their families need.”


This article is related to: