by Marielle Payton
Every year, Cedarville University’s Integrated Business Core gives students the opportunity to produce, pitch and market a business plan. This year-long program goes through the spring semester, during which students take Principles of Marketing, and the fall semester, in which they take Principles of Finance and Principles of Organizational Management. These three courses, spread out across two semesters, offer students a chance to simulate the business process from development to production. Throughout this process, students learn valuable and applicable skills and gain real-life experience that is easily transferable to the workplace after graduation. Eventually, they will present their business plan for approval to a board of alumni and gain funding for their project.
Caleb Miller was inspired to create his whiteboard business, Boardless, after struggling to study efficiently in his crowded dorm room. After talking to a wide array of students across campus, he noticed this problem of cluttered study space was a recurring issue. Due to lack of space to adequately study, students were having trouble focusing and getting work done.
In conversations with students across campus and hallmates, he realized that this problem uniquely affected stem and nursing students, whose coursework often required them to write out long paragraphs of information by hand. While this whiteboard product is helpful for everyone, Miller says he designed it with them in mind.
“We really wanted to improve the workplace for students, professors, and professionals alike,” Miller said in an email. “Many students expressed concerns that normal whiteboards are clunky and get in the way, and other mediums like sticky notes or scratch paper are small and not reusable. Therefore, we saw the need for reusable, portable, and convenient products that can easily accommodate a desk or workspace.”
Large, dry-erase whiteboards are available for all students to use in the Cedarville campus library, but there aren’t many of them and they are quickly claimed and used. Miller hopes to market their product to the library and convince them to buy some for student use and easy accessibility. The whiteboard product he’s planning to produce is “an adaptable, portable, and reusable whiteboard alternative called the Lite-Board which retails for $12.99.”
Lite-Board is a miniature version of this big whiteboard: it’s a small, rectangular dry-erase laminated plastic sheet that is portable, flexible and space saving. It’s non adhesive and can stick easily to any surface–but it also doesn’t leave any residue. This unique product exists in scarcity in the current U.S. market, but is more prevalent abroad.
The prototype Miller is basing his product off of was imported from China. He’s excited to pioneer a version of this idea for U.S. markets and is working hard to turn this dream into a reality. It’s definitely got potential to take off.
Once Miller and his team had an idea in mind of what kind of product they wanted to create, they went through the stages of determining whether such a project was feasible. To obtain the loan and make use of the funds available to IBC students, they made a marketing plan.
First, they performed a finance assessment, performing a cost-benefit analysis, contemplating shipping cost and weighing it against their estimated amount of units they could sell. It’s been encouraging for him and his team to see the practical use for concepts they’ve been learning in class. Working through a finance assessment for a product they’re about to launch in real time has given them a new appreciation for everything their major has to offer.
Their professors have been there with them every step of the way, offering constructive criticism and genuinely wanting to see them succeed. Thanks to this, Miller and his team were able to go before the committee and propose Boardless for approval or denial and received approval on the product with the condition that they made a few changes.
They plan to begin selling in mid-October. Based on their research, they’ve decided to order and sell 400 units to start with and see how the demand ebbs and flows. All of their profits will go to a charity named Back2Back, an orphan care ministry that focuses on holistic outreach to vulnerable children and their communities. In addition to donating all of their proceeds to Back2Back, Miller and his team will also each do 10 hours of volunteer work at the end of their business project.
From helping students study better to donating to charity and doing volunteer work, Miller and the Integrated Business Core showcase what it means to have a plan and a purpose of giving back to their community in every way possible.
Marielle Payton is a sophomore from Vienna, Virginia, right outside Washington, D.C. In addition to writing, she also loves figure skating, learning new languages, and reading antique comic books.