Entrepreneurship is “Mission Possible” at NAIT with $5 business challenge

by | Feb 2, 2024 | News

A unique assignment in an Entrepreneurship 3260 (ENT3260) class challenged students to start and run a business with only five dollars, with all the proceeds going to charity. Drew Wolsey, Chair of the Business Administration- Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, resumed the “Mission Possible” challenge last semester after pausing it due to COVID-19. The challenge starts with teaching students everything they need to know about starting a business, including generating ideas. The students are then tasked with creating a real business with only five dollars per person for start-up costs. 

“The idea being they’re really implementing the things we’re doing, obviously on a very micro scale,” said Wolsey. “We’re trying to figure out a way to replicate real entrepreneurship in the classroom … they do walk away feeling like this is what real entrepreneurship feels like.” 

In the Fall 2023 semester, Wolsey ran two sections of ENT3260. One was in-person, and the other was online. Some of the businesses included a sticker company, customizable shot glasses, several food-based businesses and a pop-up coffee shop that sold their goods at NAIT. Some utilized social media to sell, whereas others went relied on a pre-order system to lower their initial costs. There was even a snow removal company—which Wolsey said was a challenge given the lack of snow at the time. 

“That was actually a great example, right? That’s real entrepreneurship. You start a snow removal business and Mother Nature decides not to cooperate.” 

There are a few constraints on the type of businesses students can create. They can invest their own assets for start-up but must pay themselves back at the end of the challenge. Their businesses must be legal and as Wolsey explained, “they have to make sure that I don’t get in trouble.” 

While not all of the businesses ended up making a profit, some of them might continue after the challenge ends. “Most of the businesses that are being run right now, they see as no, that’s not something I would continue on, it worked in this small scale. But I do have some, like this sticker business, [who] very much could see themselves [continuing.]” 

Between the two classes, the students were able to raise over $3400 for charity. Some of the lessons they learned included the need to pivot when an idea isn’t working and the importance of using social media to connect with customers. 

Currently, only entrepreneurship students are required to take this class, but Wolsey would love to see the class expand outside of this program. “I’m hoping that as word gets out … that we expand to other programs, other schools. The hope is that it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”  

Cover photo: Members of the group “The Toasted Bean” pose outside their pop-up coffee shop at NAIT. Photo supplied

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