By Ancy Joy
For The Diamondback
The University of Maryland’s American Marketing Association held a panel Tuesday featuring four entrepreneurs who made deals with famous investors on the popular ABC reality series Shark Tank. The entrepreneurs shared their experience and gave advice to students.
The event was part of a semester-long virtual speaker series hosted by AMA, in which the organization brings in prominent industry professionals to give real-world insights into the marketing field to students.
Chase Blum, AMA’s vice president of events, said the organization wants to give students opportunities to talk to people who have made it in the industry.
“It’s very exciting to us,” Blum said. “I’ve spoken to the panelists through phone and Zoom, and they’re all really great people who are very eager to give advice and help people who want to get to where they are now — maybe even applying to Shark Tank themselves someday.”
The panel was moderated by Henry Boyd, a marketing professor at this university, and featured Fran Harris, founder of Electra Beverages, Kim Meckwood, founder of Click and Carry, Emily Williams, co-founder of Slice of Sauce and Wes LaPorte, founder of PhoneSoap.
The panel started off with a question and answer session, followed by a live session where students asked questions to the panelists.
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Boyd kicked off the event by asking the panelists when they found the courage to pursue their business idea.
Williams, who appeared on the current season of Shark Tank and found a new way to consume condiments by turning them into the consistency of slices of cheese, said that seeing positive reactions from people trying her invention gave her courage.
“The courage came from bringing joy into people’s kitchen and to people’s dining rooms, so that’s still what carries us today,” Williams said.
Meckwood, who also appeared on Shark Tank’s current season, said that while she was still in the iteration process of her product — Click and Carry, a device that lets you carry large quantities of bags at once — “life hit [her] with a curve,” and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“When you do get sick, what happens is, you realize how fragile life is,” Meckwood said. “It really inspired me to do what drives me and what I’m passionate about.”
In the second half of the event, panelists were asked about failures they experienced “that were pivotal to [their] success.”
For Harris, the founder of sports drink company Electra Beverages who also appeared on the current season of Shark Tank, a trial vital to her success was that many didn’t like the sweetener in the drink at first.
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“It was the failure that turned the drink around,” Harris said. “Had they not responded the way they responded to it, we might not have changed it for another year.”
Melanie Rojas, a junior marketing major, was impressed the entrepreneurs decided to spend time with the students at this university.
“I’m really interested in learning how they came up with the process or production of their idea, bringing it from concept to making a physically tangible product,” Rojas said. She added that she’s pleased with the events AMA has been able to put together this semester despite the virtual environment.
Through its events, Blum said, AMA tries to give students the opportunity to “personally talk to people who have hit the national stage.”
Meckwood said that for budding entrepreneurs, seeking out mentors can be helpful in the industry. She was motivated to come to the panel because she hoped her advice could lead students in the right direction.
“People who have already made it or have that expert knowledge are more than willing to help those below them because they feel this strong need to give back to their community,” Meckwood said. “Maybe my advice can help someone out there.”