From the Ground Up

Dec 16 2016

Senior student Han Xu and freshman Greta Solomon sold over 200 self-designed t-shirts within two hours last week, standing out in a challenge designed by Professor Eliot Gattegno to tap into students’ entrepreneurial potential.

Around 20 of Han’s classmates, who took Professor Gattegno’s course of Entrepreneurship Explored, were required to pair up and design a business model as their semester-end projects. Students then had to implement their business plans in a limited period of two hours and were evaluated based on results. In principle “the more profits you make, the better grades you earn,” according to Han.

“We have been encouraged to think outside of normal boundaries, to explore lucrative areas of society and to market ideas even when we have not created products yet,” Han said.

After brainstorming to rule out options like commercial modeling, Han and Solomon decided to design and sell t-shirts with comic patterns of popular figures of NYU Shanghai, including Chancellors, professors and classmates. However, they immediately found themselves beset by challenges as the project got underway.  


“In the very limited two weeks, we had to rely on a friend to design and review the images, find business partners, negotiate deals with them, make posters, and communicate with the university to hang the posters, and promote our selling event on Chinese and English social media, etc,” Han said, admitting that they had several mental breakdowns in the process.

In particular, Han and Solomon were frustrated when reaching out to the Campus Store to build collaborations, as the students could not provide a plan to manage the cost at beginning. However, instead of quenching their enthusiasm, the store management agreed to help.

“As much as the Campus Store would love to get involved in students’ initiatives, it was actually Han’s integrity and persistence that eventually persuaded us to sponsor his project,” said Wang Xiaowei, general manager of NYU Shanghai’s Campus Store.

In the end, the two sides signed a cooperation agreement to conduct pre-sales and will manufacture the t-shirts based on the presale results. In this way, the cost obstacle was removed.

Han said he learned what it takes to start a new business through the final project. “I need to deploy every possible resource around me and nurture the ability to manage emergencies,” he added.

“An entrepreneur is someone who is always on the lookout for problems that can be turned into opportunities and finds creative ways to leverage limited resources to reach their goals.,” said Professor Gattegno. “Through the business challenge, I hope students to learn how to identify and evaluate opportunities; live life as an entrepreneurial leader; and create a new product or service. ”