Students in Professor Thomas Armstrong's "Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management" class will pitch their ideas for business startups, Shark Tank-style, to a roomful of observers - including a distinguished panel of business experts on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Presentations, which are open to all interested parties, will be held in the John Stewart Memorial Library's Lenfest Learning Commons beginning at 5:50 p.m.

Each student will have no more than three minutes to present their idea to the three-member panel, followed by a two-minute question-and-answer session. At that time, the panel will offer each student feedback on their presentation, minus the financing provided on the television series.

Having students present their business ideas in the style of ABC's Shark Tank was the idea of Armstrong, assistant professor of finance at Wilson College. "This is experiential learning at its best," said Armstrong. "You come up with your idea, you own it and you present it."

Student business startup ideas range from a healthy lunchbox delivery service, apparel made from plastic waste found in the oceans and a therapeutic riding ranch for injured veterans to a coffeehouse that permits animals, 24-hour automated convenience store, transportation service for dogs, food delivery service with app for sparsely populated areas and donut shops located near colleges/universities.

Armstrong, who has extensive experience in economic development, taxation, utility regulation, project development, public policy, and state policy initiatives for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has hopes that some of his students' entrepreneurial ideas will launch enterprises right here in Franklin County. He said that anecdotal evidence suggests that start-up businesses tend to land within a 25-mile radius of where the idea was born. "This is real-life stuff they're doing," he said of the 17 students who will be making pitches.

The panel Armstrong has lined up to listen to and evaluate students' business ideas includes Michael Unruh, Malcolm Furman and Bob Keaton. Unruh is the founding director of Shippensburg University's Small Business Development Center. Prior to that, he was a construction industry entrepreneur with more than 10 years of small-business management before moving to Shippensburg University. Unruh also started an entrepreneurial leadership program at Shippensburg that later became the Diller Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Furman is an analyst with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services whose career includes work in policy and planning, administration, education, entrepreneurship, and strategy. His areas of specialty include innovation, economic development, outreach, technology, organizational behavior, policy, analysis and program management.

Former director of state government affairs for Sunoco, for which he served as a primary lobbyist in Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma, Keaton is principal of the limited liability corporation Keaton Associates. His varied career includes time as a policy specialist for banking, insurance and securities in the administration of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, where he helped to set the governor's policy agenda for those three agencies and provided key input for a variety of policy initiatives.

Shark Tank is a popular, long-running television program in which financiers - real-life, self-made millionaires and billionaires - listen to and evaluate business startup pitches and then decide whether or not to bankroll the ventures.




Published: November 26, 2018