Teams go from the classroom to the boardroom

The Lion’s Apprentice, the College’s take on NBC’s hit reality show “The Apprentice,” kicked off on Thursday. Run by the School of Business, The Lion’s Apprentice invites industry leaders to challenge teams of students with real life projects.

This is the third year the College has offered students the opportunity to participate in the event and it looks to be the best ever. In the past, the College has worked with Johnson & Johnson, the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sodexho, the College’s food service provider.

To begin this year, teams will work with the Trenton Devils hockey team, the New Jersey Devils’ minor league affiliate. Formerly known as the Trenton Titans, the Devils are having a tough time with rebranding and are looking to The Lion’s Apprentice for help.

Each group is asked to come up with a business plan to get people, particularly students, to come out to games. The Trenton Devils have traditionally had a tough time tapping the college demographic for many reasons like lack of transportation, Trenton’s less than perfect reputation, the plethora of professional sports franchises in the area and perhaps most importantly, the really expensive beer.

It’s up to each team to address these issues and create a business plan that will increase attendance at games, specifically among college students.

Teams are expected to give a 20-minute presentation of their business plans each week and will be judged on a variety of aspects from appearance to content. A panel of six judges, including Alfred Pelham, associate professor of marketing, Lorraine Allen, director of the Small Business Development Center, Joseph Savino, Joanne Savino and Jason Akers, all from the Savino Financial Group, and each week’s client, will score the teams.

At the end of the semester, a winner will be announced and prizes will be awarded. Even for the teams that don’t win, there’s plenty to be gained. “Employers love to talk about an experience you’ve had, even if you didn’t win,” Jack Kirnan, Dean of the School of Business, said. Presentations will be recorded and posted on the Internet as podcasts for teams to review. Each participant will also be given a disk with a recording of their presentations to be used as not only a learning tool but also a valuable asset when looking for a job.

Four teams have signed up to participate in this year’s event. Teams consist of between three and six members and although almost all participants are business majors, there is great diversity among the teams. Eager freshmen will be taking on experienced seniors in what will undoubtedly be a brutal battle of business brains.

Participants seemed eager to get the ball rolling, scribbling notes about this week’s challenge. One group in particular, the Entrepreneurship Club Consulting Group (ECCG), seemed especially prepared to dominate its competition.

The ECCG consists of three members: Flamur Rama, senior political science major, George Guhr, senior finance major, and Sherry McKeever, senior business administration major. They arrived well before any of the other teams, made sure to sit right up front and dressed the part of successful business people.

“The Lion’s Apprentice is real hands- on. We can use what we’ve learned and apply it to the real world,” Rama said. The ECCG made it clear they weren’t there to mess around and they plan to do what it takes to win. Guhr added, its strategy is simple enough – “provide the solution, give the customer what it wants.”

The Lion’s Apprentice also attracted quite a few spectators interested in checking out the competition and learning a little about the business world. Some may have had ulterior motives: “I’m here for the free pizza and soda,” Kevin O’Neill, senior electrical engineering major, said.

If you’re interested in participating in The Lion’s Apprentice send an e-mail to Patty Karlowitsch, manager of operations for the School of Business, at as soon as possible. And if you want to see how real life business problems get solved or you just want to support your fellow students, check out the next The Lion’s Apprentice on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. and alternating Thursday evenings in Business Building room 123.