CofC Logo
Ask the Cougar

Archives For Liz Monahan

ICAT Senior Wins Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award

By Liz Monahan
Posted on 21 April 2017 | 3:16 pm — 

Marketing major and ICAT senior Eli Dent was named Student Entrepreneur of the Year last week at the Tommy Baker Entrepreneurship Hour — an annual College of Charleston School of Business event that celebrates both new and seasoned entrepreneurs.

Dent, an avid soccer player since the age of four, has spent nearly a year working on SideKik — a product that helps soccer players hone their ball-handling skills and gives soccer enthusiasts the opportunity to rep their favorite team.

“Soccer culture in America mimics what they’re doing in Europe and South America,” says Dent. “We have the scarves, the horns, the whistles, but none of it is engaging. I wanted to create something that could involve fans in a more intimate way that also has a major impact on the soccer industry in the U.S.”

Made for children and pros alike, SideKik is similar to a Hacky Sack, but sports additional features that make it fun and easy to use.

The foot-long gadget has feathers to create resistance and a weight that enables it to flip when kicked. The feathers come in an assortment of colors associated with American soccer teams such as Tormenta FC (navy and magenta), Charleston Battery USL (black and yellow), Seattle Sounders FC and Emerald City FC (green and blue) and Atlanta United FC (black and red).

Dent’s connection with Tormenta FC is personal. Last May, he geared up and joined the Statesboro, Georgia-based team for their summer season. In fact, it was through this relationship that SideKik was first born.

In September of 2016, Dent approached the team’s owners, Darin and Netra Van Tassell, about using the product in their training sessions and selling it as team-affiliated merchandise.

They decided to give it a shot, and with that, Dent ordered his first 300 SideKiks from a manufacturer. He believed if he could sell his product in Statesboro, a historically football-centric city with zero soccer culture, he could sell SideKik everywhere. It would become the ultimate case study.

After seeing initial success, Dent pitched SideKik to Lloyd’s Soccer shop in Charleston (with additional locations in Greenville and Atlanta), where he has fond memories of getting soccer equipment as a child.

Lloyd’s decided to purchase 30 SideKiks as a trial, and sold out within two weeks. The owners immediately placed another order, this time for 80, and have been ordering 80 SideKiks every two weeks for all three locations ever since.

No stranger to owning his own business, Dent started his first company, U-Hacky, in high school. “Let’s just say I ordered 1,000 Hacky Sacks to sell and have 990 still sitting at my mom’s house to this day,” says Dent.

Despite the failure, he says he has no regrets and that the experience taught him a lot about sales, marketing and understanding consumer behavior — all lessons he’s used to kick-start a bright future in business.





Microfinance Club to Host First-Annual Silent Auction

By Liz Monahan
Posted on 17 April 2017 | 3:53 pm — 

The College of Charleston School of Business Microfinance Club is excited to announce its first-annual silent auction! The event — which is open to the public — will be held on April 20 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the atrium of the Beatty Center.

Can’t make it? No problem! All bids can be placed online using this link:

Items for auction include gift cards to popular local restaurants, tutoring sessions in a variety of subjects, original paintings, spa gifts, and more! All proceeds from the auction will go toward on-campus student activities that have a positive economic impact on the Charleston community.

For more information about the event, contact Caroline Poetzsch at

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump spoke adamantly about cutting taxes across the board, particularly for working and middle-class America. Now the GOP candidate is president — with Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate — and Americans are waiting to see if he’ll hold true on his tax reform promises.

Amid the varied opinions over the new tax plan, there is one group of people who may be particularly nervous about the impending changes — and it’s not the Democrats.

According to William VanDenburgh, an assistant professor of accounting at the School of Business, President Trump’s tax policy could have significant ramifications for the accounting profession.

The policy, with support from a likely Congressional majority, would seek to overhaul and simplify the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) — and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that enforces it — by eliminating and revising many of the $1.4 trillion in tax expenditures the IRS collects yearly.

Through his article “Significant Tax Reform Is Expected in 2017 or 2018,” scheduled to be published in the May issue of TAXES — The Tax Magazine, VanDenburgh explores the U.S. tax business, which accounts for an estimated 6.1 billion hours of workers’ time at a cost of $168 billion each year.

VanDerburgh’s analysis of the industry is such: By eliminating a number of IRC expenditures, filing will becomes less cumbersome for individuals and small businesses, meaning less need for professional accounting services. And while there will likely be those who prefer to work with a Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) regardless of changes to the IRC, most of their taxes could be filed quickly, meaning less work, less hours and less money for the industry.

The ultimate question, VanDenburgh says, is whether CPAs will embrace the tax simplification, even if it means having a material impact on their livelihoods.

VanDenburgh completed his research on the subject alongside his colleagues James Braswell, an assistant professor of accounting, and Roger Daniels, a professor of accounting and chair of the Department of Accounting and Legal Studies at the College of Charleston School of Business.

TAXES – The Tax Magazine is one of the oldest and most well-known tax journals in the country and is a go-to publication for law firms and law libraries across the globe. The journal analyses federal, state and international tax issues.


Over spring break, Kelly Shaver, professor of entrepreneurial studies at the College of Charleston School of Business, traveled to South Africa to serve as the academic lead for a project that would test and examine the “entrepreneurial mindset” of business leaders in developing countries.

Shaver helped develop the test, which is the first of its kind, in partnership with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN).

Although South Africa is the first country to take the test (slated for late spring), the ultimate goal is to produce an international database that uses the same measure of entrepreneurial mindset across countries.

The results of the test in South Africa will be revealed during GEN’s Startup Nations Summit in Estonia this September.

In addition to assisting with the creation of the test while in Africa, Shaver taught a class on the psychology of entrepreneurship and participated in a two-hour panel session on entrepreneurial mindset. Members of GEN’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress attended both events.

Shaver also took the time to meet with representatives from Austria, Korea and Malaysia — three countries that have expressed interest in using the entrepreneurial mindset scale in their own countries.

If the test is successful, it could result in a tremendous amount of international data. More importantly, the project could help set the agenda for funding and supporting entrepreneurial projects in developing countries around the world.

College of Charleston School of Business senior Joshua Weston created a product called Green Blox, which aims to address the global crisis of homelessness and waste management. His hard work may be about to pay off in a big way.

Weston is one of 25 finalists in the running to win $100,000 at the University of St. Thomas’ e-Fest, the largest undergraduate business plan competition in the country. The finalists — including students from Johns Hopkins University, NC State University and Drexel University — were among a group of 147 applicants, each vying for the title of best business.

A business administration major with a minor in entrepreneurship, Weston initially created Green Blox for an ecopreneurship assignment from associate professor David Hansen. Hansen challenged his students to research, plan and execute a business that could be both financially successful and socially responsible.

Enter Green Blox — a brick-sized, Lego-like block made from upcycled (or reused) plastic that provides consumers with the opportunity to build a beautiful patio in their back yard, while simultaneously working to eliminate plastic waste.

Modeled in the same vein as TOMS or Warby Parker, for every Green Blox sold to build a patio, the company will donate one brick to a nonprofit that works to build homes for the world’s homeless.

Weston was inspired to combat homelessness after traveling the globe as a member of the United States Air Force, where he saw thousands of people living in poverty. “It was through those experiences that I realized I wanted to make a difference and do whatever I needed to do to make that happen,” said Weston.

His decision to make the building block using upcycled plastic came to fruition after reading alarming data about plastic waste. According to an article by The Atlantic, Americans alone generate 10.5 million tons of plastic each year, but less than two percent of that plastic is recycled.

Recycling centers, which operate like any other business, make a profit when they are able to sell their plastics. If they are unable to sell the plastic they take the waste to a landfill, where Weston says they usually have to pay anywhere from $10 to $100 to drop it off.

“Instead of letting the leftover plastic rot in a landfill for the next 1,000 years, we take it off of the recycling companies’ hands for free and turn it into something everyone can use,” says Weston.

The bricks, which are made using 3-D printers, provide key advantages to consumers as well, he says. “They’re extremely lightweight and attractive, and our interlocking design provides a seamless transition for constructing a patio on solid, level ground.”

But Weston wasn’t always an expert on building patios. It took months of researching the brick, block and paver industry, customizing the look and feel of the product and working with local recycling companies before Green Blox was finalized.

Weston also worked closely with School of Business entrepreneurship professors David Hansen, Stuart Williams, David Wyman and Kelly Shaver to get the product in pitch-perfect condition. In fact, Shaver first encouraged Weston to apply to enter the e-Fest competition for the chance to win the money and grow his business.

A win for Weston is also a win for the School. In addition to the top prize of $100,000, the E-Fest gives the winner’s university $10,000 in grants to support entrepreneurship programs and initiatives — the likes of which inspire young entrepreneurs like Weston to make a profit while making a difference.




David J. Hansen, associate professor of entrepreneurship at the School of Business, has been selected to become a Sustainability Literacy Fellow for the College of Charleston’s emerging Sustainability Literacy Institute (SLI).

The institute, which will begin operating on July 1, is envisioned to be the physical, pedagogical, virtual and institutional hub for sustainability literacy efforts at the College. The purpose of SLI is to foster positive social, economic and environmental change by way of a sustainably literate campus community.

As a Sustainability Literacy Fellow, Hansen will encourage more efficient and synergistic activities on campus related to sustainability literacy. For example, he will train other faculty to develop courses that qualify as sustainability-focused or sustainability-related. He is one of four fellows, selected by Quality Enhancement Plan Director Todd LeVasseur.

Hansen primarily teaches innovation courses at the business school including New Venture Modeling, Ecopreneurship (a course he created) and Social Entrepreneurship. In addition, Hansen regularly works with undergrad and graduate students on thesis projects related to sustainable business and/or entrepreneurship.

A group of School of Business students have forgone the classic spring break destinations of Cancun and Punta Cana to spend a week in the remote village of El Jute, Honduras, to help locals address the issues facing their community and its businesses.

Now in its fifth year, the mission trip is part of a three-credit international social enterprise and development course taught by Marvin Gonzalez, associate professor of supply chain management and Rene Mueller, professor of marketing and director of the International Business Program at the College.

The travel component of the class — an opportunity to put lectures and lesson plans into practice — is organized by Su Frost, director of international admissions, in partnership with Global Brigades, an international nonprofit that provides third-world communities with assistance through academic and professional programming, or “brigades.”

As part of the nonprofit’s Microfinance Brigade, the business students will conduct home visits to identify community issues such as inconsistent earnings, lack of educational opportunities for women and children as well as resource shortages that affect villagers’ ability to create and run sustainable micro enterprises.

In addition to their home visits, the Brigade brings resources. Over the past five years, CofC business students have contributed over $100,000 — in money and supplies raised through fundraising — toward the creation of new micro enterprises in five rural mountain villages throughout Central America.

Two students who participated in last year’s trip to El Jute helped spearhead the fundraising efforts for this semester.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Seniors Alexis O’Toole and Dain Silvestri may both hail from New Jersey and study business (supply chain and information management and business administration, respectively), but it wasn’t until the Microfinance Brigade trip to El Jute in 2016 that they first met.

The chance to use their skills to help an underserved community and the opportunity to travel abroad first attracted the seniors to the program, but it was the people of El Jute that would bring them back to the small village for a second year.

“Words can’t really express how much my experience with Global Brigades has changed my life,” O’Toole says. “I became so invested in the community and the people of El Jute that it was really important we raise enough money to make an impact when we returned this year.”

The young women did just that. Through various fundraising efforts, including a late-night bake sale and a “support El Jute” bracelet campaign, O’Toole and Silvestri were able to collect over $4,500.

The pair say, regardless of how the money gets distributed within the community, they are looking forward to returning to the rolling hills of El Jute and reuniting with the families they have grown to love and miss.

The Charleston Regional Business Journal recently recognized School of Business alum Melissa Barbour in their “Forty Under 40” list, which honors local business professionals for their commitment to community service.

A native of Virginia, Barbour graduated from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2005 and received her master’s degree in accounting from the College of Charleston School of Business in 2007. She is currently a tax manager at WebsterRogers in downtown Charleston, where she specializes in tax compliance consulting.

With nearly a decade of public accounting and tax industry experience under her belt, including almost five years with WebsterRogers, Barbour is also active in the local accounting community. She serves on the Emerging Leadership Cabinet of the South Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the James Island chapter of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

An event celebrating all “Forty Under 40” nominees is planned for late May.


They say laughter is the best medicine, and Ted Birkhahn — partner and president of New York-based marketing and PR agency Peppercomm — wholeheartedly agrees. In fact, he has seen firsthand how comedy can not only improve morale and confidence in one’s personal life, but also in one’s professional endeavors and workplace performance.

Birkhahn, who requires his employees take standup comedy classes and perform in a standup showcase each year, will discuss the benefits of bringing humor to the office during the School of Business’ Think Differently Forum on March 30.

This free event, which will be begin at 5 p.m. in the Stern Ballroom of the Stern Student Center, is meant to inspire new ways of thinking and encourage debates among the Charleston community.

During the Forum, Birkhahn will highlight how comedy not only creates a bond between coworkers, but also helps his employees incorporate storytelling and humor into their work.

After his presentation, the Peppercomm president will open the floor up to questions from the audience. The 2017 Think Differently Scholars — seniors: Alexandra Clough, Berkeley Fisher, Kelsey Foster, Anna Lefitz and Wanda Willis — will facilitate the Q&A with assistance from Forum advisor and assistant professor of management, Elise Perrault.

Stephen Pond, chairman and CEO of The Education Center and member of the School’s Board of Governors, is sponsoring the hour-long event.


When the School of Business Center for Public Choice and Market Process began planning a series of events to raise awareness of and explore important topics in economics it was only fitting that the week be named after the most influential figure in the field: Adam Smith. Born in 1723, Smith’s theories on how nations build wealth are still taught in classrooms around the world today.

Now in its sixth year, Adam Smith Week invites leading scholars from around the country to share their insights on political economy, entrepreneurship, the role of government and other hot-button issues with business school students, faculty and the Charleston community.

This year’s participants include individuals from the University of Virginia, George Mason University, Chapman University, the Citadel, and the Independent Institute.

The weeklong series — held March 20-25, 2017 — will feature lectures, panels and a video screening on topics such as morality and the free market, the implications of religious and racial immigration bans and community revival in the wake of economic disaster.

For a complete list of event details, click here.


Skip to toolbar