Ten George Mason University students gathered at a table in Enterprise Hall and in no time had filled nearly 100 boxes with K-cups of tea infused with honey from Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative.
Profits from the sale of the Patriot Pollinator Coalition tea will go back into the initiative, a joint partnership between the School of Business and College of Science.
But this is more than a story about volunteer labor and entrepreneurship. It is a story about Mason’s commitment to experiential learning and how alumni give back to the university that helped launch their careers.
“This is where we differentiate ourselves,” says David J. Miller, PhD Public Policy ’15, director of Mason’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Mason Innovation Lab. “This is where the real learning is done, and it’s why students decide to come here.”
Mason already has the honey thanks to the Honey Bee Initiative’s 50 hives. It also has alumnus Chris Savage, BS Electrical Engineering ’10, with the machinery to make the K-cups, through his company True Honey Teas.
Seed money for the venture came from a $25,000 donation from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. All that was left was to find students who wanted to learn about business from the ground up and do everything from understanding unit costs, sales, supply chains, and marketing, to even building the packaging for the product.
That drive is something Savage can relate to.
“I was a member of the Innovation Lab, and when I first started my company I was very involved with [the lab], fleshing out my business model and helping make contacts,” says Savage, who is charging the students a small fee for the use of his machinery. “This is a great experience to showcase to students how this process actually works. Now they have to go out and start selling.”
On this day, though, just getting the first K-cups into the packaging was enough.
“A big part of startups is being hands-on,” says Clark Gronek, a junior finance major. “You have to be part of the process. You have to deal with every part of it.”