Junior Bradley Roofner Pursues Passion for Entrepreneurship

HatTee_logoWithin two weeks of starting at UT, BHP junior, Bradley Roofner, partnered with his roommate and Computer Science junior, Logan Brown, and co-founded HatTee, a company that sells golf caps that hold tees. Three years later the duo has taken full advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities Austin and UT have to offer, increasing sales tenfold in under a year.

Roofner and Logan started their sales on campus, “We designed and ordered our own hats online and added the tee holsters ourselves,” said Roofner. “We began selling the hats to fraternities and sororities. We sold a lot of hats pretty quickly.”

The real turning point for their company came just five short months later when they showed their product in the PGA Merchandise Show in Miami, FL, one of the top shows for equipment manufacturers and people in the golf industry to launch their products for the year. “As college students we were able to approach it very humbly,” said Roofner. “We wore suits instead of the normal khaki pants and polo. People took interest in wanting to hear about our product.” It was at the merchandise show that Roofner and Brown met a majority of their current connections, including a contact based out of Thailand who coordinates the supply chain management of the product overseas.

Their success has not come without challenges, “Everybody has more grey hair than you,” said Roofner. “Being able to communicate on the same level and have credibility has been the most difficult part with each step of the company.”  Roofner found McCombs staff to be helpful during this process. John Butler, Director of The Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, reached out to Roofner and helped create the HatTee business plan. BHP marketing professor, Leigh McAlister also offered guidance, “She gave me some great advice to go after the higher clientele and not to lower our prices so we could offer a premium product,” said Roofner.

Bradley

Bradley Roofner (right) with co-founder and partner, Logan Brown. Photo credit: The Daily Texan

HatTee now works mainly with large companies, supplying promotional items for their client’s shareholders and investors. The company also sponsors various golf tournaments and charity events offering their product as giveaway gifts.

As for the future, Roofner and Logan are currently talking with potential buyers of the patent. While they have enjoyed growing their company and learned many valuable lessons along the way, Roofner would like to see the HatTee brand taken further, “We see the future of the product as one that can be most successful when it reaches the average golfer. We aren’t the best company to make that happen, we lack the brand presence and marketing force to bring the idea to the masses,” said Roofner.

They hope the right buyer could take their product the rest of the way there. Regardless of what happens to the product, it was a great learning experience for Roofner and affirmed his passion for entrepreneurship.

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Nick Garcia – Sponsorship Specialist at the NBA, Class of 2010

Nick GarciaNick Garcia graduated from BHP in 2010 with a second major in Marketing and a minor in Sports Management. He knew early on that he wanted to work for the NBA. Using the tools he learned from his peers and mentors in the BHP, he carved an unconventional career path for himself on his way to becoming a Sponsorship Specialist for the NBA.

You went to work for the NBA right after graduation. Tell me more about your career progression there and how you landed the job.

Growing up, I always wanted to work in sports so I used BHP as my stepping-stone to do just that. As a freshman, I researched the bios and career progressions of all the top executives in sports. From there, I was able to map exactly what I thought would make me an excellent candidate to work in sports post graduation. By the time I was applying for full-time jobs, I had completed four sports-related internships, varying from collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels. Then, it was as simple as going to the NBA Career Website to apply for their NBA Associate Program my senior year. I believe my internship experience, combined with my academics, helped me get the position. They typically only accept six out of 2,500 applicants, so it is very competitive.

I started in a rotational program and spent eight months of the year on Latin American business development. An opportunity came up for a consulting role in Team Marketing and Business Operations (TMBO) and I decided to transition over since it is considered to be the most prestigious group at the NBA. In the beginning, I worked on a lot of case studies and I found a better way to improve some of the fundamental resources we provided to teams, which got me noticed and promoted. Since my first promotion, my positions have been more team-facing, I’ve been doing more presentations to team leadership which allowed me a lot of visibility. I have been able to move up quickly because I have shown advancement in the areas I have been tasked with. Currently, I am a Sponsorship Specialist with TMBO.

How did BHP prepare you for what you are doing now?

The biggest thing was the competitive edge and high standards set by some of the most elite  students and professors at UT. I knew I needed to come to class extremely well prepared every day because I wanted to contribute to discussions and group projects as much as I could. It helped me be successful. Now at the NBA, my colleagues are some of the best in the industry and I need to be prepared to stand out and contribute. I always think, what comment will my boss make and what comment will my boss’ boss make. It is the same as when I was in school and prepared for what my classmates would be asking in class.  If you practice with the best, you become the best.

How did you find opportunities in your interests when you were at UT?

I had a lot of personal ambition to work in the industry. I did informational interviews with anyone and everyone I could find in the sports industry. I would ask them how they got to their job, then I would interview their boss and ask how they got to their job. It helped me find the areas I was interested in and figure out how to get there. It was a lot of work. I took the initiative and was proactive.

What do you enjoy most about working in sports and your current position?

I fundamentally believe in the product we are pitching. Some people say sports is too much of a business and athletes get paid too much, but it is really amazing how sports bring people together. It brings them together in a way nothing else does and I love working in an industry that provides people that escape. The world cup is one of the best examples of that. So many countries in the game face civil unrest, but during that moment, they are all one.

Tell me more about the marketing side of your work. What are the key differences of marketing in a sports setting?

I don’t really think it is that different. It is the fundamentals of business. We are trying to understand our consumers. We survey our fans to get information to put together our marketing strategies. Those who operate sports teams like a traditional business are the most successful.

You worked with Latin America. How did conducting business with Latin American countries differ from conducting business in the U.S.?

We were moving business down there and getting the infrastructure set up to have the first NBA office in Latin America . The skepticism from the locals was high because we are an American Company. We had to work a lot with the government and get their approval for everything. I mean everything. There was a lot of red tape and it was difficult getting them on board for basketball since soccer is the predominant money making sport in the region.

What BHP class do you think was most valuable to you?

BA 324 was probably the most valuable. It provided me with the fundamentals and the ability to communicate my ideas, whether it be in meetings, presentations or emails. I think that is a big part of why I rose up the ranks so fast. I see a lot of new grads who are too conversational in tone. I always knew how to be very professional. The group projects in all my classes also really made a difference in my ability to work in teams.

What advice would you have for someone from BHP looking to take a different career path?

If you have something you are passionate about, find a way to make a career out of it. Whether it is through informational interviews, or looking at Linked In profiles of those you admire. I had the ambition to do something I love. I dismissed financial considerations. I wanted to do what would make me happy and thought the money would come. Entry-level salaries in sports are lower, but once you break through that first tier, you tend to be at a higher level than other business industries. The fact that I was a business honors student and not just a sports management major set me apart because I understood how sports is a more than a game, it’s a business.

Students Take Fourth Place in a Non-Profit Case Consulting Competition

BHP students Robert Ma, Thomas Pigeon, Jane Tedjajuwana and Shannon Wey took fourth place at the McDonough-Hilltop Business Strategy Challenge at Georgetown University in Washington, DC this month. Twenty teams competed, 11 from the U.S. and nine international, in this unique non-profit case consulting competition. This year’s case centered on expanding job opportunities available to members of the National Institute for the Blind (NIB).

MCC

From left: Jane Tedjajuwana, Robert Ma, Thomas Pigeon, Shannon Wey

“The main goal of NIB is to help the blind become independent personally and financially. Our job in the case competition was to find ways for the NIB to open up job opportunities not only within the federal government, but in the private sector and in the service industries,” said Shannon Wey.

The team presented a three-pronged solution which involved starting an internship program allowing blind people to get a foot in the door with employers, building a stronger network of partner companies across the nation, and implementing a talent showcase open to companies to show what blind people are capable of with current assisted technologies.

The unique emphasis on non-profit organizations altered the way the students view not-for-profit work, “We realized all the different obstacles that are placed in front of a non-profit, be it people’s biases against the people the organization is trying to serve, to limited opportunities, to financial restrictions,” said Thomas Pigeon. “It gives you a greater appreciation for how they maximize every dollar they are given.”

“Non-profit put such a huge twist on it. I’ve done six or seven case competitions and this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most because the nature of the case made if feel more fulfilling because I felt like I was contributing to a greater cause,” said Robert Ma. The students were also able to dedicate more of their efforts in areas, which may not receive as much attention in typical business case competitions. “Because it’s a nonprofit we didn’t just focus in on revenue,” said Jane Tedjajuwana. “We didn’t look at the financial projection at all in the first round because they just wanted to hear our ideas and gage how realistic it was because ideally they wanted to be able to implement the solution.”

The team also enjoyed meeting other competitors from outside of the U.S. and hearing their global perspective on the case. “It provided a really unique experience for all of us. We appreciated how international it was. We met people from Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and Singapore,” said Robert Ma.

After taking a closer look at non-profit organizations, all of the team members said they would now definitely consider working with non-profits after college.

The trip was not all work. The group managed to find time to visit the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and made sure to make a pit stop at Georgetown Cupcake.

 

Junior Jeffrey Li Working to Make Positive Changes to Medical Research

JeffLiJeff Li was drawn to UT by the roaring school spirit, high-caliber academics and top-notch funding for research. When he started at UT he found a land of opportunity as he made the transformation from Biochemistry major in his freshman year to a double major in BHP and the Dean’s Scholar Honor’s Program in natural sciences. He also received the Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship, which is one of the most prestigious continuing student scholarships offered by UT and has also become heavily involved in research, “I’m so thankful that I chose UT because there are a lot of opportunities here that I don’t think I would’ve found elsewhere,” said Li.

Jeff LiLi has always known that he wanted to go into healthcare and research, interning at the Texas Medical Center immediately after graduating high school. Now as a junior in the BHP, Li has found a new interest in examining how healthcare and business intersect, “I want to learn more about how to take the business principles from my BHP courses and cross-apply them to make healthcare more efficient. I want to make a big contribution in this area,” said Li.

He is specifically concerned with how research funds are allocated and the extended time gap between when a medical breakthrough begins at the laboratory bench to ten plus years when it reaches the patient’s bedside. “It’s interesting to me how someone puts a quantitative value on someone’s potential research. I think business concepts and risk management can play a big part in improving this decision-making process by decreasing possible risk and subjectivity,” said Li. “Something McCombs is really good at is teaching us how to make the best choices with a limited amount of information and that’s something I want to continue to learn here and apply to interdisciplinary healthcare and science fields.”

As for the time gap in the research process, Li would like to find improvements to promote efficiency. “What I want to do is leverage education and sustainable business models to develop new therapies for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and create new technologies,” said Li. “And I’d like to accelerate that development – get the necessary approval, get it to the patient’s bedside and then bring the information you collect from the patient’s bedside back to the lab bench creating bi-directional communication.”

Jeff Li (front) with Learn To Be

Jeff Li (front) with Learn To Be

Shortly after beginning in the BHP, Li discovered another passion for education through Learn To Be, a non-profit organization that offers free online tutoring services to underprivileged children across the country. Li became involved with the UT chapter, started by a group of BHP students, after learning about the group’s mission. “A lot of times tutoring doesn’t make it to the areas that need it most,” said Li. “What most schools in the nation do have is a computer and internet access, which is really all we need.” Learn To Be has over 600 tutors across the nation made available to students in grades 5–12 via different pre-existing technologies.

Ultimately, Li is working towards creating a better world for generations to come, “I believe that people should not be a victim of their DNA. People should not be a victim of the zip code from where they grew up. Everyone should have the right to aspire to something,” said Li.

Jeff LiLi’s outstanding contributions on campus have not gone unnoticed. He was recently chosen as a recipient of the Texas Exes Presidential Leadership Award, which recognizes undergraduate students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership within the student community at UT Austin. “It means the world to me,” said Li. “I really love that the UT community rewards students for taking a blind leap of faith to make real changes in this world, holding true to the motto, ‘What starts here changes the world,’” said Li. He also encourages his peers to find their passion and take action, “A lot of people think they’ll wait to create change until they get a job or finish graduate school, but you can make a difference right here, right now.”

Li will graduate next year and plans to continue on to medical school. His hope for the future is to work as an intermediary improving the health of others by further opening the valve between research and healthcare.

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Tom Li – Investment Banking Associate at Nomura

Tom LiTom Li graduated from the BHP in 2005 and has since lived all over the US and the world. From NBC Universal in London to investment banking in Hong Kong, Tom has been able to explore new industries and rise quickly in his positions. He is currently an Associate at Nomura International in their investment banking division, focused on the consumer and retail sector. He previously held positions with Liz Claiborne and NBC Universal/General Electric.

 

You have been able to work in London, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico. What have you enjoyed most and found most challenging about working abroad?

I have enjoyed immersing myself in different cultures the most. When working and living abroad, I like learning about the people and their history as well as understanding their perspectives and their point of views. The constant moving around has been difficult, having moved 10 times in the last decade both domestically in the US and internationally. It has been challenging to build a network of close colleagues and friends because you have to basically start again with every move. Being part of a program like BHP and attending a school like UT Austin helps. In most cities that I have lived, I have been able to reconnect with a friend from school or meet up with UT alumni living in those cities.

You have worked in a variety of industries and a variety of roles. Were the moves you made intentional or did your career path just lead you in those directions?

It was partly intentional and a lot of luck. I have usually set a general goal that I’d like to reach and worked towards it. Then, I encounter some twists and turns on the way. For example, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the film industry while in college and lucked into it getting involved with film shoots in Austin. I ended up interning on the movies Friday Night Lights and Idiocracy as well as with the Texas Film Commission. Those experiences gave me a slight advantage when interviewing with GE/NBC Universal for their Financial Management Leadership Program, which I found through the McCombs Career Center. With the move from entertainment to fashion, I worked well with the boss I had in London at NBCU. He moved to Liz Claiborne and asked if I would be interested in joining him, which I did. It was fascinating to learn about the fashion industry and to see the media/entertainment industry from another perspective as well as better understand why companies are willing to pay millions of dollars for a thirty-second ad spot on TV. After I got my MBA, I decided it would be good to obtain some investment banking experience to enhance that expertise in my skill set, so took a position with Nomura International in investment banking. Working at Nomura also allowed me to see and understand the difference between working for a non-US (Japanese) company versus an American company.

In your role with Liz Claiborne you developed partnerships with Chinese companies. What was that process like and how different is the process when working with companies in other countries?

The process was difficult. The company was trying to turn around the Liz Claiborne brand at the time, and most people were focused on the core domestic business. I was in charge of the longer-term strategy of the business to ensure its success in the future upon revitalization of the brand. One idea was to further expand Liz Claiborne’s presence in Asia. It was challenging to build partnerships in Asia because it was difficult to find the right partners, particularly in China. I reached out to some advisory firms that connected me with potential companies that could be the right fit as a partner in Asia. We invited those companies to our showrooms in New York City to take a look at the new brand concept and designs as well as to learn more about each other. It was important to pay attention to and respect the different cultures when dealing with people from other countries. I remember wanting to go beyond the surface level of understanding another’s culture, but did not find that to be very easy. I have concluded that is something you learn over time and with experience working with people from other cultures.

Why did you choose to do your MBA at IESE in Barcelona?

It is a great school in an amazing city. I also wanted to challenge myself and live in a country that has a completely different culture and language. Language skills help when you are working internationally. It is better to speak the local tongue if you can, even if you are not fluent in it. The act of trying to speak in another language demonstrates your respect for another culture, which I found is often appreciated. I also like being taken out of my comfort zone and wanted to live in a country where English wasn’t the national language and people took siestas. It was important for me to gain a less US-centric perspective of the world, having lived in the US a majority of my life at that point. The experience allowed me to understand an international perspective of the US as well as made me appreciate certain elements of our US society even more. An unexpected benefit is that now I have friends across the world, as only around 10% of the student population is from the US.

Are there any deals you worked during your time doing M&A work that really stand out to you?

My first one. When I was at NBC Universal working with Telemundo, we acquired a small Hispanic TV distribution company. It was my first M&A deal and was very interesting because it combined my passion for film/tv/media with my corporate finance education. It was the first time I felt truly challenged and used the finance and accounting knowledge that I had learned from UT. I was good at it, and it planted a seed in my head that I could do this in the future. I took intermediate accounting when I was at UT and that helped prepare me for this deal, although I remember that class being extremely difficult when I took it.

Tell me more about the work you did at NBC Universal. Why did you decide to go to work for NBCU and GE after graduation?

It was a dream job for me at that time. I was considering just moving out to Los Angeles to work in the film business upon graduation, but when I got the job I was excited because NBCU felt like a natural fit. I joined NBCU/GE’s Financial Management Leadership Program. They use the program to build the finance leadership pipeline at GE. It is a two-year program. You complete four, six-month rotations, and they send you on company-taught courses throughout those two years. For the first two years at NBCU, I worked in different finance roles in different businesses. I worked at CNBC, Telemundo, Universal Studios and NBC Universal Television Distribution. After the two years, they sent me abroad to London to work in the NBCU International business that was tasked with international expansion. The program set me up with a great network. It is kind of like a mini-MBA.

You have had leadership roles with some great companies. What do you think has been the key to success in your own career?

Finding a mentor is important. Working hard and intelligently is also vital for success. It is key to figure out how to do things quickly and efficiently and how to deliver what people are really looking for, not just what you are told to do. Spend some time to scope out what is needed before you start working. If you understand what needs to be done and what is expected, it will be easier to figure out who to go to for help and how to prioritize your workload and manage your schedule. I have been lucky to be given a lot of autonomy in my roles to have the ability to do this, and that has been very important to me.

What advice do you have for current BHP students?

Do what you are passionate about and interested in. If you are really interested in something, you will be much better at it than if you did something thinking that is what you think you should do. Beyond earning a living and building a great career (in which BHP students will undoubtedly be successful), aspire to also make a positive contribution to society.