Texas MBA Alum’s ‘Spirit Sticks’ Become Latest Schoolyard Craze

This story features Texas Executive MBA alumnus Luis deBonoPaula, MBA ’08. Original story and photos were published in the Fall 2012 edition of Law Notes, the newsletter for the St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Luis deBonoPaula (third from right), now a second-year law student, is a retired U.S. Air Force combat aviator and officer.

Like most law students, Luis deBonoPaula has many irons in the fire. The retired U.S. Air Force pilot is a husband, father of four, marathon runner and entrepreneur. Maybe it was the 22 years in the military, but deBonoPaula is committed to each duty.

A second-year law student, he has built a reputation as a successful entrepreneur who knows how to make projects work. deBonoPaula has owned several small businesses and guided each to the million dollar-sales benchmark. He’s licensed craft products distributed to Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Target and Wal-Mart, surpassing $20 million in sales. He’s also a judge for the University of Texas’ Global Venture Labs Investment Competition, a prestigious showcase of student companies. He has even mentored one of those companies after the competition, joining its board and helping raise $2 million in venture capital.

The successful entrepreneur has opened and closed the NASDAQ (fourth from right).

His most recent venture, Spirit Monkey, has become the latest schoolyard craze. The company produces cloth, patch-like tags called “spirit sticks” that are used to decorate backpacks, lanyards, instrument cases and key rings. Schools use them to motivate and reward students for achievements such as attendance, reading, sports participation and honor roll.

The idea came to deBonoPaula’s wife, Lisa, who as a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president, was brainstorming new incentives for students beyond the usual unhealthy foods or worthless trinkets. Lisa thought of cloth tags similar to the ones she’d seen on airplane landing gear. Through their contacts from other business ventures, Luis and Lisa created spirit sticks.

“Schools are finding amazing success with these incentives,” said Luis deBonoPaula. “Many are collecting data on how the spirit sticks have improved attendance and decreased tardiness, which is important to schools with state funding. And the kids love these things.”

DeBonoPaula said principals have offered spirit sticks for attending low-turnout events such as science labs, and then watched the events become standing room only. Not only are spirit sticks popular, they’re affordable for schools that don’t have money specifically budgeted for incentives.

Spirit Monkey began selling spirit sticks to school districts 15 months ago, now projecting $2.5 million in sales this year.

“For the first 10 months, we sold 500,000 sticks,” deBonoPaula said. “We sold 500,000 sticks last month.”

At last count, Spirit Monkey’s spirit sticks were being used by almost 300 schools in eight states. Elementary schools are the largest market, but even high schools are using the company’s patches and key rings.

How does deBonoPaula balance law school with his burgeoning business? By working 20 hours a day, he said. He has recently taken on partners, which he hopes will help him concentrate more on school.

He admits that it can all be “very overwhelming,” but has secrets to his success. He records audio from all his classes and has classmates do it for him when he’s away at meetings.

“I am religious about keeping up with my outlines,” deBonoPaula said. “I don’t have time to catch up, so I never get behind.”

He seems to be an expert at the balancing act — he’s ranked third in his class.

“Unlike most law students, I didn’t come back to school to change careers or make more money,” deBonoPaula said. “I love learning and have always enjoyed learning about the law. I wouldn’t rule out practicing law — I’d love to be a litigator — but for now I’ll be applying it in my business.”

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Posted in Alumni, Executive MBA, Press

Career Management Treks

Dallas Consulting

Each year, Texas MBA Career Management leads Treks to various cities to visit the main offices of different companies, giving students a great opportunity to learn more about their industry of interest and allowing them to become more familiar with the culture at these companies. Visits typically consist of presentations, Q&A sessions, and numerous opportunities for networking with alumni and executive management.

So far this year, students have gone to Dallas for consulting and corporate finance, New York for banking, and Houston for banking and energy, with more upcoming treks planned to Houston, the Bay Area, and Seattle.

Below are some of the companies that students were able to visit.

Dallas Consulting Trek: A.T. Kearney, Bain Capital, Boston Consulting Group, Booz & Company, and Deloitte

New York Banking Trek: J.P. Morgan (Investment Bank and Private Bank), UBS, Credit Suisse, American Express, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Apollo

Houston BankingTreks: Citi, Simmons & Co., Credit Suisse, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Lazard, UBS, and J.P. Morgan

Dallas Corporate Finance Trek: Sabre Holdings, Celanese, Frito-Lay, and Yum! Brands

Houston Energy Trek: ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Cameron


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Posted in Career, Full-Time MBA

Join Us At International Night!

The International MBA Student Association (IMBASA) and the MBA+ Leadership Program, with generous support and sponsorship from Chevron, invite all students, staff, family, friends and alumni to attend the capstone event of the fall semester – International Night.

Photo by Fernando Gonzalez, MBA ’12

For the past 10 years, International Night has been the largest MBA event of the year, with almost 1,000 attendees. Booths will showcase the food and culture from several of the countries, regions and cultures represented among the current MBAs. The food will be rich, tasty, authentic, and abundant. The following regions/cultures will be hosting cultural booths: African and African American culture, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Entertainment may include Chinese folk dancers, a Brazilian capoeira group, and a Mexican mariachi band, as well as the 3rd annual MBA International Fashion Show. For children there will be a balloon artist, juggler, clown, face painter and Amy’s Ice Creams (ice cream available for adults too!). There is no admission charge whatsoever and for adults there is a limited cash bar.

Please mark your calendars for International Night on Wednesday, November 14th from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Frank Erwin Center.

We hope to see you there!

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Catching Up With Kalin McKenna, MBA ’11

Texas MBA Alumna Kalin McKenna atop Lion's Head in South AfricaKalin McKenna is a member of the Texas MBA Full-Time class of 2011.

What have you been up to since you finished our program?
I have been living in Seattle and working as Marketing Manager for Windows Phone focusing on the US market.

That sounds awesome. Are you enjoying it so far?
Marketing for Windows Phone has been a lot of fun, the last 14 months have flown by. I feel so lucky to come to work with smart, driven, and passionate people every day. Phone has been particularly exciting because it is such a fast moving space. This month marks my second OS release since starting at Microsoft and my third big device release. It has been a complete whirlwind, but I love it. Read more ›

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Posted in Alumni, Full-Time MBA

Texas MBA Women Beat The Gender Pay Gap For The First Time

Originally posted by Renee Hopkins on McCombs Today.

Woman with moneyStacey Rudnick is not often surprised by data. But she was both thrilled and surprised recently by data indicating that women from the Texas MBA Class of 2012 have closed the gender pay gap, earning larger salaries on average than the men from their class.

“I had to look at the numbers twice,” said Rudnick, who is Director of Career Management at McCombs. But subsequent viewing proved her right – the average post-graduate base pay for class of 2012 women is $106,073, compared to $104,631 for men from the same class.

“This is new. We have seen women’s salaries coming out of B-school get closer and closer to men’s since 2010,” said Rudnick, “but last year there was still a $2,500 wage gap in base salary for women. It is wonderful to see that gap closed.” Read more ›

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Posted in Evening MBA, Executive MBA, Executive MBA at Mexico City, Full-Time MBA, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth, MBA at Houston, Press

November Events Schedule

November Events Schedule

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Posted in Evening MBA, Events, Executive MBA, Executive MBA at Mexico City, Full-Time MBA, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth, MBA at Houston

Student Club Empowers Future Energy Leaders

Originally posted on McCombs Today.

Sam Maslin, MBA ’14, discusses student energy clubs at SXSW Eco

Sam Maslin, MBA ’14, discusses student energy clubs at SXSW Eco

In the face of economic and environmental challenges, McCombs students are poised to take on leading roles in an energy industry that is increasingly seeking sustainable solutions.

“It’s kind of corny, [but] the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” said Sam Maslin, MBA ’14, who appeared at October’s South by Southwest Eco conference. Maslin noted that recent graduates can very quickly find themselves at the forefront of the industry – sometimes in as little as two to three years. One way students are preparing themselves is through participation in university organizations, such as the McCombs CleanTech Group. “These energy clubs are a really great catalyst for change that happens pretty quickly,” CleanTech member Maslin said. Read more ›

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Catching Up With Tania Rodriguez, MBA ’11

Texas MBA Alumna Tania RodriguezTania Rodriguez is a member of the Texas Executive MBA at Mexico City class of 2011.

Tania, why did you decide to pursue an MBA and why did you choose the Texas Executive MBA at Mexico City program?
Mexico City is an amazing place to invest as well as a recognized business center. I was born there, and when I found out about the Texas Executive MBA at Mexico City program, I realized that I could combine one of the best business schools in America with a start-up opportunity – what a deal! I found it extremely important to attain a first world graduate education in English since my first language is Spanish and my current business has a global approach.

The MBA at Mexico City is exactly the same as the Executive MBA in Austin – same professors, same classes, same agenda, etc. It was a secure way to raise my education standards and skills in a very competitive professional world. Read more ›

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New TVL Scholar Program Enables Entrepreneurs To Fund Their MBAs With A Business Plan

Originally posted by Renee Hopkins on McCombs Today.

Texas Venture Labs Scholar Program will award scholarships to entrepreneurs

Texas Venture Labs Scholar Program will award scholarships to entrepreneurs

The Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs (TVL) has just announced its new Texas Venture Labs Scholar Program, in which entrepreneurs are awarded scholarships to pursue their startup businesses as part of earning their MBAs.

“Many of our best MBA startups come from students seeking our top-ranked entrepreneurship program, arriving with a business idea and using coursework to incubate their idea,” said MBA program director Christina Mabley. “With the TVL Scholar Program, we are recognizing and funding this fast-growing cadre of MBA applicants.”

The total potential value of each TVL Scholar award is $175,000. Competition winners will receive a scholarship package of $50,000, and their startups will be accepted into the Texas Venture Labs accelerator program, also valued at $50,000. Winners will also be automatically considered for a TVL summer internship and for a prestigious position as a postgraduate Accenture TVL Venture Partner, a combined value of $75,000.

“The Texas Venture Labs Scholar Program pulls together all the attributes that entrepreneurs look for when starting a business,” said Rob Adams, director of Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs. “The Austin startup ecosystem, McCombs’ top-ranked MBA and entrepreneurship programs, and the significant track record of Texas MBAs starting businesses on graduation. Combining these attributes with scholarship funding enables entrepreneurs to radically accelerate the development of their business while earning their MBA at McCombs.” Read more ›

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Texas MBA Student Wins Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition

This past weekend, McCombs dual degree student Dan Driscoll, MBA and MA in Communication ’14, claimed the grand prize at the 2nd annual Reaching Out MBA Entrepreneurial Pitch competition while representing the startup reQwip. Dan competed against representatives from many of the top business schools to win the competition’s $5,000 cash grand prize.

“This was absolutely the most difficult pitch and most scrutinizing and accomplished judges reQwip has ever faced. To win at a major national event in an all-or-nothing contest against startup teams from Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cornell and many other top business schools is an incredible moment. We really feel like this shows the strength of the students, faculty and administration at The University of Texas at Austin and further validates the quality and opportunities that are unique to Austin, Texas.” Read more ›

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