Billion Dollar Buyer Open Casting Call: An Adventure for Entrepreneurship Students

By Mary Morley—Last Thursday, March 9th, 2017, was surreal and a totally a new experience for me. For the past 18 years, I have been in the shadows of the executives I supported in the Investor Relations and Marketing functions. I would have never guessed that I would participate in an open casting call at the George R. Brown Convention Center for the Billion Dollar Buyer and pitching my own company.

I work full-time and am a full-time student at UST majoring in Marketing with a minor in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. My company is Mary’s Salsa. Jakobi Nunn, also a student at UST  minoring in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and I decided to brave it and went to the open casting call together. As part of our Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship class lead by Dr. Martin Lindenberg,  Jakobi and Tifany Cantu (also a student at UST) and I were assigned to the same group, and we have been working together on ideas of how to build a brand around my company, Mary’s Salsa. First, we submitted an entry to the E-Fest Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Competition and this open casting call sounded like the next thing to do…so we did.

First Phase

On Thursday, Jakobi and I arrived, got in line and waited our turn. We were lead to the first waiting area where we filled out paperwork, got our number and category assignment. Next, we moved to the next waiting area and sat for about 2 hours. We were finally called in and were so incredibly nervous until we started because all nerves fled at that very moment. We were not able to have the Landry’s representatives taste our product, as no products were being tasted during the casting call, but we quickly engaged in healthy conversations. Tough questions were asked, but we maintained our positivity through it all. Jakobi did an amazing job, and we both showed how much we believed in my salsa.

Unexpected Interview

We were then moved to the next phase and to the waiting area for the CNBC producers. During this time, we were asked if we would do an interview with Channel 2. We were thrilled and exited for such an opportunity as we were one of two groups out of hundreds that were asked to do so. The interview was a first for both of us as well. We looked straight into the camera and expressed our sincere enthusiasm for Mary’s Salsa and for being able to represent our school (we were both wearing UST shirts).

Sharing Salsa

After the interview and about 5 hours in, we opened a salsa and a bag of chips – you could imagine how hungry we were along with all the others present – and so we shared. Very quickly we were engaged with folks all around us. They were enjoying Mary’s Salsa and asking about it. It was awesome. We met some interesting folks and even got the attention of the show’s PR representatives who then took my salsa to the back with them to enjoy with their pizza! Yes!

Meeting the Producer

After about two more hours, I was called in to meet with the CNBC producers. By this time, there was only one producer doing the interviews. She explained that Landry’s was screening the companies to make sure they could do business with them, and the producers were there to learn about the stories behind the products. We had a great conversation around my salsa and how it started. I told her about our class and how we were learning so much about entrepreneurship. After about 15 minutes of this, she informed me that the show would be calling me in 3-5 days to do a skype interview, but that it was not a guarantee of anything as the company was the one to determine if suppliers could meet their quantity requirements. But I was overjoyed none the less.

Conclusion

What an experience! Participating in the Billion Dollar Buyer open casting call would not have been possible without the mentorship and guidance we receive in our Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship class from our professor, Dr. Lindenberg. The engaging format, the knowledge shared and the challenges we are asked to consider are remarkable. I am truly thankful to be at UST and taking Dr. Lindenberg’s course. I am so excited and ready to see what else is available for me at The McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas Houston.

Mary Morley

Univ. of St. Thomas – CSB – BBA, candidate

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