Sharks bite in Chicago

Do you watch “Shark Tank,” the reality show where amateur entrepreneurs present their business ideas to a panel of “sharks,” tough-yet-rolling-in-dough business people who choose whether to contribute money toward these ventures?

This year at Hotel Management’s North America Hotel Investment Conference in Chicago, we staged a similar competition for hospitality students. Teams from The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, and the DePaul University School of Hospitality Leadership had a couple weeks to develop an idea for a new hotel brand. They built business plans, design strategies, feasibility and audience data and and presented their brands to a panel of judges, which included Best Western International president and CEO David Kong.

It. Was. Amazing. Every chair in the room was filled and everyone’s attention was focused on the front of the room where these three groups of young adults basically knocked everyone’s socks off. MSU’s team (the winners) presented an idea for “Exposure Hotels,” a concept designed around the millennial traveler with themes of authenticity, sustainability and social interaction. NYU’s team presented “Trio Hotels,” targeted to millennials with the tagline, “Live. Work. Experience.” The DePaul team introduced “Essential Series,” which focused on wellness.

Each one of these teams covered all the bases. What blew me away, though, was their poise and maturity during the presentations (which all involved pretty slick PowerPoints, by the way). They had showmanship. They thought on their feet when the sharks asked tough questions (which they did!) and they exuded confidence supported by research and facts.

In other words, these students proved that they are absolutely cut out for the hospitality industry. Had they been in front of real investors I’m positive they would have walked away with some start-up cash.

It was fun, exciting and really informative. We’ll have more about NATHIC and the student competition next month. In the meantime, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from Hotel Management.