In college one of the first things you are told before the semester begins is that plagiarism is not accepted and cheating is an offense that can be merit expulsion. But where does the syllabus stand when students are accused of using information for a school project as a means to starting their own business?
A group of Carlson School of Management (University of Minnesota) students had a class project to research a start-up from Missouri. The company-StepNpull-was interviewed by the students and presented the students with marketing and product data for their class project. It came as a surprise to the management team of StepNpull when several months later they found that the students had started a competing company with a product similar to what was discussed in the interviews.
Learning business through doing business
The students were part of a class “Entrepreneurship in Action” which is a class that teaches students about how to design products and businesses and market them to the customers. Students in the class are encouraged to find a start-up in which they can not only pursue the study of but also take on as a full-fledged business outside of the class. The excitement, study, and prospect of making a business venture while getting college credit may have clouded the judgment of the students who had created the real-world business: Forge LLC (Toepener).
Where the situation stands
The students reportedly have sold 300 units at a cost of $50 each- which is around $20 more then what StepNpull is selling them for currently. The students have not only received money through sales but also have received $15,000 in funding from the U of M and have been receiving accolades for their idea and work thus far. See more in the Star Tribune article.