In the midst of studying for finals, preparing for graduation and wrapping up her last semester of undergraduate studies, Alexandra Pierce, student in Business Marketing at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, was busy hatching a business plan for the Preger-Tahoe Prize Creative Idea Challenge. It was no small feat, but through her dedication, intellect and passion for business, she created a sales pitch that won her the first-place award and launched her into the world of product development.
Highly influenced by her early life at home, Pierce, who graduated in December 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing, has always leaned toward business. With her dad as a role model, she was inspired by the work he did, and his own personal real-life knowledge.
“From a young age, I had always known I wanted to study business,” Pierce said. “My passion for being in this space came from watching Shark Tank at a young age with my Dad, who was also a small business owner.”
Last fall, while finalizing her degree in business, she applied her lifelong passion for business to the semi-annual Preger-Tahoe Prize Creative Idea Challenge. The challenge encourages students to conceptualize a useful idea and develop a plan that is implementable and capable of delivering a creative product and/or service – and that’s just what Pierce accomplished. On December 15, only days before graduating, Pierce presented a market-ready sales pitch that wowed the judges.
“The inspiration for my product sparked while I was subconsciously identifying a market opportunity, which I then brought to the Preger competition,” Pierce said. “I wanted to participate in the challenge to see what my peers and professors thought of my idea as a way to perform early research through initial public impressions.”
Even more impressive was her in-depth process to develop the product. Anyone who took a glance at her pitch and product would think that she had been in the industry for over thirty years.
“The first steps to understanding how novel and implementable my product was through an in-depth intellectual property search and extensive market research,” Pierce said. “I took my findings and started to develop the actual product. Since my product is related to the food industry, I needed to perform extensive research and development to produce my first prototypes. After I knew the product was feasible and replicable to the same quality standards, I began to build a bring-to-market plan. Following the presentation portion, I built my 10-slide pitch following Guy Kawasaki’s outline.
"Throughout the whole process, I found that entrepreneurship is my true passion. After winning the Preger competition in 2021, I knew that I wanted to create something that gave me the ability to work for myself. I have a passion for innovation, and I think that I have something good in the works for now.”
The skills she gained through her work for the Preger-Tahoe Prize Creative Idea Challenge and through her Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing degree follow her as she takes the next steps in her business journey. With the knowledge from her professors and the curriculum at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, she is now working to get her product developed and on the market.
“I think that experience outside of the classroom is much more valuable than reading from a textbook," she said. "I am so lucky to have the professors I do at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, and learning from their experiences in their professional spaces has helped guide me throughout the process of bringing my product to market. I would like to highlight the continued support and guidance from Professor Jonathan Breiter who has shared with me his world of knowledge.
"Throughout the Preger competition as well as the continued development of my product, I have learned the real processes of creating a startup. Everything from the first initial filling of a corporation to manufacturing my product and getting in front of buyers. I have always praised the Preger competition for the opportunity provided to further my public speaking skills as well as pitching and sales processes. I consider myself very sales-driven and I believe that having the ability to pitch a creative new idea in front of a room of people is a skill that can be continuously improved. Now that I am a young professional, I am continuing to pursue entrepreneurship with the new product that I will be bringing to market soon. I am also furthering my career with a sales role in Software! I have a passion for big data and would like to move into that space eventually.”
As for future Preger-Tahoe Prize Creative Idea Challenge participants, she leaves them with this advice for a successful presentation and product.
“Advice I would give to other students hoping to compete in the future is to know the ins and outs of your product completely," Pierce said. "It is important to anticipate what a consumer would ask questions about and acknowledge the question with a supplemental answer. It is important to cover all aspects of the product/business and think through any missing details on both the front and back end of the idea. I found that pitching to friends and family before the competition helped me to reveal what questions might arise as well as what parts of my presentation needed to be clearer for the audience."
About the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe
Located less than one mile from the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe’s Wayne L. Prim Campus merges experiences across education, research, creative and scholarly work in a stunning mountain environment. Beginning Fall 2024, undergraduate students are invited to earn their Certificate in Sustainability during a single-semester program that will incorporate outdoor and experiential learning into the coursework. Events and activities throughout the semester encourage a deep sense of community while inspiring environmental stewardship of the Lake Tahoe Basin and all our planet's most precious natural resources.
In addition to its education offerings, the campus offers a robust program of community events and private conferences, welcoming the brightest minds in science, art and sustainability to Lake Tahoe.
The 18-acre setting in Incline Village includes 10 classrooms, several meeting/conference rooms, both large and medium events spaces, a cafeteria and catering service, highly equipped laboratories, 88 dorm rooms and the Lou Sardella Student Commons Lawn. The natural setting provides a living laboratory and serves as creative inspiration for both scientists, artists and students alike.