Tag: Center for Experiential Learning



Eitana McClerklin, BSBA ’21, wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

During the spring ’21 semester, I had the opportunity to work on the CELect global team alongside my colleagues Hailey Kleban, BSBA ’22, Albert Kao, BUCS ’22, Nicole Lew, BSBA ’21, and Yiting Wang, JD ’21.

Over the eight-week span of the course, we worked together to support FanCam, a South Africa-based crowd-imaging and data analytics firm that focuses primarily on capturing crowds at sports events.

Our client was looking to expand both into a different industry and into a different country, and COVID-19 presented unique challenges to both of those goals. One of the Olin pillars of excellence states that students will understand the global opportunities and challenges facing businesses, and I was grateful to work on a diverse team of scholars from Olin, McKelvey and the WashU law school who were all willing to combine our different abilities and rise to the occasion.

We conducted research on which industries and cities in America were best suited to support our client, both throughout the remainder of COVID-19 and afterward, and we presented our client with a timeline and steps to expand into these areas.  

The CELect program offers students the perfect ratio of autonomy and assistance needed to improve research, strategical and communication skills. After assessing the needs of the client, we decided on weekly team meetings to conduct research and bi-weekly meetings with the client to deliver this research, receive feedback and redirect our focus.

Aside from the occasional comments we received from the other teams and Steven J. Malter, senior associate dean, special projects and experiential learning, it was up to us to ensure that we were delivering everything the client needed in an efficient way. All our meetings were via Zoom, including the midterm and final presentation, which required more use of nonverbal communication skills and challenged us to get creative with our presentation style and method.  

If working on the CELect global team during COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that experiences are only as rewarding as the amount of work you are willing to put into them. Despite the fact that my teammates and our client were spread across three different continents and time zones, we still made the commitment to put forth our best efforts to ensure that both the team and the client gained something from the experience.

We had an amazing time working with our client, who was more than willing to give us feedback and advice after our final deliverable. The experiences we gained from the program will last us a lifetime, throughout the remainder of our time at WashU and beyond.  

Pictured in photo: Hailey Kleban, team lead, BSBA ’22, Eitana McClerklin, BSBA ’21, Albert Kao, BUCS ’22, Nicole Lew, BSBA ’22, Yiting Wang, JD ’21, Tinus Le Roux, founder and CEO of FanCam, Markus Coetsee , CFO of FanCam. Photo taken during client communication meeting. 




When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. Today, we hear from Toby Warticovschi, EMBA ’09, partner at Millstone Capital Advisors, as well as Carin Stutz, CEO of Native Foods, a Millstone portfolio company.

Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?

Warticovschi: We wanted to provide an opportunity for world-class talent, and to see if these students could assist us in deriving value from the data from one of our portfolio companies that, due to resource constraints, we have not been able to analyze. I have a sophomore in college and a junior in high school. Their internship plans were canceled, too. I brought my daughter to work for one of our portfolio companies for the same reason we’re working with WashU students: It’s a mutual benefit.

Stutz: We all want our companies to be relevant to future generations, so the opportunity to participate and hear the perspective of your students is invaluable.

What is your project about?

Warticovschi: We asked students to our data to see if they could find any key insights to our guest/consumer behavior when it comes to choosing healthy or indulgent menu items; willingness to try new menu items or limited-time offers; and menu pricing.

What was it like working with WashU Olin students?

Stutz: They came prepared and asked insightful questions. For some, it may be the first time communicating directly with an executive team, so some seemed a little hesitant to engage. Having the advisor involved, in our case Zachary Kaplan, helped bridge the newness of the situation.

What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?

Warticovschi: These are certainly unprecedented times, but my main advice is to remain optimistic.  As this change happens, every business is having challenges—and that also presents new opportunities. Those who ask themselves the question “How can I leverage this opportunity to add or create value?” are the ones who will be best positioned for the future.




Olivia Stevermer, BSBA ’23, wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

Although cryptocurrency recently garnered the attention of millions through a short-lived “to the moon” era, the momentum of blockchain is continuing to skyrocket and shape the future of our transactions. As a young Gen Z adult, a considerable portion of my time goes toward scrolling through various media, taking in more information than I can process. I’ve seen the data and heard the financial analysts report on the rapid growth of blockchain and cryptocurrency, yet there is no amount of information that equates to the knowledge and experience gained from Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

CEL gave me the opportunity to work on a team with Abhay Bhandari, BSBA ’22, Yubo Rao, BSBA ’22, and Sharika Singh, BSBA ’23, to determine how international blockchain company Horizen Labs could position itself to enter the gaming industry.

From the first time I opened Zoom to meet my teammates to the last time I closed Zoom after our final presentation, the learning curve was nothing less than steep. As four undergraduate business students with little to no blockchain knowledge, we learned the importance of communicating with experts, and from that we were able to get hands-on experience in one of the most rapidly evolving industries.

The CEL experience provided endless room for creativity and detailing while still following the data and research. Additionally, there was always room to improve and motivation to strive for perfection. Working with a client to produce impact-oriented results provided an understanding of the client-consultant relationship and the importance of seemingly small details. The passion and enthusiasm of the client was especially motivating.

The best part about CEL was the opportunity to explore an unfamiliar industry and experience the startup ecosystem. As second and third year undergraduates, each of my teammates and I are still young; there are numerous career paths we could take. Getting the opportunity to explore the blockchain industry opened our eyes to new opportunities within the sector and encouraged us to explore opportunities in unfamiliar sectors.

Horizen Labs’ startup ecosystem enabled us to think entrepreneurially, and knowing our results would have notable impact pressured us to emphasize listening to the consumer. Experiencing the success of a start-up showed us that there truly are methodological approaches to becoming successful and furthered our entrepreneurial spirits.

Overall, the hands-on experience CEL provided boosted my confidence. The opportunity to work with Horizen Labs was incredibly inspiring. I gained a new awareness of the power and need for innovation along with the belief that I have the power to make a positive difference in the world.




Olin’s CELect program offers students an opportunity to engage in management consulting projects for start-ups and early-stage companies. Our team members worked as consultants for St. Louis-based startup NourishSTL.

Founded by Rhonda Smythe, a registered dietitian, and Colleen Clawson, head chef of Milque Toast Bar and Baba Xavi, NourishSTL provides ready-to-eat meals made with locally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients. NourishSTL products range from snacks and essentials to hearty meals, soups and stews.

At the start of our project, Smythe told us they wanted Nourish STL to enter the mainstream grocery market. Our work focused on analyses of operational changes, finances and marketing to help the company achieve this goal. Our team consisted of James Dutton, James Bambury, Hongjin Lyu and me. Each of us had a specific area of expertise, and we delegated our work based upon how we felt our contributions could be the most efficient and impactful.

Our collaboration also played a key role in our success. By working closely with Smythe and with one another, and by providing transparency and flexibility throughout the project, we were a highly effective team. We worked with integrity, excellence and creativity, upholding all of Olin’s core values.

Our conclusions were based on hard data, provided value and had a forward-thinking outlook. For example, one modification we implemented was to change the pricing of items to adequately reflect the premium value of the product. We suggested a 120% markup on 32-ounce packages, a 140% markup on 16-ounce packages and a 30% markdown for wholesale. Given that NourishSTL’s profitability was a concern, we believed that these changes would have an immediate positive impact on cash flow. Our market research also showed that these markups would have little effect on customer willingness to pay.

We developed numerous other recommendations for the company, and one of the things we most appreciated was Smythe’s receptiveness to our suggestions. She immediately implemented several changes based upon our feedback and, likewise, we remained flexible based on her feedback. Our team held Zoom meetings twice a week, one as a group and one with Smythe to ensure our shared direction, and we also communicated frequently through Microsoft Teams.

Our experience in this course had a tangible and immediate impact. Much of what we learned can be applied to our future careers and business endeavors. One highlight from our experience was being able to meet as a team with Smythe, despite COVID, in the kitchen where all of her food is made. In a time of isolation and Zoom calls, having this experience made the work feel “real.” Anyone interested in business, consulting or entrepreneurship should take this course.

Top photo courtesy of NourishSTL.




Joel Hsieh, BA

Joel Hsieh, BA ’22, wrote this for the Olin Blog on behalf of CEL teammates Tarhe Osiebe, MBA ’21, Phillip Clifton, JD ’21, Saavan Rijsinghani, BSBA ’22, and Anthony Williams, BA ’21.

Kwema, a safety wearables company founded in 2016 by Ali Al Jabry, took the pandemic’s challenges in stride. The St. Louis-based startup’s primary product is a smart badge used in the workplace for a variety of safety and emergency situations, described as “OnStar meets E-ZPass for employee safety.”

Seeing a potential new market in 2020, Kwema upgraded its technology to include GDPR and HIPAA compliant COVID-19 contact tracing.

Last fall, Kwema participated in WashU Olin’s Entrepreneurial Consulting Team program through the Center for Experiential Learning to explore new avenues for fundraising and investment in the company that would offer the best terms of investment.

As the five-member student consulting team, we focused our research on the online equity crowdfunding space and detailed strategies, insights and points of interest for use in a potential future campaign.

Failure isn’t wasted time

Top to bottom, left: Joel Hsieh, Amy VanEssendelft, Tarhe Osiebe. Top to bottom, right: II Luscri, Kwema founder & CEO Ali Al Jabry, Saavan Rijsinghani.

Sometimes the original recommendation just doesn’t work out. That doesn’t mean the time spent was a total loss. In mid- to late-November, the project was humming along nicely. The team was giving updates to the client and receiving feedback constantly, and the midterm presentation went smoothly.

However, as we continued, a critical issue emerged with our first recommendation: The equity crowdfunding platform WeFunder required disclosure of sensitive information. Kwema found it unstrategic to share the information publicly because it would require publishing trade secrets that anyone would be able to see.

Rather than scrapping equity crowdfunding altogether, Saavan directed our efforts towards Fundable, a platform that functions not as the primary handler of the investment, but as a selective place to meet individual investors. Many of the lessons learned about how to prepare the necessary paperwork and best present the company in a campaign setting applied to both the original and final recommendations.

Prepare for the unexpected

That leads to our second revelation: The limitations associated with consulting in a classroom environment can repackage real-world lessons in unexpected ways. Make sure to communicate often and precisely.

Introducing the team during the final presentation, December 18, 2020. Right side, top to bottom: II Luscri, Amy VanEssendelft, Tarhe Osiebe, Anthony Williams and Phillip Clifton.

Now, we didn’t immediately move on to this new recommendation. Given that the original idea was now sidelined, a consultant would maybe negotiate a project extension, but as students operating within the constraints of a single academic semester, Kwema suggested we take the remaining month of school and improve the company business plan.

In the context of a consulting class, the line between consultant and intern work would be blurry, as we discussed with II Luscri, our professor and the managing director for the Skandalaris Center for interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Though Kwema’s initial pivot idea wasn’t used, finding a new solution to the original problem allowed us to compromise and ensure both parties received value from the program that aligned with what we each originally signed up for.

I can’t think of a future where practicing thoughtful and decisive negotiating would not be useful. Shoutout to Tarhe, our team lead, who always made sure communications were timely and not wasteful.

Whether that was pruning emails and calls down to the essentials or keeping pace with a meeting agenda, the act of minimizing friction when trying to adapt to an unexpected problem cannot be understated.

Pictured at top: Joel Hsieh, BA ’22, author of this blog post.