A question posed to essentially every child is ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Some will say a doctor or a lawyer. Others will say an athlete or an artist. Some want to join the armed forces, and plenty just aren’t sure. But there are a few who know from early on that they want to be a business owner. While launching and running a successful business is a feat particularly admired in America, the fact is, entrepreneurship is daunting. It takes a lot more than talent and tenacity. As a business owner, there are a lot of skills one needs to hone to survive let alone thrive. Things like marketing, strategic planning, project management, financial management, customer service, communication — the list goes on. An aspiring entrepreneur can have a great idea, but without the knowledge, skills and experience, they may never be able to get their business off the ground.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, nearly half of all new businesses fail by the five year mark. And there are lots of reasons why these ventures don’t work out. That’s why many aspiring entrepreneurs seek out formal business education to give themselves a better chance at success. Learning the ins and outs of running a business in an academic setting is one thing, but coupling that education with hands-on experience is even better. That’s precisely what TigerCo Marketing offers to aspiring entrepreneurs studying within the College of Business Administration at Savannah State University.
TigerCo Marketing presents SSU business students with a unique and valuable opportunity to gain real-world experience that allows them to develop their business acumen before they start their personal entrepreneurial journeys.
Started in 2019, by Mike Roberson of Savannah Sauce Company, TigerCo Marketing was founded to help students bridge classroom knowledge with practical experience. The students run TigerCo Marketing as a for-profit company selling their flagship product, Tigers’ Awesome Sauce — which was created by Savannah Sauce Company and gifted to TigerCo — the proceeds of which support student micro loans. By working with TigerCo, students gain practical experience, which reduces barriers to entering the job market. TigerCo’s first student-CEO was Tyler Holloway, who ran the company during her undergraduate.
Recently, a new leader has taken the helm at TigerCo. A proud SSU alumna, Comia Flynn is the company’s new president and CEO, and she’s very excited to take it to new heights. While working with Savannah Sauce Company, Flynn was approached by Roberson about TigerCo.
“He made a proposal and said that I would be a great leader and a good fit for TigerCo Marketing because I’m a Savannah State alumna and it’s all about giving back to the HBCUs. So when he offered me the opportunity, I said ‘definitely, I would love that!’ I’m very community-driven . . . and so this opportunity allows me to help in a big way and reach the masses,” said Flynn.
Currently, the way the company works is that interested SSU business students are referred to TigerCo by Shalonda Mullgrav and Dr. Nicole Cannonier, the associate dean and interim dean of the College of Business Administration, respectively. Flynn plans to expand the company to all students in the future.
Beyond marketing and selling Tigers’ Awesome Sauce, one of the ways that TIgerCo trains participating students is through their pitch contest.
“Students are paired up with a mentor, someone who’s seasoned in their own business. They mentor the students from beginning to end, [from developing] a business plan all the way through the logistics of the financials and what it’s like to run a business. The mentors work with them to create a pitch about their business and they have so many minutes to deliver and explain to the judges,” said Flynn.
The students are then scored on every aspect of their pitch, including their presentation skills, appearance, how well they know the business, etc. The students who earn a certain score receive $1,000 to support their ventures.
“My plan is to roll it out even larger to other HBCUs as well, the pitch contest and sharing our platform where they can market their businesses . . . because we can all support each other,” she stated.
Something else in the works is a new ‘Tigress’ sauce for breast cancer awareness.
“The slogan will be, ‘who says a tiger can’t change their stripes?’ We’ll change the color from the regular Tiger colors to a pink and fuschia for the women who are fighting breast cancer. And a portion of those proceeds will go to the Cancer Society,” Flynn explained.
She has big plans for TigerCo and sees no limit in sight.
“We want to take it globally. I want to reach students that are out of the country to help them with the platform, and possibly hire them as staff with TigerCo. It’s a delicious product and everyone will love this, so I’m excited about it, and I’ve hit the ground running,” she said.
One of the newest accomplishments for the company has been launching Tiger’s Awesome Sauce on walmart.com.
“[Roberson] was able to negotiate that deal for us, which was absolutely amazing, so that’s been a big push as well,” said Flynn, adding that the product may be in stores in the near future as well.
She encourages the public to support TigerCo by purchasing the Tiger’s Awesome Sauce online. She also says to be on the lookout for stock options in the coming months. In all, she is excited about what’s next for TigerCo and anticipates a bright future for the company.
“I am honored to lead TigerCo Marketing into the future and build upon the strong foundation established by Mike and Tyler,” said Flynn. “Together with our talented team, we will forge new paths, drive innovation and deliver exceptional results for our clients.”
To learn more about TigerCo Marketing, visit tigerco.org/.