TV show becomes reality on campus with The Apprentice Club

Brigit Benestante

Growing up, supply chain management junior Rajeev Viswanath watched NBC series “The Apprentice” religiously. The show, which centers around a competition where people raise money for charity through marketing and sales, inspired him to create a real-life The Apprentice Club on campus. In the club, students compete to create the best marketing campaign for startups. 

“In high school, I came up with the idea of having an Apprentice Club [there],” Viswanath said. “We ended up raising a good amount of money for charity, and I thought, ‘Why not do it in college?’ There’s better resources — more people willing to work and help out.”

Viswanath began planning and recruiting for the club last year, and it officially launched at the beginning of this semester. The club is modeled after the TV show — two teams of students, ten people in each, compete in marketing competitions twice a semester for two different startups. 

At their competition earlier in the semester, the teams created promotion videos for a local start-up, Shred Street. The team with the best video won money that they gave to a charity of their choice. Marketing sophomore Haley Martensen became a member of the club because she wants to work with startups after graduating.  

“I want to work with startups, and I liked the philanthropy side of it,” Martensen said. “It was something different.” 

The club’s second competition of the year involves getting as many people as they can to sign up for the Canada-based tutoring startup, Help Hub. Finance junior Niket Parikh is the group’s vice president. He said the students in The Apprentice Club can learn skills that can be applied in the real business world.  

“I think it gives kind of a niche that hasn’t been hit yet for clubs,” Parikh said. “You can get real consulting experience with working with real startups. You can actually get real-world experience.” 

Viswanath was in agreement with Parikh and said one of the main reasons he started The Apprentice Club was to provide an experience to students that they couldn’t find anywhere else. According to Viswanath, The Apprentice Club provides a unique experience to students that isn’t common on campus. 

“There aren’t many clubs that combine service with competition,” Viswanath said. “It’s one of those clubs where it’s a fun way to do service and volunteer. I thought it differentiated us from a lot of other clubs here.”

While working with the startup Shred Street earlier in the semester, the group was able to raise over $550 for charity. They have plans to do marketing and sales competitions for other companies such as Lyft next semester and hope to raise even more money. Viswanath said they also want to create more leadership positions within the club. 

Shane Gordon, co-marketing director and supply chain management junior, said he hopes they’ll be able to work with recognized companies such as Lyft more often. 

“We’re hoping as time goes on, we can start working with somewhat established companies, not just brand new ones,” Gordon said. 

Viswanath, Parikh and Gordon all said they want members to form strong team bonds with each other throughout the competitions. Martensen said getting to know her team members added an extra obstacle when working in competition.

“I only knew one person coming in, so it’s hard to get this done while getting to know people,” Martensen said.

According to Parikh, the group has gotten multiple offers from startups looking to work with them since the club’s inception. Viswanath said he hopes this type of growth will continue. 

“It’s going pretty well so far,” Viswanath said. “I really hope I come back in 10 years, and we still have this here.” 

Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version.