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MBA students spin one paper clip into charity gold

January 6, 2011

Members of Team Panther include (l-r) Chelsey Newsom, Jordan Michaels, Nick Candy, Kerin Suchocki and (at lower right) Cynthia Kim.

At last check, a box of paper clips from an office supply store cost about $4. But a group of MBA students from the Argyros School of Business and Economics managed to parlay one measly little paper clip into $900 for the Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center.

It all began as an assignment in the course Business 604: Designing and Managing Value Creating Organizations taught by Matthew W. McCarter, Ph.D., assistant professor of management at Argyros. Student teams were each handed a paper clip and given one month to make a series of trades that would eventually land them something worthy enough for inclusion in the arts center’s gala silent auction. There was a catch – the students were prohibited from even hinting that this was for charity.

“This teaches them ways of creating value. For entrepreneurs, it’s all about creating value. It’s finding ways to meet people’s needs,” says Dr. McCarter, who based the assignment on The One Red Paper Clip Project.

But who needs one little paper clip? That was the initial thinking of members of Team Panther, the student team that ultimately landed the most valuable final trade, a package of 12 L.A. Kings tickets and passes to a pre-game party that snagged a $900 final bid at the arts center silent auction.

“At the beginning it was quite daunting,” says MBA student Nick Candy.

But it turns out the odd request to trade a paper clip won the curiosity of a beverage promoter giving away freebie products, which turned out to be the heart’s desire of a memorabilia collector on Craigslist willing to trade a spiffy laser pointer, which was just the thing desired by a professor who had no need for a bottle of Dom Perrignon gathering dust in his office. Then things got easier, and through a series of trades the team eventually scored the L.A. Kings package.

Impressive results were achieved by all the student teams, which traded their paper clips for signed sports memorabilia, tickets to professional hockey and baseball games, premiere suite tickets to a performance of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, professional dance lessons and Disneyland tickets.

Collectively the teams’ items raised $2,055 at the arts center’s silent auction.

“Think of what could have happened had they had two months or more,” Dr. McCarter says.

Another class of part-time MBA students with the same assignment from Dr. McCarter will soon see how their trades fare at an upcoming Make-A-Wish Foundation silent auction.

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