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OC students put business skills to test with Project Eden

A team of Oklahoma Christian University students from diverse majors are putting their business skills to the test with Project Eden.

In January, the group of students entered the Love’s Cup, a competition to develop a business plan and put it into action. They came up with Project Eden. a business focused on producing quality, nutrient-dense produce for local restaurants.  

Senior Sydni Lehr, a nutrition and exercise science major, said she has used her nutritional expertise to assist in the creation of a clean, organic product.

“Project Eden is a greenhouse than uses hydroponics and aquaponics to grow organic herbs and microgreens locally,” Lehr said. “There are no pesticides or soil-borne bacteria on these products, and it’s generally healthier for the population.”

Lehr said the project has required significant adapting and learning, but has been useful for expanding her knowledge and skills.

“Considering I’m not a business major, everything I have done for this has been a learning opportunity,” Lehr said. “I’ve developed leadership skills along with communication and presentation skills. I think it’s so cool how it taught me about developing a business plan and all of the inner workings that go into that.”

While Lehr is focused on using her skills to develop and inform the public on the importance of quality herbs and greens, Oklahoma Christian graduate student Seth Reiter handles much of the business side of the project. According to Reiter, the project started with developing a business plan and pinpointing a target audience.

“We began by doing market research to determine the gains and pains associated with the job of sourcing fresh ingredients for restaurants,” Reiter said. “Then we developed a value proposition to meet the needs of our customers, and we developed a sales and growth strategy.”

According to Reiter, the Love’s Cup is a great opportunity for students to make connections and learn about successful business strategy.

“It involves students with a hands-on experience of developing a business plan and what is involved with that,” Reiter said. “By doing this, it gives students a pretty decent understanding of high-level operations of a business. Also, if you do make it to the semifinals where you present, you get the opportunity to connect with local investors, and you might win prize money. There is also a scholarship involved. It’s overall just a really good networking opportunity.”

According to Reiter, technology utilized in the project could eventually be integrated onto the Oklahoma Christian campus.

“I hope we make it to the semifinals, and that we can maybe actually use this for a business at some level, because there is a lot of interest for building one of these greenhouses and using it in the Oklahoma Christian cafeteria,” Reiter said.

Lehr said she hopes her team can win the competition and reap the rewards of all their hard work. She said she is thankful for all the things she has learned throughout the project.

“I hope we win the prize money,” Lehr said. “I also applied for their scholarship, so I would love to win that as well. For Project Eden, I hope I can take all of the knowledge I have learned on a business scale and put it to use in my future. I have loved seeing my team work together and gain so much experience from this.”

Students who wish to participate in the Love’s Cup can email Reiter for more information.

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