Another year, another GCU student wins in DECA

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Handed a few lemons, Matt Sostrom wouldn’t just make lemonade. He’d find a way to create a whole lemon grove, and then he’d give it a Hawaiian name.

When he was a junior at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, he started Kahau Kones, selling shaved ice at Scottsdale and Paradise Valley schools to help with their fundraising efforts.

Matt Sostrom, who just completed his freshman year at GCU, took first place in Entrepreneurship (Growing Your Business).

The pandemic melted that idea for the time being, so he did the only logical thing while preparing for his freshman year as a marketing major (of course) at Grand Canyon University – he started another business. Aloha Arizona Photography provides photos and videos, especially drone images, for realtors and surveyors.

And when he provided a snapshot of the photography business for the 2021 Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference, made the final round and aced the role-play portion of the competition, he became GCU’s third winner in the last five years.

Sostrom’s victory in Entrepreneurship (Growing Your Business) wasn’t the only GCU success. Michael Carnahan, an accounting major who will be a senior in the fall, took fourth in Managerial Accounting.

The other GCU entrants, all of whom had to first advance out of the Arizona Career Development Conference competition, were Polly Nelson in Hotel & Lodging, Johanna Hernandez and Drew Holloway in Entrepreneurship Operations and Cristian Rodriguez in Retail Management.

Sostrom called the role-playing, in which he used his own existing business and had to sell his idea to a live judge, “like a mock trial for business.”

But he didn’t need a judge to uncover his entrepreneurial spirit. That has been showing through for several years.

“I have a pretty calm and collected style of business,” he said.

His reasons for doing what he has done are equally matter of fact.

For example, you might wonder why he chose shaved ice.

“I love shaved ice,” he said. “Who doesn’t?”

He loves it so much (and understands the value of publicity so much), he attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the largest shaved ice ever.   

And why, you also might wonder, does he have such a fascination with Hawaiian names for his businesses? Do they bring back wonderful island memories? Uh, no.

“I’ve never been to Hawaii,” he said. “It’s just fun to say.”

Oh. Well, of course.

Dr. Kelly Damron

Having to do a virtual presentation, on the other hand, wasn’t fun. The conference had to be held virtually because of the pandemic, which meant missing out on the huge (and valuable) in-person conferences in the past.

“The ability to present, either pre-recorded or Zoom, presents its own challenges for the students,” said Dr. Kelly Damron, Assistant Professor of Accounting in the Colangelo College of Business, Co-Advisor for Collegiate DECA of GCU’s chapter and Co-Executive Director of Arizona Collegiate DECA. “I think it’s probably more difficult than normal circumstances.”

Carnahan’s event included a fictional business challenge that accounts for two-thirds of the final score. For example, he was presented with a scenario where a CEO has to decide between manufacturing a product in house or outsourcing it, and he had only 30 minutes to calculate the variable and fixed costs. Students are required to do this with zero input from their advisors or peers.

“These competitions are great. They help us with communication skills, presenting in front of a judge, critical thinking, problem solving,” he said. “It helps you think on your feet and gives you an insight into the business world. We all wear suits and ties and business attire.”

Michael Carnahan

Carnahan was treasurer of  Collegiate DECA of GCU, which continued to meet regularly online during the 2020-21 academic year. But that didn’t take away from its value, particularly with the steady stream of professionals who were brought in to speak to the club.

And there’s no reason to wait. Sostrom and Carnahan both were in DECA in high school.

“DECA is great for any business student or, honestly, any other student,” Carnahan said. “We’ve had an education major compete in DECA and find a lot of value in it.” Damron agrees with Carnahan, “DECA is more than a competitive business club, it helps prepare students for jobs after graduation. In addition to building the soft skills desired by employers, students who participate in DECA build life-long friendships with their GCU peers as well as with students from other institutions in the state.”

Said Dr. Randy Gibb, Dean of the Colangelo College of Business, “So proud of our Collegiate DECA team. Despite COVID, they have pressed forward and worked throughout the academic year. To place Top 10 in this international competition is an outstanding accomplishment, and then to win is simply tremendous. DECA is a business case-study scenario competition requiring exceptional presentation skills. Dr. Kelly Damron’s leadership is key in supporting these great students.”

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: GCU student wins international DECA competition

GCU Today: Business students score points in DECA competition

GCU Today: DECA chapter scores big in international competition

GCU Today: GCU students post best DECA finish ever

GCU Today: Strong showing by GCU students in DECA event

GCU Today: CCOB has more top-3 placers than ever in fall DECA

GCU Today: GCU students win big in DECA international conference


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