Field Reports1 Aug, 2006 By: Thomas Haire, Courtney Beth Pugatch Response
Khubani's Entrepreneurial Engineers Wow DR Lecturers at Princeton
PRINCETON, N.J. — When A.J. Khubani, founder, president and CEO of TELEBrands, began guest lecturing at Princeton University a few years back, he never dreamed that he'd eventually head up a specialized program in the Ivy League school's Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering department. He also wouldn't have known that in early 2006, his initial guest lectures would eventually lead him to take five Princeton students to China to talk about the manufacturing and production of their own soon-to-be DRTV product.
TELEBrands' A.J. Khubani, third from left, took a group of five students who created and designed a new vacuum cleaner attachment in his Princeton Entrepreneurial Engineering class to China this spring to see how and where their new product would be manufactured`.
However, with an appointment as the department's chairman of the Industrial Directors Board last September — and the introduction of Entrepreneurial Engineering (course MAE 435 in Princeton's catalog) — Khubani, along with Princeton Associate Professor Daniel Nosenchuck, has created one of the more popular new classes on campus. "It was the talk of the campus last fall," Khubani contends. "It's open to all the students — anyone interested in coming up with a marketable product idea, engineering and building the prototype, creating a business plan and shooting a DR commercial."
Khubani amassed a "who's-who" of the DR world to serve on his board and as guest lecturers for the class, including HSN's Jane Dyer, famed host Billy Mays, Modell's Sporting Goods CEO Mitchell Modell and Tim Hawthorne, founder of hawthorne direct inc. and a member of Response's Editorial Advisory Board (look for more on the program in Hawthorne's column in the September issue of Response).
"People always ask how TELEBrands keeps coming up with winning products every year," Khubani says about his motivation for starting the program. "Well, we never tell anyone in the industry, of course! But I decided to tell these kids what we do. It's a lot of science and research, a lot of things that we've learned. And the best way for me to give this information out to a new generation of product creators was to impart my knowledge to these students."
The fall 2005 semester closed with the board members judging the student teams' products. "One project everyone just loved at the end of the first semester," Khubani says about a vacuum cleaner attachment — called the Spill Bullet — that students created and projected would sell for less than $20. "I recently concluded a license agreement with the group of five students. We took the group on a field trip to China to take a look at the factory."
Khubani calls his students in the course "very bright" and adds, "I am continually amazed at the quality of the students every time I come to class. Jane Dyer commented to me that these students were stronger than 99 percent of the people we come across in the DR business."
The program has been renewed for the fall 2006 semester. "We're fine tuning for fall, but looking at mostly duplicating what we did last fall," Khubani says. "I'm very happy with the board we selected. Though we only have one course at the moment, we plan on expanding the number of courses as we fine tune. The course is very popular — this fall's version filled up with 21 students in less than two minutes after it became available for online registration."
Pugatch Joins Response Team
SANTA ANA, Calif. — Response Magazine welcomes Courtney Beth Pugatch as its new associate editor. "I'm thrilled to join such a great team," Pugatch says. "I'm very excited about the challenge and looking forward to learning more about the direct response world."