It takes a lot to run a business.

Just ask economics major Luke Le ’22—when it came to running his company, it sometimes seemed like there were more questions than answers. First, there’s the fundamentals. What’s the best way to manage a team? How do you minimize labor costs? Then you move into a production plan. Should you prioritize performance? Longevity? How do you pay for everything? Next up is marketing, which brings a whole new set of questions to face. Can you get a return on this investment? Will your product sell?

Most importantly, when you have a bad year, how do you adjust? Can you minimize the damage?

For Le, the answer to the latter was a resounding yes.

Spoiler alert: he wasn’t running a real business. The company was assigned to him when he signed up to participate in the Capsim Challenge, a business simulation game in which players compete against teams from across the country to see who can generate the most profit.

All the teams start at the same point, with identical assets and constraints. Over the course of eight rounds, they make a series of decisions and watch the consequences play out, analyzing each move and adjusting as they go along. They cover years of market cycles in the course of a few days. And at the end of the Fall 2021 game, Le came out on top.

Here's a chance for Lawrence students to learn from entrepreneurs in many fields as they put their passions to work.

According to Gary Vaughan, the coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, Le’s triumph wasn’t exactly a surprise. For one, he’s a diligent student—the type that will put in the extra hours and fill thousands of cells in an Excel spreadsheet. But he also came prepared.

Le, who graduated in June, participated in an in-class version of the Capsim Challenge in his Topics in Consulting course during Fall 2021, an I&E elective taught by Vaughan. During the term, Le worked with a team of students to brainstorm and implement potential business strategies as they competed against their classmates.

This way, when Le decided to go for the official Capsim Challenge, he knew what he was doing. He used the strategies he learned in class to analyze successes and failures, and then he adapted in order to maximize profits. The ability to combine these procedures with an understanding of econometrics from other courses was critical to his win.

“I knew economic courses would be helpful when I started, but I had no idea how helpful they would be,” Le said. “Just talking to my friends, I realized that I see things in ways my friends couldn’t see.”

“I knew economic courses would be helpful when I started, but I had no idea how helpful they would be. Just talking to my friends, I realized that I see things in ways my friends couldn’t see.”

Luke Le '22

Now that he’s on the other side of the challenge, Le feels that he has developed a deeper understanding of real-world economics and competition within a limited field. The opportunity to put his skills into practice is helping him prepare for post-graduate life, which is a key tenet of the I&E program.

As a concentration, I&E allows students to take courses which align with their areas of interest and start putting their academic skills into practice—whatever those skills may be.

“At Lawrence, we teach a lot of analysis, whether it’s econ or math or government or history, we teach a lot of analysis as a whole. I&E just fits right in there,” Vaughan said. “It’s the whole Lawrence experience that helps our students do well.”

Luke Le

Class Year: 2022

Major: Economics

Hometown: Hanoi, Vietnam

Activities: Videography