One of the College of Business’s main values is community impact, and student involvement with Little Rock’s small business community allows businesses and students both to benefit. Each semester, real-world projects give students the opportunity to put what they’ve learned into practice. The collaboration gives the businesses concrete ideas and analysis they can incorporate. Projects are coordinated by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, an outreach unit of the College of Business in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The process begins every spring and fall with College of Business faculty conferring with ASBTDC Business Consultant Nancy Knighten about their class project focus. Next, Knighten seeks out area small businesses that are a good fit and have business problems students can help them address.
“We ask [College of Business] professors to engage with ASBTDC for projects, then clients are asked to volunteer their business problems to student projects, and businesses are matched with professors,” Knighten said. Projects that students typically focus on are marketing plans, financial analyses, product/service price analyses, budgeting or customer service satisfaction surveys.
ASBTDC has coordinated student projects for the College for years. Since 2010, 412 UALR students have participated on projects with 66 businesses. Leah Patterson, owner of Etniq Mineral Cosmetics, participated in her first student project last fall. “The students seemed very knowledgeable and interested in their particular assignment and how they might best be able to help my business,” Patterson said. Students that worked with Patterson were enrolled in Product and Service Strategy taught by marketing professor, Dr. Gary Geissler. Thanks to positive experiences in the past, it was an easy decision for her to work with students again this semester. “Because of the positive influence of Nancy’s assistance with my business, I am always eager to move forward on anything she suggests. When she approached me about the business school students, I was all for it,” Patterson said.
College of Business faculty are the key in bringing businesses and students together. Rudy Ortiz, an adjunct professor and business consultant at ASBTDC, included student projects in his fall 2013 International Marketing undergraduate course. “I handle this like a graduate student class and the client is your boss. This is a capstone. Show me that you know this,” Ortiz said.
The inventor and owner of Goatee Saver, Scott Bonge, asked ASBTDC to investigate opportunities for revenue in international markets. Goatee Saver is a men’s grooming product that helps “make your goatee look good all the time.” At the end of the semester, students presented a professional case for where and how to sell Goatee Savers in international markets. “What they came up with was pertinent, and they showed that they in fact understood the tools to get at the information and make the analysis,” said Ortiz. Bonge could not respond immediately.
Graduate and undergraduate students are working on more ASBTDC-facilitated projects this semester. Pictured above are students from Dr. David Dearman’s graduate course working on an ASBTDC project.