The Florida SBDC at University of South Florida partners with professors on campus to facilitate Student Team projects in their classes. The semester-long Teams are offered through various classes, and are a win-win for all involved.
“This is a triple win situation,” Eileen Rodriguez, Regional Director of the Florida SBDC at USF, said. “The students get exposed to the inner workings of a real business; the SBDC expands our offerings by connecting our clients to the Muma College of Business’s top-notch MBA students; and the business owners obtain valuable information for the sustainability and growth of their company.”
Depending on the class they are taking, students prepare either marketing plans or full-blown business plans for the businesses involved in the program. The Teams will review marketing strategies, operations, and analyze financials, and prepare a final report with recommendations for the firms to follow.
The companies are clients of the Florida SBDC at USF and vetted by a Florida SBDC at USF director. A FSBDC consultant oversees the project throughout the semester as well. All of this is provided at no cost to the university or company.
In the last school year, nine local companies were served through Student Teams, with more than 2,900 hours worked by the students involved.
“The experiences gained by the students were valuable and resulted in two students being offered unsolicited internships with the participating companies,” James Taylor, Adjunct Instructor, USF Center for Entrepreneurship, said. Taylor’s students worked more than 350 hours throughout the semester to provide Custom Manufacturing & Engineering (CME) with new markets research and recommendations.
“As a faculty member, I hope to always offer participation in the Florida SBDC Student Teams to those students who can leverage the opportunity to learn from real life entrepreneurs.”
CME was equally as pleased with the experience. “Although students, the professional way in which they conducted the recent project out-brief demonstrated effective completion of the complex research effort,” Fred Munro, Vice President of CME, said. “The dedication, hard work and extra hours that the team put in during the last few months will enhance CME’s solar4STEM market pursuits.”
Participating businesses must agree to meet with the Student Team a few times at the beginning of the semester. Communication throughout the semester continues via e-mail and telephone to provide sufficient information about the business to the students to make the business plan useful.
- Are for-profit small businesses as defined by the U.S. SBA (less than 500 employees)
- Have been in business for at least 5 years
- Have more than 10 employees
- Have gross revenues of more than $2 million
Student Team involvement does not always lead to job offers, but most definitely serves as a valuable real-world learning experience. Former USF student, Hilary Lehman, participated in a Student Team for VoltAir Consulting Engineers during the International Business Application capstone course, in her last semester at USF.
Over a period of 16 weeks, the Team spent 449 hours meeting with owner Julius Davis and working on his strategic plan. The students interviewed not only Davis, but his executive staff and employees. The team reviewed operations as well as financials, and formulated action plans based on their findings. They came up with interesting and new perspectives on what markets to target, namely healthcare and entertainment.
“They did an awesome job with researching our industry and developed some great strategic planning ideas for VoltAir,” Davis wrote in an email to the Florida SBDC at USF. “I have been referencing their findings as I update our business plan and marketing strategies,” he added.
Lehman, who led the team, said working with VoltAir was one of the most rewarding experiences of her USF MBA program. “Not only did I learn the ins-and-outs of a field in which I have no experience – engineering – but I also took away an understanding of how to create a strategic plan for any business,” Lehman said. “I also enjoyed working with the SBDC to connect with a company because we were offered far more access and information than almost any of our classmates. I think this was because our association with the SBDC communicated that we could provide a business service for VoltAir that would be truly valuable to the company.”
More information on Student Teams can be found at SBDCTampaBay.com.
Stacey Dadd, CME, MA, is the Marketing and Communications Officer for the Florida SBDC at USF. She also consults with small businesses on social media, marketing and design.