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Student to Business Initiative
Practical experience working with businesses
Each year, UMD students from the Labovitz School of Business and Economics and the School of Fine Arts get practical experience working with businesses through the UMD Center for Economic Development's Student to Business Initiative (SBI) program.
Students involved in the program meet with business owners who have identified an issue within their organization that they would like a fresh perspective on. These issues can be in the areas of marketing, consumer behavior, organizational management, or accounting. After the students have met with their business representatives, they get to work researching opportunities and possible solutions.
This year saw the largest number of student participants during one semester since the SBI program began 17 years ago. Over the course of the spring semester, 184 UMD students worked on 28 different business projects.
"Participating in the SBI program helps show that the concepts we were learning in class can be used in the real world. Working with a business owner on a project through the SBI program was well worth the time and effort," said Alissa Zehrer, who graduated in May of this year.
At the end of the semester, 50 student teams presented their research and recommendations to their business clients at the UMD Center for Economic Development (CED). Each team generated a final written report for their client that reflected their research, recommendations, and other information.
The students also gave an oral presentation to their client, their instructor, and professionals at the CED. “Many students have commented that this is the first time they have presented to anybody other than their instructor and their peers, and they are usually pretty nervous,” stated Sandi Larson who oversees the program for the CED.
The businesses that participated in the program this spring were Allison’s Hallmark, Altobelli Peterson Construction, Art in the Alley,Beth’s Famous Egg Rolls and Empanadas, Big Frog Custom T-Shirts and More of Duluth, Destination Duluth, DTCU, Duluth Pack, Ely Outfitting Company, Eslabon’s Jewelry Designs and Repair, Holiday Center Merchant’s Association, How Sweet It is Cakes, Mainstream Fashions for Men, The Protein Pub, Rural Living Environments, Sala Thai Restaurant, Snyders, Story Front Pictures, Sunrise Dairy of St Louis County, UMD Teen Enterprise Program, Valentini’s to Go, Vertex Roofing, White Ivy Design, and Zeitgeist Arts.
Business owners found the process very beneficial. Tina Marie Sell with The Protein Pub participated in the Consumer Behavior SBI and said, "I really enjoyed being a part of this project and am so impressed by the hard work from the students. It was a valuable process for me."
Big Frog Custom T-shirts & More of Duluth participated in the Marketing SBI. Owner Keli Casey said, "I enjoyed being part of this project and would definitely recommend it to another business. The students were professional and prepared from my first interaction with them to the last, they were interested in the project, asked good questions, and genuinely seemed to want to help Big Frog succeed."
Despite the hard work involved in the program, many students find it invaluable. "The SBI project gave me the real world experience of working with a client and team members to accomplish a goal. By no means was it an easy semester, but I have grown a lot as both a student and a business professional in the process," said student Alex Eartherton.
Going forward, the CED is looking to include UMD students from the College of Liberal Arts into the SBI program.
See more pictures from the spring 2016 SBI Program on the CED Facebook page.