Two Gordon Ford College of Business student groups in Dr. Whitney Peake’s Spring 2017 Small Business Analysis and Strategy course recently learned their consulting projects have been named one of the top three projects in the country by the Small Business Institute Undergraduate Project of the Year contest. Nine students from the course have been invited to the SBI Annual Conference to be held in February, 2018 in Corpus Christi, Texas, to present their projects and discover the final results of the competition.
One group placed in the Undergraduate Feasibility Business Plan Category. The students – Spencer Hansen, Shelby Higginbotham Sturm, Paul Machilaski, Kathryn Norman, and John Zehnder – composed a business plan for Archangel Aerial Applications, LLC., owned by Tom Furgal. Furgal’s business is one of the first in the area to employ high-quality, affordable aerial photography and videography services to the business community.
The other group placed in the Undergraduate Specialized Category. The group – Brianna Anderson, Jacob Cox, Savannah Stone, and Eric Thomas – provided a strategic marketing plan to Millstone Labs, LLC, owned by Michael Lemon. Millstone Labs offers digital and cyber forensics investigation services to a variety of organizations.
“I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with WKU after working with Dr. Peake and her students this last year,” Lemon said. “WKU has been an incredible resource for our business.”
The Small Business Institute is the premier professional association of small business/entrepreneurship educators and researchers involved in student analysis projects. SBI’s mission is to be the premier provider of professional development for those engaged in experiential student team consulting and related entrepreneurship education, research, and activities. The SBI Project of the Year competition allows students to consult with small business owners, giving them opportunities to make lasting improvements in those businesses. Consulting projects result in a final written case report and a presentation that is delivered to the client. Dr. Peake’s Spring 2017 class involved six student groups who spent more than 1,300 hours consulting with their clients.
“The small business consulting course is really about throwing students in the pool to teach them how to swim,” said Dr. Peake. “They have this great pool of knowledge from their courses in the Gordon Ford College of Business and it’s my job to coach and mentor them through the process of integrating that knowledge with real business situations to solve real problems. Students tend to really invest themselves in these projects, because actual people are depending on their input.”
Students say they learned a great deal from the semester-long consulting experience.
“I believe moving forward that I will be better equipped to work with clients and give presentations to them,” said Brianna Anderson. “I got better at breaking down information that I know very well to explain it to someone who has never heard of the things that I work on.”
“I know that in the future I will work with clients that have small businesses, and I will have a better grasp of some of the challenges that face them, as well of how much those businesses mean to them,” said Savannah Stone.
Projects such as this is a point of pride for the Gordon Ford College of Business.
“As a student-centered, applied College of Business, we work to find ways to extend classroom learning to the business community,” said Dr. Jeff Katz, Dean of the College. “Allowing our students the opportunity to partner with organizations to improve business practices is invaluable to their education.”