Business growth program lets students shine

Story of success: More than 145 companies have benefited from WSU Vancouver’s MAP over past five years

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WSU Vancouver’s national award-winning Mentor Analysis Program (MAP) is helping small businesses grow while providing excellent hands-on educational opportunities for students. The program was created to help small businesses and the local economy grow while providing on-the-job real-world opportunities for students during their last semester as their Capstone Project.

Now in its fifth year, the program has grown quite a bit since it began.

“When the program first started it was sort of a way for businesses to come forward and help out the students. Now it has evolved to where the clients are realizing the value of this partnership and the quality of work these students bring and how much it can truly benefit their business growth,” said Jane Cote, Ph.D., Academic Director WSU Vancouver, Carson College of Business.

Volunteer business mentors like Ed Frankel, Chairman of CheQitout Inc., are assigned to work with teams of roughly four students for a semester.

“This is my third time being engaged as a mentor,” said Frankel. “I see this as a way to inspire the youth of our community. Clearly the business community benefits from the student research, suggestions and recommendations on how to grow their business. Helping create a road-map for the enterprise is a win-win.”

“The program works with more than 40 clients a year and the pairing of student teams and small business entrepreneurs is an excellent partnership,” noted Mistie Josephson, manager of the business growth program. “Businesses get about 500 to 600 hours of free consulting while students get practical experience (and college credit) working on real business issues. The faculty and volunteer business mentors guide students through the process. Student teams create growth plans, marketing plans, internal control assessments and more.”

More than 145 companies have been helped and benefited from the efforts of students in the program over the past five years (check out Josephson’s column on Page 6 for one example). Collectively, the participating companies grew $5.4 million in new revenues and have created 36 full-time employees.

The professional experience gained by students helps build their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. They are able to cultivate relationships with both the clients they are working for as well as the mentors who are useful when they need references and recommendations.

“Some students are fortunate enough to be able to get hired on by clients and some even get hired by mentors,” shared Josephson.

Senior business student Caleb Steinborn, WSU Vancouver Carson College of Business, credits the experience, the mentorship and the teamwork as part of what makes this such a great learning opportunity.

“The skillset of my teammates and our ability to learn from each other and come together to build an actionable plan to benefit a local business was rewarding,” said Steinborn. “We got to use what we learned in college in those four years to make a real impact in the lives of real people’s livelihoods, and there is nothing as exciting as knowing that the work you are doing will help put food on someone else’s table. I am only sad it’s over.”

Steinborn stepped up right away taking the initiative to become the project manager of his team, gaining valuable learning and management experience by working with his team to identify the strengths in others and work with them to make the work experience balanced and beneficial for everyone.

“I attribute much of my training to my professor, Greg Rose, and the valuable project management tools he provides to his Management of Information systems (MIS) students, just as my teammates attribute their skillsets to their professors,” he said. “I felt comfortable stepping into the role of project manager of my team and it was through this that I caught the attention of my current employer, Zack Parnell of Industrial Training International.”

Parnell, also a mentor in the MAP program, was impressed with Steinborn and recommended him for a part-time internship position within his own company. Steinborn’s one-day-a-week internship has since led to a full-time position.

“I am very impressed with the staff at WSU,” said Parnell, a member of the Business Growth MAP Advisory Board. “Jane Cote and Mistie Josephson have fostered really great community involvement. I would encourage any small business or company to become clients of WSU. I am going to continue to have my managers get involved with this mentorship program. This is a benefit to us as a business and one of the most valuable things one can do is to cultivate and grow leaders.”

Cote said that anyone can sign up to be a program mentor, just as anyone can become a client.

“We team up seasoned business professionals with students to give them this real-world, on-the-job training and experience,” said Cote. “It becomes a winning combination for both parties in that companies get close to 600 hours per project for free at no cost to them as clients, and the students grow, network and engage as they put their knowledge to practical use.”

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