Teams of students in search of business experience. Small businesses looking to grow. Experienced mentors from the business community. Combine those ingredients and you get the Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program at WSU Vancouver.
Created in 2010, Business Growth MAP is a pro bono, student-led consultancy offered by the Carson College of Business. Student teams help businesses with needs they have identified, including startup, growth, marketing, and accounting. Volunteer mentors meet with the students weekly to keep projects on track.
The program has grown from eight projects in the first year to more than 40 every year for the last two years, said Mistie Josephson, program manager. It has delivered great results for the students and the businesses alike.
“When we started MAP, small businesses thought they were doing us a favor,” said Jane Cote, academic director for the Carson College of Business. “Now we find they want to be involved because it helps them grow.”
How It Works
Services are offered each semester. Students tackle projects from any industry. The typical business served is looking to scale up their business or reach the next level.
Working under faculty instruction and with the support of their mentors, each team of four or five students meets with a company; creates a scope of work; conducts a confidential analysis that focuses on growth, marketing, or accounting systems; and, as a final deliverable, presents the business with an action plan. The students’ fresh perspective and cutting-edge classroom knowledge inform the results.
Happy clients are legion. One client learned how to put together a financial statement; another reported doubling revenue in a month.
“Going through this program was profoundly helpful to me as a business owner,” said Dixie Huey, owner of Trellis Growth Partners, a marketing communications agency serving the wine, spirits, and culinary industries. As a result of the team’s analysis and recommendations, Trellis streamlined its focus, services, pricing, and policies, and felt confident enough to start hiring again.
Students, for their part, gain experience, knowledge and connections. Some students have even had job offers after graduation with the businesses they analyzed.
Business Growth MAP Alliance
To further its goal of contributing to the economic development of the Southwest Washington/Portland area, the program recently expanded with the creation of the Business Growth MAP Alliance. These monthly public forums bring together small businesses and entrepreneurs to learn from each other, experts and WSU Vancouver faculty. The first forum took place in October 2014.
The short monthly meetings allow time for networking plus a formal presentation by a local businessperson or faculty member, often on a topic suggested by the small business audience. Topics have included online marketing, business success secrets, human resources and forecasting. Within six months, the program had become so popular that it relocated to a larger meeting space.
2015: American Association of State Colleges and Universities Excellence and Innovation Award:
Regional and Economic Development
2015: VentureWell Conference Open 2015 Award
For supporting entrepreneurship within WSU and the community. VentureWell fosters young inventors and entrepreneurs who work to improve life for people and the planet.
2014: Excellence in Impact Award from the Nonprofit Network of Southwest Washington.
The award honors a nonprofit or program whose performance and delivery to the community set a high standard of quality and outcomes.