By: Bruce H. Kemelgor, Ph.D. SBI® President, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY & Todd D. Mick, Ph.D. Director of Entrepreneurship, Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City, MO
Entrepreneurs call my office seeking assistance year round; aspiring entrepreneurs need a feasibility study done; small business owners aren’t making what they think they should and wonder why. These are just a few of the real world problems facing any entrepreneurship center, and community colleges simply don’t have the resources in time and personnel to serve all their potential client needs. At Metropolitan Community College–Kansas City, we are implementing the Small Business Institute® (SBI) program in spring 2009 to begin meeting the needs of our local entrepreneurs.
SBI began as an organization dedicated to strengthening the links between student, school and the small business owner or entrepreneur. To do this, colleges and universities focus on using field-based consulting to provide assistance in solving an entrepreneur’s business problem. Student teams, together with faculty mentors, write business plans, create feasibility studies, and research marketing plans and in so doing, bridge the gap between classroom and the real world. Students directly apply those skills they acquired in the classroom and are able to see and understand the utility of their education.
Today, SBI is the premiere post-secondary entrepreneurship experiential learning program in the U.S., with an annual conference, two journals, national competition and active membership. Much like NACCE, SBI values learning from their members and sharing successful practices as they impact their local communities with student team learning. As community colleges seek to network with local entrepreneurs while fully engaging in student learning, SBI is a logical and natural professional support organization.
For the SBI instructor, SBI is structured around recruiting clients and then supervising the various student teams as they work, over the course of the semester, to fulfill the client need. To be honest, schools rarely have a problem recruiting clients; the problem is in who to turn down for you inevitably have more clients than student teams.
Students of all majors gravitate to the class when word-of-mouth spreads about the fun (and yes, challenges) of the class; students work with real clients, in real time, on real issues, impacting real lives and futures. How many times do you get to say that in a classroom? For students, the challenge is in stepping outside the traditional academic model and realizing there is no clear right or wrong, while sorting through options and making a final recommendation to the client. For the entrepreneur, they simply have to work within a standard semester calendar, but since the vast majority of SBIs do not charge for services, there is an immediate financial payback!
Once the issue is resolved, the students make a formal presentation to the client and present their findings. Their reports form the basis of the SBI’s national case competition every year. One excellent way to begin involvement with SBI is to serve as a Case of the Year (CoY) judge and read what students, schools and instructors are doing all around the country. At the annual conference in February, (and yes, it’s always someplace warm!) successful practices are shared as well as a wealth of experiential learning information. The SBI conference is all about applied learning; we leave the theoretical stuff to our sister organization that shall not be named. And with the CoY awards come cash prizes of several hundred dollars to support your program.
SBI would like to begin offering a community college track within our organization, for successful practices, case of the year competition, journal articles and professional advancement. Todd Mick, Metropolitan Community College–Kansas City firstname.lastname@example.org, has agreed to be NACCE’s liaison with SBI. Visit SBI’s Web site, www.smallbusinessinstitute.biz, and/or contact Todd for additional information. This may be one of the best enrichments to your instructional skills ever!