Team Work Is Key to Recruiting Students for Entrepreneurial Program
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
By Sherry Tshibangu
Assistant Professor of Business Administration and Economics
Director of the Emerging Entrepreneurs Scholarship Program
Monroe Community College, Rochester, NY
In July 2008 Monroe Community College launched its Emerging Entrepreneurs Scholarship Program with the support of a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) initiative. Students who were awarded scholarships were enrolled in a 15-week, three-credit course entitled, Entrepreneurial Studies I. The scholarship covered tuition, fees, and books.
The program was designed to give aspiring entrepreneurs the tools they need to start and manage their own businesses. As program director, my colleagues and I were especially interested in business ideas related to art and music, machine and construction trades, medical services, the food industry, tourism, and personal services. The scholarships were also targeted to historically underrepresented populations such as American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Blacks/Non-Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, women, and persons with disabilities.
The recruitment and promotional strategies my colleagues and I employed generated over 150 applications in six weeks — and we spent less than $200 in the process! After carefully reviewing the applications, we awarded 30 scholarships in August 2008 and students were prepared to begin the fall semester.
The first and most critical task involved assembling a team of individuals within MCC who were committed to the successful launch of the program. The informal team included faculty and staff from the Admissions, Records and Registration, Public Relations, and Educational Technology Services departments, to name a few. With the necessary internal commitment we created and completed the following task list:
- Develop a marketing strategy to reach our target groups; produce and distribute a brochure, flyer, and a press release.
- Obtain television and news coverage about the program.
- Create program specific Web pages within the college’s Web site to provide individuals with easily accessible information about the program and a place to obtain the necessary forms.
- Provide potential applicants with a contact number so they could speak directly to someone about the program and get their questions answered.
- Identify non-matriculated students who had previously taken one or two business courses at the college and send letters inviting them to apply.
- Meet with representatives at our local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to give them an overview of the program and solicit their support in getting the word out.
- Send letters to CEOs of community-based organizations and clergy announcing the program. (This was followed by a visit to many of these organizations leaving a trail of flyers and applications.)
- Identify professional groups and send e-mails announcing the program and ask for support in spreading the word.
- Use internal communications sources to make the college community aware of the program.
Approximately one month later, 30 motivated students were successfully enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Studies I class. Shortly thereafter, three of the students were highlighted by local and national media for participating in the program and pursuing their dreams to launch a business.
To do all of the above in six weeks during the summer was remarkable and could only happen because of the dedication and commitment of Monroe Community College’s employees. Our hope is that other organizations may benefit from our experience.