In most cases, the pricy services of a professional business consultant are beyond the reach of small businesses. A unique partnership between the UMKC Bloch School of Management and AltCap, however, is bringing valuable consulting services to local entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities.
MBA students in a new Bloch class formed teams that functioned like consulting firms and spent a semester working with small business clients of AltCap, a community development financial institution set up to increase the flow of capital to communities and businesses not adequately served by mainstream financial institutions.
The clients, participants of AltCap’s NeXt Stage KC business development program, received relevant, actionable recommendations for growth. The students, meanwhile, gained real world experience working as a consulting team. The Business Consulting class concept was developed by Bloch School Dean Brian Klaas. The class was taught by Tony Mendes, Managing Director of the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Ellen Junger, chief marketing officer at Helzberg Diamonds.
Student Dominika Luszcz was part of a team that worked with Parrish & Sons Construction, an excavating and grading contractor. The students developed a strategic plan for Parrish & Sons with recommendations in areas such as market differentiation, branding, website, social media and development of mission and vision statements.
“I was always very interested in consulting and always wanted to learn how the consulting business should be conducted,” Luszcz said. “By working firsthand with a real enterprise, I was able to experience and learn authentic business issues, questions that need to be asked to make the best possible decisions, and dive into a completely new industry.”
“As an international student from Poland, I found it fascinating to learn how business is conducted in the USA from every aspect including human resources, marketing, sales, research and development, supply chain management and finally strategic planning to increase revenue and expand sustainable growth.”
Parrish & Sons founder and CEO Fahteema Parrish said the student team delivered genuine value.
“They brought a fresh set of eyes and ideas on different ways we can improve on our media and marketing displays. They worked diligently and were persistent with getting any information they needed from me,” Parrish said. “I was very impressed with their final presentation.”
Zach Lieberman is one of the students who worked with Integrity Capital Management, a firm that works with both rental property owners and tenants to expand affordable rental housing options in the urban core.
“There were several different companies that were introduced to us at the beginning of the class. I gravitated towards my selected company because I saw the passion the owners had in their industry,” Lieberman said. “This organization is squarely focused on a small niche to rehab, restore and rent properties in Kansas City. There is an extreme shortage of livable houses in this area and this organization is attempting to turn this blighted and often forgotten area into an oasis of livable space.”
Terrell Jolly, founder of Integrity Capital Management, had high praise for the student consultants.
“We were blown away with the initial presentation. We were not expecting so much detail,” Jolly said. “Not only did the team present us with missed opportunities but also with solutions that would meet our needs and budget. They also created a timeline of implementations and steps needed to incorporate. I liked the versatility each of the students brought to the table. They worked well as a team that really helped with implementation strategies.”
Luszcz said the team approach was the best part of the experience.
“I met a wonderful group of students who became my partners during the class, but also friends who provided a lot of significant expertise to help me become more aware of the professional business environment. The whole class really felt like I was a part of a well-known and respected consulting company.”
“Nobody knows everything. A network of people can provide information and insight to help grow an organization. We took the owner’s passion and developed measurable next steps to help his organization grow.”
Original Story by: John Martellaro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Sep 16, 2021