Small Business Institute®

Student Spotlight:  Aaron Hall
East Carolina University

For the past four years, Aaron had the joy of being a student at East Carolina University (ECU). His time at the ECU, however, did not start smoothly. After learning that the major he wanted to pursue did not exist for undergraduates, he went through five different majors during his first semester. After his first semester he still was not sure about his future until he had the opportunity to work for a small business over Christmas break. For a couple of days, he was able to observe how exciting it is to own and operate a small business. After that experience, he quickly switched his major to Business Administration with the intent of concentrating in Small Business Management.

For the next 3 years, Aaron became heavily involved in various organizations on campus, including serving as the President of the Baptist Campus Ministry. During this experience, he developed important leadership, organizational, and communication skills. He also had the opportunity to serve on the statewide executive team where he planned an annual leadership conference for students across the state.

Because of this experience, he often served as a team leader in the projects in his various business courses. The first truly comprehensive team project in his college career was in the Small Business Institute® (SBI) course. He became interested in the SBI program through a presentation given by Dr. Harris and Dr. McDowell at a College of Business student event. Based on that presentation he believed the SBI program would provide him with a great experiential learning experience and an opportunity to help a local small business owner.

The client assignment for his team was a new startup business; Happy Girls Bra & Breastfeeding Accessories. This was a very interesting assignment, and Aaron was in a team with four young ladies (he was the only guy in the team). After a challenging start to the project, Aaron moved into the leadership role and the team was on its way to creating an excellent report. Aaron was instrumental in coordinating the team’s effort and placing all his teammates in a position to become successful.

The Happy Girls team was assigned the task of creating a tailored consulting report with cost effective recommendations in the areas of marketing and operations, particularly data management. Their recommendations involved developing a new customer and inventory tracking systems to allow improve efficiency within business operations. They also developed a coordinated marketing plan to reach strategic target markets in eastern North Carolina. The owner was very pleased with the report, and she now feels much more confident about the direction of the business. After the course was completed in the 2012 fall semester, Aaron still visits the store to assist the owner with advice and encouragement.

After the SBI course was over, Aaron was approached to consider an independent study focused on developing marketing materials for the ECU SBI program. Because the SBI was such an important part of his professional development, he jumped at the opportunity. During the 2013 spring semester, he worked on creating a video to emphasize the importance that the SBI has on students and the small business community in Greenville. The recent recession severely impacted small business development in eastern North Carolina but  it’s been organizations like the SBI that have helped the state recover from this tough situation.

In creating the video, Aaron wanted to emphasize the direct impact the SBI has had on ECU students. Every student he talked with agreed that the SBI program was one of the most impactful learning experiences of their academic career. As he worked on the project, he wanted to create a video to not only highlight the student and client experience, but to also show the pride and spirit of the ECU program. His hope in creating the video is to inspire ECU students, and challenge other SBI students throughout the U.S. to create similar videos to showcase their own experiences. The video Aaron created can be viewed on YouTube at the following address:

Upon graduation in May 2013, Aaron will enroll in the MBA program at ECU. He will also become a graduate assistant in the SBI and help mentor new SBI students as they go through this amazing learning process. In addition, his personal goal to create ways for former students to stay connected with ECU SBI program, perhaps through the creation of an alumni program.

Upon completion of graduate school, Aaron wants to use the experiences and skills he developed and refined in the SBI program to become a small business consultant. He has a passion for small business and would like to create his own consulting business. There is little doubt that he will become a very successful business owner and community leader.

No matter where his career takes him, Aaron will always be thankful for the lessons learned from his SBI experience. SBI programs throughout the country have been dedicated to blending education, business, and community. This work has impacted countless students and clients, and has helped students like Aaron Hall develop into a confident professional who are excited about business ownership. Aaron is just one example of our best and brightest; and someone who fully embraced the SBI experience and leveraged it for future opportunities.

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