Small Business Institute®

Student Team Spotlight: Rider University

Rider University has been a member of the Small Business Institute® (SBI) and has been running an active SBI program for almost 20 years.  Rider's SBI has helped hundreds of area small businesses/organizations by sending them student teams to work as outside consultants over a semester.  This student spotlight focuses on one of these teams.

In August of 2012, Spruce Industries, located in Rahway NJ, engaged Rider University’s SBI to learn how a newly developed janitorial efficiency software program could be marketed.  Spruce Industries specializes in janitorial supplies, with private labels focusing on environmentally conscious cleaning products.  The purpose of the SBI project was to offer Spruce a marketing plan for this software to effectively expand Spruce’s existing market and potentially infiltrate new markets.

Dr. Ron Cook, Rider’s SBI director, put together a team of MBA students with diverse backgrounds and worked with them over the semester as they learned how to operate as a team, analyzed the situation, and developed recommendations for the client.  They functioned as a coherent unit and are an excellent example of how the SBI program benefits students.  Here is the team and, in their words, a description of their backgrounds and what they gained from being a SBI student consultant:

Jeremy Hopewell

I graduated from Shippensburg University with a Bachelors of Science in Computer Graphics and a minor in Business, and graduated Rider University with my MBA this past May.  My background includes a mixture of marketing, computer programming, graphic design, and entrepreneurial work.  Before attending graduate school, I worked in the avionics industry, creating the graphics on cockpit flight displays for Cessna and Eclipse aircrafts.  At Rider, I was a graduate assistant for the Minding Our Business, Inc. program, a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship to Trenton youth, and just recently I was able to achieve one of my greatest accomplishments, writing and illustrating a 200 page children's novel.

By participating in the SBI program, I was able to get a first-hand experience of what it means to work as an actual consultant, and developed step by step, executable guidelines on the subject.  From a career perspective, I realized that no matter what industry you are dealing with, there are certain innate business and creative ideas that can be transferred to just about anything.  I knew nothing about the janitorial market, but I was able to use knowledge I've had from other experiences to deal with the client's problems at hand.  When the SBI project was completed, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment as the scope of the project was unlike anything I had ever participated in, from an academic perspective.  It is truly a unique academic experience.

Brian Janovsky

I graduated from Miami University of Ohio in 2003 with a degree in Marketing and a minor in Statistics.  Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do after I graduated, I began working a Dick’s Sporting Goods and worked my way up to a management position.  After 8 years in retail management, I wanted to use my background in a more research driven, analytical role to help a company make strategic decisions.  To further my knowledge base, I began Rider’s MBA program in 2010, and am planning on graduating in Fall 2013.  Currently, I am working as a Marketing Intern for a small consulting firm and am looking to pursue a career in Market Research or Brand Management.

The SBI project gave me a real world consulting experience that no classroom experience could duplicate.  It strengthened my teamwork, research, analytical, and presentation capabilities by interfacing with a real business owner whose company would be impacted by our findings and analysis.  The project allowed me to use the knowledge learned in the classroom and from my career experience to reach collaborative decisions and recommendations with fellow team members.  Overall, the SBI project has given me a positive experience that has greatly impacted my career development.

Kimberley Cook

I am the Internal Review Specialist for the Retirement Distribution Services Group of Bank of America – Merrill Lynch.  I began my career with Merrill Lynch in 2000 after working in the banking industry for seven years.  During my tenure with Merrill Lynch, I have held a number of positions including: Client Associate; Retirement Specialist; and Department Trainer.  I graduated from Rider University in 2008 with a BS in Marketing and am currently working towards my MBA.

Working on the Small Business Institute® project was an incredible experience for me.  In my experience as a corporate trainer, I found that project-based learning gives trainees an opportunity to apply what they have learned solving authentic problems as well as build teamwork skills.  The SBI project provided me the same benefits.  However I have never experienced such a cohesive, supportive, and successful team dynamic.  The project was engaging, our faculty mentor was supportive and extremely knowledgeable, and our team members worked together to deliver the best result for our client.  From a learning perspective, I was able to develop a better understanding of core business concepts, learn more about the client’s industry and contract bidding then I ever thought possible, and gained confidence in my skills and abilities.  From a personal perspective, I feel that this project and this team set the standard for my academic career.

Matthew Nowlin

I have been working for Princeton University’s Office of Development for the past 6.5 years.  In that time, I have worked in biographical records, gift processing, and most recently, in Finance & Operations.  Currently serving as Business Manager, I oversee the annual operating budget for all 18 departments that comprise the Office of Development.  Responsibilities include budget planning and analysis, financial reporting, training and knowledge management, and policy development and guidance.  My undergraduate education began at Penn State University as a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major and was completed at University of Phoenix with a BS in Business Information Systems.

The consulting project benefited me the most from a management perspective.  Coordinating team efforts, working collaboratively, and managing deliverables was critical to the success of the project; and these skills translated directly to project management in my professional work.  Additionally, working with a company and industry with which I am unfamiliar helped me learn how to adapt my work approach and remain flexible when gathering project requirements and assessing expectations.  Finally, given the impact Hurricane Sandy had on our project’s timeline, I was able to enhance my ability to overcome obstacles and reprioritize tasks.

Summary:  As you can tell from the students’ stories, the SBI class was one of the most meaningful college experiences they had as well as allowed them to grow professionally.   The skills and experiences gained –   whether in project management, team dynamics, critical thinking, analytical ability, presentation, etc. – will help these students for the rest of their careers.  Further, the real life impact of what they did is best summed up by the client’s evaluation when he said:  “I think the overall quality and analysis of this consulting team was one of the best.  We gave them a really difficult task and the research and analysis that they did was terrific.”  Although a number of Rider SBI teams, including this one, have produced outstanding reports, the synergy of this group made them deserving of this spotlight honor.  I believe this team personifies what makes the SBI the best experiential learning program out there.  

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