We dreamed up the Small Business School Challenge this spring in response to the very real and sudden pain business owners across the US were facing when the world went on lockdown, and also the very fresh disappointment for MBA students who saw opportunities to develop and test their skills dry up as schools went remote and in-person events were canceled.
We imagined a 48-hour event that would have a lasting impact on both sides and wanted to track and find out if our vision for fostering meaningful conversations and ideas to help small businesses succeed was valid.
So 90 days after the first Small Business School Challenge event wrapped up, we asked our small business owners who participated in that event in May what they felt the greatest value they received was.
Here are just a handful of the dozens of responses we got back!
The Small Business School Challenge was a well-timed, fresh look at Pallet’s work to end homelessness through the lens of a bright group of business school students. The recommendations we received were thoughtful, strategic, and realistic.-Brandon Bills, Pallet
The women on my team were not only intelligent but truly listened to what I had to say, then used my input to create an effective and intelligent plan to move me ahead. Their insight and ideas opened me up to many new pathways I hadn’t thought of, and truly helped me move forward with more purpose and confidence that I could make this crazy time work with for my business. They helped to move me from hopelessness to confidence. Thank you!–Megan Flinn, One Point One Yoga
As a struggling small business, we got SO much out of the SBSC. Being able to talk to smart (and kind) business students about our challenges brought a whole new set of ideas and perspective that we really needed. By just putting in a few hours of your time, you basically get “free” consulting for your business while also getting to network and build your community. Do not pass up this opportunity!-Jenn Nestler, KrankFIT
Working with the Small Business School Challenge event team several months ago was a rewarding experience.-Hal Bromm, Hal Bromm Art Gallery
The innovative program introduced us to a talented group of recent graduates whose talents and ideas have been both appreciated and effective. Not only did we gain important insights from the team looking at our business from their fresh perspective, but it seemed they were genuinely pleased to learn about the art gallery business and the fine art of collecting. A win-win for us all.
Several proposals have been implemented to good effect, including an on-going series of artist talks online at Instagram Live.
In spite of the effects of the pandemic, our business has moved on successfully in no small way due to the SBSC event.
As entrepreneurs who are passionate about our business or our service, we get so caught up in the weeds and problem-solving. Then a group of young, smart, and brilliant students walk in and rearrange the building blocks in your head, declutter and refresh the optimism in you with viable strategy through this program. In two days they craft a strategy for a year or more and it’s not textbook ideas, but concrete, actionable strategy. That’s the outcome of the program.-Srilekha Srinivasan, Association for Sustainability Education
I think the biggest value for me as a small business owner was to have some fresh ideas that helped energize myself and my team to keep trying and see what works. They had a good attitude in that they didn’t promise any quick fix or magic bullet. It was a matter of having a number of different approaches and see what showed a likelihood of success.-Valerie Shulock, Basil Tree Catering
The experience itself was quite valuable for us as we are a small business that otherwise would not have had access to a team of talented minds to provide such excellent business tips. The part that we found most valuable was the meeting we had with the MBA students that was a q&a/brainstorming session. They had done the research and were detailing out a plan and we spoke with them and they provided a plethora of tips based on their experience that we have utilized with high success. One example was a way to provide a monthly email blast that came across as very beneficial and not “salesy”. The emails have led to patient engagements and created stronger patient-practitioner relationships. It also got hesitant patients back into the office and improved our revenue.-Adrian Hillyer, Pins and Needles Acupuncture
For us, the biggest value was getting introduced to another start-up brand by doing the SBSChallenge. This brand is called TASTERMONIAL. We’ve already collaborated on partnerships and they will be carrying our brand in their food boxes. Tastermonial is a Personal Shopper solution for people with special dietary needs – food intolerance, plant-based food choice, kosher/halal, etc. Anyway, it’s been exciting collaborating with them and watching us both grow together. And we met them because of SBSC!-Laura Orley, Daily Crunch Snacks
It was an exhilarating experience sharing the current business challenges with the MBAs and looking at the crisis from a whole new approach. The solutions that the MBAs provided helped the business think differently and reposition ourselves not only to survive but thrive.-Andy Mirji, Bay Area Healthy Vending Services
From fresh ideas, to enthusiasm, to actionable advice, to new connections, our small business owners continue to share the positive impact on their business from our 2-day event. Many are also still in contact with their MBA teams and have maintained that relationship to send thanks and keep them apprised of progress.
With social distancing continuing, some locations experiencing a second wave of shutdowns, and the ‘new normal’ providing a day to day challenge, we look forward to our second event to help 200 more business owners find a path forward.
Applications are now open for the SBSC-II on Oct 15-17th, learn how you can get involved at https://thesbschallenge.com/get-involved/
When the brightest business students from across the country compete to drive small business success, everyone wins!