A partnership between business owners and William Paterson University MBA students is proving mutually beneficial.
The center is funded by federal and state grants, with additional support from local banks. This allows students to work with six to eight businesses per semester.
“The business owners say this is incredible because now we’ll get the millennial point of view with what we’re trying to do,” said Kate Muldoon, regional director of the Small Business Development Center at William Paterson. “That is something they could not pay for. When they know they have MBA students working on a business problem they’ve identified, they’re very happy to get the knowledge students are sharing with them. … I have business owners raising their hands waiting for the next semester to come so they can partner with us.”
Rafael Cuellar is one such owner. He plans to open a Crunch Fitness location in Clifton this summer and partnered with William Paterson students who wrote his business plan.
“They are very professional young people,” Cuellar said. “I was pleasantly surprised by their level of professionalism and level of preparedness. They did everything from start to finish. I would hire them. I am speaking with one student about working for me.”
Cuellar is also the owner of the Passaic/Clifton ShopRite supermarket, ShopRite Wines & Spirits of Clifton and a real estate management company. He previously partnered with William Paterson students to develop a digital media marketing plan for his wine store.
“It makes nothing but sense,” Cuellar said. “It is a great symbiosis. It saves me time and effort and gives them experience. It has been a really nice dynamic and I recommend it for any small business owner. The students are nothing but helpful. They are very engaged and it gives them real-life experience.”
Rajiv Kashyap, professor of marketing in William Paterson’s Cotsakos College of Business and chair of its marketing and management department, said small businesses in particular are bolstered through their connections with MBA students.
“All community-based businesses benefit from having the expertise either of the small business development center or from professionals and faculty in the colleges of businesses,” Kashyap said. “We find businesses struggle to stay alive, [so] we provide another resource to enable business to get the kind of expertise they would not otherwise have gotten.”
MBA student Ashley Ismailovski took Kashyap’s class last semester, then worked with Greenbaum Interiors in Paterson, drawing upon her new knowledge of digital marketing and search-engine optimization.
“They were taking out advertisements in magazines without knowing how many people they were reaching or if they were reaching the right kinds of people,” Ismailovski recalled. “We were tasked with finding ways to effectively market in ways that were not previously done.”
The students are providing solutions for some older companies unschooled in digital marketing or social media.
“Understanding Facebook or Instagram is very difficult for someone who does not understand how those people want to be interacted with,” Ismailovski said.