Montana State University

College of Business entrepreneurship course provides students with real-world business experience

August 1, 2012

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Students enrolled in Management 463, The Entrepreneurial Experience, gain practical management experience as they work in teams with a local company to apply their business skills and knowledge to solve real-world business issues. This capstone course, designed for the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management minor, places students in the position of consultants to small businesses, where they work in small teams on a variety of projects, from market assessments and promotional materials to evaluating pricing strategies and the use of social media.

"Management 463 offers tremendous benefits to both students and clients," explained Gary Bishop, adjunct instructor of management in the College of Business and director of student research services at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship for the New West. "Clients receive professional business consulting in a 15-week long experience, as students bring their knowledge in business marketing, management, finance and accounting to bear on specific client problems or issues. And students receive valuable practical experience in applying their academic knowledge and skills to specific business situations that involve real-world challenges and stresses."

In the spring 2011 semester, Bishop matched one student team from Management 463 with Wizbang Hats, an outdoor hat retailer located in Bozeman. Allison Hunthausen, Kaley Bjornsen, and Christine Geil worked with Liz McRae, Wizbang Hats' owner, to offer business consulting in three key areas: To devise ways to use social media as a publicity tool, to develop a strategic marketing plan, and to research the company's competitors.

"The girls were great to work with and provided us with a new, fresh viewpoint, from the perspective of women in their early 20's," said McRae. "As business students, they helped us identify Wizbang Hats' strengths and weaknesses and gave us strategies to improve those weaknesses."

One marketing strategy the all-woman team offered to McRae and her business associate, Betsy Beauvais, was to implement a "Cap on Cancer" campaign during the month of October, to tie in with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The students' idea was to offer a unique hat during the month of October that provided a donation opportunity for Wizbang's customers.

""We loved the girls' idea of supporting our local cancer community, and this promotion fits in very well with who we are as a company," said McRae. "We decided to implement the campaign in a limited way this October. Every time a customer purchases one specialty hat, Wizbang Hats will donate a light-weight hat to a local cancer center."

The practical skills students develop through this course are important tools that will help them stand out to prospective employers or begin their own, successful business ventures. Students also deepen their understanding of what it takes to start and run a small business.

"In Management 463, most of the clients we worked with own small businesses, but they never went to business school," explained Allison Hunthausen, a recent graduate of the College of Business who majored in Business Management with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management.

"This experience was really great for us, as 22- and 23-year-old students, to see what we actually knew from our business courses and what we brought to the table for Wizbang. We had some creative ideas that we shared with Liz and Betsy, based on our business knowledge and research, and we gained valuable work experience through this process."

Management 463 is part of the Alderson Program in Entrepreneurship, which offers students unique developmental experiences through coursework offered as part of a rigorous minor in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. The skills learned through these courses, offered at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, have enabled 410 MSU College of Business students to provide more than 14,500 hours of pro bono consulting to more than 140 clients, resulting in 400 new jobs in these companies since the Center's founding in 2002.

To participate in Management 463 as a small business owner, contact Gary Bishop, 994-7017 or email Gary at gbishop@montana.edu.