Students at Cal State Fullerton's Mihaylo College of Business and Economics are getting pretty good at winning the Small Business Institute's Student Consulting Project of the Year Competition. Student teams have claimed victory 10 times since 1991. Count 2012 as yet another winning year.
It was the undergraduate team of six students that took home the prize. The students spent 15 weeks working with FORTIS, an executive staffing firm based in Irvine, as part of a course titled "Marketing for Entrepreneurs," taught by CSFU's Center for Entrepreneurship director, John Jackson. The six-student team worked with a mentor, himself a veteran of the marketing business, and then came to FORTIS with a basic question: "How can we help you?"
"We did a two-hour brainstorming session," Jackson said, "then developed a list of stuff to do." This might sound special, but at CSFU, it's pretty routine. The university tackles around 130 projects of this type each year. "The Small Business Institute doesn't know anyone who does as much," according to Jackson.
The project itself focused on FORTIS' digital calling card. "The students, being twentysomethings, gravitated to the website," Jackson said. "They looked at navigation, color, content. But they also opened the hood and considered the site from an optimization standpoint and dealt with branding elements and blogging. It was a soup-to-nuts treatment. And the CEO was able to implement many recommendations with favorable results."
A good client clearly makes for a good project. "The client was very collaborative," Jackson said. "They wanted to make the project successful." But a good team helps, too.
"The diversity of the team was an enabler of success," Jackson noted. "We had three international students, and the team leader kept the project on track."
As I've blogged before, marketing is something that many entrepreneurs either completely ignore or forget about until the last minute — or until it's too late. The ability of CSFU's students to do so well in the SBI's competition, while also working toward undergraduate degrees that specifically emphasize entrepreneurship, shows that this gap is being filled.
"Entrepreneurship is a major like others here," Jackson said. And as it turns out, marketing plus entrepreneurship is a formula for educational excellence. Not to mention a superb training ground for a career in business, small or large.