In spring 2018, teams of California State University, Northridge undergraduates and graduate students accepted their awards for working tirelessly to produce comprehensive business plans to enter in the Small Business Institute© (SBI) national competition for Experiential Learning Project of the Year. Both teams placed second in their respective categories.
The SBI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing professional development for those engaged in experiential student team consulting and related entrepreneurship education, research and activities.
The annual competition requires student teams to consult with a real small business and create a financial plan for the business to implement. The CSUN teams spent months consulting with their clients. For the undergrads, this was through the Business 497 Strategic Management course in CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, while the graduate students did this as their culminating experience in the MBA program.
Joy Griffin, a professor of management and marketing, teaches the course and served as faculty adviser for the undergraduate team.
“The students in my class do all the leg work,” Griffin said. “I am there to help them along the hurdles. It is an extensive amount of work that the students have to do. However, I tell them, ‘How do you eat an elephant? Well, one bite at a time.’ That shows them that it is all a process.”
The undergraduate team created a comprehensive business plan for their client, a local pizza company who wishes to remain anonymous. This entailed a semester-long process of detailing the client’s needs and creating a 100-page business plan that the client could begin to implement.
Working throughout the semester, the students had to balance their class schedules with work on their business plan and interviews with clients.
“The Business 497 class is teaching real-world applications of their knowledge. I am always impressed with what I see,” said Deborah Cours, professor of marketing and SBI board president. “The students are able to see their work be used and be proud of it.”
The graduate team, whose client also preferred to remain anonymous, had to look into various property spaces that would fit well with the client’s business. After both teams researched their clients’ needs and wrote their business plans, they prepared and delivered presentations for their clients.
“We’re helping real people create real business plans. There is an added pressure to that,” said Arbi Vartanians, a graduate student in finance. “The biggest challenge was writing the paper because of how intensive it was. It was a bittersweet moment when we finished. All of a sudden you are done after all this work. It was a great learning experience.”
Vartanians said the camaraderie he built with his group lived on after the competition.
“This group of students were really go-getters. They worked extremely well with others and took my feedback to improve their work,” said Ray Calnan, an assistant professor of real estate and faculty advisor for the graduate team. “The students must be able to perform at a high capacity to create their business plans for the client. They must be prepared to answer questions the client might have during the presentation.”
In February, the students were invited to attend to the Small Business Institute Conference in Corpus Christi, Texas. Two of the MBA team members traveled to present their work and accept their award. The others were acknowledged after the conference.
Chandra Subramaniam, dean of the Nazarian College, lauded the student teams for their hard work and accomplishments.
“The David Nazarian College of Business and Economics at CSUN is committed to producing students with the necessary knowledge to achieve success in real-world situations,” Subramaniam said. “We diligently prepare students to take their knowledge from CSUN and apply it to their lives.”
The undergraduate team was composed of the following students:
The graduate team was composed of the following students: