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How to breathe life into something without turning to Zombieism: Business Growth MAP transforms the academic student experience

No biting required, unless you count the way students dig their mental teeth into community businesses to offer them an opportunity for potential development and growth.

For the past three years more than 220 students have participated in the Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program. This 16-week course has helped more than 50 organizations assess their financial health, market, competitors and organizational capabilities. These projects are real world experiences brought to students allowing them a unique opportunity to apply their education.

Under the guidance of a business mentor, often a current business owner or retired executive, students get the opportunity to really assess a business. They look at the actual guts of what makes it work—budgeting, cash flow and resource management abilities. They even identify potential trends and branding that can help breathe life into businesses.

Mistie Josephson, the program’s manager, said, “Consider this a win-win-win program. Students get an opportunity to really apply their knowledge and businesses have an opportunity to really increase their economic development in our community”.

Much like survival planning for a zombie attack, students are given the opportunity to develop a business survival plan. This complex activity offers students an opportunity to really learn about themselves while contributing to the economic development of the Southwest Washington/Portland metropolitan area. For example, businesses are offered insight into how to create living wage jobs or expand their markets to find new niches for expansion.

This program doesn’t just end once the students give their final analysis. Clients are asked to complete multiple evaluations at the conclusion and one year point to help assess what was provided and how it changed their businesses.

Part of what makes this program work is the business communities’ willingness to participate. Josephson said, “I am always looking for new folks who will volunteer their time, if they are interested they should visit our website or email bgmap (at) vancouver.wsu.edu for details.” Zombies need not apply, unless they are small business owners and promise not to bite the students.

Stay tuned for more information. Supporters, volunteers and students will be attending a celebration May 7 to recognize the program’s success over the year. At this private event, the student groups nominated for excellence within the program will receive an award.

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