Spotlight on: Center for Small Business

"Students bring a fresh set of eyes to problems owners have been wrestling with and it's a great opportunity for them to apply cutting-edge concepts from the classroom in these real-world business situations."
—Brian Baldus, Dean, professor of marketing

The pitch: 

Entrepreneurs and small business owners can improve and grow their companies with innovative ideas from Sacramento State’s Center for Small Business. 

The consultants: Students and faculty members from the College of Business Administration.

The price tag: Free.

For nearly 50 years, the Center has provided expert advice to more than 2,000 small firms, including contractors, restaurants, retailers, and technology companies.

“Business owners benefit from a semester-long partnership with dedicated students and faculty experts,” explains Andrey Mikhailitchenko, professor of marketing and director of the Center. “A lot of these are small mom-and-pop businesses looking for advice on marketing strategy, financial planning and analysis, human resource management and technology.”

As the most important segment of the U.S. economy, small businesses account for nearly half of the jobs nationwide. Since the recession, 60 percent of new jobs created are the result of small businesses and every month, 548,000 new businesses emerge. Leading the way? California, which ranks number one in small business openings.

One of those startups, brand new retailer Refill Madness, is looking to the center for objective advice on its business plan.

“It’s a small operation, just my husband and me,” says owner Sloane Read of their home goods company. “We’re looking for someone from the outside to work with us on profit margins and inventory. Someone who can look at the business and say ‘Here’s what you can do better.’”

Mark Frederick, president and CEO of Auburn-based CitiGreen Solar, knows firsthand the advantages of turning to the Center for Small Business for help. “We worked with the Center to create a plan for a new solar product and they provided us with a great strategy on how to bring the product to market.”

Alexander Hess ’15 (Business Administration) was one of the students who worked with CitiGreen Solar. “A lot of businesses can tell you what they’ve tried and how they’ve failed, so it’s an opportunity for us as students to problem-solve and identify new opportunities.”

Frederick was so impressed with Hess and his team that he hired Hess as a marketing assistant for CitiGreen Solar. “There’s a great synergy in the Center for Small Business. Never underestimate the viewpoint of a freshly educated 20-something-year-old.”

Kim Rhodes is on her third go-round with the Center for her organic personal care product business Farm2Girl.

Previously the student teams helped her develop the supply chain for her line of lip balms and lotions, and offered advice on growing her social media presence. This time she looking to build on what was until recently has largely been an online entity.

“They are helping me expand into retail sector,” she says. “We’re looking at how do you get into additional markets while maintaining the integrity of the product.”

“Students bring a fresh set of eyes to problems owners have been wrestling with.” says Brian Baldus, professor of marketing and faculty coordinator for the Center. “It’s a great opportunity for them to apply cutting-edge concepts from the classroom in these real-world business situations.”

For information on how you can get involved with the Center for Small Business, contact the Center at (916) 278-7278 or csb@csus.edu or visit csus.edu/cba/csb.html.

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