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Businesses Build Strategy, Students Gain Experience

Businesses Build Strategy, Students Gain Experience

Pictured: Out of the Blue Screen Printing

Originally run in Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce's Business Altitude

Blue Grimes, founder and president of Out of the Blue Screen Printing, loves hearing new ideas for how to improve his business. And he has received them from business students for over five years through the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Strategic Business Analysis.

Grimes is in the process of executing new marketing strategies in social media and on the company’s website that he hopes will ultimately boost sales and drive new business. Many of the changes he is preparing to implement are in response to the feedback he received from the students at Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), which provides the student-driven manpower of the SBDC’s Strategic Business Analysis.

The SBDC has partnered with MSU Denver on the analysis, connecting students and businesses for the past nine years. The program develops a pathway for the university to work hand-in-hand with small businesses and students while engaging the business community.

“Learning through reading text does not provide the experience of working with others in teams; it doesn’t give the real experience of dealing with imperfect or missing data; there is no ‘correct’ answer,” said MSU Denver College of Business Dean Ann Murphy. “All these issues that business professionals deal with and live with each day.”

To date, 116 businesses have participated in the program. These businesses have access to talented people on the last leg of their degree who provide insight into how a younger generation views their company. SBDC clients have the chance to give back to the community and become an avenue for students to work with an existing business.

“The perspective can be enlightening,” Grimes said. “It ultimately will help us to communicate better with our clients and to report better within the business.”

When a business signs on for the analysis, they turn over their books and business plan, and students put their business school smarts into practice, offering an analysis that considers internal and external factors and reviews their competition and finances. With all that intel, students also provide recommendations for the company moving forward.

While the students take away outside experience and have an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice, business owners can gain new insight, a comprehensive analysis of their company and an opportunity to work with students. Those recommendations can drive growth, competitiveness and profitability, and business owners have an outlet to share their knowledge with Denver business students.

“[Students] learn to think a little longer term, further past today or tomorrow,” said Morgan Alu, a recent graduate of MSU Denver and participant of the Strategic Business Analysis program. Alu recently joined the staff of the Denver Metro SBDC.

By exposing students to the inner workings of a business, challenging them to analyze and think critically, they are getting a peek into a future career—and businesses can meet potential new employees.

“This collaboration between businesses and students is building Denver into a stronger and more competitive city in the business world,” said Denver Metro SBDC Executive Director Abram Sloss. “The investment in our students is an investment in our city.”

Olivia Rollene, marketing and program coordinator for the Denver Metro SBDC.