Students serve as business advisors

May 14 2008

Sixty consultants with training and experience in all aspects of business have spent the past several months working with new and existing companies and not-for-profit entities from throughout central- and south-central Indiana, but there’s a twist. These consultants are college seniors.

Putting into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom over the past four years, their firm - Sycamore Business Advisors - is a business of its own, but is also a class in Indiana State University’s College of Business.

As consultants, the students assisted clients ranging from a start-up venture in Bloomington that plans a community kitchen incubator to an existing Indianapolis business that is marketing a new medical product.

Launched in 2002, Sycamore Business Advisors serves as a capstone class for business majors and provides strategic consulting to small- and medium-sized entities.

“The students work with clients not just on one slice of their business, but they examine the entire strategic process in order for them to be more successful and meet their stakeholders’ needs,” said Art Sherwood, associate professor of management and Sycamore Business Advisors founder.

One 10-member team of students created a business plan for the Bloomington kitchen incubator, which envisions a commercial kitchen - to be located in a former Coca-Cola warehouse - where entrepreneurs could produce value-added food products using unused fresh foods from community gardens and food banks.

A $280,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant is providing planning money for the project. The Indiana State business students provided expertise that the not-for-profit organization might not have been able to otherwise afford. The consulting work also helps students - most of whom graduated this spring - gain valuable real-world experience and provides them with a certain level of satisfaction.

“Hopefully, what we create will be taken into the local community and the plan will be used to get additional funding,” said Jacob Carpenter, a business management major from Indianapolis who served as team leader for the project. “I would like to come back in a year or two and go down to Bloomington to see if this is working, if we actually made an impact.”

Another group of students worked with Arcadia HealthCare in marketing its DailyMed product, a drug packaging system that puts patients’ multiple prescription and over-the-counter medicines and vitamins into a roll of single dose packs labeled with the dates and times the patient should take the medications.

Arcadia recently relocated to Indianapolis from Southfield, Mich., and has test-marketed DailyMed in Terre Haute.

“We tried to find ways to help them brand their product. We looked at ways to increase customer awareness and educate physicians about DailyMed,” said team leader Xavier Romero, a marketing major from Indianapolis.

“This is a great way to get hands-on experience before entering professional life. We’re working with top-notch performers in the business place who know what they’re doing and can tell us if we’re on the right track,” Romero said.

“The experience has been tedious. I’ve had to recall a lot of information that I’ve learned over the past few years. However, it has sharpened my skills as far as research and development and actually producing the product that the client wants,” added Erica Williams, a business administration major from Indianapolis who minored in finance.

Working with Arcadia, a $150 million company, is a new experience for Sycamore Business Advisors, said David Robinson, assistant professor of management.

“Typically, we have focused on small businesses or not-for-profit agencies. Arcadia HealthCare (DailyMed) is much larger than what we have worked with in the past, but this is an area that we have wanted to get into. We would like to provide our consulting services to a wide range of companies because it gives our students a broader range of experience,” Robinson said.

While most students in the class work closely with individual clients such as the kitchen incubator and Arcadia, others are charged with overseeing the operations of Sycamore Business Advisors as its own entity.

“We work with advertising, accounting and finance - everything that goes into running a business. We’re in charge of making sure that it goes smoothly for the semester,” said Duane McCarty, a management information systems major from Evansville who is associate director of Sycamore Business Advisors.

“I never realized that in my senior year I’d be doing something like this,” McCarty said. “This class is much more involved. It’s amazing that I can actually work with clients, put together all the skills I’ve learned from all my classes and work with other students that have greater skills in other areas. That we can all come together to create a business plan and actually see it unfold is a great experience.”

In addition to the Bloomington kitchen incubator and Arcadia HealthCare/Daily Med, Sycamore Business Advisors' clients have included C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Holocaust Museum, Southern Indiana Bio-Diesel, Happiness Bag, Terre Haute Children's Museum, Asani's and Imperial Lanes

Businesses or not-for-profit groups that could benefit from assistance by Sycamore Business Advisors may contact Sherwood at 812-237-2094.

Photo:
Xavier Romero, a senior marketing major from Indianapolis and a team leader for Sycamore Business Advisors, gives a presentation at the Indiana State University College of Business as other student-consultants look on.

Contacts: Art Sherwood, associate professor of management, College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2094 or asherwood@isugw.indstate.edu ; David Robinson, assistant professor of management, ISU College of Business, 812-237-8829 or drobinson@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Sixty consultants with training and experience in all aspects of business have spent the past several months working with new and existing companies and not-for-profit entities from throughout central- and south-central Indiana, but there's a twist. These consultants are college seniors. Putting into practice what they've learned in the classroom over the past four years, their firm - Sycamore Business Advisors - is a business of its own, but is also a class in Indiana State University's College of Business.

Bookmark and Share