Article on Business In Savannah by Julia Ritchey.
Everyone loves a good road trip, but imagine a cross-country excursion that incorporates elements of a summer internship with the bonus of helping entrepreneurs and small businesses in multiple cities.
MBAs Across America is just such a program, allowing students from some of the most prestigious business schools in the country to team up and hit the road to work with startups in several dozen cities.
This week a group from Stanford University made a pit stop in Savannah to consult with local nonprofit The Creative Coast, giving them guidance on their new 16,000-square-foot business incubation space called Creators’ Foundry.
“Each week an MBA team helps a local entrepreneur or nonprofit with ideas to grow their business, strategize on a marketing initiative, launch a new product, whatever they need,” said Rachel Witalec, a Stanford MBA candidate.
Now in its second year, the program includes 32 students who are working on master’s degrees in business administration hitting the road to work with 48 entrepreneurs in 26 cities.
Bea Wray, executive director of Creative Coast, applied on behalf of her organization to be included and, once selected, established a connection with Witalec and her Stanford peers Akshita Joshi, Alex Gart and Roger Breum.
Witalec, who’d been in touch with Wray for about four or five months, said it’s important to show up with a game plan.
“The goal is to end up in the city that Monday morning with a project plan and sense of what you’re going to do, what are your goals, how are you going to get there, some information shared, some data shared, so that you’re not spending all of day one building that trust,” said Witalec.
The group held several hours-long brainstorming sessions earlier in the week and by Friday were ready to go over their recommendations.
Witalec walked Wray and her colleagues through a host of ideas and strategies to take under consideration, such as securing revenue streams and the best way to create buzz around the Creators’ Foundry.
Breum said one of most important lessons he’s learned on the road trip is to listen to the client.
“We don’t talk much, we can bring in some knowledge from business school and our previous businesses, but we need to know what works here,” said Breum.
Besides their consulting work, the group got to tour the Georgia Ports Authority and Savannah College of Art and Design as well as attend a kickoff event for the Creators’ Foundry Tuesday night.
Witalec said she was especially excited to spend time in Savannah after reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
The Stanford group started in New Orleans before hitting Savannah, and in the remaining three weeks, plan to drive to Nashville, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark., to meet with other small businesses.
“It’s an amazing learning experience for us as much as it is helpful for these entrepreneurs,” said Gart.
“Obviously we go to school in Stanford … but the majority of us want to move throughout America and we want to be local entrepreneurs ourselves, so working with local, successful entrepreneurs gives us a sense of what it’s going to take really to succeed in the real world America and not just Silicon Valley,” he said.
“For me it’s a bit more personal. I love stories and I love gathering them, so the sort of people I’ve gotten to meet have been the coolest, most interesting part for me,” said Joshi.
Wray said it was a privilege to work with the Stanford team and get feedback on their business plan.
“The MBAs Across America team has provided the perfect jolt of brilliance this week in mapping out the needed strategies for developing the Creators’ Foundry BIZLab, GeekPond and LaunchPad,” said Wray.
“In one week we made strides that could have taken months,” she said.
More information at mbaxamerica.com.
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Source: Business In Savannah