Entrepreneur students craft analysis reports, recommendations for local small businesses

Students in Darlene Jaffke’s Entrepreneurial Marketing class are entering Phase 2 of a semester-long, real-world project that pairs them with a company in the City of Lake Forest’s Business Accelerator — an incubator for new business and technology start-up companies.

The purpose of the project, Jaffke says, is to continue to strengthen the partnership between the College and the city and to “allow students to serve as a creative resource and research consultant to a business client. We have great minds here at Lake Forest College. The students really think outside of the box.”

Three teams of three students each are conducting extensive market research and will present summaries and recommendations to the businesses that have agreed to partner with them — the Zen of Slow Cooking, 80/20 Business Solutions, and KidsSmarter. Each company aligns with a different industry and each has its own projected challenges, such as whether or not to expand to an international market or whether or not to franchise.

After an initial meeting with their clients to learn about the company’s history and mission, students completed additional fact finding and information gathering about their business practices, such as their pricing and promotion strategies. Then, they conducted a situational analysis determining how the company might be affected by changes in the political, economic, sociological, and technological climates, a competitor analysis, an industry analysis, and finally a market analysis.

Using their findings, the teams will pull together final recommendations and present these to their clients at City Hall on November 26. The hope of the students is that the businesses will implement some of their ideas.

Emily White ’14, a communication major and business minor, is working with 80/20 Business Solutions.

“To this date, the most educational part of my experience while working with Tom has been reviewing his actual business plan and his mission,” she said. “In class we have learned about the importance of having a business plan, but to actually see a real one and the steps taken to utilize it properly has been quite informative.”

Scott Sanford ’14, a business major who has dreamed of opening his own business for the past five years, is working with The Zen of Slow Cooking. He appreciates the level of professionalism that has come with the project and the fact that their work might make a difference.

“The little details matter! Our group double and even triple checks our work before we submit it to our client. We want to make sure everything is perfect and easy to understand for our client,” he said. “The Zen of Slow Cooking is a real business and our research and advice will affect their business in some way. We need to make sure what we are providing them is credible, resourceful, and strong recommendations.”

When Jaffke and Susan Kelsey, manager of Business Accelerator, proposed the idea to the incubator companies, the response was overwhelming, Jaffke said. With that indication, she hopes to continue the win-win partnership in the future.