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Communications and Marketing

Entrepreneurship students are ‘boots on the ground’

Students in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program worked with two Waukegan organizations to help revitalize the city’s downtown, the Lake County News-Sun reported in February.

Lake Forest College students look to ‘capture the pulse’ of Waukegan redevelopment

By Yadira Sanchez Olson

Students enrolled in a small-business consulting class at Lake Forest College will be the boots on the ground in Waukegan for a marketing project that partners with the Greater Waukegan Development Coalition (GWDC) and Waukegan Main Street.

This week, a team of five students will begin planning how they’ll conduct surveys and look at strategies for how to better market the downtown to potential businesses and visitors under the direction of the GWDC, which is described in a mission statement as an independent, nonprofit economic development corporation fostering the development of business and real estate throughout the Waukegan area.

The project is part of a new effort by Lake Forest College to provide students an opportunity to learn, hands-on, what consulting is like outside the classroom, according to Darlene Jaffke, the school’s director of entrepreneurship and innovation and assistant professor of business.

“The class focuses on allowing students to learn what consulting is in theory and in practice,” Jaffke said. “What’s really cool about this is the collaboration — it’s really a win-win scenario, because you have these young people with no boundaries and not afraid to step outside the box of entrepreneurship thinking.”

The students’ efforts will assist Waukegan Main Street and the GWDC with plans for redeveloping the downtown area, a project the two organizations have been working toward alongside city officials.

“Students will act as consultants and capture the pulse of the community,” said Jared Dillinger, GWDC program coordinator. The work, Dillinger said, will involve collecting basic data within a three-mile radius of Waukegan’s downtown area and engage residents and government employees.

“The goal is to more effectively market to the people who work and live downtown so there’s not a disconnect between them and businesses,” Dillinger said.

Throughout the process, Jaffke will be guiding her student teams to assure the exposure is providing a service to the partnering organizations while strengthening their skills.

Four other teams will be providing consulting work in different parts of the county, Jaffke said.

The team is expected to give the GWDC and Waukegan Main Street presentations based on their surveys and evaluations at the conclusion of their consulting.

“That will be helpful information that we can use in our efforts to revitalize Waukegan,” said Arthur Cobb, executive director of Waukegan Main Street.

The consulting project will last the duration of the college’s spring semester class, scheduled to end in May.

Yadira Sanchez Olson is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.