Ursinus Launches Summer Business Assist Initiative

The new program pairs students with area businesses to help them develop marketing plans.

Aspiring entrepreneurs at Ursinus College are helping to put area businesses on the map through a new pilot program this summer.

The 14 students are giving seven local, early-stage or established business a creative marketing boost through Business Assist 2016, which enables Ursinus students to develop and implement new marketing plans and help accelerate business growth in the community.

The initiative is run under the auspices of the Ursinus U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, which encourages students to exercise innovation, leadership, imagination, and creativity. 

“We want the students to help the businesses think outside the box and introduce new ideas,” says Maureen Cumpstone, the entrepreneur-in-residence at the U-Imagine Center. “We want to put them on the right course and lay the groundwork for a business plan that can be built upon and provides a model for the future.”

Pairs of Ursinus College students will work with Montgomery County businesses on projects like implementing a new marketing plan, launching a new website, developing a social media presence, and rolling out a new line of products.  

“This allows the students to take their own ideas and mold them with concepts they learned in the classroom and apply them to the real world,” Cumpstone says. “Also, it’s multidisciplinary, so it allows the students to apply their liberal arts education in a way they may never have thought of before.”

Each student will receive a $2,500 stipend for their work this summer. Business Assist 2016 is being funded by an anonymous donor. The students will spend four days a week at the site of their assigned business, and one day a week at the Ursinus College U-Imagine Center on Main Street to further enhance their business plans.    

“I think it’s important that the Collegeville community feels connected to the college,” says Maddi Franklin, a junior from Glen Ridge, N.J., majoring in biology and classical studies. “We are a big part of Collegeville, and we should make the community feel like we’re giving something back to them. By working with start-up businesses, we have the chance to make a real difference which benefits all parties involved.”

Kara Travis, an English major from Lansdale, adds, “It’s important for students like me to contribute to the community in this way because it encourages our individual growth as well as allows us to bond with the community. This program provides us with new responsibilities, and much like an internship, teaches us how to operate professionally. We will learn how to apply our skills to real-world situations, and discover that our efforts will have real effects. Meanwhile, we are also able to help local businesses achieve their goals.”

The students will work with the businesses through the end of July and program organizers hope the Business Assist can become an annual program for students.

“At its core, the U-Imagine Center has a philosophy of, ‘pay it forward,’” says Carol Cirka, co-founder and director of the U-Imagine Center. “This is a way to put that into practice. Entrepreneurial competencies are the exact same set of competencies that a liberal arts education develops in students. Entrepreneurial thinking applies no matter their major. They have to think in an entrepreneurial way whether they are a scientist or a businessperson or something else. We see ourselves as a bridge by which students can take their ideas from concept and put them to practice.”

Ed Clarke, executive director of corporate, foundation, and government relations at Ursinus College, says Business Assist 2016 allows Ursinus to contribute to the growth and vitality of the area, as Ursinus continues to play an important role in the regional economy through partnerships and business opportunities. According to the Association of Independent Colleges and universities of Pennsylvania, Ursinus College’s statewide economic impact is nearly $86 million.

“We see ourselves as a regional asset and this is one way to demonstrate how we can contribute to the community,” Clarke says. “This program is the natural evolution of our civic engagement goals.”

The participating businesses and Ursinus College students who will work with them are: AllRack, LLC (Limerick, Pa.): Danielle Kuller and Chanton Phan; At The Source, LLC (Blue Bell, Pa.): Maddi Franklin and Bernard Steyaert; Capt’n Chucky’s Crab Cake Co. (Trappe, Pa.): Devin Thompson and Joyce Zheng; Core Fit LLC (Royersford, Pa.): Connor Newlin and Kara Travis; Parry Coffee Roasters LLC (Ambler, Pa.): Shelby Bryant and Ke Jin Li; S+B Event Concepts and Catering (West Chester, Pa.): Shannon Byrne and Nick Lee; Salter’s Fireplace and Patio (Eagleville, Pa.): Anna Gulko and Tim Rafter. – Ed Moorhouse