Student Spotlight: Consulting for Under-Resourced Entrepreneurs

Notre Dame students interviewing South Bend entrepeneurs. Photo by Marcus Snowden.

This past semester I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a class called Microventure Consulting. The class, associated with the Mendoza College of Business’ social entrepreneurship program, was the most worthwhile class I have taken at Notre Dame. It is difficult to explain so briefly what it is about this class and this program that was so liberating to me, but I will do my best.

There are multiple facets of this class that made it so worthwhile. The first aspect of Microventure Consulting that separates it from the rest of the classes at Notre Dame is its true real world DSC_1177experience. Most classes try to recreate this experience so as to set students up to know how to act in certain situations. Microventure Consulting, however, doesn’t try to recreate anything–it puts the students in the position to enact change and meaningfully contribute to a local business. Early in the semester, the class sets your team up with a company in the area and allows you to do work with them on their most pressing issues. You could be developing a marketing plan, altering the store interior, or considering expansion opportunities. Each team even has a budget to work with to make improvements for their business. You are out in the real world, making real decisions, with real clients.

This leads right into the next aspect about the class that is so different: the relationships. You not only are set up in a group of students that you are unfamiliar with, but you are also set up with a company that is looking for real help, and they are looking right to you. This feels like a lot of pressure at the beginning, but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences you will have as a student. You have the ability to change the course of a real company in the area, enabling their future success. In order to provide the insight, however, each team had to build a relationship with the business. The class was unique in that each student came in with no track record–we had to prove to the entrepreneur that we could truly impact their business. This meant doing something early in your relationships so that you would gain the entrepreneurs’ trust.

NDCR photo by Marcus Snowden (105)

Photo by Marcus Snowden

This relationship building process is one of the most important aspects of the class that will translate over to the real word once we are in a job after Notre Dame. Microventure Consulting provides the opportunity to acquire knowledge about what it will be like working with clients after you graduate. It may not always go according to plan, but once again, this is part of learning how to deal with these real world situations.

The best part of the class, though, might have been the fact that things rarely ever went according to plan. Let me clarify. Ever heard the phrase, “There is beauty in the struggle?” Well I am pretty sure whoever said it took this class. There were many bumps in the road throughout this process, but let me be clear–I learned more about business and myself through this struggle than I had in any other class or life experience. Learning to adapt is such a key skill for entering the real world.

It is the overall experience that I believe is so rewarding when considering the class and the social entrepreneurship program overall. Coming from someone who has only taken the required classes needed to graduate, it can be very rewarding to step outside your comfort zone from time to time. Hey, you might even enjoy it.headshot

Chris Bondi is a senior Marketing major from Denver, Colorado, with particular interests in sales and entrepreneurship. He lived in O’Neill for three years while on campus. He plans on finding himself in a business development role once he graduates. 

Microventure Consulting is taught by Professors Melissa Paulsen and Frank Belatti. The course melds social and microentrepreneurial theory, techniques and tools with practical application through service learning, and provides a practicum experience focused on the creation of marketing, financial and/or operational plans, culminating in a feasibility analysis and/or business plan.  The syllabus includes a Call to Action for the students who enroll: “We have an expectation that there will be a dramatic change in the enterprise that students work with as a result of the students’ participation.  This can only be achieved through a sincere commitment and interest in the social or micro entrepreneur’s business, and by mentoring the entrepreneur with a willingness to listen and learn, and to provide thoughtful, measured coaching.”

To learn more about the social entrepreneurship program at the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship and the Mendoza College of Business, click here.

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