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Want Some Help Attracting New Customers? Try The Best Kept Secret In Town.

August 2012

By Mark Lacker, John W. Altman Clinical Professor Entrepreneurship, Farmer School of Business

Quick - which metro area in the country has had more undergraduate entrepreneurship programs ranked in the Top 25 in the past five years? Thinking Bay Area, Boston, Chicago? Nope, Greater Cincinnati takes the prize and it's the best kept secret in town.

Entrepreneurship programs at Miami, NKU, Xavier and UC are either currently ranked among top 25 undergraduate programs nationally or have been within the past five years. If this were college hoops, we would be talking about four perennial tournament teams.

Like all winning teams, our local entrepreneurship programs have high quality players. Entrepreneurship students are learning the latest methods and ways of thinking that can help add value to your business. And, they employ the newest techniques to identify and develop new growth opportunities.

Students may be able to receive course credit for their experience. Some entrepreneurship programs like Miami's also offer a compensation reimbursement match to the employer depending on the nature of the internship. You can engage entrepreneurship students through class assignments, student consulting projects and both full-time and part-time internships.

If you really want to receive full value from your involvement with entrepreneurship students, turn them loose on the right assignments.

Doing The Work Or Creating New Opportunities?

Not long ago I attended a meet up of local entrepreneurs in an effort to place students as interns. Several business owners came up to me after the meeting to express interest in our internship program. When I asked when they might like an intern and for what purpose, often the response was, "as soon as we get the work, we'll hire someone." I've owned a business and I get it - keep expenses in line with revenues.

It's a deceptively logical way of thinking…except it misses the point of what an entrepreneurial college student can do for your business. It's not merely doing the work you already have; it's about creating new revenue opportunities for your business.

The fresh thinking, high energy, and innate understanding of the latest tools they bring to the table provide a recipe for creating irresistible marketing campaigns, understanding new markets, and finding ways to outflank entrenched competition. Bringing someone new in the door allows ‘fresh eyes' to see how the organization runs, and students are natural idea generators.

It Works

This past semester Miami entrepreneurship students worked on a project for a local early stage company, Blackbook HR, a firm that specializes in acclimating and engaging newly relocated employees to Cincinnati, to develop market entry strategies for a new service line. The team developed and tested new service offerings, marketing messages, price points and created business partnerships to promote the services.

"I have significant experience working with college students as interns but this was the first time I had worked with entrepreneurship students", said Myrita Craig, President of Blackbook HR. "Their perspective was very much that of a business owner and really considered how their recommendations impacted all aspects of our business. Their ideas and depth of execution really hit the project out of the park."

"We were especially excited about working with local students because we know from our work helping other businesses to acclimate and retain top talent that students who have internships are more likely to stay in the area where their internship is after graduation," Craig said.

After the project, Paul Baechtold, a Miami Senior, was retained as an intern to help implement the plan over the summer.

"Entrepreneurship students as a whole are extremely ambitious and driven and are looking for outlets to apply their creative thinking and new ideas", notes Baechtold. "This summer experience has completely opened my eyes to what Cincinnati has to offer. I'm from Bloomington, Indiana and would love to stay in Cincinnati after I graduate in December."

Win-Win-Win

Working with entrepreneurship students from our nationally renowned programs can be a win-win-win arrangement. Students are able to apply the latest business ideas and create value for your organization, you receive actionable ideas you can use, and our region increases our young talent base. Think of it as a triple bottom line. Classes start later this month at each school so start thinking about inviting entrepreneurship students into your organization.

Originally published on August 19, 2012, in The Cincinnati Enquirer.