Most service projects over spring break have students going to locations around the United States where they stay in a community in need of something and help the people there through projects that might not be in their vocation. However, one service trip this year will be different: a pilot trip to Colombia for business students.
“Our goal is to give students an opportunity to put their academic work into practice,” David Befus, associate professor of business said.
“It’s unique because we are giving them tools to build their own sustainability, their own livelihood,” said Matt Latchaw, a student who will go on the trip.
The students and supervisors on this trip are all from various business tracks and will be using their skills and knowledge of small businesses to help young entrepreneurs start a business of their own or to help existing businesses with any issues they might have.
“We are just lending them our basic knowledge to help them do it — not to do it for them,” Latchaw said.
They will be teaching the skills they have learned to individuals in an on-the-job setting.
Although there are many sorts of small businesses, the group of students going down to Colombia will be focusing on a few main areas. They will work with businesses specializing in dried fruit, silk screen t-shirts and chocolate making. Existing businesses include beauty salons and cosmetics vendors.
Latchaw is part of the group that gets to meet with young men and women who want to start their own business but don’t know where to start.
They will be generating ideas, demonstrating basic skills for a specific area and telling aspiring entrepreneurs how to keep things going.
“We basically show, demonstrate and send them on their way,” Latchaw said.
When looking into the future, Befus said he hopes the trip will open the eyes of some students to see the potential of career opportunities in international development, as well as help the poor or under-resourced.
The students going down to Colombia as business consultants are divided into various teams focused on new-business promotion and managing assistance in the areas of marketing, accounting and finance.
This is a trip that many would like to see grow into the school’s SSP collection. If the perceived success is achieved, that is a likely possibility.