Huntsman Post

Students Put Skills Into Practice by Raising Money for Worthy Causes

By Paul Lewis Siddoway

It may be hard to see, at first, how a shotgun-shooting contest could help an entrepreneur in Peru. And most probably wouldn't think that dropping a professor into a cold dunk tank in front of the George S. Eccles Business Building might help someone in Africa start a new business.

It is easier, however, for students at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business to make that connection, especially those in marketing classes taught by David Herrmann and Ron Welker.

Students in management 3110 spend each semester executing service projects; many of them with a goal to raise money for the Small Enterprise Education and Development program, or SEED. Other teams chose to work on other projects for other non-profits or a worthy cause of their choice.

Dave Herrmann is only dry for a split second after someone scores a hit on the dunk tank.

Dave Herrmann plunges into the cold waters of a dunk tank knowing it was for a good cause. The dunk tank was part of one of the many fund-raisers his students conducted to raise money for would-be entrepreneurs in developing countries.

All of the teams are under the same obligation to demonstrate they have learned something in class. Mr. Hermann, executive-in-residence in the Huntsman School’s management department, said the assignment is designed to help develop leadership, and harness the power of teamwork as the students plan, organize, execute, and report on their projects. To give them a goal, he said the revenue from their projects could be used to help fund the SEED program, which started in 2007.

This semester, he said he expects the total amount of money raised by Huntsman students for the SEED program will be between $180,000 and $190,000.

The SEED program, Mr. Herrmann said, is designed to give students hands-on learning as students mentor and teach aspiring entrepreneurs in developing economies, adding that some graduate and undergraduate students spend a semester doing internships as “permanent players” in Ghana, Peru, or Uganda.

At least two student interns are on-location year-round, teaching local entrepreneurs about basic business principles, he said. Study abroad students then come for a week and help filter through business plans written up by those who have completed the course taught by the Huntsman student interns.

The money raised by students at the Huntsman School, which Mr. Herrmann said is kept separate from university funds, will then be loaned to qualifying entrepreneurs as micro- or small-enterprise loans. Of the sixteen business plans submitted in Peru last summer, he said half were approved and given loans.

“We don’t want to set anyone up for failure,” he said. “If it’s not going to work, we don’t fund it.”

Once the loans are given out, Mr. Herrmann said student interns check up with the entrepreneurs on a weekly basis and continue to mentor them, teaching them such things as how to make monthly financial statements.

Chelsey Funk, a senior studying economics, said her time with SEED in Abomosu, Ghana, was the most rewarding experience of her college career. Along with the other Huntsman students, she said they were able to help 31 individuals start or expand small businesses.

As the businesses grow, the loans increase as well, Mr. Hermann said, adding that he is taking MBA students to Africa in November to analyze a potential medium enterprise loan for a cocoa processing plant.

The SEED program provides students with opportunities in all four of the Huntsman School’s areas of emphasis as student work in a foreign culture, analyze business plans, and mentor local entrepreneurs. Melody Jensen said her three months in Africa helped “drive home” the importance of having an entrepreneurial spirit.

“In the eastern region there aren’t a lot of options for employment,” she said, “so people have to make things happen on their own. I definitely gained a greater understanding of what it takes to start and sustain a business.”