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The Big Benefits of Going Small

The co-created value of pairing students and small businesses in the classroom environment


In this increasingly competitive job market, experience is one of the most important factors that set a newly graduated student apart. This is why as a professor I find it so important to integrate opportunities for students to work alongside real businesses into my marketing classes. And when it comes to reaching out to companies to participate in my courses, I always find myself going small.


I love working with small businesses because I truly believe they are the backbone of our economy. However, it is not just out of a feeling of civic concern that I find myself time and time again turning to them to provide my students with hands-on experience applying marketing concepts. So if you’re a college student looking for business experience or a small business searching for resources to help expand your company, here is why turning to one another can be a strategic solution.

Smaller means a closer working relationship between the owners and key decision makers


When students work for a large business or corporation, they are not working directly with the founders, owners, and key decision-makers. As a result, students only get to experience a small fragment of the company’s operations. By working with a small company students are able to learn many of the ground-up operations and experience first-hand what works and what doesn’t rather than have it dictated to them. They also have more opportunities for their ideas to actually be implemented within the company. This close working relationship is also highly beneficial to the small business itself. Oftentimes, the students themselves are the target consumers so they relate well to their problems, wants, and needs. By working closely with students, small business owners are inadvertently gaining important insight

into their audience.

When students work for a large business or corporation, they are not working directly with the founders, owners, and key decision-makers

Working with a small business allows for students to apply a wide range of the concepts taught in their business courses


While as a professor I can instruct students on how to create surveys, interview clients, and construct focus groups, it is the experience of actually having to engage in these tasks and then use this knowledge to create marketing strategy recommendations that students truly learn these concepts. By working with small businesses, students also learn customer relationship-building skills that cannot be taught in the classroom such as: communicating in a timely and professional manner, sharing client-related assignments with their customers, scheduling frequent meetings with customers to keep them updated, and following up at the end of the semester with a thank you and final materials. When working for a small business, students are willing to put in the ground work to gain experience. This means taking on the time consuming work that is necessary to create an effective marketing strategy but may be overwhelming for a small business owner. It is truly a win for both as students gain experience and small businesses gain effective marketing strategies without having to sacrifice their already limited time to learn and create it themselves.

Students take in the time consuming work that is necessary to create an effective marketing strategy but may be overwhelming for a small business owner

Working with students is built-in recruitment for small businesses


One of the most frustrating tasks for a business owner is finding reliable workers. Hiring, even when it is just an internship, is often a gamble and one that doesn’t always pay off. Working with students allows small businesses to vet possible hires before committing. This is also valuable for students as many get hired full or part time as an intern which further builds their resume, skills, and experience.


Bottom line, life is about relationships and marketing is no different. It's through these partnerships with small businesses that my students are building their skills and thus entering the marketplace with more confidence; and it’s through market research and customized strategies that some of our Detroit brands have prospered. As for me, I’ve built meaningful and lasting experiences on both sides, which is why I’ll always recommend going small.

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