Want to determine whether it makes sense to pursue a new market but don't have the money or resources to conduct extensive market research? A Small Business Institute (SBI) might be the solution. Currently, 180 schools across the country have SBI programs, which utilize teams of supervised business students to help firms with specific issues at minimal or no cost, according to Ronald G. Cook (pictured at left), director of the SBI at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and vice president of marketing and membership with the Small Business Institute Directors Association.
Lynn Nicholas and Barbara Kalmus, co-owners of TeamWork Educational Services, a 4-year-old firm offering teacher in-service training and individualized tutoring in Cranbury, New Jersey, realized if they wanted to grow their company, it would take more than a distinctive approach to education. "I know the qualities Barbara and I have make us good at what we do, but they aren't necessarily the strengths you need to run a business," Nicholas says.
While they were initially a little wary, after being introduced to the student consultants (Martha Nyquist and Mary Pergament, pictured at left, l. to r.), Nicholas and Kalmus relaxed. "We were impressed with their dedication and commitment to this, and their enthusiasm for what we do," Kalmus says.
Meanwhile, universities and colleges that don't have SBIs may have other, similar programs. At the University of Texas, Arlington, for example, the Small Business Development Center for Enterprise Excellence hosts free weekly breakfast workshops on business topics and offers selected manufacturing companies in-depth assistance in determining areas and processes that do and do not work.