Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative Pivots Amid COVID-19
Santa Clara University students gain unique insight to social and government policy. Special video message from business owners below.
SANTA CLARA, CA, June 8, 2020
Santa Clara University (SCU) students gained unique insight to social and government policy this spring through their Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI) course, also known as BUSN 188. While NPI projects conducted by the students typically focus on growth opportunities for the business owners who participate, this year the students and business owners quickly pivoted toward recovery and survival amid the coronavirus pandemic.
NPI is a course within SCU’s Leavey School of Business that provides about 20 undergraduate students the opportunity to collaborate with small business owners from local underserved communities. Students are put into groups and assigned a business owner who becomes their client for the two-quarter course. Students work with their business owners to develop an action plan during the winter quarter and then execute that plan in the spring quarter, with funds provided by a generous grant from Wells Fargo.
The 2020 business clients included sushi truck operator Akita Gourmet, residential cleaning service A Woman’s Touch Cleaning, candy and party store Dulceria Chispita, child daycare provider Little Angels Family Daycare, and nonprofit support group for Latina entrepreneurs Unidas Somos Mas Fuertes. At the start of NPI, the primary focus for each of these businesses was growth, and several talked about increasing sales, adding new customers, and expanding their space.
At the beginning of the spring quarter as groups were embarking on their action plans, the COVID-19 pandemic altered the course for the business owners and students. The onset of the coronavirus and shelter-in-place mandate quickly impacted these vulnerable businesses. Action plans the students had created over the winter quarter were quickly adapted to support sustainability endeavors in two parts: short-term survival and long-term sustainability. New plans focused on helping the businesses survive the health crisis and its economic consequences as well as looking ahead to long-term viability.
Short-term survival led the groups to investigate and pursue small business loans and funding for their clients from a variety of sources, gaining unique insight into financial and policy processes. These included state and nationally funded programs through the CARES Act including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, regional or city programs such as the Silicon Valley Strong Fund, and private programs such as the Facebook Small Business Grant Program and the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund. For example, students submitted a Facebook grant application for their client Akita Gourmet. If selected, Akita would receive $2,500 in funds and $1,500 in social media advertising on Facebook and Instagram, key marketing channels for this food truck business.
All groups helped their clients with communication strategies. They worked together to develop and post COVID-19 messages to let customers know how the business was adapting during the health crisis and updated business websites, social media channels, and listings on marketing platforms such as Yelp and Next Door. For example, students helped Little Angels Family Daycare create a special message offering priority placement and discounts for essential workers needing childcare. Akita Gourmet’s student team updated the website with new hours and pick-up procedures. Students helped Dulceria Chispita add more photos to its website to better enable phone and internet ordering, and they created messaging to promote curbside ordering and pick-up. Students for residential cleaner A Woman’s Touch Cleaning, helped their business owner write a thank you note which was delivered with flowers to current clients who have continued payments despite business restrictions.
The students also gained experience working with small business advisors. The group collaborating with Unidas Somos Mas Fuertes helped owner Mary Mora purchase a corporate Zoom account so she could host larger gatherings for her Latina entrepreneurs support group. They also met with a mentor from SCORE, a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. SBA, to investigate the process for obtaining 501(c)(3) status in the future.
As with any year, these NPI 2020 students had the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge in a small business context, deepen their understanding of social and policy issues that relate to small businesses in low-income communities, and make substantive positive contributions to the success of our client businesses. The special challenges brought on by the devastating health crisis have been an incredible and exceptional opportunity for collaboration and learning for these SCU students as they see the direct impact of their efforts in supporting the viability of their clients. In addition, by supporting the recovery of small businesses in low-income neighborhoods, the NPI program helps contribute to a broader rehabilitation in the San Jose area following the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
NPI 2020 concluded on June 3 with virtual presentations from each group recounting their projects. We congratulate the students on their hard work, dedication, and perseverance in helping their small business clients during such a difficult time, and we thank them for their outstanding contributions! We also thank nonprofit organization and MOBI partner Yacanex Community for advising our students and businesses throughout the course.
NPI/BUSN 188 is taught by Drew Starbird, Ph.D., executive director for the My Own Business Institute (MOBI) and professor of Information Systems and Analytics within the Leavey School of Business. NPI is a two-quarter course and information sessions are held each October for interested students. For information, email Professor Starbird at email@example.com.
Watch the video from our business owners here.
NPI 2020 BUSINESS OWNERS SHARE THANK YOU MESSAGES