Students Work with Local Entrepreneurs

by Stephanie Lin, MBA ‘14 and BRM Director of Communications (4/16/14)

Stephanie Lin, MBA ‘14 and BRM Director of Communications

Big Red Microenterprise (BRM) made some significant changes to its operating structure over the past year to improve its programming and better serve local entrepreneurs.

Big Red Microenterprise (BRM) made some significant changes to its operating structure over the past year to improve its programming and better serve local entrepreneurs.

First, Big Red MicroCapital was renamed Big Red Microenterprise in the spring semester of 2013.  The decision for this change was made jointly by the newly elected and former directors who felt that the new name emphasizes BRM’s strength in client coaching.  From the micro capital and lending standpoint, BRM still maintains a partnership with the Alternatives Federal Credit Union (AFCU) as a means to provide loans for clients who are in need. 

This year, BRM Directors recruited new clients through various channels including community outreach at the Food Justice Summit Festival.  BRM attracted considerable interest from a wide range of businesses in Ithaca, comprised of those that specialize in healthcare and wellness, food and nutrition, arts, clothing, and technology.  To align expectations and ensure program commitment, an application process for all prospective clients was implemented by the directors.

BRM is delighted to present our current client portfolio:

Bloom

Colgan Construction Corp.

The CommonSpot

Emmy’s Organics Inc.

Inspired Health

Samite Artistic Productions

SapSquatch Maple Products

ShipIndex, LLC

Swidjit Inc.

Tardygrade

“As a Big Red Microenterprise Mentor, I’m able to empower local entrepreneurs and stimulate the local economy,” noted Edmund McGee, MBA ‘15 and Swidjit Coach. “I’m currently helping Swidjit, a tech start-up, with three goals: 1) narrow their development scope to generate site traffic in the immediate term; 2) develop value-add and monetization strategies; and 3) make significant progress in customer conversions to have a more favorable position at the table during venture capital negotiations.”

In the fall, BRM leadership consciously made a switch from quantity of students involved to quality students dedicated to the program. In the past, BRM recruited a large number of students at the beginning of the academic year.  This year, the directors have focused on building a tight-knit community of coaches.  Eleven coaches were recruited from the first year MBA class and the CIPA program, all with interesting and diverse business backgrounds.  The directors created a cohort system by which each director meets regularly with a small team of coaches to review progress and provide mentorship.  The cohort program has been successful thus far in providing feedback on client engagement and resources for project completion.  Furthermore, the directors established performance metrics, deliverable requirements with a rating system, and a documentation process to ensure that adequate time and effort has been invested in our clients. 

“BRM has been an excellent experience because it's allowed me to take on an advisory role that I otherwise wouldn't have had. The opportunity to work one-on-one with a client and facilitate the whole consulting process has been a great learning experience - something that potential employers like to hear,” said Jessica Johnson, CIPA ’15 and Tardygrade Coach. “I've also enjoyed getting to know my client and her business. Being able to offer guidance that helps her grow her company is very rewarding.”

Looking ahead, BRM coaches are making significant progress with their respective clients.  At the end of this year, the directors will work with all clients to gain feedback about coach/client relationships and the overall BRM program in general.  BRM will continue to explore partnerships with other Johnson clubs and institutions in the wider Cornell and Ithaca community to extend our outreach further and increase visibility for the academic club. 

BRM Directors

Shamir Kapadia (Director of Operations)

Stephanie Lin (Director of Communications)

Steve Carlos (Director of Marketing and Events)

Coco Hu (Director of Training)

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