Is Your Business ‘Fit’?

David Erbe (’11), management

Nathaniel Childress (’12), marketing; minors in civic engagement and social entrepreneurship

Brett McGee (’12), management

Dr. Patrick Walker, assistant professor of management and business law; director of the Small Business Institute®

Is Your Business ‘Fit’?

“Much of academic learning takes place within the classroom, but equally important are the life lessons learned outside of the classroom,” comments Dr. Patrick Walker, director of the Small Business Institute® (SBI). “It is always good to see students who embrace their education wholeheartedly.”

The current economic climate has left many businesses nationwide struggling, especially small businesses and nonprofits. More than just recognizing this problem, CNU business students and Ferguson Fellows Nathaniel Childress, Brett McGee and David Erbe along with their faculty mentor, Dr. Walker, actively addressed the issue through the development of SBI’s first annual Business Workout conference  -  “Is Your Business Fit?”

“In today’s economy it is essential to utilize resources efficiently,” says Childress. “This conference helped small business owners re-examine current business activity in hopes of adopting beneficial tools and better practices to survive during difficult economic times.” The conference included presentations and workshops from professionals in an array of areas: technology, operations, marketing, management, human resources, finance and accounting.

As fellows, the students focused on recruiting nonprofit attendees to ensure their presence at the conference. “We feel this is the best outlet for our contribution to social entrepreneurship,” says McGee.

The team has researched critical success factors such as best management practices, online social media marketing strategies and competition measuring for nonprofits. “It takes an extraordinary amount of preparation to make sure we can market the product to our customers properly,” Erbe says. From the research gathered, they developed a “CNU-SBI Nonprofit Survival Kit” all nonprofit organizational leader attendees received.

Right alongside the team sharing the vision has been academic advisor and faculty mentor Walker, who has influenced and impacted each fellow. “Throughout the time I have known him, he has constantly given me guidance and has challenged me to think beyond my perceived boundaries and always think positively,” says Erbe.

“He has been the driving force in building this conference,” says McGee. “The conference began as a dream of Dr. Walker, and as a team we are helped to make that dream a reality,” Childress adds.

“I see parts of me in each of the fellows, and am truly honored to have a small part in their personal, professional and intellectual development,” Walker says. “I could not have a better group of young men to work with who are future business leaders equally committed to empowering the community.” Part of this experience and their research will even be included in an article Walker is writing about small business and nonprofit business models.

Organizing a conference that hosted more than 100 local businesses and vendors was quite a task, and the effort was a high-impact experience. “Being a part of this service project has not only enhanced my CNU experience, but it has opened my eyes to how similar nonprofits are,” says Erbe. “Even though each has its own specific mission and vision, they all have the same strong values and ethical concerns, which makes working with them especially rewarding.” McGee adds, “Instead of feeling as though I am in a bubble on campus, I am now working with and creating relationships with local nonprofits outside in the community.”

For Childress, this experience helped focus his future career. “Through this fellowship, I have gained even more insight on a future career path I want to look into further  -  creating a management and marketing consulting organization that would assist nonprofit organizations around the Newport News area.”

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