• Student Organization Gives Community Businesses a Boost

    Posted: May 03, 2012

    Author: Lisa Yessick

    Local entrepreneurs are learning how to build successful businesses with help from students at The University of West Alabama.

    Members of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) apply business concepts learned in UWA’s classrooms to real-world challenges such as planning, management, marketing and environmental sustainability. Sponsored by grants from corporations and business groups, the SIFE team offers both hands-on and educational resources to help businesses start, grow and prosper.

    This spring and summer, Livingston-area eighth-graders are learning how to launch and run a small business. Each student will receive a plot in a community garden, then learn from SIFE members how to plant, maintain and harvest vegetables and flowers. At the peak of the summer growing season, SIFE members will help the eighth-graders advertise and operate a mini-market on Saturdays.

    “UWA is right in the middle of a poverty-stricken part of the state, where many kids don’t have positive business role models,” said SIFE sponsor Dr. Janie Gregg of the UWA College of Business. “This project will give these kids access to those role models and hands-on experience starting a business, as well as a way to earn extra money.”

    “We are extremely proud of our award-winning SIFE team and the hands-on projects they undertake,” said Dr. Ken Tucker, dean of the UWA College of Business. “These students are able to take the business concepts they learn in class and apply them to real-world situations while simultaneously helping entrepreneurs and businesses and making a positive impact on their community.”

    Funding for the community garden project, like all SIFE project funding, came from grants sponsored by corporations — in this case, Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. SIFE members compete for these grants by writing proposals.

    “Not only are these college students applying business concepts to improving local businesses, but they’re also practicing a skill — proposal writing — that’s vital in the business world,” Gregg said.

    Other recent SIFE projects benefited established businesses and aspiring business owners. For a consignment boutique located in downtown Livingston, a team of SIFE members designed a project to spruce up the shop’s exterior, refurbish its interior, update the owner’s accounting system, and implement a supercharged marketing campaign. The project was funded by a grant from Sam’s Club.

    Another SIFE project, sponsored by Wal-Mart, sought to assist female would-be entrepreneurs by providing GED classes and job skills training.

    “Through public school counselors and human resources agents, the SIFE team connected with a young woman who wanted to open her own salon,” Gregg said. “These students assembled a mentoring team for the woman, enrolled her in GED classes, and helped her write a business plan.”

    SIFE reaches a wider audience through its 12-week Entrepreneurial Speaker Series, which brings successful entrepreneurs from a variety of industries to Livingston to discuss starting and managing a business, avoiding common startup pitfalls, investing in the stock market, and expanding a small business into international markets. SIFE partnered with UWA’s Small Business Development Center and the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce to host the series, which is sponsored by a grant from American Free Enterprise.

    A nonprofit organization with more than 1,600 chapters in 39 countries, SIFE mobilizes college students to serve their communities through business-oriented outreach projects. Open to all students, the UWA chapter of SIFE completes projects that benefit businesses and individuals in and around Livingston, Ala. For more information about SIFE, visit www.sife.org. To learn more about the UWA SIFE chapter, email Dr. Janie Gregg or call (205) 652-3716.

    Established in 1967, the University of West Alabama’s College of Business offers undergraduate programs in accounting, business administration, management, marketing, technology, computer information systems, industrial technology and industrial maintenance. For more information about the college, visit www.uwa.edu/cob, email Dr. Ken Tucker  or call (205) 652-3471.
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