Small businesses are the backbone of America’s economy, representing more than 99 percent of all employers according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Small Business Profile for New Hampshire, published by the U.S. Small Business Administration, states 96.7 percent of all businesses in New Hampshire with employees are classified as small businesses. The Plymouth State University Small Business Institute® (SBI) has been helping to fuel the growth of small business in New Hampshire for more than 30 years, and for the eighth consecutive year has won national recognition in the Annual SBI Case of the Year Competition.
To better understand how one relates to the other, take the case of W.S. Badger Company in Gilsum, maker of balms, potions and other natural remedies. William F. Whyte started making Badger Balm in his kitchen in 1993, packaging and selling the balm to local hardware stores in 1995. In 1996 Whyte contacted the PSU SBI looking for assistance in determining how to grow the business. “At that time Bill was in the early stages of his business, still making the balm in his kitchen,” says PSU SBI Director Craig Zamzow. “Among the recommendations made to Bill by the student team was to add products.” Today W.S. Badger Company makes 20+ products, his 2004 sales topped $3 million and Whyte is the U.S. Small Business Administration 2005 New Hampshire Business Person of the Year.
“The thing I valued most from the SBI team was the process of being questioned,” states Whyte. “I learned a lot about myself, my capabilities and goals for the business.” Whyte says as he looks back, the students’ recommendation to add products was prophetic. “I would get questions from customers as to whether they could put Badger Balm on their lips, feet or their baby’s rash. It was in responding to their requests and giving my customers what they wanted that products were added.”
“Helping to successfully fuel the growth of business in New Hampshire is our goal,” says Zamzow. “We work with existing businesses that need help in developing a plan to take the next step—a growth plan.” Teams of MBA students, working with a faculty advisor, are matched with business clients to provide no cost, or low cost, analysis, planning modules and recommendations. While every case may not win an award, significant contributions have been made to over 300 companies. As a result, the PSU SBI program won the national 2003 Small Business Institute Directors Association Showcase Award, recognizing it as the most outstanding SBI program in the country.
Other companies that have achieved notable growth after working with the PSU SBI include Hannah Grimes Market Place, Dancing Roots, Virtue Records, Tilt’n Diner/Great American Dining, Deacon’s Bench Furniture and the Town of Littleton/Hitchner Manufacturing.
“Each project has a unique story,” says Zamzow, “and has usually reached a crossroads when they contact us. Referrals come from word-of-mouth, through the Small Business Development Council or SCORE. While the primary goal of the SBI teams is to assist businesses, the process also gives real-world, meaningful context to the students pursing their MBA.” Zamzow notes that most of PSU’s MBA students are working professionals who apply their knowledge to benefit the client, but also get the opportunity to view their own area of specialization from a different perspective.
Zamzow points to Phil Desmond, owner of Brown Furniture Company in West Lebanon, as a prime example of the holistic benefits of the PSU SBI. He says, “As an MBA student, Phil was part of an SBI team that did a project for Deacon’s Bench Furniture, a furniture store in a different market. Based on his own experience, he turned around and asked for an SBI team to evaluate his own business.”
For more information about the Plymouth State University SBI program and/or how to become a client, contact SBI Director Craig Zamzow at 603-535-2921 or visit online at www.plymouth.edu/graded/sbi .
Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.