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The Small Business Institute® (SBI) was formed in 1976 and is the premier organization dedicated to field-based student consulting and outreach to small businesses. Our members are actively involved in projects with small businesses, entrepreneurial firms, and other organizations in their communities and regions. Through its journals and annual conference, SBI is the only academic organization in the U.S. that focuses intently on student experiential learning in business.  Other academic organizations focus on entrepreneurship and small business education as at least part of what they do, but the focus on student experiential learning and faculty development in the field of experiential learning is the major purpose of SBI. 

Academic member benefits: If you look closely at the SBI logo you will see the words Business, Community and Education.  Academic members of SBI have created many tools routinely used around the world in business consulting classes.  Students then use those tools to help business communities and strengthen the economies where both faculty and students live and work.  Experiential learning also drives SBI research, and many of our faculty do service projects using experiential learning.  So, Business, Community and EducationTeaching, Service and Learning.  There aren’t many places a faculty member can go and satisfy all of the requirements that their university and accreditation bodies place upon them, so if you are not a current SBI member we would like you to consider it as an option for your career.

SBI offers our academic members a number of benefits, including, but not limited to the following: annual conference; personal and College/University awards; free entry into the Project of the Year (POY) competition; two (2) highly-regarded peer-reviewed journals; and much, much more. Award-winning papers at the annual conference may also get early review from the editors of our two journals. 

We are especially proud of the field-based student consulting projects that many of our members supervise each year. These experiential-learning programs are operated at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by colleges and universities across the country, and bridge the gap between subject competency provided by courses in business and the entry-level training that companies critically need. Teams of qualified university students, under expert faculty supervision, provide consulting to small business owners and managers as part of the students’ education. These programs emphasize practical, realistic, and affordable solutions to problems confronting small businesses.

Student member benefits: The future depends on today’s student population, and at SBI we work to provide those students with the tools they will need in order to be successful. Students can now join SBI as student members (see http://smallbusinessinstitute.biz for more details). A student membership section of the website is under construction and student members will soon have access to a discussion area where they can ask and answer questions, be provided with tools and templates that help them in their analysis of client companies, be able to view video of past winners in the Project of the Year competitions to help them identify best practices, and - as a practical aside - be able to show on their resumes that they participated in experiential learning as members of the SBI.

Finally, I want to invite you to our 39th Annual Small Business Institute® Conference that will be held at the Sirata Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, FL from Thursday, Feb. 12 through Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. We recently confirmed that Dr. Dan LeClair, the Chief Operating Officer for AACSB, will be one of our keynote speakers, talking about the emphasis on experiential programs in AACSB-accredited schools. The Call for Papers is on our website and the deadline is September, so make sure to get your papers in.  There is an exciting array of workshops, paper and abstract presentations, and engaging social activities that are sure to hold your interest, no matter what your expertise! Our Thursday opening reception will honor first time SBI Conference attendees as well as allowing you to network with long-time members. Our camaraderie is key to what makes the Small Business Institute® a vital link to your success! SBI members are known for their welcoming spirit and are always willing to lend a hand to a colleague starting a new Project of the Year Competition at their college or university, starting a new class or research project, or considering submitting to the Small Business Institute Journal or the Journal of Small Business Strategy. And remember, bring a colleague along!

As I close, I want to personally thank each of the Board of Directors for their hard work and willingness to go the extra mile, as well as Matthew Sonfield, our Fellows Chair. We all have the best intentions to continue the work of our former leaders to grow and sustain the Small Business Institute®. We need your continued support and engagement. Please, each of you, continue to be ambassadors for the work of the Small Business Institute® and the important work we do for small businesses and real student learning! 

I hope to see you at the annual conference!

John Hendon

President, Small Business Institute®                                              


What's New?

Canziani honored with Best Pedagogy Paper at the 2014 Small Business Institute® Annual Conference

Dr. Bonnie M. Canziani, of the UNCG Bryan School of Business and Economics, received a best paper award in the teaching track from the Small Business Institute® during the organization’s annual conference February 13-15 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The paper, titled “Student consulting and critical thinking: Monitoring the use of judgment heuristics,” was centered on assessing what students actually learn from student consulting projects in entrepreneurship and capstone courses, specifically in the area of critical thinking and information literacy. These two skills have come to the forefront of higher education as important learning goals for the 21st century.

Canziani, who has served as an assessment consultant at university, school, and program levels for over 10 years and has helped to found five academic programs in Hospitality and Tourism around the world, sees the need for critical assessment of the learning that comes out of the recent surge of experiential curriculum, e.g., student consulting, industry projects, and internships. She notes, “Academic programs are adopting more and more hands-on projects and activities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The next step is to actually verify what students are taking away from these activitiesundefinedbeyond the obvious résumé line or two.”

NKU Professors John Clarkin, Rodney D’Souza, and Keith Schneider Win Best Applied Paper at 2014 Small Business Institute® Conference


Pictured (left to right): Dr. John Clarkin and Dr. Rodney D’Souza (not pictured: Keith Schneider)

For most entrepreneurs, successfully launching a business involves a number of challenges.  Among the most difficult is developing accurate forecasts of sales and profits for three or more years into the future.  Knowing that the competitive landscape and economies can change rapidly, entrepreneurs must also plan to adapt and prepare to pivot in response to the dynamic business environments in which they operate. 

“We thought that the ability to forecast the future and adapt to rapid changes in their industry would be most critical in the venture capital sector,” said Dr. Rodney D’Souza, lead author of the research project.  “We had the unique opportunity to interview people at several VC firms and gain insights into their strategy.  Since VC firms play such an important role in the entrepreneurial landscape and frequently provide advice to new enterprises, their ability to accurately forecast the future and adapt to change has far-reaching effects.”

VC firms have the ability to change their industry focus, or the development stage of the companies in which they invest.  Earlier stage companies often require less capital and represent higher potential rewards, albeit with higher potential risk. “Since VC firms require entrepreneurs to accurately forecast the future and to adapt to changing market conditions, the essence of our study was to see if VC firms practiced what they preached,” said Dr. John Clarkin who co-authored the paper.  “We compared what VCs told us to what actually happened in the VC industry for the year following our interviews, using national data from the National Venture Capital Association.” 

This study was one of the few that examined how strategy was developed and implemented in the VC industry, and provided valuable insights for researchers, as well as potential entrepreneurs and students.  Dr. Clarkin stated “What makes this award especially meaningful is that the SBI program is widely recognized as an organization that encourages faculty and students to engage in projects and research that is practical and applied in nature.  I believe the mission of SBI aligns closely with the interests of our faculty and our students.” 

For more information on the entrepreneurship programs and activities at Northern Kentucky University, visit http://www.nku.edu/majors/entrepreneurship.html

Keene State University SBI 2nd Place Winners Helping Make a Business of Writing Letters


Three recent Keene State graduates got a head start on their business careers and earned national honors for a project they completed while students in a class taught by Professor Neal Pruchansky. At the national Small Business Institute conference held in Las Vegas in February, Addie Howard ’14, Amanda Mills ’13, and Colleen Carey ’13 won second place in the Undergraduate Specialized Project of the Year category.

Keene State’s Small Business Institute (SBI), a seminar course in Keene State College’s Management Department, provides a field-based opportunity for students to work in teams as consultants to local small businesses. Senior management students assist companies with specific needs, including business planning and development, market research, competition analysis, financial management, production, and human resources management.

Addie Howard writes about “Power of the Written Word,” the SBI project that earned her team a national award:

During the spring semester of 2013, I was part of a team with two other young women working with FromABirdie (fromabirdie.com), an Amherst, Massachusetts-based an online service that facilitates letter writing. We evaluated FromABirdie from a marketing perspective, analyzing the business and the opportunities to increase awareness of the website, and also came up with a pricing strategy because FromABirdie was a free service at the time.

FromABirdie was an interesting company for us to work with, as it merges the low-tech art of thoughtful letter writing with the convenience of an online platform. We spent considerable time analyzing competitors who offered a similar service and got ideas for creating revenue for FromABirdie. Not only did we conduct an analysis of the current website and come up with recommendations to make it more successful, but we also gained the experience of putting together a potential marketing plan to reach new customers.

We began the project by analyzing the external environment; in other words, we researched potential opportunities and threats for FromABirdie in the contexts of technology, demand, and competition. Next, we looked into these opportunities and threats and created recommendations for FromABirdie to improve its business – including a pricing strategy based on a free try-out and a virtual “coin” system, and a promotion strategy that suggests advertising in the national PTA journal.

SBI is part of a national program that features annual conferences and awards. In 2013, Keene State entered two competitions and won both. In 2014, my team finished second in the Specialized Case competition.

I have enjoyed the experience that SBI has provided for me and have learned much from this program. It has helped me understand the way small businesses operate and create new opportunities for revenue. I have also learned about marketing and research methods, as well as how to think beyond the horizon in helping a business. I’ve especially enjoyed my SBI work with start-ups – it’s terrific seeing how they actually take our recommendations and use them to make their companies grow.

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