Groups work closely

By Amy Goldhagen

NIU’s Small Business Development Center and Small Business Institute are working together to provide students with valuable first-hand experience in the business world as well as free business consultation services.

The SBDC and the SBI are funded through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Commercial Affairs and NIU’s College of Business. The goal of the organizations is to assist in the start up, development, and maintenance of small- to medium-sized businesses. Although the two organizations work closely together, both operate independently as well.

The SBDC provides information and consultation to anyone who is interested in starting their own business. Larry Rouse, director of the SBDC, said the center deals with individuals on all levels, ranging from those who are just beginning a business to well-established firms. The SBDC is working with firms in a variety of fields including resale, wholesale and restaurants.

The SBDC’s consultation services are free and Rouse encourages any student who is considering starting their own business to take advantage of the SBDC.

ouse estimates the center is working with about 25 firms. These businesses are located throughout Illinois, including Chicago. Rouse also added SBDC is interested in dealing with firms on national and international levels as well.

The SBI complements the SBDC’s services by providing students with the opportunity to serve as meaningful consultants to small businesses by participating in a Business Management course. The course, MGMT 437, involves the application of a variety of business skills to practical problems confronting actual firms.

SBI Director Dan Lamanski, said students are divided into small groups that work with specific firms on semester long assignments. These assignments range from identifying new markets for a firm to studies on recruitment and retention of employees within the firm itself.

Lamanski said enrollments in his class have increased dramatically, adding “more and more students are seeing entrepreneurship as a viable personal goal. Rouse said the recent entrepreneurship boom is forcing NIU to realize the influence of small businesses witin NIU and the DeKalb community.

Students feel they gain a valuable competitive edge through SBI and SBDC. John Griparis, member of SBI, said “It has taught me how to interact with real professionals in the business world, which is something that you just can’t learn in a regular class.” Through SBI, students can sometimes obtain internships or even land full-time jobs upon graduation. Lamanski said the SBI and SBDC are not just for business majors and encourages all majors to participate.

Students within SBI are planning to expand NIU’s program to an international level. Sandie Bullman, who is coordinating the venture, said the project will involve overseas exchanges with a variety of firms, enabling students to work with a business overseas while allowing the business to send employees to the United States for training. Lamanski said he expects the International Exchange program to be complete by next semester.