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School’s Entrepreneurship Students Offer Fresh Ideas to Help Grow Businesses

April 24, 2015
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Miami artist Xavier Cortada (left), a consulting program client, speaking with school students who participated in the program this spring.

  

When Adnan Jafarov saw the marketing strategy a group of students from the School of Business had come up with for his South Beach business, he thought it looked familiar. Then he realized why. The general manager of Vintro Hotel & Kitchen had just read a strikingly similar proposal from an esteemed marketing and branding company he’d hired.

 “It’s a testament to their education that they came up with the same thing as a company of experienced professionals who have been in business for 15 years!” Jafarov marveled.

Their recommendations included promoting the restaurant to locals and hosting small events there. The students were among 35 entrepreneurship students who worked on projects during the spring 2015 semester as part of the Student Entrepreneurial Consulting Program, the capstone course for entrepreneurship majors. The close of this semester’s program was marked by a reception Thursday night, which brought the students together one more time with their clients.

Another idea for Vintro, the brainchild of senior Dalton Fouts, was to serve the venomous lionfish (also called scorpion fish) to complement the restaurant’s scorpion house cocktail. The fish, which tastes similar to grouper and is eaten as a novelty in the Keys, sells for $14 a pound at fish markets and $30 a plate at restaurants.

“My chef loved this idea!” Jafarov said. “Don’t be surprised to see it on the menu six months from now!”

  
Pictured: Students who consulted Adnan Jafarov (center), general manager of Vintro Hotel & Kitchen, offered strategies to leverage the restaurant's South Beach location and serve exotic food.
  

And as for the students’ recommendation to launch a gondola service to take couples up and down the canal adjacent to the restaurant? Jafarov said he’s interested but needs to look into logistical concerns. Meantime, he’s invited the team to attend his weekly meetings and they’ve expressed interest in returning to do a follow-up study. “The door is always open!” Jafarov said. 

“It was a great experience interfacing with an actual business, making recommendations and substantiating those recommendations with data,” Fouts said. 

“We put students into an environment where they can test their wings,” said Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of the School’s entrepreneurship programs. “It can get challenging, but this is the real world and it allows them to see what they’ll have to deal with when they leave the university.”

Another team of students evaluated whether Rafael Urbina (MBA ’98), CEO of Coral Gables-based Batanga Media, should keep his companies under one website or separate them. “We told them about our business and they came up with what they thought would be interesting to look at,” said Natalia Borges, the firm’s vice president of marketing.

After surveying 155 millennials, the students presented their findings, which found that it doesn’t pay to change how the company is structured. “Their insight into our business is an interesting one,” Urbina said. “We spend a lot of time evaluating our strategy, so to have it validated by them is reassuring.”

Student Amy Fernandez Patin learned a lot from the experience. “The most important thing I learned is that trying to know what the problem is isn’t as easy as you think,” she said.

Pablo Vignolo and his classmates told their client, Matt Lull (BBA ’92), to create a social media presence for 500 East, his Seattle bar. “We gave him the tools and necessary information to create a following,” Vignolo said. 

They also coached Lull to evaluate the effectiveness of his employees by analyzing the tasks they complete rather than the hours they work. “Are they serving enough tables to pay their salary?” asked Jay Poppino.

In all, the business students worked with eight companies this semester. The five others were How to be a Redhead, a website for beauty advice and shopping, Thelos Technology, a health care technology firm, Xavier Cortada, the Miami artist, College Hunks Hauling Junk a junk removal and moving company, and Journey Aviation, which charters private jets.

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