Undergraduates Help Small Business Owners in Galapagos Respond to Growth Challenges
August 14, 2012
Eight undergraduate students from the School of Business Administration spent part of their summer break helping small business owners in the Galapagos Islands’ nascent hospitality and eco-tourism industry. The students, as members of the School’s Hyperion Council, helped business owners on Isabela, the archipelago’s largest but least developed island, implement best practices in the areas of accounting, marketing, social media and customer service. Although most of the businesses have been around for decades, a rapid increase of visitors to the island’s ecologically-sensitive animal habitats has produced unexpected challenges.
The students - Carlos Lovera, Olga Terezi, Shannon Nurse, Sara Varghese, Colby Meyers, Michael Natalizio, and Zachary Bernheimer - worked in small groups as business consultants for eco-tourism guide agencies, hotels and hostels. The students also recommended an umbrella marketing campaign to help the island’s public sector build awareness about the importance of an environmentally-friendly and economically sustainable tourism sector.
“This was an invaluable experience that taught me the importance of committing to a worthwhile cause while simultaneously allowing me to learn about a unique culture,” said Bernheimer.
The students focused their efforts on providing businesses with specific ideas and processes that would enhance their skills in customer communication and cost tracking. For example, they helped one business owner reorganize her accounting system, which enabled her to forecast sales and in turn determine when she would be able to purchase a hybrid vehicle. This vehicle will not only help her transport high-end customers, but will also reduce the carbon footprint of her business on the ecosystem.
“The business owners were so appreciative and grateful for everything we did, it felt as if we were part of the community,” said Bernheimer.