State Relations

July 17, 2013

Seattle Times: Using small businesses to create community opportunities

Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large writes in a recent article about the efforts of UW’s Foster School and other business schools around the country to improve their local communities:

Business schools teach people how to run businesses and make money, and their focus has usually been high on big business and finance. But partly in response to changing values among their students, and striking economic disparities, more schools are working in low-income communities to improve and grow existing businesses and to encourage more people to start their own.

Last year the center helped 230 businesses around the state, either by having teams of students work with them, or by having the owners attend business short courses taught by UW professors.

Lewis Rudd, one of the founders of Ezell’s Famous Chicken, said he’d been wanting to grow his business about 10 years ago, when a friend suggested he contact Verchot.

Over the next several years, several student teams worked with him. “We had students in the kitchen taking pictures of bread being baked,” he said. They ran time studies and efficiency studies. He held up a thick operating manual the students helped write. The UW also connected Rudd with alumni who had expertise he needed. “We had close to a 50 percent increase in sales over the next year as a result of some minor changes,” Rudd said. The business moved from a family operation to a more corporate structure, and there is more expansion on the horizon.

Universities can help make those connections between the financial world and small businesses and teach business owners the skills they need to grow.

Read the entire column.