Wednesday, April 11, 2007
A Rider University Small Business Institute (SBI) team has again placed in the top 10 in the National Business Institute student consulting case-of-the-year competition, this year in the graduate division.
Ronelle Mihok, a master business administration student and Kelly Allen, a May 2006 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in management, were the ninth Rider SBI team to place in the top 10 or better in the last 10 years. Allen is enrolled in the University of Central Florida’s master of arts program in hospitality and tourism management.
Their client was Soul of the Caribbean, owned by Richard and Carol Mears. The project investigated the feasibility of creating a Web-based venture that imported and resold Haitian products to benefit Haitian entrepreneurs.
The Mears do missionary work in Haiti through the Crossing Community Church in Newtown, PA., and developed this company to provide economic opportunities for local entrepreneurs in Haiti. Soul of the Caribbean’s major product is Haitian coffee, but will also include the sale of Haitian crafts. Profits from the firm will be used to help establish a leadership program for the children of Haiti.
“This was a particularly difficult win in case competition this year,” said Ronald Cook, professor of entrepreneurial studies, director of the Rider Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the SBI program. “We only had one graduate (Ronelle Mihok) on the team because Kelly Allen was an undergraduate while the consulting work was being done. If you have one graduate student on the team, you must compete in the graduate division. We competed against schools with full teams of graduate students.”
Cook added that the team’s assignment was also challenging. The students provided the company with an in-depth understanding of the market for Caribbean coffee in the United States, the regulatory environment for importing products, the competition the company would encounter, and what it would take to operate a venture of this nature.
Over the years, Rider SBI teams have consistently placed among the top 10 finalists on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Its 1999 undergraduate team won first place honors and its 2002 undergraduate team placed second, the highest finish to date for this level.
Cook matches student consulting teams with area small businesses or organizations to help analyze their specific situations. Each team provides the owners or executives with a report of their findings and recommendations at the end of the semester.