Corban business students give back to small businesses and non-profits

Thursday, April 28, 2011


It didn’t take government bailouts for several small businesses and non-profit agencies to discover how to grow their market share – it took ingenuity and education.

In 2009, professors of the Corban University School of Business in Salem, Ore. developed a unique partnership that allows non-profits and businesses an opportunity to evaluate their growth options and give students a chance to test their knowledge in a real-world scenario.

Through the Corban Consulting Partners Program, small business owners and non-profit managers receive hundreds of free man-hours from graduating business school students in exchange for their time and expertise.

Between January and April 2011, Corban University business students consulted with their clients, and throughout the semester, used their education to identify ways to help those clients expand their offerings. Throughout the process, the students were required to uphold the highest ethical business standards and present their work as they would to a paying client.

 “These projects gave the students an opportunity to use what they had learned in the classroom and put those skills to practical use in real-world situations,” said Corban Business Professor Bryce Bernard. “It wasn’t easy because they faced some very real challenges and had to strictly maintain client confidentiality throughout the entire process.”

Some business owners were surprised at the quality of the work and said the consulting services would allow them to make well-informed decisions about their future. This included Shawn Abbey, owner of Abbey Carpet Care in Salem, who was interested in making a jump into commercial carpet cleaning. Using existing data, making research phone calls, talking to city and county officials and more, the students were able to ascertain that with a small initial investment, creative marketing and tapping into government contracts in Oregon’s capitol city, the move could prove lucrative.

“I’m going to make millions,” Abbey laughed, following the students’ formal presentation. “They’ve given me a wealth of information I couldn’t have discovered fully on my own.”

While some consulting projects ended at the idea stage, others are now being fully utilized. When Bible Translation & Literacy Kenya needed a new database to track missionaries’’ requests for time off and personnel records, three students developed an open-source program with 6,000 lines of code and traveled to the BTL compound in Kenya to install and test it.

Their project is now being considered for use by several non-profits including Wycliffe Bible Translators. This project also gives future business students the opportunity to further develop it during subsequent school years.

Not all business owners received good news. Developers interested in creating a new seasonal fun center in Chehalis, Wash. discovered the land wasn’t just a known flood risk, but also faced serious competition from other area entertainment providers. While it could become a viable project, the initial investment could have taken more than a decade to recoup. Some also discovered other ways a potential project could be derailed.

Corban Industrial and Organizational Psychology major Alyssa Teterud learned politics can be personal when her consulting team worked with Courthouse Athletic, based in Salem.

“Our client wanted to know if expanding Courthouse Athletic into Dallas, Ore. was feasible,” she said. “Early on we learned that one of the Dallas city council members was the owner of a competing gym in Dallas so we would need to find creative ways to develop public awareness and support for this project.” One portion of her team’s advice included Courthouse Athletic owners and managers making time for quality face-to-face conversations with officials and residents in the city before moving forward.

During the four-month consulting process, Corban Consulting Partners provided more than 2,400 free hours of service to four small businesses and two non-profits, representing more than $50,000 worth of services more than $1 million in potential new revenue.

For more information about the Corban Consulting Partners Program, contact Assistant Professor of Business Don Leavitt at (503) 589-8169 or

Photos are available here or upon request by contacting the Corban Communications Office.

  • Corban University students present their consulting work to a panel of judges as part of their graduation requirements.

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