UNCG Campus Weekly

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Entrepreneur, Intern Program Is Award Finalist

A problem-solving program created by The Bryan School of Business and Economics and The Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship has helped Triad small business owners survive and thrive in the midst of the economic downturn.

In 2007, the Bryan School and The Nussbaum Center created the Entrepreneur Assistance and Education Program (EASE). The program matches interns with technical expertise in accounting and marketing with small business owners in need of those services. The program has created 22 jobs and generated an additional income potential of at least $1 million annually to the Piedmont Triad region.

Those results have gotten the attention of the University Economic Development Association, which has named the EASE program one of three national finalists for the 2010 Award of Excellence in the business assistance and entrepreneurship category. The award will be given Nov. 9 at UEDA’s Annual Summit in Reno, Nev.

The program creates a win-win situation for both the interns – undergraduate and graduate business students – and entrepreneurs. “The unique experience available through our internship provides invaluable experiential learning opportunities to these students,” said Sam Funchess, president of Greensboro’s Nussbaum Center.

“Numerous interns have utilized skills obtained during the internship immediately upon starting full-time work. Additionally, local entrepreneurs receive significant benefit through the interns’ market research and accounting skills.”

National statistics show that more than 60 percent of small and start-up businesses fail in their first five years, often due to a lack of understanding of basic marketing and accounting principles. Since many small businesses are under-capitalized, many entrepreneurs don’t have the resources to employ a full administrative staff to perform those functions and don’t have the skills or the time to complete the tasks themselves.

EASE interns work closely with entrepreneurs to identify their business needs and areas of concern and design a plan of action based on the students’ education and experience. Over the past two years, interns have worked with more than 35 small businesses, providing more than 1,100 service hours at a rate of $25/hour, significantly below market rates and more affordable for start-up businesses.

“The Bryan School has been involved in fostering regional economic development since its inception and EASE is a great example of that,” said Jim Weeks, dean of the Bryan School. “It is a win, win, win program for our students, entrepreneurs and Greensboro. To be recognized at the national level for a very fruitful public-private partnership is an accomplishment we can all be proud of.”

Business owners have found the service invaluable. “We have utilized this program for design, research and implementation projects,” said Shane Stadler, vice president of Medical Justice Services Inc., a start-up at the Nussbaum Center. “It has been tremendously helpful.

“As with most entrepreneurial companies, one of our scarcest resources is time – there is always more to do than hours to do it in. EASE allows us to bring additional resources to projects as needed. The quality of the program is an outstanding resource.”

Support for the EASE program is provided by Lincoln Financial Group and the Greensboro Partnership, which houses the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.