Giving Back to the Community: Consulting with Local Entrepreneurs
First and Second Year Darden students have many opportunities to engage with the Charlottesville community: participating in the Building Goodness in April project, collaborating with a local business in the i.Lab Incubator, consulting with area entrepreneurs through student clubs or elective courses, and more.
Shwetha Shyam, a First Year Darden student, reflects on her experience consulting and training local non-traditional entrepreneurs:
“As a First Year student at Darden, I was amazed at the numerous opportunities that existed within Community Consultants of Darden (CCoD) to make a significant impact in the community. CCoD provides marketing, operational, and strategic evaluation and planning services to visionary small businesses and non-profit organizations in the Charlottesville community.
One such opportunity included helping the Community Investment Collaborative (CIC), a Charlottesville organization which provides entrepreneurial training for local non-traditional entrepreneurs. As a Darden MBA student, I was given the opportunity to interact with these entrepreneurs, draw upon my Darden classroom experiences and give them advice on formulating their own business and marketing plans. It was impressive how a number of them had full-time jobs and were incredibly busy, yet still passionate about starting their own businesses.
Having taken the traditional corporate route myself, it was incredible to see how these entrepreneurs managed their time and worked to bring their ideas to life. They were very flexible, open to our input and willing to do whatever it took to make it. The entrepreneur whom I talked to worked weekends and committed a huge amount of time to the CIC despite the uncertainty around her venture. As a full-time nanny, she wanted to start a nanny business with her well-established network around Charlottesville.
For me, being on the other side of the table, assuming the role of an advisor, brought on a huge rush. I was thrilled that she took my advice and used my insights to inform her business plan. I certainly know my fellow classmates felt the same. A lot of us are still in touch with these entrepreneurs and making sure they are getting all the help that they need! I hope to continue to be part of the CIC initiative during the upcoming months at Darden.”