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USD School of Business Help Micro-Entrepreneurs

Access Community Center (Access), a local organization that aims to serve vulnerable populations in San Diego and the University of San Diego School of Business (USD) are working together on a collaboration to teach entrepreneurship at the micro level, while also making an impact on the local business community.

Strategic Partnership

Founded in 1967, Access Inc. is a community-based organization which provides job training, education, empowerment services and immigration assistance.

In addition, it offers a micro-enterprise program to help low-income San Diego residents develop business plans, obtain licenses, and learn essential business skills free of charge.

However due to the growing need of assistance from local businesses, the program would often find itself stretched to capacity.

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“Sometimes there were over 30 clients, and our two staff members would take on the whole group,” said Viridiana Quintana, program coordinator at Access Inc. “Clients own a wide range of micro-enterprises — cleaning businesses, food vending, hair salons — and their business needs vary just as widely.”

To meet the growing demand, Access reached out to partner with The Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness, and Social Action and the USD School of Business in 2017. Through the partnership, USD’s MBA students began providing technical assistance and have mentored over 90 small business owners in the region.

“Being the only organization in the city of San Diego that has formed a partnership with the University of San Diego MBA program, we have been able to assist and offer quality services to our clients. In addition, MBA students have been able to tap into their knowledge and skills to assist low- to moderate-income residents of San Diego in the formation or expansion of their small businesses,” she said.

Community Service

In particular, the MBA students are supporting small business owners with business plan creation, marketing, pricing and bookkeeping, and providing other expertise.

The partnership also enables MBA students to meet the 15 hours of community service required for their graduate studies, said Aarti Ivanic, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing and academic director for MBA programs at USD.

“Over the course of a semester, our MBA students partner with micro-entrepreneurs.

Our students give them business advice and expertise to help them move their businesses forward,” said Ivanic. “Whether it’s writing a business plan, applying for a grant, or creating some social media presence.”

“It’s been phenomenal that our students get to learn from the micro-entrepreneurs. They learn about life and experience what it’s like to be a minority, low-income person who starts with an idea. They also learn about true grit, which our students typically find as a big takeaway,” she added.

Since its inception, two business micro-entrepreneurs received a small grant of $2,000 to establish or expand their small businesses. The grant was offered through the City of San Diego and was facilitated due to the support they received from the MBA students.

The partnership has also led Access to connect with other departments in the university including procurement which allows business clients to have their business registered in the university to encourage professors and staff to support small businesses in the city of San Diego.

Raphael Bonotto, who participated as a mentor in fall 2019, recently donated $2,500 for Access Community Center on behalf of his employer at Amazon.

Bonotto said he was appreciative for how the center supports the San Diego community during this difficult time, adding that he plans to continue his support in the future.

Founded in 1972, The USD School of Business has been ranked among the top graduate and undergraduate business schools in the United States. Among the graduate programs portfolio, it offers both part-time and full-time MBA programs and several specialized Master of Science degrees.

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