Student interns help small businesses survive pandemic

Student interns from Ramapo College, NJSBDC staff at Ramapo College, and staff from the NJSBDC Economic Recover Task Force surrounded Governor Phil Murphy as he signed a bill making $ 135 million available to small businesses l ‘last summer.

Ramapo College’s NJSBDC Economic Recovery Working Group empowers interns to solve real business problems.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of outstanding students from Ramapo College have come to the rescue of small businesses, helping them with their academic know-how learned under the guidance of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC ) at Ramapo College.

The Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF), created in April 2020, is made up of some 44 student interns who have accumulated 4,000 hours of business assistance worth more than $ 142,000.

This free support was provided through specialist teams in the working groups including finance, accounting and quantitative management, start-ups, digital marketing, manufacturing and applied sciences, and services technological and IT. Each working group team is led by a professional NJSBDC consultant who mentors and supervises the students.

According to Vincent Vicari, regional director of NJSBDC at Ramapo College, and Ryan Greff, president of ERTF, the task force was created due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic struck, the SBDC recognized that small businesses were going to need an increased and comprehensive level of support to help them through difficult times,” recalls Greff. “At the same time, Mr. Vicari and I recognized that students were not going to have experiential learning opportunities through internships. Thus, we made the ERTF initiative a reality by giving our professional business management consultants up to three interns each to form specialized teams that would provide support to the regional economy.

According to Vicari, “FERV trainees benefit from learning opportunities that are not available anywhere else. SBDC Consultants, who work at the street level with real business issues, nurture students’ learning experience to a level that increases and expands what they learn in the classroom.

Michael Rica, a third-year finance student at Ramapo College doing an internship with the Finance Working Group team, says he fully appreciates his experience. “Working with the NJSBDC is very convenient,” he says. “Our job is to help clients finance themselves. This is usually done by writing business plans for them, which they can then take to lenders for financing. … By writing business plans, I have helped companies project their strengths and identify and reach their target markets.

Meanwhile, Andrew Clark, a computer science student who is also in his third year at Ramapo, says his participation in the Digital Marketing Task Force team has led him to reorient his professional focus. While his focus was on software development, including backend technologies, such as servers, his experience on the Digital Marketing Task Force team put him in touch with software and applications for users.

“Through the digital marketing team, we help create business websites and write copy. I appreciate this much more than the work behind the scenes on the server side. So the NJSBDC experience was the gateway to discovering what I like about my major, ”says Clark.

Greff says that when students help businesses get through a crisis, “they realize the answers don’t just come out of the blue. When you are in a classroom, the answers are A, B, C, or D. When you are in the business world, it is not that concrete. So learning to deal with certain ambiguities is a big asset.

“You don’t learn that kind of thing in class! Clark emphasizes.

According to Vicari’s estimates, the ERTF program has helped 312 companies in 2020 and 452 in 2021.

Many of these companies sent letters to the NJSBDC in Ramapo, thanking them for the help of interns and business advisers.

Khuraira Musa of Khuraira Cosmetics, wrote: “I… want… to recognize the extremely helpful efforts of [the] three volunteer student interns: Hannah Trouf, Chris Vedra and Luka Marjanovic. The three of them worked really hard to write a business plan for me. The team performed competitive assessment, geographic analyzes, financial projections and much more!

Additionally, Musa wrote:

“Meeting with SBDC consultants Thomas Roberts and Ryan Greff helped me better understand what it would take to complete [my] mission. They worked with me to analyze my current operations, determine my market position, and identify different areas of refinement for my business.

Agninshalah Collins of Legacy Shield LLC, wrote:

“Ryan Greff put me in touch with ERTF, where support for my business plan would be carried out by student interns. … Each member of the team participated in the review and drafting of my business plan with financial analyzes and future financial forecasts of the company. With this type of support available to small business owners and start-ups, the NJSBDC is proving to be a vital resource for various New Jersey communities and small business owners or start-ups like mine. “

Last September, the ERTF received a Jefferson Award, which is the nation’s highest honor for public service and is administered by the Governor’s Office for Volunteering.

According to Greff, the prize, created by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, is the Nobel Prize for public service. “There is no higher honor that we can obtain. Obtaining this honor is due to the collective efforts of all involved,” he said.

“This award is a full justification and validation of the work done by the students,” adds Vicari.

“The students who participate in the program come from a ‘certain mold,’ says Vicari. “This mold is to make a difference and to do something. The personality types of students help them ride the wave of success. … Their success is determined by what they do for others.

The cumulative grade point average of interns who volunteer in the ERTF program is 3.8. According to Greff, after graduation, these students got internships and jobs at Fortune 500 companies, or went on to graduate school.

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