Following the success of its inaugural semester, the College of Business’ Black Business Strategies program - an innovative effort to build new bridges between CSULB’s business students and the community - is returning in Spring 2021.
The program was sparked by a meeting between Dean Michael Solt and Miller Foundation President Darick Simpson in the summer of unrest following the murder of George Floyd, as The Beach redoubled its efforts to address equity gaps in business education. Soon, Ted Hiatt, Associate Regional Director for the Los Angeles Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, joined the conversation about how to best help Long Beach Black communities.
Together they formed the Black Business Strategies program, joining the efforts of Simpson, the College of Business, and the Long Beach SBDC to support underserved students and provide development resources to Black-owned businesses in the Long Beach community.
“We all said we want to make a difference,” Dean Solt said. “We want to capture the moment. We don’t want to be a candle that burns out, we want to do something that is sustainable.”
The program connected student groups—typically juniors and seniors who had no previous internship experience—with a cohort of seven local small businesses and nonprofits.
Among the business-owner cohort was Rhonda Love, who launched Dreamkreator Studio in Long Beach in 2018 and traded a routine administrative career to make her longtime video production project a reality. With a background in broadcast and a drive to celebrate inspiring people and stories in her community, Love quickly began finding clients in need of video services for live events. As COVID-19 pushed live events into a virtual space, however, it became clear that Love’s company would need to build its own audience to survive.
Fortunately, students in the Black Business Strategies program were ready to provide the social media marketing expertise that Dreamkreator Studio needed. Dean Solt tapped Marketing Professor Markus Biegel, a longtime proponent of high-impact practices in his own classes, to helm the three class units.
“Students researched the business’s competition and did a full SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats),” Professor Biegel explained. “One client had too much inventory, so the students organized a special sale to move product. They helped create online shopping cards, putting together photos, descriptions, promotion, and strategy.”
For Dreamkreator Studio, students helped develop one of Rhonda Love’s passion projects—an entrepreneurship interview series called “Black Owned Long Beach,” which is now in pre-production. With the lessons learned as a Black Business Strategies participant, Love is looking forward to using her business to tell more the stories that inspire her.
“It was an honor to be one of the first ones to be a part of it,” Love said. “They’ve got fresh eyes, and it was so cool to see the different teams in action. We gained so much information and saw what the future of the marketing industry looks like.”
Student Ainsley Vu, who led marketing team Gen-21 through the semester, also found the program to be a valuable experience. “Working with a diverse team with different skillsets was challenging, but it sharpened my own communication and leadership skills. I am looking forward to pursuing an MBA in Project Management and love the experiential learning opportunities in my department. This program was another great chance to nourish my creativity problem solving skills in a real-world setting.”
With lessons learned each semester, the College of Business and SBDC plan to continue scaling the program up, forging new connections between CSULB and the business community, and providing real-world experiences to as many talented marketing students as possible.