Consulting for change in the Small Business Initiative

Last semester, BSBA students Ryan Farhat-Sabet and Betsy Morgan were part of a student team that provided consulting services for Drake’s Place, a family restaurant in Ferguson. The project was part of the Center for Experiential Learning’s Small Business Initiative, which partners area businesses with student teams, who work closely with the client to generate actionable insights and results.

We talked with Ryan and Betsy about their work with Drake’s Place and their experiences in the Small Business Initiative. Check out their insights below:

Q: What interested you in working with Drake’s Place?

Ryan: I was very excited to help a client in the food industry. Growing up in a Middle Eastern household, the dinner table holds a special place in my memories, as it was always a time where the entire family came together and bonded over a nice meal. Drake’s Place does exactly this, treating the greater St. Louis community as a family. Drake’s Place is a community staple, and the combination of the quality food, comforting atmosphere, and people really help to shape that vision.

Betsy: The restaurant was opened only a few months before the unrest in Ferguson, and has become an important part of the local community. Bridgett and Drake, the co-owners of the restaurant, are great to work with and are very inspiring. The growth potential of their restaurant also made it a really fun project.

Q: What has been your experience working with the CEL?

Ryan: Participating in the CEL was such a joy. Both Daniel and Beth are so passionate about their role in guiding students’ learning and creating an impact in the St. Louis community. The student leadership is refreshing, since most classes have such a rigid path to success, and that simply doesn’t exist here. The CEL community has been so supportive of every team’s work by providing constructive feedback along the way, helping to create high caliber results for clients continually each semester.

Betsy: Working with the CEL has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a business student. The ability to create tangible, sustainable solutions for an actual client has been invaluable and given me a lot more context for the rest of my business classes. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to develop both my technical and client-facing skills in ways I don’t believe are possible in a traditional classroom. The most rewarding part is getting to deliver effective solutions to our clients at the end of the project and, hopefully, provide them with tools to grow and succeed long after our time on the project has finished.

Q: Can you share a highlight from your time working on this project?

Betsy: A teammate and I were going to Drake’s to conduct a customer survey to find out their preferences and demographics early in the project. Not only were we able to have an amazing meal while we were working, but we got to see Bridgett in action. Bridgett knows the majority of her customers by name, and was constantly greeting people as they walked in. When we approached customers to ask them to fill out a survey, everyone was more than willing because we said we were working on a project to improve Drake’s. That was the day I really recognized how important Drake’s was to the community—and who we would be helping if we could help Drake’s grow.

Q: How has this experience prepared you for the future? 

Ryan: I aspire to work in the consulting field, and this experience has provided me with an actual opportunity to see what this line of work is like. I believe I have relatable experiences that I can draw upon and skills I have developed through the Small Business Initiative to differentiate myself during the internship recruiting process this semester.

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