A Classroom without Borders

Students’ Consulting Work takes them to Peru

Rising junior Kyle Kingma stood on top of a mountain in Lima, Peru, looking down at an impoverished neighborhood. Next to him was a towering 10-foot wall, built by the town’s destitute residents. On the other side of the wall, a high-end residential neighborhood and busy city center beckoned. Kingma, up on the mountain with 14 other undergraduate students from the School of Business to consult with Peruvian micro enterprises with a social mission, had a realization. “Seeing the physical divide between the two income classes was really powerful,” says the finance and economics major. “It showed the problems in the country with being able to scale the social ladder, and we saw that the work we were doing to help these people climb that social ladder is really needed.”

The students, half from the school’s Hyperion Council (an undergraduate honor and service organization) and half from a pilot class on social entrepreneurship (called Scaling the Social Enterprise), were consulting for the social-minded businesses during their summer 2017 break. Their assignment: help them figure out how to grow or scale. The students had already spent the spring semester brainstorming ideas to help their assigned business clients, and then they made the one-week journey to Peru in mid-May to conduct in-country research and present their recommendations. “The Hyperion Council has never had the opportunity to work with a class in its social enterprise activities,” says EllenMarie McPhillip, assistant dean of undergraduate business education. “This was really a unique way to be mentored by faculty in a formal way.”

Kingma and his Hyperion Council team worked with Spray Wash, a company that uses a novel solution to wash cars with very little water and then donates profits to a waterbottling company. That company, in turn, distributes clean water to those who need it most. There are 8 million people in the area without access to clean water. Though Kingma’s group spent the semester drawing up a marketing plan after a Skype meeting with Spray Wash’s founders, once they arrived in Peru, they quickly realized that the company had more urgent needs. “They needed a viable pricing model, a business plan, everything under the sun,” McPhillip says. “Our students did some in-country surveys to see whether they were targeting the right market, and they revamped their pricing structure. They showed them an alternative way to create some different revenue streams so they could be more efficient.”

Kingma says, “Creating a financial model taught me how to go about solving these problems. I also learned about giving a consulting pitch to a company without being too direct, [and] using our skills to really assist them.” Robert Hacker, the instructor for the class, couldn’t be more pleased with how the semester and the week abroad unfolded. “They formed hypotheses in the classroom in Miami, and when they got there, they did fact-finding and realized their hypotheses had to be modified,” he says. “That’s a high-quality learning experience, and in a place like Peru, there’s definitely a shortage of consultants to social organizations, so the students were filling a market need.”

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