Students from Illinois State University’s College of Business are applying their knowledge to help small businesses.
The Town of Normal recently awarded $450,000 in grants to Normal businesses as part of the Small Business Relief Program to assist with COVID-19 impacts. Businesses could request grants for operational assistance, digital and marketing support, and modifications to buildings.
Three local businesses applying for the Digital and Marketing Support Grant received additional help, thanks to partnerships with students in Illinois State University’s College of Business.
“We are excited the Small Business Relief Program also helped create opportunities for local businesses to get additional support,” said Town of Normal Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson. “We partnered with student organizations and faculty advisors at ISU to provide local businesses with online assistance and visibility. We are proud to facilitate mutually beneficial experiences for students and businesses.”
The Town of Normal worked with ISU’s College of Business to pair students looking for real-world experience with businesses needing additional digital and marketing support. Businesses taking advantage of the marketing partnerships with ISU include Fabulous Affairs, Uptown Gifts, and Wild Country.
“This was a win-win,” said Dr. Aaron Charlton, an assistant professor of marketing at Illinois State. “Our students consulted with interested businesses to identify how best they could help. They identified several opportunities to improve search engine optimization, increase online visibility, improve digital transactions, and enhance social media marketing.”
“Working with the ISU students was very helpful and an overall great experience,” said Kristin Moore, owner of Uptown Gifts. “The students made astute assessments of our social media/online presence that will help us make informed decisions going forward. It was a very worthwhile exercise.”
Participating students are members of the ISU’s chapter of the American Marketing Association, Business Information Systems Club, and senior capstone classes. “Our students were excited for the chance to gain valuable experience in helping businesses address these issues,” added Charlton.