Did you know students in Mary Baldwin University’s Master of Business Administration program design and complete custom projects to help them build real-world professional skills and launch new businesses, initiatives, programs, and more?
Work on Apex Projects begins shortly after classes start with concepting and proposals. Students use feedback sessions with peers, professors, and industry experts, and classroom learning to strengthen and refine their ideas throughout the 30 credit-hour program. Projects culminate in ready-to-go plans with inbuilt implementation strategies.
Here, we catch up with a few graduating MBA students to share and celebrate some of 2023’s top projects.
Tell us a bit about your business idea and the social and environmental justice mission that’s behind it?
I have a long track record of working in sales in the energy sector — previously with the oil and gas industry, and now with Novitium Energy, which focuses on providing solar solutions to commercial clients nationwide. In the latter capacity, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of helping nonprofits reduce emissions and cut energy costs by financing solar systems using power purchase agreements.
Doing this work has been great and fulfilling, but it’s led me to reflect on the more than 1.1 billion people worldwide who either don’t have access to electricity, or have unreliable access. Known as “energy poverty,” this condition has devastating effects on economic development, healthcare, and personal well-being.
My idea is to launch a nonprofit called Solar Servant. The company will have two primary purposes. The first is to offer turnkey solar power services for U.S. nonprofits that help them reduce or eliminate their dependence on the grid, cut energy costs, achieve their sustainability goals, and thereby fight the negative effects of climate change. The second is to work with other international nonprofits to bring commercial-scale solar energy to healthcare facilities in areas like Liberia, where just 2 percent of the population has reliable access to electricity, and hospitals are routinely without power.
Tell us a bit about your business idea?
LawKey will be a social justice educational nonprofit dedicated to helping students from underserved communities overcome hurdles that disproportionately affect them as they seek to enter law school. Our primary mission will be to provide comprehensive application and LSAT support, which often creates affordability barriers for students from low-income backgrounds.
Support will include free or heavily discounted LSAT preparation and tutoring services, assistance with complicated application processes, free childcare, and coaching around writing the best application essays and personal statements possible. LawKey will also pay for costs related to applications, the LSAT, and any additional outside tutoring a student may need.
What are some steps you’re taking to ensure your business’s success?
Having operations take place 100 percent online will help us keep costs low and maximize our ability to financially support students-in-need. The format also enables us to provide greater flexibility and convenience for working students.
Our website will feature a number of online portals where students can access previously recorded classes and prep materials, schedule times to video chat with tutors and staff members, and more. We’ll also have a mobile study app that tracks a student’s progress and makes it easy for them to study on the go.
Lastly, we’ll seek to establish partnerships with quality institutions and help connect them with prospective students.
Tell us a bit about your business and why you feel it would be an asset to the community?
I’ve spent pretty much all of my professional career working in an administrative capacity for and with wildlife and conservation oriented nonprofits. I believe strongly in the work these organizations do to improve our communities and the quality of life for those they serve.
But something that I’ve learned is that, while most of these folks are extremely focused on fulfilling the organization’s mission — doing things like habitat restoration, rehabilitating injured or orphaned wild animals, and so on — they often aren’t particularly financially oriented. What I mean by that is: The mission takes up so much of their time that administrative tasks like bookkeeping, keeping up with auditing, fundraising, and even human resources procedures, those things can slip through the cracks. Over time, that can greatly hamper organizational efficacy, or even lead to failure.
So, my idea is to launch a consulting company that will provide a comprehensive administrative support system for nonprofits that enables them to focus on their mission and further their reach by maximizing organizational efficiency. How that relationship looks will vary from situation to situation. But, for example, it could be me working to design and implement administrative best protocols, then train a staff member to take on those duties. Or, it could be me helping them organize their financial storytelling to be more attractive to potential grantors and donors. Regardless, the goal is to leverage my expertise to help these nonprofits thrive and focus on what they do best.
Tell us a bit about your business?
I’m planning to open a center for musicians in Staunton called Queen City Music Exchange (QCME). The center will offer a significant selection of used, top-quality instruments and gear — including guitars, keyboards, drums, basses, amplifiers, pedals, and more. We’ll also have a convenient selection of accessories like strings, straps, tuners, picks, amplifier tubes, and woodwind reeds. Furthermore, QCME will fill a gap by providing rentals and repairs for school band and orchestra instruments.
Once the store gets going, we’re going to add a full schedule of music lessons, set up an in-house music studio, offer expert instrument service and repair, and build out a full-service venue for live music.
What makes you confident your brick-and-mortar store will succeed?
QCME is going to be more than a store: Our goal is to serve as a regional hub for hobbyists and semi-professional musicians, as well as music lovers. We want to become a destination for “all things music.”
The plan is to market the store as a warm and welcoming community center where musicians can buy, sell, try out, and exchange the kind of quality gear and instruments that isn’t typically offered in a big-box environment. We’ll encourage musicians to hang out, feel at home, jam, learn, and enjoy themselves. Once the studio and performance venue goes in, that sense of community and belonging is only going to be amplified.
Tell us a bit about your business?
I’m working on launching an IT consulting firm that specializes in helping businesses and organizations meet regulatory compliances around financial data and reporting.
IT compliance controls help keep data from being altered or accessed by internal or external threats as it’s passed from application to application. These controls also make sure data is complete and accurate when it’s being transferred from one application to another, and ensures financial data can’t be altered for the personal benefit of an internal or external threat.
Many companies and organizations don’t have a staff member that’s knowledgeable about specific compliance requirements — especially from state to state, country to country, or industry to industry. And that’s where my team and I will come in.
What will differentiate your firm from the competition?
We’re actually going to focus less on execution and more on educating companies and organizations about compliance controls. What that means is we’re going to come in and explain things like why these controls are necessary, what they do, how they should be designed, when they should be implemented, and by whom.
We will also help to create remediation plans for issues pertaining to IT compliance controls that were failed during audits or soft assessments.
This educational approach brings tremendous added value as, once the consulting contract is completed, a company will have the ability to continue to implement compliance controls on its own.