Bringing together students and small business owners to hack commercial success

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Oct 08, 2021

What if you brought together successful small business owners with MBA students to explore different approaches to solving the challenges facing the business? That was the motivation for the Small Business School Challenge (SBSC), sponsored by RingCentral, and it delivered some incredible results.

During the pandemic, many small businesses struggled to survive in a very different world. We worked very closely with small businesses across the country and jumped at the chance to support them through the Small Business School Challenge. This is a unique opportunity to witness first-hand how different approaches and thinking, combined with the experience and expertise of a business owner, can make a huge difference. We are truly proud to have a small part in facilitating the connections and the sharing of brave new ideas.

The virtual Small Business School Challenge is a 48-hour hackathon where MBAs from top business schools across the US help out small business owners for free. The most recent event, which took place on  September 23rd connected 100 small businesses with over 300 MBA students to develop innovative strategies for growth. The ideas have been so outstanding and we are happy to announce this fall’s winners:

  • National First place: MBA team from Arizona State University – W.P.Carey School of Business, representing their business client Tiny Docs
    • The team proposed a marketing strategy to differentiate, enhance social media, and partner with others. By implementing the marketing strategy, they believe the business can have an 1800% increase in sales within four months.
  • National Second place: MBA team from Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business, representing their business client Joyful Practices
    • The team recommended increasing sales within current capacity constraints by targeting B2B consumers such as pediatric offices/childcare hospitals to generate revenue and build a strong community of families who will advocate for them.
  • National Third place: MBA team from Rice University – Jones Graduate School of Business, representing their business client Asmara Dior Cosmetics
    • The team proposed a three-fold approach to improve online presence, attend live events to connect with customers, and form strategic partnerships with niche spas and salons to grow this startup brand from zero customers to 450 customers in 12 months.


Here are some SBSC Challenge successes by the numbers:

  • 47% of businesses in RingCentral-sponsored Small Business School Challenge see over 20% higher revenue after participation
  • 68% of small businesses implemented proposals presented
  • 43% were able to hire/re-hire staff

This year, we are particularly proud of the participation of Black- and women-owned businesses. 

  • 28% of small business participants and 55% of finalists were Black-owned businesses
  • 62% of all business participants identified as an under-represented minority
  • 61% of all business participants were women-owned businesses

Participating in this event has been truly inspirational and I can’t wait to see what the next batch of businesses and students bring and our continued efforts to support small businesses.

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