Chuck Wainwright/Wainwright Photography
Chancellor Nancy Cantor meets with Stephen D. Fournier, left, president of KeyBank’s Central New York District, Greg and Jeanette McCarthy, owners of The Groove restaurant, and Whitman School of Management Dean Melvin T. Stith G’73, G’78, right, at a press conference at The Groove on Syracuse’s South Side in February. Fournier presented the Whitman School’s Michael J. Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship a $100,000 gift from Key Foundation to support Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship and the South Side Entrepreneurial Connect Project, which is devoted to creating and sustaining business ventures on the South Side.
Last summer, Nicole Walters ’07, a Martin J. Whitman School of Management student from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, got a call from Amanda Nicholson, assistant professor of retail management at the Whitman School. Nicholson asked Walters, co-president of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), if she wanted to help Amatullah Yamini, a fledgling entrepreneur, reopen a 45-year-old shoe store on the South Side of Syracuse.
The request came from the South Side Entrepreneurial Connect Project, run by the Michael J. Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at the Whitman School. Walters, a retail management major and marketing minor, jumped at the chance.
Yamini had sold real estate, but never owned a shop. To brush up on her business skills, she attended the Falcone Center’s boot camp for entrepreneurs and created a business plan. But last August, with her grand reopening in sight, Yamini needed a “hands-on, let’s-open-a-store, six-week SWAT team,” Nicholson says.
Night after night, while Walters and 15 other students addressed a host of questions—What styles of shoes would customers want? How many pairs should be kept in inventory? Would curtains transform a store into a salon?—Professor Nicholson kept them going with advice, encouragement…and pizza. “I have never seen so much pizza eaten in my life!” she says.
The students helped Yamini define her niche in the market—community members with feet difficult to fit and elderly people seeking comfortable shoes—and suggested she specialize in large sizes, wide widths, smaller sizes, and narrow fits. They also proposed interfacing with her clientele by organizing a trunk show, which would allow her goods to be presented to potential customers at various locations. “We took the merchandise to two senior homes, and it was a great success,” a triumphant Walters told the hosts of Hour CNY on WCNY public television in March.
The student team visited the store on South Salina Street every week during the past two semesters to consult and devise ways to attract more customers. “It has been so rewarding,” Walters says. “When I first heard of it, I said, ‘This sounds like an amazing opportunity. Wow! I can apply what I’ve learned in the classroom and help someone. I can really make a difference.’ Even at the beginning, organizing inventory, I knew what I was doing. This is what they were talking about in class!”
These SIFE students are members of just one of the many student groups engaged in Scholarship in Action, bringing the educational and creative mission of SU into collaboration with communities of practitioners and experts. Virtually every college is involved, and the excitement shows.
Chancellor and President