COVID-19 a year later: W&M students help local companies

COVID-19 a year later: W&M students help local companies

“Passion, flexibility, adaptability and a strong focus on the customers’ needs are the recipe to success.” “Small business owners have some of the toughest jobs in the world,” said Cara Simpson M.B.A. ’21, who along with Vicki Harrington M.B.A. ’21 were the student founders of CrimDell. “They wear all hats at once and live and breathe their businesses. We have just as much or more to learn from the business owners as they do from us. CrimDell is looking to become a permanent resource, and this academic year it has been part of the incubator program at Mason’s Miller Entrepreneurship Center to help develop its own business model.

That effort to provide free support services quickly grew into a partnership now coming up on its first anniversary between the Raymond A. Mason School of News and the Hampton Roads Small News Development Center. When COVID-19 started negatively impacting the economy a year ago, William & Mary M.B.A. students stepped up to help local small businesses.

Known as the CrimDell Small News Network, the student-led organization gives participants an opportunity to work in pairs to help local small businesses strategize. Projects have included market research, marketing planning, IT consulting, strategy consulting, financial services and on-demand services. April 8, 2021

Zhanna Imel M.B.A. ’21 started as a student business analyst with CrimDell last spring and now serves as its director of operations. “Since then, I’ve learned a lot — one of the main things being the power of community,” Imel said. “At first, I wasn’t really sure how much of an impact a few William & Mary M.B.A. students would have in helping small businesses in our area, especially with world governments and reputable companies struggling to manage COVID. But it became a reality due to Vicki and Cara’s clear vision and strong leadership.” CrimDell emphasized working with minority business owners, and at least 80% of its clients have been minority-owned businesses where minority is defined as a woman, veteran, disabled person or person of color. CrimDell is also playing a large role in helping to develop and facilitate a minority business survey for Williamsburg-area business owners, which is an initiative led by Benming “Benny” Zhang ’16 and the York-James City-Williamsburg NAACP branch.

“Since our inception, we’ve had over 60 students either work or volunteer for CrimDell,” Harrington said. “They aren’t just full-time M.B.A. students, either — they’ve also been recent grads, undergraduates and part-time M.B.A. students. We’ve helped 54 small businesses and completed roughly 60 projects for them.” {{youtube:medium:right|_SUkHsw9i_Y, CrimDell Small News Network}}

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