February 22, 2024

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Business Life

ODU business school to help dozens of struggling companies this upcoming semester

When a touring musical act travels to Hampton Roads and much of Virginia, it often contacts Brian Milliken for help. His business, For Stage Rentals, has been renting out keyboards, drums, basses and guitars to artists for two decades.

Then the coronavirus pandemic happened.

As venues shuttered and tours were canceled, Milliken said promoters stopped needing extra gear for their shows. Since the coronavirus started spreading in March, Milliken has only worked one or two gigs, and he said the industry is still trying to figure out how to operate in the post-COVID world.

Meanwhile, there’s the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University.

The business school plans to tackle the economic challenges of the pandemic this upcoming semester with its new Open4Business program. During the fall semester, hundreds of ODU students will be assisting local businesses through projects led by faculty members.

“It struck me as a really great opportunity to make a contribution to the community. To help small businesses and nonprofit organizations do better in this economy, while at the same time give our students some good hands-on experience,” said Jeff Tanner, Strome dean and professor of marketing.

For Milliken, that means a public relations class of 33 students, led by faculty member Michelle Carpenter, will help devise a marketing plan for his business.

“The idea is that our class would look at some ideas for how they could try to manage things, and look at new business opportunities,” Carpenter, a senior lecturer with the department of marketing, said.

Additionally, the students will create a For Stage Rentals media kit for Milliken. Carpenter said one of the best parts of previous projects has been the unique, outside perspectives students can bring to developing ideas and solutions. Milliken said he’s looking forward to hearing about fresh ideas that could carry his business through the pandemic.

“I’m excited for the possibilities,” he added.

Area nonprofits will also be able to receive assistance from the students. A class led by Marina Saitgalina will help teach management skills to two small nonprofits and help them grow using data analysis of Hampton Roads social issues.

“To me, it was an opportunity to help those up-and-coming nonprofits,” Saitgalina, an assistant professor, said.

Tanner’s planning for the program was spurred by hearing from several students about canceled or postponed summer internships. Additionally, he knew the recession would present a significant challenge to future graduates looking for their first job. He wanted to give students a chance for some real-world experience before that happened.

Other project topics for the program include accounting, information technology and project management. One coronavirus-focused project will help companies better prepare for supply chain disruptions by reviewing needs, risks and suppliers.

“The general goal is to take their business to the next level,” said Ricardo Ungo, who will teach the supply chain class.

The program has room for about 150 business, and Tanner said around 60 companies have signed up. For more information and to submit an application, visit odu.edu/business/open4biz. The deadline to apply is August 1.

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, trevor.metcalfe@insidebiz.com

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