Developing local businesses with student leadership
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Angel Bustos and her husband, Alfredo Barajas, wanted to open Angel’s Diner in Goodyear and needed to learn how to make it happen. Eduardo Borquez helped them cut through the red tape – then helped them cut the ribbon on opening day.
Barry Wolfsberg of Casa Grande needed to figure out how to fund and grow his Sinners to Saints Ministry, which seeks to help homeless veterans and men with substance-abuse addictions. Borquez, Wolfsberg said, “has been a wealth of information and advice.”
Borquez manages Grand Canyon University’s New Business Development Center (NBDC), and those are two examples of his work. But he’s the first to emphasize that he’s just one cog in this rapidly spinning wheel.
“All of this success just couldn’t be possible without the student support group.”
Eduardo Borquez, manager of New Business Development Center
Not only do local businesses get the expertise of GCU’s Colangelo College of Business, in which Borquez is an instructor, and other departments at the University. GCU students also benefit by serving as NBDC ambassadors who work directly with business owners, both current and prospective, in training seminars and one-on-one sessions.
“All of this success just couldn’t be possible without the student support group,” Borquez said. “Ten percent is my direction and vision and how I want to steward this. The other 90 percent is the students.
“The students are making this happen. The students are the ones who are there when I need them. They’re willing to put in the hours. They’re willing to help me form, assess and implement the strategy. The great thing is, they’re not afraid to push back and provide their suggestions — especially our graduate students.”
One of the undergrad ambassadors is Iryna Glavnyk, a junior majoring in Business Management who’s also a member of the GCU women’s swimming team. She said she’s “grateful for the experience” and enjoys applying in the real world things she has learned in class or during her ambassador training.
The looks on the faces of the even more grateful business owners are pretty great, too.
“It’s so nice to see that moment. Boom! The light goes on,” she said.
Many graduates already
Since starting its pilot program in June 2016, the NBDC — formerly called the Small Business Consulting Center — has helped 38 students, eight alumni and 125 local businesses and awarded 157 Certificates of Completion, which translates to 2,512 hours of professional development.
That work has been abetted by 67 student ambassadors (39 undergraduate, 28 graduate), of whom 43 percent are bilingual.
Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean, said the idea germinated in 2014. “Eduardo has brought it to life and, in getting students involved, his team has taken it to the next level.”
“I can’t say enough about this. I was very, very impressed. For nonprofits, they’re the ones to go to.”
Barry Wolfsberg of Sinners to Saints Ministry
Bustos knew Borquez from her days at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale (“He was one of the best teachers,” she said), and she also knew that she needed to know more about operating a 180-seat restaurant before she actually attempted it.
So Bustos signed up for one of the four-session trainings taught on campus, in both English and Spanish, by Borquez.
Borquez also arranged for Brett Cortright, manager of the Grand Canyon University Hotel and Canyon 49 Grill, and David Landau, an instructor in the GCU hospitality program, to come out and help with the diner’s menu and other food-management details.
“He (Cortright) was very knowledgeable about the whole area — what’s selling more and what’s not doing as well, how to make the menu friendlier,” Bustos said.
The help didn’t stop there. Borquez, she said, “kept encouraging me — ‘If you need anything, GCU is here for you.’”
Said Borquez, “It’s not just a case of holding a workshop and then telling them, ‘Good luck! Hope it works out for you!’”
Wolfsberg had a similar experience when he decided that taking a course on counseling would take too much time. He heard about the NBDC through the grapevine and soon was thankful he contacted Borquez.
“Eduardo was very helpful,” Wolfsberg said. “I can’t say enough about this. I was very, very impressed. For nonprofits, they’re the ones to go to.”
“We would like to partner up with GCU — anything we can do to reciprocate,” Wolfsberg said.
As the NBDC keeps growing, Borquez said, it will offer other types of training — marketing, business communication, accounting and finance, e-commerce and the fundamentals of human resources and management — and will divide trainings into three levels – beginner, intermediate, advanced. Classes also will be smaller (capped at 20 people per session) to create a more personal learning environment.
And when an entrepreneur needs more in-depth assistance, the NBDC will partner with local resources such as Seed Spot, a Phoenix business incubator. It’s a two-way relationship.
“Entrepreneurs who come to us and aren’t quite ready for our program, we tell them about the GCU program,” said Sara Scoville-Weaver, executive director of Seed Spot. “We’re trying to share resources.”
Borquez: “When we see participants who want to be fully incubated, we can send them to Seed Spot. We’ll do the one-offs.”
It all fits with GCU’s mission to minister to the neighborhood — to both the children and their parents. The Canyon Corridor Project, forged with Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, seeks to help renovate their homes, and the NBDC aims to help make their businesses successful.
Local entrepreneurs, both those getting started and those already operating, can contact Borquez at [email protected] to start the NBDC process.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a startup or an existing business or whether they’re launching a new product or introducing a new division — it’s still new business,” he said. “We provide consulting services in three different ways: We train, we coach or we mentor.”
But, mostly, they care. Just ask Angel Bustos and Barry Wolfsberg.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].