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BYU business graduate students use break to help small businesses

Instead of getting an early start on summer boating or hiking, more than 20 Brigham Young University MBA and MPA students spent their free time improving small businesses around the world.

Because BYU classes end in late April, many students have a few extra weeks of summer break while most other colleges and universities are still in session. The MBA/MPA social venture consulting projects, organized by BYU’s Center for Economic Self-Reliance, allowed students to use this time to work with small-business owners in the United States, Ghana, Paraguay, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

“These consulting projects give graduate students the opportunity to use their management skills and talents to give deeply meaningful service,” said Todd Manwaring, CESR managing director. “The projects are unique compared to most service opportunities because of the fluent language skills, advanced education and work experience that these graduate students have and utilize.”

For Axel, a small-business owner in Nicaragua, the graduate students’ consulting advice could significantly improve his $24-a-month profit. By comparing inventory and sales records, the students found that Axel’s tire sales, previously thought to be most profitable, were in the red. After analyzing the local market, the students helped him recognize the demand for car batteries, a product switch that could more than triple his income.

Paul Winterowd, a second-year MBA student from Murray, Utah, who consulted with Axel and other business owners in Nicaragua, doesn’t regret the three and a half weeks of summer he spent on the project.

“I feel like we are doing things that really could improve people’s lives long term,” Winterowd said. “It isn’t about giving a man a fish but truly teaching him how to fish.”

Microfranchise owners in Ghana also benefited from the consulting projects. For two weeks, students shadowed “Health Keepers,” women who carry baskets of health care products to sell in small villages. After walking in their footsteps, the students were able to make valuable suggestions.

“My management skills, classes and past experiences prepared me for this consulting project and allowed me to help make a difference in the lives of others,” says Kristan Brooks. “Working with Health Keepers was inspiring. This was an experience I will never forget.”

To find out more about the MBA/MPA social venture consulting projects in previous years, visit

The Marriott School has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems and entrepreneurship. The school’s mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School’s graduate and undergraduate programs.

For this and other Marriott School news releases, visit the online newsroom at

Writer: Christine Frandsen

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