Students from the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University helped successfully launch the Pete Suazo Business Center, Salt Lake City's newest business support facility for Utah's Hispanic and underserved communities.
As part of the Marriott School's service-learning initiative, graduate students Jessica Johnson, Geoff Howard, Marcelo Ontiveros, Adam Stevens, Adrian Araoz, Brenda Sandoval, Marcie Holloman and Miguel Romero played an integral role in the center's formation and launch.
They developed a Web site, marketing presentations, a business plan, financial statements and a strategic plan for intake assessment.
"The students have been instrumental in helping the center get off the ground," said Sam Guevara, vice chair of the center. "We're really looking forward to continuing our partnership and moving into the next round when students will be able to work with clients, evaluate and collect data and help the center make educated decisions."
The Pete Suazo Business Center was officially launched at an opening ceremony Aug. 22. Students put together press kits and helped coordinate the opening press conference.
"Helping the center arrange the launch gave me an inside perspective of what it's really like to start a non-profit organization," said Jessica Johnson, a second-year MBA student from Sierra Vista, Ariz. "I learned it's a balancing act that requires a lot of drive and devotion, but it's very rewarding in the end."
More than 100 people attended the opening ceremony, including Sen. Robert F. Bennett of Utah who spoke and cut the ribbon. Sen. Bennett, Marriott School Dean Ned C. Hill and major donors were given keys to the center and recognized for their support.
"It was wonderful working with so many people motivated to do something for the welfare of others," said Marcelo Ontiveros, a second-year MBA student from Mendoza, Argentina. "We really felt a responsibility to do things right for the center and all those involved."
Marriott School students plan to continue working with the Suazo Business Center and other community-based organizations through the school's service-learning and diversity activities, which are integrated into several undergraduate and graduate business courses. Students are able to practice business problem-solving and needs assessment as they partner with groups that provide services to individuals and groups from different cultures and economic backgrounds.
"Several of the students involved with the center told me this experience was one of the most meaningful of their graduate program," said Louise Illes, director of the Service Learning and Diversity office and Suazo Business Center board member. "These kinds of opportunities encourage students to respect difference and become more civic-minded."
The new center is named after the late Utah senator Pete Suazo and serves as a business resource and network for the city's growing Hispanic and underserved communities. Business courses offered include entrepreneurship, business plan development, bankruptcy, credit and computer skills. The center is located within Suazo's former district at 625 West Girard Street (540 North).
"The new facility plays a critical role in the development and empowerment of the minority community in Utah," said Gladys Gonzales, chair of the center. "Clients receive one-on-one counseling and business training with the appropriate tools to overcome language and cultural barriers."