Students and faculty members led by the Institute for Business and Information Technology offer free digital services to businesses and organizations
How does a salon and spa keep its lights on during a global pandemic? That’s the question that faced Susan Pilate, owner of Pure Eco-Wellness Salon & Spa, earlier this year when Pennsylvania was forced to shut down in response to COVID-19.
“Right before we were forced to close, I started to think ahead. I knew that this could get really bad,” Pilate says. “I reached out to the Temple Small Business Development Center (SBDC), who connected me to (retired Fox School faculty member) Richard Flanagan and (student) Kunal Duggal, and they were just fabulous.”
Through the SBDC, Pure Eco-Wellness Salon & Spa, located in Yardley, Pa., was put in touch with Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), which has been providing free digital services to small businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. Some of the key digital services IBIT is offering include website design, adding a digital storefront, setting up an e-commerce store and more.
While the projects are overseen by IBIT’s Flanagan, who brings considerable industry and academic experience to them, they are led by students.
In the case of Pure Eco-Wellness Salon & Spa, Duggal, a senior MIS major, helped add an online e-commerce store and consultation section to the company’s website.
“I loved the younger perspective that Kunal brought to this,” Pilate says. “He was working on a real-world project that is going to help my business immensely.”
Two other businesses to take advantage of IBIT’s services include Brie’s Body Boutique, a Philadelphia-based company that offers handcrafted skin care products, and Uncorked by the Sea, a wine store in Southport, N.C.
Rich Wagner, a senior MIS major, worked with Uncorked by the Sea. The online e-commerce store he developed has been a game-changer for the business.
“We didn’t understand WordPress or what a plug-in was, and they helped us navigate through all of that and really customize the site to where it’s our own,” says Jeff Muehleib, owner of the business. “In the first week it launched, it was like 60% of our business, so that was really very helpful. Now, we’re looking at ways we can expand the online store.”
Kevin Dang, a senior MIS major, led the project for Brie’s Body Boutique. He worked to re-design the website but was helpful in several other ways, too.
“From a marketing standpoint, (Dang) was immensely helpful,” says Sabrina Moore, owner of Brie’s Body Boutique. “This whole process has just opened up my eyes with regard to how to run a business. I also received so many great tips as to how I can best market my business.”
The support of IBIT’s corporate members, including Alexion, AmerisourceBergen, Arcweb, Capgemini Invent, DecisiveEdge, Emtec, NBCUniversal, Pfizer and Scholastic, allow it to continue offering these services in partnership with Temple’s Small Business Development Center.
The initiative has expanded university-wide with students and faculty from Fox, Tyler, Klein, and Boyer along with alums and senior executives now involved in a large number of ongoing projects. These cover a number of different businesses and nonprofits such as a bridal shop, dog walking, trucking, yoga, behavioral therapy, film, chorus, youth development, and others.
“We are very grateful to our member firms as well as the Temple community. It is gratifying to come together to quickly make a difference, especially for the local businesses and nonprofits that are critical to our community,” said Munir Mandviwalla, IBIT Executive Director.
The initiative has picked up steam worldwide, and universities from across the US, Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, and Denmark are now following Temple’s lead.
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