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Students Build Relationships with Local Businesses through Town and Gown Competition

Town and Gown is a collaborative effort developed by the School of Business at Saint Peter’s University and the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce in which students are partnered with local Chamber of Commerce members. The Chamber businesses provide the students with an actual challenge they are facing and the students are tasked with recommending solutions. The students who participate in Town and Gown present their recommendations and findings to their peers and a panel of judges. This year’s presentations were held on April 26.

“Students are able to apply the skills they are learning in their four years here at Saint Peter’s to serve as real world consultants,” said Mary Kate Naatus, Ph.D., KPMG dean of the School of Business.

The participating businesses this year were Northern United International Corp (NUIC), CustomizedStickers.com and Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC). The student participants included: Christian Butts ’20, Gabriel Alvarado ’19, Tara Berberabe ’19, Stephen Epstein ’19 and Christian Gravina ’19 on the NUIC team; Denisse Hozven-Veas ’19, Nina Magdaraog ’19, Erika Sanango ’19, Steven Parry ’19 and Robert Chelminski ’19 on the CustomizedStickers.com team; and Sarah Casanova ’19, Joshua Padilla ’19, Nicholas Marna ’19, Gira Grullon ’19 and Lisbeth Rodriguez Jaquez ’19 on the JCMC team.

“If you take the average consulting team size, and a roughly estimated 10 hours at $100 per hour for consulting time, that means over six years, our members have received about a quarter million dollars of consulting services. If you look at it the other way, the students have received practice consulting and real-world experience,” said Maria Nieves, president and CEO of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce.

NUIC is a small scale investment and development firm specializing in commercial real estate. The group worked with Brenly Tolentino, cofounder and president, and Daniel Mirabel, director, to recommend growth strategies for the company. First, they suggested a local press coverage strategy, second, they suggested implementing an online marketing campaign, and third, they suggested hosting a series of networking events for real estate agents and potential investors. The judges asked them questions about data and if they had a target audience for investors.

The winning group, CustomizedStickers.com, were tasked with investigating why sales have dropped for the company; they worked closely with Stacy Mooradian, vice president of operations. To boost sales, they suggested the use of a marketing service provider (MSP). The MSP would develop creative for integrated, multi-channel marketing, retarget their customers and engage in B to B business strategies. The strategy would enhance and supplement existing search engine optimization work. The judges asked the group if sales have decreased for CustomizedStickers.com’s competitors and if they were willing to focus more on website development.

Lastly, the Jersey City Medical Center team worked closely with Sharon Ambis, senior director of marketing and public relations; Michael Prilutsky, president and CEO; and Margaret Ames, chief nursing officer, to come up with a plan that would help the hospital obtain more after-care surveys and more surveys with positive responses. The team suggested awareness for volunteer services and to use the volunteer program to forge relationships. They suggested executing a social media plan such as having an Instagram business account and utilizing their YouTube channel more frequently. They also suggested giving out gift bags with branded material to new mothers, which would leave a lasting and positive impression on the customer.

Teams presented for 15 minutes and then answered difficult questions from the judges: Michael Hellriegel ’75, executive managing director of Cambridge & Bowers Associates; Vanessa Quijano, small business development coordinator for Jersey City EDC; Paul Silverman, principal, SILVERMAN, and chairman of New Jersey Beer Company; and Konstantin Yusipov, vice president, market manager of Provident Bank.

“The Town and Gown program and its associated course has truly emerged as the jewel in the crown of the undergraduate curriculum of Saint Peter’s School of Business. Our partnership with the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce has enabled our students to interact with their member companies to witness and address real-world business challenges,” said Raymond Butkus, M.B.A., executive lecturer, founding director of the Center for Leadership Studies and Town and Gown mentor.