A Naveen Jindal School of Management team of students active in the UT Dallas chapter of the university organization Enactus was selected as a top 10 finalist in a national initiative sponsored by the membership-based retail chain Sam’s Club. The team made the top 10 for using entrepreneurial skills and business savvy to help improve a local restaurant’s business practices.
The Jindal School’s six-person team got to the finals after initially being chosen as one of 100 teams to receive a “Sam’s Club Step Up for Small Business Project Partnership” grant with a charge to enhance fundamental business skills and ensure long-term sustainability for a small business. The team conducted a needs assessment and created a customer business plan for Nandhini Indian Restaurant in Plano to strengthen the restaurant’s operations.
The plan called for improvements in areas such as website management, ambiance, advertising, kitchen inventory management, menu enhancements and customer service. The students used various marketing techniques, including customer surveys, market research, website and menu redesign, social media, search engine optimization, website promotions, online marketing, coupons and fliers.
The restaurant’s owners welcomed the help and put the business ideas to work. Within just a few months, team improvements helped increase the restaurant’s customer base by 15 percent and its profits by 10 percent. Based on the project’s success, the team received $1,000 and Nandhini received $2,000.
“The owners were just so impressed with what these students had done. It’s almost like they didn’t see them as students working on a project, but more as business consultants whom they completely trusted. I really believe that part of the reason for our win is that the students crossed that boundary of being just students to really being experts in their fields,” said Dr. Jeanne Sluder, senior lecturer and advisor to the group.
A second-year MBA student, project lead Prashant Vajpayee wanted to make sure the key business disciplines important to the project’s success — marketing, technology and business management — were covered. Thus, the team included one MBA student, two marketing students, two information technology and management students and one computer science student.
The team also helped Nandhini become an approved UT Dallas food vendor, which means the restaurant can cater university events.
Enactus is an international nonprofit organization that mobilizes students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders.
This year, Jindal School Enactus students have completed 14 projects, according to Sluder. To promote seatbelt awareness, they organized a 5K run in March that attracted about 140 runners.
“We did our research and realized the age group that’s the guiltiest of not wearing their seatbelts is 13-24, so we have spent a year targeting this age group,” Sluder said.
Another recent project includes raising funds for the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who had been involved in the ebola crisis last year. The students declared “Texas Health Presbyterian Day” in April and went to the hospital to attend a thank you luncheon, which was donated by two local restaurants, and presented a check for $500.
“Our mission for the year has been to improve the livelihood of others, so every project we have done has been to support that,” Sluder said.