Business program prepares students for the future

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne College of Business’s integrated business program offers students the opportunity to create a business plan, make their own company, obtain adequate funding, and sell their products with all proceeds going to local charities. 

The program began 13 years ago as part of the Rita Thakur Skills For Success Program. Thakur is a dean and  professor emerita who created the curriculum with fellow professors Paul Abbondante and Abe Helou. 

Since it began in fall 2011, the integrated business program has had 119 teams and 949 students, has donated to 130 charities, and has had total sales of $906,451.95, with $390,670.36 of net profits donated to charities. 

The program was designed to go beyond integration to community service, Helou said. 

“It’s a perfect opportunity for students to experience success and failure without much damage to them because it’s in a controlled classroom environment,” Helou said. “The life and business lessons that they learn cannot be learned in any other setup.”

The faculty worked for an extensive period to develop and refine this program’s curriculum for business administration students to complete with their teams. 

Before the semester begins, the faculty meet with the students who will be completing the program to get to know them and their interests. They are then split into teams for the semester. 

This gives them the opportunity to begin discussing their business concepts, and discovering each student’s capabilities before assigning them to roles in their teams such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, inventory manager, and head of marketing and sales. 

Senior business administration major Christina Gorin is currently COO of her team’s company Ausome Blends, which sells portable blenders this semester. 

She is responsible for checking sales, auditing inventory, contacting manufacturers, and overseeing operations. 

Gorin said she came to the University of La Verne specifically for the integrated business program so that she could gain practical experience and learn about the ins and outs of business, since she hopes to take over her parents’ motel business one day. 

“The most important thing is learning skills to open up a business, because if you learn them early, you won’t make the same mistakes,” Gorin said.

When business administration students at ULV reach their junior year, they begin the integrated business program. The program is a 16-unit block combination of courses in finance, management, and marketing, along with the fourth class being the integrated business practicum where they create their own companies. The business courses students take in conjunction with the practicum give them the foundational knowledge that they can apply to creating and operating their companies. 

Senior business administration major Cristina Navarrete completed the program in spring 2022, and returned as a teacher’s assistant for fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters. The integrated business program not only taught her the intricacies of creating and running a business, but also helped her discover her ambitions of a career in marketing after being her team’s chief marketing officer. 

“If you allow yourself to be open to it, you’ll learn so much,” Navarrete said. “I learned so much that semester that I still use day to day, it was the best semester I’ve ever had. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really rewarding.”

During the first five weeks of the semester, students work with their teams to develop their business plans, marketing strategies, products, and prepare their financial plans and statements. Then, students present their business plans to a group of bankers, faculty and professors who will ask them questions about their plan. Once approved, the students will receive a $2,500 loan which will be paid back to Wells Fargo Bank as a line of credit with interest rates exactly like any other company would.

The rest of the semester is dedicated to selling the product with the proceeds going to their designated charities. This semester, the integrated business program has six teams, with a total of 47 students. They are creating companies such as Charms that Fit, selling Croc charms and donating proceeds to the Shoes that Fit charity, and All4Pets, selling pet water bottles and donating earnings to the Priceless Pets charity. 

At the end of the sales period, all of the students’ earnings will be totaled, and the program will have a charity presentation on Dec. 16. All of the designated charities will be invited along with students, faculty, family and friends in the campus center. Each team will present a video explaining their progress over the semester, and then present their earning checks to their charity. 

After being in business for 30 years, Rick Hasse, integrated practicum faculty manager and instructor, said he has learned that everyone in business will make mistakes. It’s how you react, manage, and respond to those mistakes that make you a good business leader. Adapting to and learning from mistakes is part of what students are learning from this program.

Hasse said that the integrated business program is preparing ethical and professional leaders with a program that perfectly correlates with the University of La Verne’s vocation to give back and help the community. 

“We’re preparing leaders,” Hasse said. “We’re helping these people be not only company leaders, but community leaders in giving back.”

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff can be reached at kelli.kuttruff@laverne.edu.

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff is a senior communications major with an emphasis in public relations. She is the arts editor of the Campus Times, and is in her second semester as a staff writer.

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