Entrepreneurs and MBAs are the Perfect Match

Tami Hills started NOLA Clutter Busters to help clients rid their lives of clutter and bring order to their homes and offices, but after 10 years in operation, she realized her business could use some organizing as well.

Tami Hills

Tami Hills says the Freeman MBAs she worked with helped her improve how she presents her business to clients.

“I know that there are definitely areas where I need improving,” says Hills. “I’m in people’s homes or businesses all the time, so I don’t really have a lot of sit-down computer time or administrative time.”

To get some help with the business, Hills turned to the Freeman School and a program of the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association that matches entrepreneurs in need of assistance with MBA students eager to help. MatchNOLA was established to meet the needs of the city’s growing entrepreneurial community while at the same time providing hands-on experience for students interested in starting their own businesses. Last year the program connected 35 MBA students with 15 entrepreneurs in New Orleans, providing those business owners with a wide range of customized services based on their needs.

“If the entrepreneur wants to build a business plan or an expansion plan or change their website or improve their PR and marketing, the student team would do it for the company and work in partnership with them,” says Ruth Yomtoubian (MBA ’11, MGM ’11), vice president of PR with the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association. “It’s a hands-on opportunity for students to get involved in the local community and learn some things.”

For NOLA Clutter Busters, Lindsey Varney (MBA ’12) helped Hills redesign her logo and marketing materials, improve her website and expand her social media presence.

“She was always interested in our ideas and really receptive,” says Varney. “I think everything we brought to the table she ended up wanting to implement, so it was a really great partnership with her.”

Hills agrees with that assessment.

Ruth Yomtoubian and Chris Williams of the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association reorganized the MatchNOLA program to connect MBA students with entrepreneurs in need of assistance.

“You can’t go to school to be a professional organizer,” she says. “I’m in people’s homes and I’m in their stuff and it’s very emotional and psychological sometimes. Wrapping all those things up into being a professional is sometimes challenging. They definitely helped me fine tune how I present my business to clients.”

Tom Conner (MBA ’12) was part of a team that helped entrepreneur Paul Stanton write a business plan for Jill the Burger Dealer, a gourmet burger restaurant concept that ended up getting funded thanks in no small part to the plan.

“I have a political science background and a law background, but I didn’t have the business acumen necessary to put a proper business plan together,” says Stanton. “What I needed was a professional-looking business plan, and I was matched, fortunately, with four great guys and they worked hard to put that together for me.”

“All of us on the team are looking to start our own businesses, so we really wanted to go through the process with him,” says Connor. “We wanted to move the needle and provide something that’s valuable for him, but we also wanted to learn by observing and doing and working with him. It was a great opportunity to get hands-on experience.”

In the end, TEA President Chris Williams hopes those kinds of experiences will encourage more Freeman students to consider staying in New Orleans after graduation to start their own businesses.

“We’re trying to end the knowledge drain, and one of the best ways for New Orleans to grow is to bring in young, energetic, educated people and get them to stay here,” Williams says. “MatchNOLA is a great opportunity for us to create relationships with students and, hopefully, keep them here long term.”

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