Thursday, May 23, 2024

New entrepreneurship program pairs UTSA students with small business owners for real-world experience

New entrepreneurship program pairs UTSA students with small business owners for real-world experience

UTSA student Gabriel Monterrubio Jr. (left) was given a certificate of merit by Al Salgado (right), director of the South-West Texas Border Small Business Development Center Network, at a recent ceremony celebrating the first cohort of the university’s SURE program.

MAY 15, 2024 — Local small business owners including a salsa maker, a therapeutic pillow creator and a commercial cleaning service provider have spent the last few months getting help from UTSA students to improve their business. They have come together as part of UTSA’s new Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship (SURE) program.

SURE, which began in February, provides unique opportunities for upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students across various disciplines to collaborate with local small business owners or entrepreneurs. This semester’s cohort consisted of five teams, each including a student, a local entrepreneur and an expert business professional who guided and mentored them.

Each team helped an entrepreneur set viable goals for their business and develop a practical plan to achieve those goals. The teams met weekly on Wednesdays for about three hours, tackling topics ranging from customer identification and developing a sustainable competitive advantage to addressing legal and accounting challenges.


“The students gained new skillsets and a confidence that they can carry forward into their careers after graduation, and the small business owners came away with a better understanding of next steps and a renewed sense of direction for their businesses.”


On May 1, a small graduation ceremony was held for the first SURE cohort to celebrate their completion of the program. Student consultants and entrepreneurs received certificates while mentors were presented with UTSA gifts during the ceremony.


Purnima Chawla, associate professor of practice in the UTSA Department of Management, leads the program, which is offered in partnership with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in the UTSA Valdez Institute for Economic Development.

“The program does two things: It provides community entrepreneurs, especially those in economically stagnant neighborhoods, with assistance for their small business, and our students learn the skills they need to consult with the entrepreneurs and help them develop business plans,” said Chawla, who noted the program originated at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business.

“The students attend a few more classes than the entrepreneurs to learn business frameworks and soft skills to consult with the entrepreneurs. They also do a lot of industry research and background work into the company of the entrepreneur they are partnered with,” she said.

UTSA student Gabriel Monterrubio, who will graduate in the fall with his degree in business management, signed up for the program, along with his father Gabriel Monterrubio Sr., who joined a different team as a mentor. Monterrubio Jr. worked with local entrepreneur Oscar Perez, owner of Tio Pelon’s Salsita. He helped Perez to develop a plan to expand his business and attract new investors for the project.

The younger Moterrrubio had been searching for internships before he was told about the SURE Program by one of his professors.

“I thought the program could offer me useful experiences that employers are looking for, similar to what an internship would offer,” he said. “There’s been a lot of problem solving through this program, and Oscar and our team’s mentor have taken me seriously as a consultant. They made me feel like my input is valuable.”  

The UTSA student also gave credit to SURE’s team mentors for building confidence in the student consultants, and to the weekly guest speakers, who offered insight into what it’s really like to run a small business.  

Richard Sifuentes, director of the SBDC, described the SURE program as a “grand collaboration” that will benefit its participants for the long run.

“The students gained new skillsets and a confidence that they can carry forward into their careers after graduation, and the small business owners came away with a better understanding of next steps and a renewed sense of direction for their businesses,” Sifuentes said. “Both enjoyed the program and want to see it continue in the future and to grow.”


EXPLORE FURTHER
Learn more about the SURE program and about the Carlos Alvarez College of Business at UTSA.

On May 1, a small graduation ceremony was held for the first cohort to celebrate their completion of the program. Student consultants and entrepreneurs received certificates while mentors were presented with UTSA gifts during the ceremony. Special guest Henry Cisneros emphasized the importance of entrepreneurial small businesses in San Antonio’s economy and applauded the program’s organizers and participants.

Chawla said the SURE program will be offered again during the Spring 2025 semester.

“Small businesses drive our economic development in San Antonio and although many of our students will join big businesses when they enter the workforce, a lot have aspirations to eventually own their own business,” Chawla said. “Creating a program that is catering to that small-business entrepreneurship provides really good experience for the students and is a really good contribution that UTSA can make to the community.”

Michelle Gaitan



UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu.


UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.


Spotlight

Spotlight

dtc-utsa-sign_680.png
University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education .

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.