by Halle Johnson, Student Public Relations Writer
For most students, the approach of finals consists of worrying about grade point average and final presentations. But for a small group of Cedarville University students majoring in business, December is all about Christmas season sales.
In 2001, two Cedarville business professors, Dr. Jeff Fawcett and Rene Hazen, were inspired to start a semester-long practicum providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities. Now, 20 years later, the program, now called the Integrated Business Core (IBC), has seen over 700 students create business opportunities that have led to tens of thousands of dollars in revenue, the profit from which has been donated to global nonprofit organizations.
The IBC consists of four courses: specialized Principles of Marketing, Principles of Finance, Principles of Management and a three-credit practicum course. In the spring semester of their sophomore year through a specialized marketing course, IBC students are given the chance to pitch and brainstorm potential product ideas, which they refine and test to determine a final product. After presenting their product to a loan committee, they spend the following fall semester moving from ideation to actual sales and promotion.
“The IBC offers students a safe place to actually practice what they learn in their courses,” said Andrew Wonders, assistant professor of sports business management and a faculty advisor to this year’s IBC teams.
The IBC is specially tailored to student needs and ideas, frequently adapting to give the most valuable experience to Cedarville’s Robert W. Plaster School of Business students. What was once a one-semester course has been expanded into a year under the leadership of Dr. Jon Austin, associate professor of marketing at Cedarville University.
“Each student team member is given a specific role — everything from inventory manager to finance supervisor. Having the chance to work with a team of students for a full year gives you a great understanding of all facets of a business,” said Jonathan Rathbun, a senior student from Hubbardston, Massachusetts, who was involved in the IBC in the 2021 school year. “Working on a team for that long gave me a new understanding of how to work with others through every stage of planning and execution.”
“I came away from my experience with the IBC not only with a great resume, but also with important skills like an ownership mentality, accountability to a team and an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Madelyn Whetzel, a senior from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who was part of the IBC in the 2021 school year. “I learned the value of communication within a team and that lesson has been a huge help in my current internship.”
The IBC is student-run and faculty-advised, giving students the chance to participate in official roles under the product design they are most interested in.
“Every year the number of teams and products differs,” said Dr. Jeff Guernsey, assistant dean of business undergraduate studies and primary advisor for the IBC for a number of years. “I have seen student businesses that range from Silly Bands to silent disco events to glow-in-the-dark mini golf to CDs of campus bands. One year we had a group set up an Uber-eats style business before the app came around. We want to tailor the experience to what students are interested in pursuing.”
Over the last two decades, IBC student businesses have been approved for over $130,000 in loans and have made over $60,000 in profit. All proceeds go to a nonprofit or missions organization of the student team’s choosing, serving as an outreach to both local and international ministries.
This year, the IBC has two student teams: Proclaim the Name: Refuge and Boardless.
Kyle Kennedy, from Cincinnati, Ohio, is the team lead on Boardless, a company selling a reusable white-board alternative using micro-suction technology that can adhere to everything from walls to desktops without harmful adhesives. All proceeds from Boardless go to Back2Back ministries, a global mission focusing on helping orphans’ physical, spiritual and educational needs.
Proclaim the Name is a recurring IBC business entering its third year of selling Scripture-based apparel, including a hat, T-shirt and stickers designed by studio art major Syndey Mason, from Heath, Ohio. Cierra Hershey, from West Salem, Ohio, serves as this year's team lead.
“Our theme this year is Psalm 142, as David seeks refuge in the Lord while on the run from Saul,” said Katie Williams, the Refuge team’s marketing coordinator from Papillion, Nebraska. “Our proceeds are going to Grace Refuge Outreach, which is focused on ending child trafficking in southeast Asia. We felt passionate about that cause and felt like it aligned with the message of our products, that Jesus is our refuge no matter our circumstances.”
In addition to donating profits, each IBC student is required to fulfill 10 hours of local volunteer work. Over the last two decades, the IBC has provided nearly 7,500 hours of service to local ministries in the Greene Country area.
“I joined the program because it was a unique opportunity to have real-world experience outside of classroom lectures,” said Williams. “But the takeaways I have gained — the ability to work and be accountable to a team, to organize toward collective goals, whether that be in product sale or volunteering — goes well beyond the IBC.”
Products from the 2022 IBC teams are currently on sale until the middle of December. Products from both Proclaim the Name: Refuge and Boardless can be purchased through their websites and Instagram pages.
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 5,082 undergraduate, graduate, and dual enrolled high school students in more than 175 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, high graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and the #4 national ranking by the Wall Street Journal for student engagement. For more information about the University, visit cedarville.edu.