A Different Type of Class

The 2024 BizSquad Team

A Different Type of Class

BizSquad celebrates 10 years of real-world learning

| By: Britten, Casey

In the fall of 2014, seven Business and IT students convened as part of a brand-new class at Fox Valley Technical College. Not quite a club, yet not exactly an internship, it was an exercise in working together to help area businesses—and BizSquad was born.

“BizSquad is a group of students that are hand-selected by instructors to help solve business problems in the community,” says Business Management instructor Mitch Lautenschlager, who co-advises the class with IT instructor Matthew Dorn. The three-credit class brings students together from multiple programs to solve real-world problems for local nonprofits and small businesses.

That inaugural class in 2014 developed a marketing brand campaign for SOAR Fox Cities, a nonprofit organization that works with people with developmental disabilities. Now in its 10th year and 60 projects later, more than 130 students have taken part in the class, providing invaluable experience, and saving the community over $160,000.

On Wednesday, May 15, current students, graduates and clients celebrated BizSquad’s 10th anniversary during an event organized by the current class. During the event, the class also delivered their report-out for their projects during the spring 2024 semester.

The Secret of BizSquad

One of the aspects that makes BizSquad unique is that students must be recommended by a faculty member to be considered for the team. “Students are chosen based not only on academic success, but also their ability to work in a team and individually,” explains Mitch.

Then, after providing some initial guidance to students on developing client relationships, how to run meetings, leadership, problem solving and project management, Mitch and Matthew are quick to move out of the way and let the students take over and lead.

“These are all top students who now have a model to see what a good team looks like, which is so valuable moving forward,” Matthew says.

Clients appreciate the BizSquad’s professionalism. “The advisors and the students are of exceptional quality,” says Jennifer Lee Edmondson, founder and CEO of Health Education and Welfare (HEW). “They are independent, they are collaborative, and they are very caring. They understood what HEW needed and they provided that to us. They really performed.”

BizSquad has helped HEW with several projects over the years, including developing their website. “We’re an all-volunteer nonprofit, so we don’t have a lot of money for publicity or marketing,” Jennifer says. “Because of the BizSquad team, we have a wonderful website. If not for BizSquad helping to get our site up and going, HEW would not have been able to provide over $100,000 in compression garments to individuals in need, and to healthcare systems to distribute to their patients in need, in just four years.”

Spring 2024 Team

This semester’s team was comprised of seven students: Danielle Dorvilier, Hospitality Management; Kassie Dunsirn, Business Management; Carlos Guzman Ramirez, IT-Software Developer; Lucas Meixner, IT-Software Developer; Kate Meyer, Business Management; Aubrey Robb, Business Management; and Annisa Zulkarnain, Organizational Leadership/Global Studies.

They completed three projects:

  1. The Marigold Mile: volunteer-led beautification project in Appleton is experiencing declining volunteer participation due to lack of awareness. The BizSquad created an onboarding plan, recruitment plan, signage, volunteer database, promotional flyer and map.
  2. George the Germ (GTG): children’s book/program by Heidi Meadows, RN, designed to educate children about creating healthy habits. There was no central location for information about GTG, so the team created a website and marketing materials.
  3. BizSquad 10th Anniversary Celebration: Team members organized the anniversary event, coordinating the attendee list, event planning, and project management.

During the celebration event, the students reflected on the skills they were able to develop and refine: creativity, communication, leadership, and problem-solving, as well as learning how to not just come up with ideas, but how to prioritize, focus and execute those ideas.

“BizSquad is a different type of class,” says Carlos Guzman Ramirez. “Having the opportunity to earn real-world experience while making a positive impact in our community is amazing. As an IT student, being part of BizSquad was a great opportunity to develop the soft skills that are so valuable for the workforce.”

The Future

With 10 years under their belt, Matthew and Mitch reflect on what they would like to see in the next 10 years.

“We’d love to see even more collaboration around the college,” Matthew says. “BizSquad was founded with vision for fostering collaboration, so we’re looking for more opportunities to work with other programs and have those students participate as well.”

“Going forward, there is no lack of need with local nonprofits and small businesses,” Mitch says. “We’re going to continue to produce great students to work on those projects, and we're excited about that.”

“We're so proud to be able to give students this experience to grow from it and for us to give back to the community while doing it,” Matthew adds. “We just want to keep fulfilling that that goal.”

“Any student selected to be part of BizSquad should give it a try,” says Carlos. “The experience and connections you can gain are hard to match anywhere else on campus.”

To learn more about BizSquad or to submit a project request, visit www.fvtc.edu/BizSquad.