Resource:How to organize student consulting teams that help underprivileged startups

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For the question: ‘How to organise student consulting teams that help underprivileged startups?’, a team of candidate University Innovation Fellow interviewed Grant Jacoby. Grant is the former president of Enactus, an international community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of social entrepreneurship to enable human progress. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he obtained a bachelor’s of science and business administration. Currently he is working for SurveyMonkey in the San Francisco area. During this interview Grant gave many interesting insight in how to create student consulting teams, and how to promote the events a fellow might organize concerning this topic. A brief summary of all the discussed topics can be found below.

Why do we need student consulting team and what do students get out of it?

Students in higher education need an avenue to practice and further explore concepts discussed in class in a real world setting. In an ever competitive world, it is becoming more and more important to enter the workforce with unique experiences and strong relationships within their environment. A student consulting group provides a hands on opportunity for students to engage in their community while also gaining leadership experience and broadening their personal network. As a consulting group, there is a large variety of types of companies students can work with - this allows students to expand their knowledge and skills in areas they might not have an opportunity to do so otherwise.

Who should you reach out to, for setting up student consulting teams?

When starting a group, you should first reach out to 3-4 peers who have a similar interest and passion for starting a group. Ideally, the founding group is composed of students from different backgrounds, majors, and skillsets. While marketing on campus, target students should be to students who are freshmen and sophomores from different majors, backgrounds, and skillsets as well. A consulting group will most likely bring in students from the design, business, and engineering students, but the more variety, the better.
Within the university, you reach out to as many relevant faculty and administration members. The more support from internal operations, the more likely the group will be successful. This will also allow awareness of the group to spread more quickly and also increase probability in receiving grants and/or university funding.

What types of support are necessary to get your student consulting team started

  • For a beginning student consulting organisation, it is important to have the support of faculty members from your university. A strategy to contact faculty, administrative staff, deans is to prepare a very professional presentation (including the mission, goal, value proposition, how the project will impact positively the university community, the people involved, the funds requested and a detailed report on how the money is going to be spent).
  • The connection with ENACTUS (or other external network / consulting association) is a great way to get funding and support / successful model. Being a consulting branch of a bigger association might be a good strategy.
  • Find external partners for support among alumni who can connect you with organizations and communities, or even sponsor an event. At the same time, these organization may recruit the best students / students interested in entrepreneurship.
  • Find opportunities - contact local business and entrepreneurs offering support and consulting from students.


Key strategies to form and market the student consulting organization:

  1. Find a core group of students who care about entrepreneurship
  2. Network with faculty members to provide support throughout the process, eventually they will help connecting to the dean (and get financial support).
  3. Marketing campaign in campus should include flyers/posters, website/social media, and a dedicated time of physical presence in different places in campus to connect with diverse students
  4. Mini-pitch competitions as a way to pool people together (consulting mini competitions around a social subject/problem in the community), then present the consulting association to students.

What are the costs of running a student consulting organisation?

Jacoby’s organisation had a top-down funding support, the university contacted them to help solve specific problem in the community. It was something around $ 20 K a year, but we could run a similar project with $ 5-10K - that you will request to our university by presenting the number of people will be impacted and how the organisation intends to influence change on the community.

How do you decide who should (help) lead the organisation

With any startup it is important to find individuals interested in the same thing as you are. Determine together what the mission is so you have a shared goal; in this instance the shared goal was to help the community through consulting efforts. The individuals united to push this initiative.

What kind of connections are helpful to get started?

  • Top down support is ideal from university, easier to be funded, ideally dean
  • Get as many people involved as possible, draw from a diverse student population, more ideas are generated from different perspectives
  • Reach out to alumni who are involved in startups
  • Connect with corporations that are looking to hire entrepreneurial students

How do you promote and launch your organisation and events

For setting up student consulting teams it is important to promote the events where you get your target audience together. Using traditional flyers where you announce the event, location, time, and a reward (can be simple 10-20$ gifts or free food), and handing them out usually gets people to turn up. Besides this, you can create social media accounts where you can promote your events to students and stakeholders. An important rule is to not be afraid to talk and send emails to random people, try to pitch your events and projects as much as possible, they might say no and not be interested, but that is fine. You only need one yes! Also try to use your network, try to get as many people involved as possible. Post your events in old chats, facebook groups or anything else, they might just show up to your events.

Lessons learned and tips for others

  • Cast a wide net to reach out to as many students as possible (usually with free food and prizes!)
    • Promote organization as much as possible (flyer, tabling)
  • Focus on one central problem within local area
  • Talk to as many organizations, “no” is okay, “yes” opens the door to many opportunities
  • Find an organization on campus that can be your vessel for consultation groups

Written By:

Tejaswini Perikala

Jordan King

Najla Mouchrek


Ben Hinkel

Roohi Katarya

Haritha nara