Adopt-A-Business pairs students, local establishments

Geneseo has begun a partnership with Livingston County Development through the “Adopt-A-Business” program run through the Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development. The program is open to students from any major and will begin in earnest on Oct. 14, continuing through spring 2016.

Junior Molly Downey is the Main Street intern for Livingston County Development and is the student leader of the Adopt-A-Business program. According to Downey, the program “was really started as an initiative to help local businesses and also connect the students with the community more.” Businesses and students applied to be paired together.

Once matched, the students will help promote their respective businesses and attempt to increase sales, primarily via different social media platforms.

“They’ll work the entire year on their social media and [use] it as a marketing tool, so they’ll set some goals,” Downey said.

It will largely be up to the students, however, to decide which platforms to use. According to Downey, this freedom “gives them a lot of opportunity to expand on what the business is already doing and really just give[s] the business a new perspective on things.”

“It’s either going to be one or two students a business and we’re having about 20 businesses,” she said. “The businesses will be spread all throughout the county … so that’s really nice because a lot of the Geneseo students will know Geneseo businesses but they won’t know some of the other ones outside this area.”

Though Adopt-A-Business was technically launched in spring 2015 as a pilot program, the CIDD did not pick it up until this semester. According to Downey, Adopt-A-Business is “different because it’s not [a Student Association] organization. The [CIDD] heard about our program … and said, ‘This is really great; we want to help you with this.’”

Meetings and office hours will be held in the CIDD, located in Doty Hall 303. CIDD sponsors a number of other learning initiatives on campus and beyond, including student ambassadorships and the Clinton Global Initiative. “We’ll have card access to the rooms when we need it and the students can meet with their businesses there, too,” Downey said.

The application for the program lists several expectations for students, including training, “Before and After” reports, about three hours per week contributing to the respective businesses’ social media presences and regular meetings with merchants as well as meetings with student mentors junior Corinne Shanahan, sophomore Tannenbaum and Downey. Students in the Adopt-A-Business program will not receive class credit for their work nor will they be paid.

According to Shanahan, the program still allows for a “mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship” between the business and the student. “It’s good for experience in any field because you have to maintain contact with someone above you and you have to brainstorm ideas for problem solving,” she said. “Plus, it’s helpful for a résumé.”

Both Tannenbaum and Shanahan were part of the program in its test phase in the spring. Tannenbaum worked with and will continue to work with Sundance Books on Main Street, while Shanahan worked with Suzea’s Gluten Free Bakery and Cafe in Mount Morris and will work with another business this semester.

According to Tannenbaum, as student mentors, they will be helping students in the program “through obstacles, as in helping them promote a post or figure out what they want to say.”

“It’s an amazing experience to work with a local business and build that relationship not only with a client, but with someone in your neck of the woods,” Tannenbaum said. “You now have roots here.”

Downey expressed similar feelings about the program. “The face-to-face, very personal interaction that the students will gain from this is really nice,” she said. “They’ll gain relationships and connections to the community.”