December 12, 2019
Students stand in front of screen with their Brookland Local presentation

“This class is a perfect example of how college courses should be taught,” said Ben Gardner, a senior marketing major with a minor in entrepreneurship. As part of his Small Business Growth Lab class, Gardner and his classmates in the Busch School of Business worked on the “Monroe Street Project” — exploring new ways to occupy empty retail space across from campus. Students presented their final concept on Dec. 5 in Maloney Hall. 

The Monroe Street Project was launched after the Fox Loves Taco restaurant closed earlier this year, sparking some in the community to wonder if the space was a viable location for a business. To address these questions, Brian Becker, director of Small Business Outreach for the Busch School’s Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship, challenged his students to conduct market research utilizing social media and face-to-face meetings with community leaders. 

“Meeting with the potential supplier businesses was my favorite part of the class experience because I was able to talk to them about what made them passionate and learned where our goals aligned,” said Gardner. 

Students were taught the basics of human-centered design by Chris Danek, engineering instructor, as they ideated solutions to the vacant space. They also consulted with Paul Ruppert and Derek Brown, Ciocca Center Distinguished Fellows and local business leaders, regarding their concept, and generated basic financial projections for their business to demonstrate its viability. 

“The Small Business Growth Lab class was all around incredible. It taught me the reality of what working with and starting a small business is,” said Elizabeth Rich, senior marketing major with minors in entrepreneurship and theology. “The class gave me insight into the role of financing, management, and operations within a small business.”

After a semester of research, the students presented Brookland Local, a pop-up concept they believe could be successful in the empty space. It would provide locally sourced goods in a community-inspired gathering place. Students were inspired for the concept after learning about the Brookland Farmers Market, which has become a staple in the neighborhood. They found that Brookland residents want to shop and support local vendors, even after the farmers market closes for the winter season. Brookland Local would provide that opportunity as an indoor pop-up market. 

After the presentation, the students received great feedback from professors and professionals to help refine and grow their concept on Brookland Local.

“My hope is that the people in the class, moving forward, take on this project and turn this dream into a reality. I think Brookland Local has a lot of potential to be a uniting force in the Brookland community if done well, and I think it could be an incredible project for Catholic University students to continue,” said Rich.