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21 Vanderbilt MBAs Compete in the Inaugural Small Business School Challenge

May 29, 2020
The 48 hour virtual accelerated workshop and business strategy "hackathon" paired real local small business owners with teams of MBA students to create a plan forward to succeed

Vandebrilt MBAs present their solutions via video call

Earlier this month, students from Vanderbilt joined forces with more than 470 MBA students from prestigious universities all across America in response to the economic challenges small businesses are facing in the wake of the current pandemic. The inaugural Small Business School Challenge was a 48 hour virtual accelerated workshop and business strategy “hackathon” May 14-16 that paired real local small business owners with teams of MBA students to create a plan forward to succeed.

The event brought together more than 175 small business owners to receive support, ideas, and guidance from their MBA teams in addition to 100 business mentors and judges of the competition. Thanks to donations from 10 sponsoring schools in addition to community members contributing to the crowdfunding campaign, $13,000 in prize money is being distributed to 64 small businesses as a result of the challenge and the efforts their MBA teams made on their behalf. The entire virtual event was facilitated with technology from official sponsor RingCentral.

Locally, seven small businesses were represented by seven teams from Vanderbilt. The winning school team of Carolyn Williams, Colleen Flynn, and Kate Bennett, who were working in support of KrankFit, advanced to compete in the finals against the 9 other school winners.

Feedback from the small businesses who benefitted from a team of MBAs to help strategize was overwhelmingly positive. According to business owner Megan Flinn, “My team was incredibly open and supportive, listened and processed all my input to create some wonderful ideas that I’m able to implement immediately. They were kind and helpful, and I’m truly grateful for all of their creativity and work!”

The Small Business School Challenge is committed to continuing to support small business by challenging MBAs to build solutions that support main street America. “Even though this was born out of the crisis, the need for strategic help from busy small business owners, and demand to help and gain exposure to the small business world by MBAs, tells us this will be an event that endures. We plan to run it twice per year — in the spring and the fall — in a very similar fashion to this event,” shared SBSC founder David Corfield.

Congratulations to all the MBAs who rose to the challenge to support small business, and to the schools and independents who supported this first event.

About the Small Business School Challenge

The SBSC was originally conceived as a way to bring strategic help to small business owners in the wake of COVID-19, but will continue to meet both the needs of small businesses in America and of MBAs to gain exposure and experience to the small business world.

You can follow the developments of the SBSC as they pursue independent non-profit status and collate all the knowledge and resources for small businesses to share on their new website, You can also follow their social channels @thesbschallenge onInstagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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