Creating a business plan for an actual business is as real—and rewarding—as applied learning gets. But when that business plan serves to enrich not one cause but two, then the learning, and the rewards, double.
Business students in Wendell Topp’s Small Business Management class at Minnesota School of Business are taking on the unique challenge of building a business plan for Operation Saving Jake, a relatively new non-profit which serves to pair service dogs with military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
Founded in South Carolina, Operation Saving Jake has a unique mission that focuses on training rescue dogs as service animals that ultimately aid the veterans.
Justine Crowell, one of the non-profit’s co-founders, says that selecting a rescue dog as a service animal is deliberate, time-consuming and, ultimately, expensive.
“The rescue dog must pass a temperament test; it can’t be too aggressive. It takes 9-18 months and up to $32,000 to train a service dog,” Crowell said.
Through volunteer efforts, the goal at Operation Saving Jake is to pare down those expenses to an affordable amount. The organization is starting a chapter in Minnesota, and that is how Topp’s class became involved in the non-profit. Its dual mission appealed to the students.
“The founders care about helping suffering soldiers,” explains business management student, Kelly Weseman, “and saving shelter dogs.”
The students already have defined specific goals for the business plan in order to help the organization grow.
“A solid business plan will help them expand and get their word out to veterans,” says business administration student, Keli Tischler.
“It will give them a leg up when asking a bank for money and for donations to build on or start new locations,” adds business administration student, Crystal Doffing. “It also give their volunteers a guideline of ethics to follow.”
The students’ help toward the organization’s goals is invaluable, says Crowell.
“We are 100% volunteers at Operation Saving Jake. Some organizations raise millions of dollars in the name of veterans and only donate a small fraction of it. We don’t even pay our trainers. So the students volunteering their time really help us financially.”
Working with the students also helps build strong community ties, adds Crowell, another organizational goal.
The students acknowledge that the task is a challenging one with a broad vision. The non-profit status also presents a different process from that of a normal business plan. But they seem to agree that the ultimate reward of helping veterans and rescue dogs will be well worth the effort, and look forward to becoming a part of the opening of a Minnesota chapter of Operation Saving Jake.