Where would you go if, as a business student, you felt the need to connect more to the business world and reach outside the classroom in order to enrich your college experience?
This is the question that President Crystal Doffing (business administration program) and Vice President Melanie Daniel, (business management program) recently posed to members of the Minnesota School of Business–St. Cloud chapter of DECA.
Collegiate DECA is an international student organization that promotes experience in leadership and entrepreneurial skills in the areas of marketing, finance, hospitality and management.
With a focus on college and career readiness, it looks to prepare college students for the job market through real-world simulations and competition. Its mission also includes a responsibility to community and the environment.
As much as Doffing and Daniel appreciate and thrive in the competitive setting of DECA, they have taken to heart the community focus of the organization’s mission as well.
“It is part of a bigger goal [for us] this year, explains Doffing. “We want to learn skills to help the community, to help us to compete and grow as individuals.”
“We have a lot of diversity,” she adds. “We have accounting, hospitality, business. Everyone is dedicated and loves to give back to the community and gain the experience.”
Daniel agrees, “It helps you develop as a person, too.”
Yet having the desire to engage in the community and implementing a plan are two very distinct things, the DECA officers soon discovered. They eventually decided around an Earth Day theme and approached local businesses that they thought might be willing to work with DECA.
Doffing recognizes that networking is all about relationship-building, so she began with someone she already knew: Tom Wolcyn, the owner of an area tree farm that she and her family frequents each Christmas.
“It’s the importance of having face-to-face conversation and being genuine,” she reflects on the networking. “Not just for business, but for long-term, personal connections.”
After meeting with Doffing, the Wolcyn Tree Farms and Nursery in Cambridge, Minnesota, agreed to donate several trees to DECA as a fundraiser and promotion for community tree-planting.
Daniel, on the other hand, learned the difficulty of the cold-call method of networking with businesses, and experienced a number of “no’s” before Fairview Gardens, in Sauk Rapids, agreed to partner with DECA by donating vegetable and herb seeds to the student organization.
The fundraising event helps DECA reach its competition goals for the next year, but also helps raise awareness and advocate for sustainability efforts in the community.
Faculty advisor Frank Ayers is impressed with the team’s efforts. “This was all student-generated,” he explains. “I told them, ‘It seems like a lot of work. Are you sure you want to do it?’ But they tackled it.”
The student organization also volunteers throughout the year for environmental clean-up in the city of Waite Park.
Doffing adds that community involvement also is a means to increase membership and participation in DECA, another goal for the new officers.
“We don’t just want to be igniters,” she said after a recent leadership meeting, “We want to be flame-throwers! We want to spread the word rapidly and multiply! It’s our intention to make quite the impression.”
Looks like a great start.