December 9, 2022
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SLU minority business mentoring program helps entrepreneurs

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SLU administrators say the Habitat for Neighborhood Business program is proven and can be replicated elsewhere.

ST. LOUIS — A fast-growing minority business mentoring program at Saint Louis University is making an impact in the neighborhood and attracting attention in education.

Just down the street from St. Louis University, in a building along Lindell Boulevard, Renee Hodgins showed 5 On Your Side the office where she practices mental health care.

Hodgins is a licensed professional counselor.

“Usually when people come to me, they might be experiencing depression,” said Hodgins.

She is also a participant in the Chaifetz School of Business Habitat for Neighborhood Business program.

“I have worked with masters-level MBA students, as well as undergraduate students, all of whom have provided services that have benefitted my business.”

Jerry Belsky is a Saint Louis University Senior Accounting and Business Technology Management major.

“Accounting and management and marketing and finance,” said Belsky, outlining some of the topics the program covers. “There’s many things to balance and it’s hard for business owners to do on their own.”

Belsky is one of the program’s student ambassadors. A 5 On Your Side reporter asked if he is ever met with reluctance by small business owners because he is a college student.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “I would say not really, honestly, because a lot of these entrepreneurs are on their own and open to help, and I think a lot of them are excited to work with younger people.”

Hodgins said for her, the value of the program is this – she knows counseling. But when it comes to other aspects of small business, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know.

“Everything from business and marketing analysis, social media content, those kinds of things,” Hodgins said. “It’s the kind of thing that helps me keep in tune with how I can be more beneficial to the population I serve.”

“Generation Z wants to do well, but they also want to do good,” said Chaifetz School of Business Dean Dr. Barnali Gupta.

She said this program is proven.

“It’s working so well in the city of St. Louis,” added Gupta. “In our region – north St. Louis County, Metro East – we have a replicable model, and we can assure you it works. We welcome more companies and volunteers, and we hope another school will take this template and repeat it in our region or across the country.”

The program has given Hodgins something she shares with her clients.

“I’m really grateful for that service they provide,” she said.

The St. Louis University Habitat for Neighborhood Business program is now helping 50 St. Louis-area minority entrepreneurs.

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