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Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice

Chicago, Illinois

Past projects - Entrepreneurship

Here is a list of Entrepreneurship-related independent study projects from recent years:

  • Digital Marketing Untangled (2013)
    Student examined the school to career transition in the digital marketing sector within Chicago.  Secondary research was conducted to establish trends and employment within the Chicago-land area along with data collection from online employment sites.  Student interviewed faculty, business owners and recruitment consulting professionals to gain additional insight on the gap between courses and skills required.  To showcase findings the student created a website. 
  • Important in 1893 and Today in Chicago (2013)
    Student wrote a research paper based upon conducting a historical and contemporary research project focusing on five venues that were of importance during the Worlds Columbian Exposition held in Chicago.  Buildings and spaces were analyzed by examining their purpose, architectural style and economic impact both in 1893 and in 2013.  
  • Third Places in the Second City (2013)
    Student examined "Third Places" in Chicago using the framework of urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg to understand the uniqueness of four sites, how they developed and considered common themes.  Student conducted primary research through visiting each location and meeting with individuals deeply connected with the organization as well as conducting secondary research.  To showcase findings the student created a website.
  • Bringing Tourism to Chicago Neighborhoods (2012)
     The student highlighted the benefits of attracting tourism to the neighborhoods of Chicago rather than recycling the same attractions i.e. Willis Tower, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, etc. The student interviewed several tourism bureaus as well as native Chicagoans to gather research. Results showed that by highlighting neighborhoods on the tourism sites, Chicago’s revenue generated would recycle locally providing a greater overall benefit to the City and its residents.
  • Crowdfunding Project for Community TV Network (2013)
     Student's project was to develop a crowdsourcing campaign to benefit a local Chicago non-profit.  This project was designed to focus on researching best practices on platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo and collect images and content that could be used to develop a persuasive package for the organization.  
  • Evaluating Small Business Marketing for a Unique Small Business in Chicago (2013)
    Student conducted primary research and testing of various social media platforms to gauge effectiveness for promoting a small boutique service business in Chicago.  The project included developing a survey, holding a virtual focus group and calculating the impact of incentives on client engagement.   
  • Social Enterprises in Chicago (2013)
    Student wrote a research paper that considered the growing field of social enterprises and the factors that distinguish them from either non-profit organizations or for-profit businesses.  Profiles of four social enterprises based in Chicago were examined and interviews were conducted with representatives of these organizations.  Best practices and common themes were discovered and shared through a public presentation at the end of the semester.  
  • Small Business and Sustainability (2012)
    The student used his experience at his internship as a basis for his ISP. The student examined the impact of green initiatives on sales performance for a group of small business owners.  The goal of the study was to identify the various motivations and outcomes with sustainable practices. The student analyzed responses from business owners through distribution of questionnaires andconducting personal interviews.  While growing their base of customers and increasing sales was important to business owners, the more critical factor was a commitment to community and supporting a sustainable enivronment at the local level. 
  • Craft Beer Renaissance in Chicago (2012)
     In recent years, there has been an explosion in small batch and craft beer production across the US; especially in Chicago. The student was inspired by a class visit to Half Acre Brewing where he later interviewed the owner. The student's ISP examined trends in the craft beer industry to identify why Chicago is experiencing a beer renaissance. For his project, he examined policy, demographics and culture as they pertain to the craft beer segment. The student attempted to identify barriers to entry and predict the future of the craft beer market.
  • Profiling the Sounds of the Loop (2012)
    The student used the area around the ACM campus to explore the culture and sustainability of performing music on the streets of Chicago. The student created a blog-based independent study project meant to Illuminate the street musician profession in Chicago's Loop, profile some of the actors in the street musician community, and culminate in a simplified program to calculate approximate weekly income for interested artists. 
  • Bike Fairy:  An Introduction to Biking in Chicago (2012)
    The student combined personal experience and research at her internship for the foundation of her ISP. The student set out to find what causes the disconnect between Chicago being a bike friendly city and why only a small percentage of Chicagoans use a bicycle for transportation. She found that approximately 60% of non users cite they would like to bike in Chicago but do not feel safe, know where to find information on bike lanes, or know what type of bike to purchase. As a result, the blog Bike Fairy Chicago was created. Bike Fairy Chicago breaks down barriers people have with cycling in the city by providing a non-threatening online source of information about urban cycling that caters to the average citizen. 
  • Understanding Tax Increment Financing (2012)
    The student used her internship as the foundation for her Independent Study Project. Tax Increment Financing is a highly controversial practice in Chicago. The student conducted primary and second research in order to better understand the intricacies of TIF in Chicago.  The student’s final project was a video documentary that investigated the problems surrounding TIF, as well as the ways in which the system is working. The student found that while the theory behind the practice is sound, it falls short in execution.  The City of Chicago has failed to create the transparency and accountability that are vital to gaining public trust in such a powerful economic tool.  Although reform is in the pipeline, few are optimistic about the proposed changes.
  • Exploring Chicago Neighborhoods through Ethnic Cuisine (2012)
    Based on personal interest and the student’s exposure to the many colorful ethnic communities of Chicago, the student created a blog that blended the history of these ethnic neighborhoods and the food which they produce. The blog also contains personal opinions, recommendations as well as photos. The purpose of this blog was to highlight some of the more interesting cultures and cuisines in an attempt to attract more outsiders in order to stimulate economic growth within the neighborhood communities.
  • A Guide for Small Business (2011)
    This student created a magazine highlighting the pros and cons of using Groupon as a part of small business's marketing mix.  Using eight small businesses that have used Groupon, Alicia follows up with an insider's look after the campaign.
  • Financial Education Curriculum for Young Adults (2011)
    This student used her internship at the FDIC as a springboard to create her ISP. She developed a one hour workshop to inform and educate her peers about credit cards, school loans, FICO scores, and other financial products. 
  • Undergound Hip-Hop Scene (2011)
    This edgy and introspective video documentary examines the highly competitive underground hip-hop scene in Chicago. Part cultural commentary, part musicology, she explores segregation and gang life, and the music that is created from the artist’s experience. 
  • Art Gallery Market and Marketing (2011)
    This student created an artful and edgy video documentary examining several different art galleries in Chicago and how each approach marketing. Social media, public relations and networking are emphasized. 
  • Chicago Thrift Romantic Getaways (2011)
    This student explored the vibrant culture of Chicago with its blend of fine arts, modernity and historical significance in her colorful guide to free and low cost romantic getaways. 
  • Crisis and Small Business (2011)
    This student explored the affects of the “Great Recession” on small business in this infozine. She also compares other recent financial crises abroad uncovering how and why they were different. 
  • 16" Softball in Chicago (2011)
    This student was a reporter with ACM News in this entertaining expose’ of 16” Softball. In this video newscast, she interviews hall of fame players and highlights the history and lure of this great Chicago pastime. 
  • Starting a Small Business in Chicago (2011)
    This student created an online blog that includes steps needed to start a business. She highlights tips from successful entrepreneurs and includes essential items that are often overlooked. The blog is a planning guide that helps prepare the first time entrepreneur.
  • Beef: Two Paths to the Windy City (2011)
    A 6th generation cattle farmer, this student compares the organic and factory farming methods of raising and processing beef. He analyzes the economics of each system and offers pros and cons.
  • High Fashion - Low Impact (2010)
    Eco-friendly fashion is a growing trend among Chicago's indepedent designers.  This student created a photo-blog to demonstrate that high fashion can also be sustainable using materials like bamboo and organic cotton. 
  • I Rock Sneakers for a Living (2010)
    This student took her passion for collectible sneakers and created a 30-minute video documentary on the culture of this growing phenomenon.  She interviewed several high profile "sneaker heads" and weaved the fascinating history of sneakers that has evolved from utilitarian footwear to a unique and individual fasion and cultural statement.  
  • Chicago's Haunted Business (2010)
    Chicago has a long history of haunted buildings.  From Biograph Theatre where John Dillinger was gunned down to the 8th floor of Macy's where victims of the Iroquois Theater fire was stored.  The student looked at how the legends impact these establishments and determined that ghosts are indeed good for business.
  • Marketing Plan for Shawnimals (2010)
    This student created a marketing plan and feasibility study for local toy designer, Shawnimals, to enter into the Chinese market.  He used his knowledge of the Chinese market and created a step-by-step plan for this niche company to expand its reach beyond the US.
  • Social Media Magazine for Small Business (2010)
    This student created a colorful and easy-to-understand magazine explaining social media and why small businesses should use these tools.  She explored Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other popular social media.
  • The Art Market in Chicago (2010)
    This student looked at how the downturn in the economy has affected independent artists and the galleries that represent them.  His research paper also explored how independent art is priced and valued.
  • InContext Solutions:  Outsourcing Analysis (2010)
    This student used InContext Solutions (also his internship site) to look at the pros and cons of outsourcing some of their work to an India firm.  He analyzed the actual cost of each of the company's past projects and found there is no benefit or cost savings in outsourcing for InContext Solutions at the current time.  The student's paper also explored the history of outsourcing.
  • InContext Solutions:  Pricing Analysis (2010)
    This student gathered over 8,000 line item entries and developed a spreadsheet to analyze the breakeven point of each of the company's past projects.  Her findings will help InContext Solutions price their work more strategically. 
  • Microbrewing: Chicago (2010)
    There has been a recent explosion in small, high-quality breweries in Chicago.  This student set out to find why this trend is emerging.  In his research paper, he also discusses some of the obstacles that small breweries face when trying to compete with the lager, more established brands like Anheuser Busch, Miller and Coors.
  • Franchising a Chicagoland Institution (2010)
    This student did a feasibility study on franchising his family's 28 year-old restaurant, Frankie's Pizza.  This student explored the building blocks of successful franchises that would become his competition as well as the costs, legal hurdles, and history of franchising.
  • Marketing Plan for the Cambodian History Museum (2010)
    This student created a marketing plan for the Cambodian Museum's new store.  He analyzed the museums current business model and offered several suggestions to increase exposure and visibility through cost-effective tools like social media and signage.  He also gave the store several ideas for new product lines.
  • Green Restaurant Certification Project for Uncommon Ground (2009)
    Assisted one of Chicago’s most innovative and environmentally sustainable restaurants, Uncommon Ground, with their goal to receive the highest rank possible on the Green Restaurant Certification for its two locations.  This project required the student to research the Green Restaurant Association’s criteria for certification and determine the most effective approach to capturing the information within each category of certification such as water efficiency or waste.  She then facilitated the application process with management from both restaurants and developed a timeline for documenting how each restaurant met the criteria for each category and what that translated to in terms of ranking.  In addition, she conducted research regarding Chicago’s green movement to help Uncommon Ground stay at the top the restaurant’s already successful green initiatives. 
  • Community Development Initiatives in Englewood (2009)
    Building upon an internship with Illinois Senator Mattie Hunter’s Office, this student utilized the Asset Based model for Community Development to propose a list of recommendations for Englewood, one of the most challenged neighborhoods in Chicago.   She conducted several in depth interviews with community leaders within Englewood and provided the Senator with priorities and partnerships supported by the primary and secondary research completed through this project.  As a result of this project, she was given the responsibility to organize a Business Expo within Englewood to begin to build collaborative partnerships and alliances within the business community.
  • Community Access to Financial Services (2009)
    Conducted a research project exploring connections between access to financial services, financial literacy and the sub-prime market.  This student profiled two neighborhoods in an effort to illustrate the racial and economic disparities along with the number of traditional versus predatory lending financial institutions present within the community.  He also interviewed leaders of Chicago based Community Development Financial Institutions to explore the innovative ways in which these institutions have worked to create financial democracy. 
  • Website Communication Strategies for the American Bar Association (2009)
    Assisted the American Bar Association (ABA) with evaluating their website communication strategies.  The ABA was specifically concerned with the ways in which their current email confirmations and pop-up messages were impacting member retention.  This student researched best practices in the industry with respect to website communication.  She made a detailed list of recommendations that the ABA can use to improve their website communication in the short and long term. 
  • Communication and Impact in Chicago Social Service Agencies (2009)
    Worked on a consulting project on behalf of Mission Measurement, an organization that helps organizations, corporations, foundations, nonprofits and public entities to measure and improve their social impact.  This project focused on analyzing the competitive climate of a Chicago based social service agency.  The student did a comprehensive evaluation of three social services agencies and how they communicate their outcomes to donors and the community.  She specifically focused on seeing how Social Agency “A” did relative to its competitors and what they could do to improve.   
  • Chicago’s Music Venue Industry (2009)
    Researched the music venue industry and analyzed the competitive forces impacting the environment in Chicago.  One area that the student explored was the relationship between neighborhood identity, demographics and access to transportation as a predictor of success.  He conducted in depth interviews with owners and managers of four Chicago music venues and applied Porter’s Five Forces model to assess the attractiveness of the industry. 
  • Expansion of Micro Lending in Chicago (2009)
    This student built upon her internship, to research and develop a strategic plan designed to assist ACCION Chicago in expanding the number of individuals served.  ACCION Chicago is a non-profit micro lender that provides loans to small businesses that are unable to secure credit from traditional financial institutions.  She worked with ACCION’s management to determine specific vocational fields that have a positive history of being funded, growing in Chicago and have potential partnerships for cross-promotion.  Her project resulted in providing ACCION with strategies for further developing relationships with four vocational partnership organizations, a timeline for implementation and future partners to prioritize for future expansion. 
  • Sustainable Conservation Practices in Chicago’s Restaurant Industry (2009)
    Researched the current state of the restaurant industry and explored the impact of sustainable conservation practices on Chicago’s environment and economy.  This student’s project utilized three small Chicago-land restaurants known for being “green,” as well as the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op, which is a local organization committed to making eco-friendly products affordable.  Her project critically examined trends as well as practices and the ways in which individuals and restaurants can create social change.  
  • Grant Proposal for Regional Solar Farming (2009)
    Worked with Rockwell Solar, a locally based Joint Venture, to create a federal grant proposal as part of the Stimulus Package-Renewable Energy Initiative.  The grant proposal was to support a solar farm that will be located in Rockford, IL.  The student was responsible for various parts of the proposal, including estimations of the number of jobs the solar farm would generate along with some of the other ancillary implications of the farm.
  • Start-Up Business Plan for a Regional Airline (2009)
    Created a start-up business plan for his Independent Study Project.  The concept was a start-up regional airline that strategically focuses on underserved markets that do not have direct flights to Chicago.  The comprehensive business plan contained daily flight schedules, maintenance, regulatory compliance, operating budgets and key success factors for the start-up airline.
  • Business Plan for a Kenya-Chicago Non-Profit Organization (2009)
    Focused on the creation of a business plan for a start-up non-profit organization.  The mission of the non-profit is to create partnerships between Kenyan educated professionals that have significant work experience and Chicago-based institutions.  The purpose of the organization is to provide mutually beneficial opportunities for the US firms to receive temporary skilled labor as well as for Kenya to combat the countries talent brain drain. He conducted research on Kenya’s economic climate, completed a feasibility and competitive analysis as well as financial projections for his concept. 
  • Development of a Campus Club Focused On Issues of Racism (2009)
    Focused on the topic of racism in Chicago and providing a space on his home campus for these conversations to take place.  He developed an on-campus club, Beloit Students Against Racism (BSAR), that is designed to expose students to issues surrounding race relations in America.  He created eight separate topical lesson plans for the club that included speakers, readings, and videos, as well as goals and assessments for each.  He drafted a constitution for the club and identified key Beloit students and faculty to serve as officers as well as established an implementation timeline for BSAR.  
  • Micro Lending in Chicago (2009)
    Utilized empirical data from her internship site at ACCION Chicago, a non-profit micro lender that provides loans to small businesses that are unable to secure credit from traditional financial institutions, to conduct an econometric analysis to analyze the determinants of the size of loan amounts granted to small business owners.  Variables that were considered were credit score, home ownership, gender, ethnicity and loan officer characteristics.  The data set contained over 110 observations of which she complemented with individual loan officer interviews to determine if there was any qualitative impact of these attributes on the size of the loans granted at ACCION Chicago.
  • Business Plan for Instructional Cooking Website (2009)
    Created a comprehensive business plan for a start-up online instructional cooking website tailored to young adults that contains videos, recipes and tips.   The business plan included primary research through target market surveys, feasibility and competitive analysis as well as development of pro-forma financial statement and projections.  Special emphasis was placed on establishing a marketing plan for securing advertisers and users of the site.
  • Algerian Exporting Opportunities for Chicago Businesses (2008)
    Building upon their internship with the World Trade Center of Illinois, this student created a detailed user guide for Chicago-based businesses to examine opportunities and challenges in exporting to the country of Algeria.  The guide provided sources of contact as well as research that examined the following aspects of the country; demographics, national climate, the economy, banking system, history, the government, laws and regulations of export and import in Algeria, currency and exchange, types of products needed from the US, religion, education, language, culture, GDP per capita, national GDP, the value of the Dirham, and the current political climate.
  • Start-Up Business in Personal Care Industry (2008)
    Developed a marketing plan for a start-up business in the personal care industry.  The plan included an evaluation of the target market, examination of the current status, establishment of marketing goals and a strategic plan including project timelines.  The ISP project included conducting a survey to test product concept, pricing and preferences.
  • Urban Sustainability in Chicago Neighborhoods (2008)
    Conducted a research project of urban sustainability and the application of the Ten Melbourne Principles of Sustainable Cities to several Chicago neighborhoods.  The student incorporated existing examples of Chicago-based neighborhoods and how they have attempted to make progress towards local level sustainability solutions.  She also evaluated the potential for success by incorporating the model and built a case arguing for more effective local-level approaches.
  • Social Marketing for Start-Up Businesses (2008)
    Examined the opportunities and challenges facing a start-up business in reaching prospective users and sustaining a profitable business model.  The student profiled two separate social marketing success case studies; and by analyzing their strategic position to identifying ways in which could differentiate itself from the competition. 

Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice

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Timothy Garibay I am known as an outgoing person, but I will admit I was nervous to move to a city as big as Chicago. It seemed intimidating, and almost like starting freshman year of college again, with new settings, new roommates, and unfamiliarity. My first week was a smooth transition, and by the second week, I had landed an internship with an organization downtown. Over the course of the semester on the Chicago Urban Studies program, my eyes were opened to new ideas and issues in my precept, seminar, and core classes. My Independent Study Project wrapped up the off-campus semester of experiential learning. I loved the city so much that I found a summer job, so I could stay.

—Timothy Garibay, Chicago Program (Urban Studies), Spring 2009

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The Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) is a consortium of independent, liberal arts colleges in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado.