Whether it's a two-person start-up or a partnership with a corporation employing thousands of people in several states, UNLV puts its valuable resources to work for the business community. The university's many centers and outreach programs help companies large and small analyze trends, create business plans, start up operations, and adapt to an evolving marketplace.
InsureMonkey? Think Expedia for health insurance. Co-founders Alex Rivlin and Kurt Jarcik came up with the concept for InsureMonkey in 2006 "to eliminate the mystery and confusion in getting quality, affordable health insurance." But it took some time to formulate the business plan, build a complex technological infrastructure, test the site, and wait out the uncertainties of health care reform. InsureMonkey secured its first round of investors in October 2008, finally launched in 2009, and added a second investor group in April. To get through the process, they turned to Rivlin's alma mater.
"The Nevada Small Business Development Center (NSBDC) helped us establish a credible business plan and kept us going down the right path," says Rivlin, chief executive officer. "They helped us see the reality that there would be no bank financing right away, so we adapted our plans to the business environment."
The company, now operating in 43 states, developed its website to make it easy to compare pricing and plans. Service at InsureMonkey doesn't stop at the sale. "We are your advocates, we will help you if there is a problem with your claim," says Rivlin, who adds that the company name is designed to make people feel more at ease while shopping for a notoriously complicated product.
Danny and Trish Ives had a dream to open their own home-based business. But starting a local moving company was more complicated than they first realized, especially during a recession. They knew their idea -- a mover who paid extraordinary attention to detail -- was solid and their work ethic strong, but they needed help maneuvering in the heavily regulated transportation industry. And that's when the NSBDC moved in.
"We would never have gotten all our licenses without the guidance of the NSBDC. It took more than a year," says Danny Ives. It helped the couple complete business forecasts, checked their balance sheets, and guided them through the licensing bureaucracy. "The NSBDC has given us an opportunity to own and open our business. They were absolutely wonderful."
And, according to customer reviews on the Internet, so are Sunshine Movers. Danny oversees daily operations and ensures clients are happy with his crew's service. Trish, who still works at a local resort, takes care of the office duties after hours.
When a company experiences unprecedented growth, expanding from four local casinos in 1993 to 16 casinos in six states today, where does it go to meet the challenge of providing effective employee training programs across a wide spectrum? For Boyd Gaming, the answer is the Professional Development Center, a part of UNLV's Division of Educational Outreach.
The center first started working with Boyd Gaming to certify in-house training programs for continuing education credits (CEUs). "Now about 80 percent of our leadership development courses and 100 percent of our desktop application courses have CEUs awarded upon completion," says Paul Chakmak, vice president and chief operating officer for Boyd Gaming. "Most of the training we provide is created and disseminated in-house, but when specialized training is needed, we go to a trusted source."
Boyd Gaming worked with the center when its managers wanted to improve written communication throughout the organization. The division's professional development team developed a custom curriculum for a six-week Business Writing class designed to meet the company's needs. Says Chakmak, "We have found that training to develop more effective business writing skills can help all of our employees enjoy greater success. Staffers at the Professional Development Center have been great partners in this effort."
Nils Goldschmidt, a recent MBA graduate from UNLV, is the very definition of entrepreneur, and one of his strengths is that he's not afraid to ask questions. He has worked with both the Center for Entrepreneurship and the NSBDC several times to explore different business opportunities.
One of his more intriguing ideas promotes financial literacy in young people. His start-up, Prudent Kids, educates middle and high school students about financial management. Goldschmidt employs UNLV graduate and law students to talk frankly to younger students about such financial realities as buying a car, handling credit cards, avoiding scams, and protecting financial privacy.
Goldschmidt now is thinking of selling the concept since he recently moved to Los Angeles, where he's launching a distribution company for South American fruits and vegetables. "The support and coaching I received from the Center for Entrepreneurship and the NSBDC was incredible. It never bothered them that I kept coming back with one more idea."
Calvin "Tito" Hudson Jr. is a repeat customer at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. He and a partner originally sought the center's guidance to open a barbershop in 1998. Later, when he decided to branch out on his own, he went back.
Classic Cuts Barbershop opened in 2006 with a basketball theme to appeal to his target customer base in North Las Vegas. Hudson has assembled a talented staff of seven barbers who know their art and their customers, and he uses social media tools to spread the word. His expansion plans call for shops themed around soccer and football. He also plans to start a barber academy, filling a niche in Las Vegas that salon academies do not fully address.
Hudson thinks so highly of Janis Stevenson, his NSBDC advisor, that he gives a shout out to the center on his website. "I still talk with Miss Janis all the time," says Hudson. "I'll run marketing ideas by her and have her look over my updated plans."
But his barbershop is more than a business; it's a community presence in North Las Vegas. It sponsors events like the "Throw It in the Bag" drive, which provides free haircuts and school supplies in the fall; "Sneakers for Christmas" during the holidays; and the "Remix Classic," a high school all-star basketball game that awards scholarships to graduating seniors.
UNLV Centers and Outreach Programs
Below is a list of some of the university's centers and outreach programs that help companies large and small:
Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER)
The CBER is considered the source for vital economic data in Southern Nevada. Business leaders and the media eagerly await CBER's Annual Economic Outlook, with its comprehensive statistical study of the local economy. The center also conducts surveys and economic impact studies, assembles data indices, and compiles and publishes Nevada Kids Count. Clients include local and state government entities, hotel-casinos, the U.S. Postal Service, the United Way, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. 702-895-3191
Professional Development Center
This unit in the UNLV Division of Educational Outreach customizes training programs for businesses. Its experts specialize in continuing education and adult learning, tailoring the curriculum to the specific needs of a company or industry group. Clients include Chevron, United Way of Southern Nevada, Boyd Gaming Corp., and National Security Technologies. The division also offers more than 20 certificate programs to enhance the professional skills of thousands of Nevadans. The division's Cannon Center for Survey Research also helps local businesses measure public opinion in the marketplace. 702-895-3598
Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies
For the past 20 years, the institute has provided services to real estate professionals and the public sector in Southern Nevada. It also offers undergraduate and professional certification education. Recently, the local real estate climate has experienced great extremes, ranging from being the hottest market in the country to being the hardest hit by the housing market downturn. The current difficult times have created opportunities for the institute's new leadership team to partner with businesses and local communities to enhance real estate practices and public policy. 702-895-4492
Nevada Industry Excellence
Formerly known as the Manufacturing Assistance Program, this office is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education and helps businesses in the manufacturing, construction, and mining sectors. Its Export Tech program links College of Business interns with companies seeking help with international marketing research. Its FOCUS training helps facility operators manage their physical plant more efficiently. Nevada Industry Excellence advises businesses on how to upgrade their buildings to get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, an international recognition for green construction and maintenance practices. It also sponsors events and training that bring the expertise of UNLV's faculty and the resources of the Lied Library to commercial manufacturing and exporting businesses. 702-895-4270
Nevada Small Business Development Center (NSBDC)
The NSBDC is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Nevada System of Higher Education. Housed at UNLV since 1986, the center has staffers who meet with clients one on one to help them create business plans, provide tactics to help secure loans, plot out marketing strategies, and provide guidance on how to do business in Nevada -- all for free. Since the recession hit in 2007, the center has seen an increase in clients wanting to start businesses or revamp current operations. In the past academic year, more than 2,000 clients have sought advice and training. In addition, the NSBDC offers a regular schedule of classes. 702-895-4270
UNLV Center for Entrepreneurship
Housed within the College of Business, the center promotes business creation, innovation, and economic diversification in the region. The center offers entrepreneurship education, creates custom seminars, provides research grants to faculty, interacts with local investors, and cosponsors events like the Southern Nevada Business Plan Competition. Presented in cooperation with the Las Vegas Business Press, the competition gives Southern Nevada residents an opportunity to present their ideas to investors, faculty, and prominent members of the business community. Last year's winner received more than $95,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. The center also works closely with students, particularly in engineering, to help them develop real-world business plans for innovative technologies. 702 895-0447