West Chester University graduates collaborate with small businesses during pandemic

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- As the coronavirus crisis hit, West Chester Professor Tom Elmer looked around the university's town with concern.

"Small business is the engine that drives our economy, and I know that the local businesses in our town were going to be hurt," said Elmer, adjunct professor of marketing at West Chester University.

He turned to his marketing students - whose college careers were cut short - and asked if they would be willing to help the businesses find new ways to survive.

"Guess how many of my 65 kids raised their hand and said they would? Fifty-five, 55 of them..I am telling you that is fantastic," Elmer said.

Those 55 students are partnered with 26 West Chester businesses to collaborate on COVID-era marketing strategies.

Lauren Kirkpatrick is working with West Chester Friends School.

"It's all about getting people to be able to adapt to the digital world and being able to connect with their respective customers virtually," Kirkpatrick said.

Cierra Gelfand is working with West Chester Design Build, a home remodeling company.

"It was a kind of great graduation exit gift from West Chester just to really apply all this to the real world. Take all that I've learned all this time and help any way I could," Gelfand said.

Stephanie Carbaugh, the head of the marketing department at West Chester Design Build, said they worked on a re-branding strategy.

"The school is such a big part of this town so for the school to reach out and want to partner with local businesses I just thought was so wonderful," Carbaugh said.

"Over the past 4 years, West Chester has given me so much and I just felt so grateful that I could give back in a way," Kirpatrick said.

Elmer is passionate about the project.

"This is about doing what's right," he said. "We are a community that loves our town. We're the best small town in the land and we're not lying down. We're fighting back. We need these businesses."
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