By ERIN HORROCKS-POPE
The Beach BIA has partnered with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University to match retail management students with local shops to support business growth over the coming months.
Behind the creation of this pilot project is Karen Cleveland, a Beach resident with a background in marketing and communications. Currently on maternity leave, Cleveland has found herself becoming more connected with her community during.
“I walk around a lot now, and I’ve been feeling more immersed and have a newfound appreciation for local businesses,” said Cleveland. “So, watching business owners struggle in the pandemic with restrictions and less clients or customers really upset me and I came up with this idea to partner retail students with retail owners.”
Cleveland approached The Beach BIA and faculty at Ted Rogers School of Management to arrange the partnership, and began inviting local businesses to participate in the project.
According to Beach BIA Executive Director Paul Bieksa, more than 20 businesses will be sponsoring retail management students during the Winter 2022 semester which ends in April.
The BIA anticipates this partnership will generate exciting solutions for problems local retailers have been facing.
“There’s a plethora of unique issues, so [through the partnership] each busines will have the opportunity to identify what they’re struggling with,” said Bieksa.
“The biggest thing is that every business needs more customers, they’ve all been affected by COVID restrictions. It just comes down to finding different and unique ways of drawing in more customers and expanding customer bases within the community.”
This project will allow business owners to work with groups of retail management students to identify issues within their businesses and develop strategies to expand customer reach.
Cleveland believes this partnership will benefit not only the businesses and students involved, but also energize and rejuvenate the community.
“This is a great opportunity for our local shops to gain a fresh perspective into new strategies from the students they’ll be sponsoring,” said Cleveland. “That perspective is really important because our community is changing so it’s important that our businesses can keep up with that pace of community evolution.”
Juan Marcelo Gomez is the instructor of the Leading in Retail Service Organizations course at Ted Rogers School of Management, the partner program of this project.
Gomez has arranged hands-on industry work for his students in the past, recognizing that the best way for students to develop meaningful retail management strategies is to have access to work with real businesses.
“It’s field experience that they [the students] need,” said Gomez. “They’re still learning while they’re being sponsored by the businesses and being able to apply the concepts that they’re learning in the classroom to support retailers.”
Gomez has set up his course to follow CEWIL Canada framework, focussing on work-integrated learning (WIL) as a means of bridging the gap between theory and practice. The implementation of WIL has historically been something more commonly associated with college programs rather than university level programs.
This is something Gomez hopes will continue changing as educational institutions further evolve into preparing students for entering workplaces.
“There’s been a big push for moving towards putting theory into practice,” said Gomez. “We need to be finding ways of transferring real knowledge to students so they’re work-ready when they graduate because at the end of the day it’s education that’s key in any workplace.”
Interest from local businesses in signing up for this partnership was overwhelming, though not surprising, said Bieksa.
“The project is a great opportunity for our businesses to benefit from high-level academia consultants,” he said. “The school’s [retail management] program is highly regarded so everyone’s really enthusiastic.”
According to Bieksa, the BIA is optimistic that service and retail innovations will be developed by students and adopted by local businesses.
Cleveland, who will be remaining on board as a project manager, is excited to work closely with students and businesses to develop strategies to rejuvenate businesses and revitalize the community.
“Our community is constantly evolving and densifying,” Cleveland said. “I think this partnership is a great opportunity to reenergize our existing retailers and hopefully attract new businesses to our neighbourhood.”