LIU-Post students run business on campus

From left, students Dolores Yovino, 21, of New From left, students Dolores Yovino, 21, of New Hyde Park, Dana Bettex, 21, of East Meadow and Christina Principato, 20, of Levittown, 20, shop at the new Student Body Boutique at Long Island University in Brookville. (Nov. 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Inside a small, concrete-and-glass room at the LIU Post campus in Brookville, students are gaining real-world experience running a business through jobs at The Student Body -- a fully functional, for-profit clothing boutique.

"The main purpose is to get the students the two years of experience that employers want from a student coming out of college," said Tamir Dayya, LIU special projects coordinator and The Student Body manager, who received an MBA in marketing from LIU. "They can work and be involved in executive-level decisions while being a student, which makes them more marketable to businesses when they graduate."

The store, on the second floor of the Post campus' Hillwood Commons building, had a soft opening Nov. 1 and celebrated an official grand opening, with ribbon-cutting, Nov. 12. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, The Student Body mainly targets university students, although it is advertised to faculty and staff as well.

The project is run by a seven-person student committee and Dayya, who plans to transition to a more hands-off, mentoring role as The Student Body gets on its feet. Committee members were chosen from students who stepped up when the idea debuted, Dayya said, but future members will undergo a more formal interview process.

The positions are not restricted to students in business-related majors.

Lucie Chrastecka, a pre-med student at LIU from the Czech Republic, has been working at the store since it opened.

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"It's great to have work experience on your resume," Chrastecka said.

Dayya described the committee as being like a club that generates business plans, makes executive-level decisions and provides other business experiences. Although students work in primary "departments" -- focusing on finances, public relations, marketing, inventory and other areas -- due to their small size and committee-like structures, members are expected to help each other with tasks and vote on results.

"Everything that they [the students] want to do -- as far as running a business -- we try to keep it as close to their wishes as possible and just help guide them through it," Dayya said.

Although store clerks are paid for their hours, committee members receive neither a salary nor class credit for their efforts. Rather, their reward lies in seeing the business thrive, their ideas come to life and the opportunity to note their part in a successful business venture on a resume.

"Students learn how to cooperate and work within a group and compromise as they do things," said Lucille Wesnofske, regional director at the Farmingdale Small Business Development Center. "If you have a strong committee and everyone has an opinion, they will come together and make everything work as a group, and that's a good experience for any job."

Wesnofske said students who use small-business experiences to do more than add a line to their resume by developing projects, for example, are more likely to impress employers than those who do not.

Dayya said store inventory was selected based on student suggestions that the campus add a clothing store that sells more than just school paraphernalia, including scarves, gloves and accessories, as well as men's and women's pants, shirts and dresses. Carrying brands such as Romeo&Juliet Couture and Gianni Bini, clothes sell for less than suggested retail price -- most ranging between $20 and $50.

Half of the profit will cover the store's costs and the other half will go to LIU scholarships and funding for future LIU student-run businesses, said LIU Post president Kimberly Cline, a former State University of New York chief financial officer.

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Cline said in an email that The Student Body is the first of several student-run ventures planned for the school that are meant to empower students by giving them the tools to run their own business. Another boutique is already being planned for LIU's Brooklyn campus.

The experience shows employers that students aren't afraid to "take risks" in the business world and are comfortable making executive-level decisions, according to Cline.

A call to other Long Island colleges turned up no similar student-run business. However, similar projects have been launched by schools across the nation, including Georgetown University in Washington and Loyola University in Chicago.

"This is especially crucial for graduates in the 21st century, where global competition for jobs is fierce and having actual work experience before earning their degrees makes a huge difference in job interviews," Cline said.

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