When Robert Knox (GRD ’21) learned about MBAs Fight COVID-19, he saw an opportunity to bring the pro bono consulting organization to Georgetown University.
Since early May, when Knox proposed founding a Georgetown chapter of MBAs Fight COVID-19, over 70 Georgetown graduate business students have joined the initiative, according to Knox. Nationwide, 1,000 students from 12 different universities and colleges are involved.
Knox said he founded the chapter because it showed promise to benefit students and businesses alike.
“Their idea was, ‘What if we could get students valuable experience doing interesting projects? But instead of just making work for students, why don’t we find applications where they can work with actual businesses? And not just any businesses, but businesses that are actually struggling and could use their help,’” Knox said in an interview with The Hoya.
MBAs Fight COVID-19, a group founded by Harvard Business School students Sarika Mendu and Amina Edwards, aims to provide short-term, pro bono help to small businesses facing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses around the country can post project requests, ranging from loan assistance to optimizing e-commerce platforms, and are then matched with MBA students.
For Knox, the ability to work alongside MBA students from these different schools supplements his business education well, he said.
“In an MBA program, there are not a ton of opportunities to network with people from other programs,” he said. “I’ve built a network myself just by virtue of getting to work on projects with some of these people, and it’s been fantastic.”
Beyond simply gaining experience while they earn a degree, the students at MBAs Fight COVID-19 do valuable work with organizations in need, according to Mendu and Edwards.
“We are inspired by medical professionals and other frontline workers who are risking their lives everyday to fight COVID-19,” they said in an article for MBA Schooled. “While MBAs are not ‘essential workers,’ we do have skills that can be useful to small businesses, nonprofits and organizations, which will require tremendous support, not only today, but also over the next several years.”
Once they are connected with a business, students involved with MBAs Fight COVID-19 reach out to the business to begin work on the proposed project. Current projects include researching outpatient services in Bangladesh with Praava Health, a privately owned Bangladeshi healthcare provider that has been administering COVID-19 tests during the pandemic, and consulting on fundraising initiatives for The Commonwealth Institute, a networking and mentoring program for professional women.
Through working on projects like guiding business owners through the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal government’s signature program to aid businesses with forgivable loans, Knox said he has seen how hard it can be for small businesses to receive the help and funding they need.
“It’s hard enough to get help with things you need help with when things are normal,” Knox said. “But when everybody is kind of in the same boat and there’s a real crisis, it’s very, very hard for your voice to be heard.”