A Community Connection
Bauer College Offers Resources, Support to Houston Area During COVID-19 Pandemic
Bauer College students, alumni and programs came together this year to provide critical resources and business support.
As the Houston area looked to respond and recover to new protocols and social procedures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston proved to be an invaluable resource, offering support and a helping hand to small businesses, entrepreneurs, families and the community.
Here, we share just a few stories of Bauer College’s distinctive connection to the City of Houston, demonstrated through innovative solutions to new challenges presented by the pandemic.
Small Business, Big Support
The University of Houston Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network formed a partnership with H-Force, a developing coalition created to help Houston’s small business community combat the COVID-19 crisis. In collaboration with H-Force members San Jacinto College, Houston Community College and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, UH SBDC offered a series of free small business survival webinars to help business owners navigate the immediate impact and unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.
“We remain dedicated to supporting Houston’s small business community, so they can continue to be the engine driving our economy,” UH SBDC Network Executive Director Steve Lawrence said. “Partnering with H-Force is a great opportunity for us to further our mission and we are happy to share our expertise and resources to help these small businesses navigate the incredible barriers they are currently facing. The economic circumstances that COVID-19 has created requires extraordinary responses in helping small businesses and that’s what we’re trying to do together.”
H-Force has identified four key areas where small businesses are particularly struggling in the wake of COVID-19:
- Marketing & Staying Alive
- Mindset in a Crisis
- Navigating Financial Challenges
- Pivoting or Relaunching Your Business
Weekly webinars focused on a variety of topics within the four key areas to give small business owners the tools and perspective needed to help them survive COVID-19. H-Force is a developing coalition of educational institutions, independent school districts and entrepreneurial organizations brought together to support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to address personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages.
Together, H-Force is working bring their resources, expertise and innovative spirit to bear to support the Houston community band together to stop the virus spread.
Cultivating the next generation of students has always been important to Bauer College.
This year, the task took on added importance, as COVID-19 spread throughout the world, and parents and educational institutions looked for ways to remain engaged with tomorrow’s potential innovators.
Bauer’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship (WCE) had to cancel its plans to host a summer camp for high school students in the Rio Grande Valley. Instead, when department chair Ed Blair learned that a three-week STEM Interactive Camp for students grade 6-9 offered by UH would launch online in June and July, he looked for a way to involve the Wolff Center.
Presented by UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM) through their STEM teacher preparation program, teachHOUSTON, the STEM Interactive Camp is designed to teach math, science, and engineering design and innovation skills.
To say the virtual camp was a success is an understatement. More than 1,000 participants signed up in the first 48 hours after the free program was announced. Enrollment topped out at 2,000 students, with participants logging in from numerous states across the country, and even Belgium and Puerto Rico.
TeachHOUSTON Associate Director and STEM Interactive Executive Director Paige Evans said the program received 24,000 hits on lesson plans, and the staff received numerous heartfelt testimonials from kids and parents on how much the program meant to them.
The Wolff Center provided prizes and certificates of recognition for exceptional performance in each of the five topic areas of the camp and for daily STEM Scholars of the Day.
The cross-campus collaboration exemplifies one of the many ways UH and Bauer College support the broader community, in this case, stepping up to support a dynamic experience in lieu of face-to-face learning options.
“We at the Wolff Center have been interested for some time in how we can make a difference for K-12 students,” Blair said. “For example, Wolff Center students have served as mentors in various programs, and we collaborated with Junior Achievement this year to host a business plan competition at UH for high school students.”
He added: “The STEM Interactive Camp was just what families needed at this time, and the students were super-excited to win prizes. The teachHOUSTON team, including Co-Executive Director Mariam Manuel, did a fantastic job, and we were very happy to be able to support them.”
TeachHOUSTON is largely funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and has produced 350 math and science teachers since its first graduating class in 2009. The Wolff Center is the No. 1 undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the nation, according The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine’s annual ranking. More than 1,200 businesses have been started over the last decade by Wolff Center students and graduates, with funding of $268 million.
A Bauer College alumnus joined forces with fellow entrepreneurs to support restaurants across the United States fighting to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emmit Schultz (BBA ’17) used his business skills to help market Restaurant Hero, an open platform that hosts city-specific websites that inform users of which restaurants are still operating and providing takeout and to-go services.
The platform was created in 24 hours by Schultz’s friends Greg Baroth and Brandon Brotsky and includes active sites for Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City.
“Restaurant Hero was created to give a quick and easy relief effort to all restaurants that planned to remain operational through the COVID-19 outbreak,” Schultz said. “The rough idea of Restaurant Hero was born about 24 hours after the city of Los Angeles began exercising safety precautions by shutting down the city.”
He added: “They believed that this simple, yet informative, solution would surely move local communities to support the businesses that are a part of our cultural and economic fabric.”
During his time at Bauer, Schultz was a student in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.
“The Wolff Center stressed the value of collaboration among its students, which is an elaborate way of expressing the importance of a team,” Schultz said. “To create a solution viable to address the masses on a level that creates true impact requires the minds of many. The Wolff Center taught us to lead by example through creating value for those beyond yourself, and I believe that Restaurant Hero is the very embodiment of that perspective.”
Now as the Restaurant Hero team continues to support restaurants in need, Schultz sees a future in community collaboration down the road.
“We see Restaurant Hero being used as an example of how community action in collaborative efforts can make a difference during a time of crisis,” he said. “The efforts of Restaurant Hero demonstrate that during our most confusing and desperate of times, that people will come together to create support for their fellow neighbor.”
Supporting Health Care Heroes
A Bauer College alumna is doing her part to help Houston-area frontline health care heroes.
Linda Luong (BBA ‘07, MSACCY ‘08) serves as president of the Houston chapter of Ascend, the largest, non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America. Under Luong’s leadership, the group is partnering with Feed Your Hospital Initiative, coordinating hot meals from local restaurants and providing food to frontline health care workers.
The organization has already raised over $18,000 and served over 1,100 meals, and they’re looking to make an even bigger impact.
“We have a goal of $25,000 and need more support, as COVID-19 cases have significantly increased in Houston,” Luong said.
A Local Helping Hand
A Bauer College undergraduate is using his business acumen to provide health care opportunities for those in need in Houston.
Management senior Shaida Bhayani and his team launched TRS Health, a nonprofit clinic focused on helping patients with health and substance issues in underserved areas within Houston, in 2019.
“I’ve been involved in humanitarian projects for the last 15 years, and I wanted to do something locally,” Bhayani said. “When it comes to Houston, the big voids are food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. There are a lot of people working on food, shelter, and clothing but not healthcare.”
“If somebody does have health issues, insurance for the underserved is expensive,” he added. TRS Health’s goal is to provide physician services for those without health insurance for only $30 per visit.
Bhayani and his team at TRS Health meet every week to exchange ideas and discuss next steps to advance their goal of providing affordable healthcare in the Houston area.
While TRS Health aims to eventually have a physical clinic, the coronavirus pandemic required them to adjust their plan and pivot to use resources to set up locations to provide free COVID-19 testing for those who are uninsured. They are also looking into telemedicine solutions.
Bhayani and fellow management seniors Zuleima Gonzalez, Luiber Robertis, and Alexsandra Macias recently presented a business plan for TRS Health in a management 4385 course, taught by Assistant Clinical Professor Alex Tawse.
“The team not only provided a well-researched and compelling strategic plan, but went above and beyond in terms of its scope and mission to help solve a real-world problem,” Tawse said.
“The course helped me organize and streamline our ideas. I have a lot of practical business experience, but Professor Tawse’s class gave me an understanding of processes from beginning to end and taught me how to think critically and analytically for this project,” Bhayani said. “What I have learned in class has helped me move from having an idea to developing a comprehensive plan.”
To learn more about the free COVID-19 testing offered at TRS Health, visit www.trshealth.org.