Days before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Suzette Sweatt and her husband, Daniel, were moving their group fitness business, SweattBoxx Wellness Center, into a new, 1,100 square-foot facility.
“We’d just moved in on March 10, 2020, and suddenly, Governor [Holcomb] was saying we had to close our doors due to COVID,” remembers Suzette. “It was so sad. We hadn’t even unpacked our boxes.”
The Sweatts notified clients they were taking classes online and began to loan out their equipment. SweattBoxx is known for its “SweattBounce” classes, which feature shoes with a curved, spring-loaded base used for rebounding exercise. These classes are the company’s biggest revenue generator. But the firm needed to resume its plans for rebranding to move forward, rather than just survive the pandemic.
“We were stuck. We just couldn’t afford to go through the rebranding, and that’s when we heard about the Enterprise Corps opportunity through the Kelley School of Business and Indy Chamber,” said Suzette.
Enterprise Corps is a new partnership between the Indy Chamber Business Ownership Initiative and the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. The program offers consultation resources to small businesses in Indianapolis by connecting them with faculty coaches and student teams from the Evening MBA Program to address a company challenge or concern.
“Suzette was the ideal client to work with my digital marketing class in 2020, and I knew the Kelley School could do more to help her shape her whole corporate strategy,” said Kim Saxton, clinical professor of marketing. “I was excited to work with her on the Enterprise Corps project because the team could really help her identify and reach her goals for growth.”
“When Professor Saxton began explaining all the things Kelley could offer, it seemed so reliable, resourceful and affordable,” said Suzette. “We want to rebrand our personal training, our women in weights and our adult and youth bounce programs. They were able to bring together all the pieces, and they made me feel comfortable about the plan.”
They were able to bring together all the pieces, and they made me feel comfortable about the plan.”
SweattBoxx was one of 22 largely minority- and women-owned local businesses selected as an Enterprise Corps project at the Kelley School. Suzette met regularly with the students who selected her business as the capstone project to their Evening MBA degree, which included Chelsea Schmidt, Adiva Ayub, Jingshan Yin and Karly Weber.
“When we started our project, the goal was to find a way for Sweattboxx to gain $1 million in equity investments. As we worked with Suzette and learned more about the business, we found Sweattboxx needed a few more foundational elements before engaging with investors,” said Karly Weber, MBA’21, an area product marketer for 3M. “We felt we could make the most impact in three months by working with Suzette and her team to scale her business revenue in preparation for that equity investment.”
The team looked at ways to optimize SweattBoxx’s revenue through class scheduling and sizes. The Evening MBA students reviewed the customer experience from first engagement to long-time regulars. The team also reviewed the digital marketing strategy to increase awareness by developing a better online and social media presence.
“The outcome was especially great because we were able to recommend another Enterprise Corps client, Glambeau Design, to bid on the work for SweattBoxx,” said Saxton.
Finally, the team did a competitive analysis to determine what SweattBoxx was doing well and what could be improved.
“We narrowed it down to a couple strategies we think will really skyrocket the business and take it to a new level,” said Chelsea Schmidt, MBA’21, an associate product manager at Allegion. “Some recommendations focus on building the foundation of SweattBoxx’s revenue strategy, and others concentrate on its identity and who it wants to be. Our team is really excited about the options for Suzette and the SweattBoxx team — there’s some really fun stuff on the horizon!”
“The Kelley Evening MBA team took our brick-and-mortar location and revised our rebranding to position SweattBoxx as a fitness boutique. I’m really excited about that!” said Suzette. “They outlined everything I need to move forward, including a timeline that shows specifically what we need to be doing in the first couple weeks and what to adjust in another three to four months. It flows together so you’re not overwhelmed; it’s actually doable, one piece at a time. I’m thankful for them!”
Enterprise Corps is the capstone project for Evening MBA students; the final assignment in the degree program that pulls together the various lessons into one, hands-on, real-life project.
“The Enterprise project was a great experience. It’s a lot different than just sitting in a classroom where everyone’s doing the same thing,” said Adiva Ayub, BS’17, MBA’22, an investment analyst at CNO Financial Group. “We capitalized on each teammate’s unique skill sets to help the business from different angles. This capstone project speaks for the whole Evening MBA Program: We get real-world experience helping a small business and put all that knowledge to work beyond just a test or a quiz. This work is truly impacting somebody’s life, and I think that’s what is most rewarding.”
We get real-world experience helping a small business and put all that knowledge to work beyond just a test or a quiz. This work is truly impacting somebody’s life, and I think that’s what is most rewarding.”
The Evening MBA teams worked closely with Kelley faculty members who offered insights and guidance as the teams worked through each company’s unique situation and business challenge. This allowed the students to gut check their ideas with an expert in the field while offering each businesses access to a high-level consultant.
“Professor Kim Saxton advised us on how to communicate with clients, how to work through their problems like research funding and how to pin down the consulting questions,” said Jingshan Yin, MBA’21, a senior software engineer at Carbonite.
“We would never have made the connections the Kelley teams provided us,” said Suzette. “We didn’t even realize the things we were missing. For instance, I knew we needed a CRM (customer relationship management) system, but they gave me suggestions. And they didn’t just say, ‘Here, use this one; go figure it out.’ They suggested several options so I could try them out, and then, they walked me through it. Even now that the project is over, the students still follow up with me to see if I need anything or if we’re meeting the timelines and how they can come alongside to help. They’re still trying to stay connected to us, and I would love to maintain that partnership!”
Evening MBA students are typically employed full-time while pursing the degree in classes held after work and online. Students say the lessons gained through the Enterprise Corps are ones they’ll use in their current roles and future endeavors.
“My family used to own a small business, and it’s been probably 10 years since I was close to it,” said Chelsea. “It was nice to get back into the agility and nimbleness of a small business, knocking down the walls of a corporate structure that I’ve been used to for years.”
I’m able to take what I learn in class at night and apply it to my work the very next day.”
“One very beneficial thing that I’ve learned throughout the program is how to be an effective leader: knowing when to listen and when to collaborate and, ultimately, knowing the goal and how we can reach it,” added Karly. “I’m able to take what I learn in class at night and apply it to my work the very next day. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to take a new position in a different function at my current company. Having about a year’s worth of coursework under my belt really helped me through the interview process, as well as in my role now.”
Ultimately, the project saved SweattBoxx between $20-50,000 and several years to achieve the branding and strategic planning she gained through the Enterprise Corps project.
“We were able to cut that cost down to about $2,500,” she said. “The major savings was just one of the perks of being part of this program. I highly recommend this experience for small businesses.”