MBA students reach out to assist local businesses


Providing technical assistance to new and expanding small businesses is one of the many ways UNC Pembroke reaches out to the surrounding community.

 Rick Crandall

William "Rick" Crandall

 Beth Wilkerson

Beth Wilkerson


This summer an MBA team led by Dr. Rick Crandall assisted two businesses in the specialized field of human resources. They were referred to Crandall by Beth Wilkerson, assistant director of UNCP’s Small Business and Technology Development Center.

“Small business owners need expert assistance in some key areas of their enterprise,” Wilkerson said. “Human resource management is critical to all businesses.”

Crandall, a human resources expert, taught a graduate class this summer titled “Human Resource Management.”

Given the choice between a research paper and a hands-on project, MBA candidates Brandi Boyer and Anthony Zefiretto Jr. decided to join Crandall in the project. Both earned high praise for their work.

“For smaller businesses, there is often not enough time for the local manager to get some of these side projects done well,” Crandall said. “Compiling an employee manual is one such item.

“The day-to-day running of the business is so time consuming that, for the manager, projects like this just get put on the back burner and tend to stay there and never get done,” he said.

Wilkerson signed on two of her existing clients, Caring Touch Home Health Care and Holiday Inn Express, both of Pembroke.

Donna Lowry, owner of Caring Touch, previously received consulting assistance from the SBTDC and from another MBA team when she launched her business in 2005. She’s also a member of the UNCP Board of Trustees and UNCP’s Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship.

“We’re always facing deadlines and pressing issues such as certifications, so some things just get pushed to the side,” Lowry said. “Anthony was very professional, and his work took us to another level with human resources.

“I like that he is young and brought a fresh perspective,” she said. “Dr. Crandall followed up and stayed in contact the whole time.”

James Chavis, a partner and general manager of Pembroke’s Holiday Inn Express, said a start-up business has many diverse needs.

“With any new organization, you have special areas that you need assistance with,” Chavis said of his one-year-old business. “Brandi put it all together for us.”

“I can’t say enough good things about Brandi or the MBA program,” he continued. “The University has a lot of expertise and is a great resource.”

Chavis said the SBTDC was critical in the early phases of the start-up and that the hotel could use them for additional assistance in marketing.

Zeferitto is from Wilmington, N.C., and wants to work in college or professional sports. A graduate assistant working with UNCP athletics, he said that he spent about 55 hours building a comprehensive human resources manual for Caring Touch.

“I was lucky in that I didn’t have to start from scratch,” he said. “They had an employee manual already in place that was around 30 pages, and I did a major overhaul to update the manual.

“I was happy with the manual when it was completed,” Ziferitto said. “ I could have done a research paper, but I learned a lot from this project, and it helped with my professional growth tremendously.”

Ziferetto said he received a lot of support from Lowry and Crandall, who said the project, which took all semester, worked well with his course.

“Would I do this again? Yes, absolutely,” Crandall said. “Courses that have some type of practitioner aspect to it do well.”

Boyer is from Cameron, N.C., and works as an algebra and calculus tutor at UNCP. She plans to continue her education and teach in higher education.

Boyer tried to make her human resources manual easy to read and use.

“Because the hotel is so new, it was difficult to personalize the manual based on their policy and procedures because many of them had not been created yet,” she said. “My goal became to make the manual flexible, with room to grow with a new business.

“Understandably, the client has been very busy establishing his business, but they seemed pleased with the outcome of the manual,” Boyer said.

She said working with a local business was a great education and personal experience.

“I was able to put into action a lot of different lessons that I learned from the professors at UNCP,” Boyer said. “Even more importantly, I was able to make contacts with people in business locally in North Carolina that I probably would have never met otherwise.”

The SBTDC’s Wilkerson would also like more expert help with her clients.

“This is a good outreach opportunity, and it provides real-life business experiences for students,” Wilkerson said. “I would like to continue working with faculty and students to benefit small business owners.”

The SBTDC is North Carolina’s leading resource for growing and developing businesses.  Since 1984, the SBTDC has helped more than 100,000 North Carolina business owners and prospective entrepreneurs make better decisions — often leading to increased revenue and employment. 

The SBTDC has 16 regional offices across North Carolina. Each office is supported by a local state university, such asUNC Pembroke, and staffed by specially trained professionals, most with prior business ownership or executive experience. 

It is a business advisory service of the University of North Carolina system, administered statewide by NC State University and operated in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

For more information, visit or call Beth Wilkerson at 910.775.4000 or e-mail The local office is located in COMtech business park in UNCP’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development.