In their junior year at the University, a few friends began considering the importance of applying what they learned in the classroom to business practices in the real world.

At first, the students joked about being paid for giving advice to Ann Arbor businesses on how to improve their companies. But then, they realized the idea could become a reality.

“The joke actually started becoming a conversation of not ‘do you think people would pay us’ but ‘how do we do it,’” said Business School senior Dean Fefopoulos.

Fefopoulos is co-founder of the Nexecon Consulting Group — a student group established in 2008 that provides consulting services for local businesses and the University. Today, roughly 50 University students are members.

Nexecon has clients ranging from Sava’s Cafe and No Thai! to the University’s Office of Development, the Nexecon Consulting Group has become one of the more successful student-run business groups, and the only one from which the University seeks consulting.

Nexecon co-founder Josh Lin, a senior in the Business School, said the group advises clients on how to best market to current students.

“(The group) taps into the student market and gives clients a snapshot of what the current landscape looks like,” Lin said.

In its first few months, the group had one client, the Ann Arbor SPARK, which provides resources for start-up businesses in town. Lin said the group saw this first client as a learning experience that gave them a crash course in the world of consulting.

“The first six months was us learning how to swim,” Lin said.

By winter term 2009, the group gained clientele by seeking businesses and referrals from existing clients and from there Nexecon’s success spiraled.

Last summer at the National Summit in Detroit — a meeting of business and government officials to discuss the country’s economic future — the students spoke with University President Mary Sue Coleman and she became interested in developing a relationship with the company, Lin said.

Coleman sent the students to Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations at the University, and what was supposed to be a 20-minute meeting turned into an hour and a half long discussion. Wilbanks then referred the students to several other University departments, according to Lin.

The group currently advises University departments on marketing and strategy techniques.

The University also has an in-house consulting group, the Prudence Panel, which consists of students, faculty and staff who advise the University on cost-cutting measures. But Nexecon differs from the Prudence Panel because it consists of only students, according to Lin.

LSA senior Mark De Avila, a co-founder of the group, said working with the University has given members of Nexecon a better understanding of consulting practices and the inner workings of the University.

Editor’s Note: Nexicon Consulting Group did consulting work for The Michigan Daily’s business staff late last year regarding new projects the organization is working on.

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