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Mason and Mexican Students Partner to Help Start-Up Businesses

Posted 25 Mar 2015

Nine George Mason University students from the School of Business traveled to Mexico City over spring break to team with students from the Instituto Tecnólogico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey to develop business strategies for four Mexican start-up businesses.

Students from both universities have been consulting with the Mexican companies all semester to develop strategies that overcome limited resources. The project was created by a State Department grant called “100,000 Strong in the Americas.”

“The idea is to make sure American students learn more about Latin America and Latin American students learn more about America,” says Mahesh Joshi, director of Mason’s Research and Practice Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The students collaborated via phone, email and Skype until the March visit by Mason. Joshi says the Monterrey Tec students will visit Fairfax after visas are processed, most likely in May.

Students brainstorm how to bring footwear  embroidered in traditional Mexican tenango designs to the U.S. Photo courtesy of Mahesh Joshi.

Both cohorts have been working in teams, focusing on solving the clients’ obstacles in bringing their goods and services to market. The clients include a company making solar-powered, motorized bicycles for students in rural areas; a jewelry company that makes traditional designs from silver; an embroidery firm that puts traditional Mexican designs known as tenango on bags, pillow covers, apparel and other items; and a company that specializes in tenangoembroidery for footwear, with a goal to expand into the United States.

“I was able to see the global economy from a new lens and take on a more analytical approach to resolving the conflicts that an entrepreneur faces,” says Mason senior Ahmed Cherkaoui, who is double majoring in business management and conflict analysis and resolution. “Not to mention the cross-cultural exchange I shared with the students of Monterrey Tec. And the clients that we were working with also allowed me to gain a better understanding of their culture.”

The Monterrey trip was Katie Salaris’s first time out of the country.

“I think the most significant part of the week was developing strong relationships with our fellow classmates at Monterrey Tech,” says the Sandy Hook, Conn., finance major. “We were so eager to learn about what their lives are like, and they were so enthusiastic about sharing their culture with us.”

Salaris says the trip broadened the scope of what’s normally covered in class, including STEP analysis— sociocultural, technological, economic and political forces of a new market that have to be taken into consideration when expanding abroad.

“Overall, the obstacles we’re facing [in the projects] are an opportunity to learn how to work with a client and figure out what their expectations are, while still using the business analysis skills we’re learning to ensure that our recommendations are sound,” she says.

Mason’s team of business undergraduates poses with cohorts from Monterrey Tec. Photo courtesy of Meggan Ford.

Junior business management major Michaela Martin learned the value of using cultural differences to enhance management.

“I loved how relationship oriented the people from Mexico are. They bring a second family feel to a business that I love.”

Rashaan Mateen, a management and finance major from Philadelphia, praised Mexico’s accessible location, in-place logistical infrastructure, and positive exporting capabilities.

Mateen also found that Generation Y students in Mexico and the United States have more in common that he realized.

“Students should definitely take advantage of this opportunity because you’ll get insight and exposure to a culture you think is much different only to find out that we’re a lot alike.”

This project was supported by the Mason Global Office and Center for Global Education.

Written by Buzz McClain. This article originally appeared on the Mason NewsDesk here.