Social Entrepreneurs Help Small Businesses: BU’s Urban Accelerator Program

31 Oct

This article originally appears in The Huffington Post.

Amy Neumann

Writer, Speaker; Social Good, PR and Marketing Consultant

Boston University’s Urban Accelerator Program: Helping Businesses and Social Entrepreneurs

Posted: 10/30/2012 4:05 pm

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Starting back in high school, Nathan Bernard dove into a succession of fundraising driven social endeavors in places like Ecuador, Kenya, and Tanzania. Through projects like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, he helped fund AIDS orphanages, housing programs and more.

When he attended Boston University, the passion continued to grow with work in Ghana with Community Water Solutions, Inner Mongolia, with micro-lender ACCION International, and India with his first start-up, AnaGenesis.

A keen interest in sustainable charity, or creating pathways for people to help themselves, led Bernard to pitch an idea for an Urban Business Accelerator program to Dean Kenneth Freeman, former-CEO of Quest Diagnostics, KKR Board member, and current Dean of the Boston University School of Management. The pitch worked, and the Boston University Urban Business Accelerator program (BUBA) was born.

Bernard is now the director of the program, which he runs in collaboration with Professor Erik Molander of the BU School of Management, and MBA student Tiffany Israel. Together they oversee the teams, training, and strategic direction of BUBA.

The BUBA program accomplishes two objectives. First, it helps local small businesses in underprivileged areas gain the tools and training on financials to help manage their small businesses. Second, it helps create student social entrepreneurs with leadership skills and a deeper understanding of the impact that their university education can have on the business owners.

The 10-week program forms teams of one graduate student and three undergraduates. These teams review financials, make baseline comparisons, identify areas for improvement, and teach the business owners how to use the accounting software QuickBooks to streamline and monitor their progress. The goal of the 180-hour, free program is to give business owners a strong level of financial literacy that can be applied to improve their bottom line.


Nathan Bernard pitched the idea of an Urban Accelerator program at Boston University that is now active and creating stronger local businesses as well as social entrepreneurs. Photo Courtesy of Boston University

So far, businesses have saved an average of $9,000 from the experience, as well as retain five jobs per business. BUBA has also created one full time job through the initial pilot launch.

“BUBA helps small businesses take it to the next level, and also creates socially-inclined leaders in the process,” notes Bernard.

Partners of the program, like Intuit’s QuickBooks, Google’s free Get Your Business Online program, the City of Boston, and ACCION USA, are providing tools, support, and training for both the BUBA student teams and the businesses.

Based on the pilot launch, a program curriculum, coined by Bernard, “BUBA in a Box,” has been created to speed the learning process for the BUBA teams. This 105 page how-to guide is what Bernard hopes to share and expand in partnership with other universities in the near future.

As Bernard says, “We’re creating a program with the goal of replicating it on a national scale. My vision is for the BUBA methodology to be applied in more urban businesses and universities across the country. It’s an impactful and successful learning experience for everyone involved.”

The startup team for the Boston University Urban Accelerator program this summer. Photo courtesy of Boston University

To learn more about the program, contact Boston University .

Amy Neumann is a social entrepreneur, writer, speaker and consultant on social good marketing. Check out her Charity Ideas Blog and follow her on Twitter @CharityIdeas.

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Boston University , Boston University Urban Accelerator , Nathan Bernard , Buba , Social Entrepreneurship , Urban Development , Impact News

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