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Meet Our Students: Joshua Hahn, Local Business Co-op

Students Making a Difference

A small-business family background 

I’m originally from Maryland, and growing up I was surrounded by small businesses. My dad runs a roofing business, my uncle runs a construction business, and several other members of my family run businesses too, so understanding the workings of a small business was second nature to me. My dad would ask for my help on jobs and in the office, all the time when I was in high school. I worked on roofs putting on and taking off cedar shakes and worked in the office helping him set up or fix whatever he needed. That’s where my experience with helping small businesses started.

Recalibrating career plans

When I entered Drexel University, I originally entered the College of Engineering with the idea of becoming a mechanical engineer. I wanted to branch out from what my family had been doing and go into something a little different. I quickly realized that engineering wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but I did find something I was comfortable doing while studying engineering: we had to do a lot of presentations and bits of public speaking for our group projects and basic English class requirements, and I discovered that I really like going out and meeting people and presenting to them, and that it didn’t bother me at all to do so. So, after speaking with my parents and advisor, I switched over to the LeBow College of Business for a degree in marketing.

Providing business plan follow-up and implementation support for small businesses near campus 

My co-op position was to be working as a link between Drexel University and the local businesses near campus. It was a unique position in that I would be working with both the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships as well as LeBow throughout my time. I would be helping several businesses that had been going through a hands-on business plan development consulting course with junior and senior students in the quarter leading up to my co-op. I would help the businesses actually enact the business plans that those students had made for them, as well as helping them with other aspects of their business operations. I also supported local businesses by researching student spending habits. I asked business owners their opinions on the relationship that Drexel has had with local businesses as well as their concerns and ideas going forward as well as what business they get from the university and in particular, the students that go there. I also gathered information about the opinions and habits of the students using surveys and focus groups to see why and how they go about making spending decisions.

Looking at the position name alone when I looked over the co-op, I enjoyed the idea of being a Community Engagement Coordinator. Reading over the description for the co-op, I was aware that I would be helping small businesses, and I was perfectly okay with that. I wanted to test my ability to meet people cold and try my hand at applying a lot of what I had been learning. I really liked the idea of having to manage a lot of stuff myself; it made a challenge of being able to put effort not based on requirement but the desire to succeed. Basically, meaning that if I wanted something to get done, I had to find a way and work towards it without something pulling me along, I had to find my own motivation.

Being the game-changer for a family-run business 

This co-op has been a real growing experience for me. Not only did I learn a lot about how businesses build themselves up from the ground and how much having just one person who can help them where they need it really moves the process along efficiently and can keep their dream alive, I’ve learned that people you meet can be important to helping this in some of the most unexpected times. These businesses participated in a Drexel consulting course along with students to help move their ideas forward, and prior to my time here, that’s all they were given. They appreciated the help but they didn’t get anything afterwards to help enact the plans that students had made for them. Then I show up and suddenly it becomes infinitely more possible for their dreams and goals to become a reality. I can make connections and find people that they may not be able to. I can commit the time that they don’t have because they’re already working upwards of 60 hours a week. I can keep on top of them so they don’t let their ideas die out. The importance in the work itself and who it helps became the reason for me to try hard, and that was an awesome feeling.