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Troy Farmers Market Gets Business Boost from MBA Students

The Troy Waterfront Farmers Market had a late opening this year, and new rules for social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Provided photo)

The MBA team that came up with a plan for the Troy Farmers Market are, clockwise from top left, Oswaldo Adaz, Justin Collins, Whitney Philippi and Ashna Sikand.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 2, 2020) — The Troy Waterfront Farmers Market has a new business idea and $1,000 to set it in motion, thanks to a team of UAlbany School of Business MBA students.

The idea came through the Small Business School Challenge, a 48-hour competition where student teams were paired with local small businesses to find creative ways to get through the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 450 MBA students from 11 business schools nationwide participated, including Yale, NYU, UCLA and Carnegie-Melon. UAlbany had 35 students on 11 teams, working with restaurants, bakeries, stores and organizations primarily in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area.

The team assigned to the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market came up with a plan for a subscription box service – a meal prep box filled with farm-fresh ingredients from a variety of market vendors, with recipes included.

“This would provide sustainable income for the farmers market and solve the 'what's for dinner' question for customers for a few nights a week,” said William Wales, the Standish Professor of Entrepreneurship at the School of Business and one of the mentors for the student group.

For the Troy market, the idea couldn’t have come at a better time. Market Manager Stephen Ridler had just gotten the green light to reopen the market, which had been shuttered in the lockdown. “We had been setting up an online market because we weren’t sure when we’d be able to open in person,” Ridler said. That same software could be used to set up a subscription box plan, he said.

“The team did a solid job of presenting their ideas, and it’s a very doable idea,” Ridler said. “It’s very grounded, very realistic. The Market will win some money from this competition and we will use it to implement their idea.”

The team’s plan won first prize in the local competition, and went on to win third in the national completion. That brought prize money of $1,750 – $1,000 for the Troy market and the rest to be split among the other small businesses that UAlbany teams advised, said Janet Marler, associate dean of graduate programs for the School of Business, and one of the organizers of the competition.

“The beauty of this project is that it is a great example of win-win. Our MBA students are helping the small business community while also engaging in valuable experiential learning, networking with our alumni who are acting as mentors, and joining with other MBA graduates across the country to help others,” Marler said. “Instead of being stuck at home, our MBA students can get out there and make a difference."

Students on the Troy Market team were Oswaldo Adaz, Justin Collins, Whitney Philippi and Ashna Sikand. They were advised by Wales and local businessman Chris Wessel.

Other local businesses that were paired with MBA teams were:

  • AWCplus, Rensselaer
  • Berben and Wolffs, Albany and Troy
  • Fort Orange General Store, Albany
  • CREATE Community Studios, Schenectady
  • DeFazio & Sons Market and Pizzeria, Troy
  • eBizDocs, Albany
  • Faith Creative Names, Albany
  • Fresh & Fly Clothing, Albany
  • Junior Achievement of Northeastern New York, Albany
  • Living Harmony, Cambridge, Mass.
  • McVeigh Funeral Home, Albany
  • Puzzles Bakery & Café, Schenectady
  • Schenectady County Historical Society, Schenectady
  • The Fifth Tier Baking Studio, Albany
  • The Olde English Pub, Albany

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