They’re “just kids” … but they’re running a consulting firm.
Barton International Group is a student-run consulting firm at Wichita State University, founded in 2008 by adviser Kate Kung-McIntyre, that emphasizes experiential learning to a degree seldom seen in undergrad programs.
“It was like building a (simulation) where they can actually practice and apply what they are learning outside of co-ops and internships,” Kung-McIntyre said. “They’re learning how to run an organization.”
BIG works in partnership with the W. Frank Barton School of Business at WSU. It’s located in the Innovation Hub of Devlin Hall.
The firm offers data analysis, digital marketing, feasibility analysis and market research. Kung-McIntyre is BIG’s coach and mentor, but she said the students ultimately make all the decisions.
She said she would prefer mistakes get made at business school rather than out in the workplace.
“If they make a mistake at Barton, there is an opportunity to sit down, talk and ask, ‘What would you do different next time?’ ” Kung-McIntyre said. “So that helps them grow.”
The group, which now has around 30 members, initially consisted of 13 business students who felt they needed more professional experience. The only requirement for membership is being a WSU undergraduate student, BIG marketing director Carmen Resco said.
“We get mostly business (students), but we’re open to anyone,” Resco said.
The firm has a 95 percent job placement after graduation, according to its website.
Recent clients include Star Lumber and Metal Fab Inc., Resco said.
Made up of young professionals, BIG sometimes has trouble being taken seriously, Resco said.
Current BIG CEO Jacob Archer said the group’s professionalism surprises clients.
“As students, we sometimes get this stigma of ‘we are not professionals,’ but we operate very much as any consulting company in town would,” Archer said.
And as young adults who are still learning, the members’ strength lies in their ability to learn, Archer said.
“We don’t have years and years of structured corporate regimens,” Archer said. “We have a different perspective, and we use that perspective to benefit our clients.”
One of those clients is Rusty Eck Ford president Les Eck, who consulted with BIG in 2016. He said he was told marketing was something all companies struggled with, so he figured it would be a good idea to get a younger generation’s perspective.
Eck said BIG “did their homework.”
“They may just be kids, but they’re good, young professional kids that did a lot of good research and spent some time on it,” Eck said. “They’re going to be a success somewhere in the world.”
In addition to working with clients in Wichita, BIG has taken trips around the world, to do research and to talk business, Resco said. Past destinations include Taiwan, New York, Silicon Valley in California and Malaysia, with Seattle slated for this year.
The trips are paid for with client donations, Resco said. Donations are the only form of payment BIG can accept from its clients.
Eight years after its start, BIG has gone from “handholding all the time” to being nearly independent, something Kung-McIntyre said makes her proud.
“I’ve watched them mature and come to the realization of who they are,” Kung-McIntyre said. “I think that’s priceless as a faculty member.
“Today, what we are, this was the ultimate dream. We got it.”