Engaged Learning

Family Business Students Pound the Pavement for Prop J

Undergrads Get Hands-On Education in SF Legacy Business Campaign

by School of Management, Gellert Center

Assistant professor Monika Hudson’s undergraduate students at the University of San Francisco’s (USF) School of Management (SOM) have taken on the school’s challenge to “change the world from here” – starting in their own backyards. Hudson’s students got a boots-on-the-ground education in local politics this fall by educating, and advocating for, legacy businesses. Both current and past students were major contributors and participants throughout the campaign around San Francisco’s Proposition J, which passed in the city’s November 3 elections.

Prop J began as a plan intended to help “legacy businesses”—those that have been around for 30 or more years—that are in danger of shutting down because of rent increases or large corporations taking them over. Introduced this summer, Prop J needed more attention from merchants and customers. Since these types of businesses can’t fund big budget campaigns, they were dependent on word of mouth, posters and fliers as advertisement. That’s what Hudson’s students, like Dylan Parks and Juan Rangel, set out to provide.

During their work as interns for Supervisor David Campos, sponsor of Proposition J, they went around to many different San Francisco neighborhoods asking every legacy business they could find to post the Prop J posters, left educational materials for customers and talked to the employees about the initiative.

According to Parks and Rangel, it was a very successful task. “They were like ‘oh yeah hang up a sign!’ before we could even tell them about it,” said Parks. In neighborhoods such as the Mission, the Marina and North Beach and on city thoroughfares like Geary, Divisadero and Fillmore, you could see signs that read, “I’m a legacy business, Vote Yes on J,” “Save our Legacy Business” and “Keep San Francisco San Francisco.”

Both Parks and Rangel are enrolled in Hudson’s Family Business course and found their internship to be a very gratifying part of their undergraduate work in the School of Management. “For businesses that have been suffering from this kind of situation with the city, for them to know that the city is trying to help them out, and to see the look on their faces that maybe there’s a chance kind of thing, was very rewarding. And now that it’s passed it’s a very, very nice feeling,” said Rangel.

It was really rewarding getting the reciprocation of how grateful people were in the city and how San Francisco is as a community itself."

- Parks

Now that Prop J has passed, 300 legacy businesses are eligible for annual grants of up to $500 per employee, per year. Additionally, they will be rewarded annual rent subsidies for an extended lease of at least 10 years, equivalent to $4.50 per square foot. “Essentially what Prop J is trying to do is keep San Francisco, San Francisco, which [was] definitely the motto of the campaign. As interns we were all able to help spread awareness. By putting these signs up, it explained the message and purpose of this proposition,” said Rangel. Parks added, “With this will come more preservation for these legacy businesses and more importantly keeping San Francisco the way it has been.”

Gellert Family Business Resource Center Focuses on Civic Engagement

As director of the USF Gellert Family Business Resource Center as well as the Public Service Internship Program, the Prop J campaign wasn’t Hudson’s first rodeo. Most recently, Hudson and program assistant Aubrey Leung presented at the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC) Conference in Gainesville, Fla. on October 31, to inform others about “innovative course instruction that heightened student engagement with the San Francisco community,” said Hudson. As a team, their goal was to vividly “indicate how USF actively incorporates civic engagement as part of its entrepreneurial education efforts,” she said.

The Gellert Family Business Resource Center promotes family owned businesses, keeps them informed and educated on related topics and provides opportunity for students through specific coursework—like this semester’s Prop J campaign internships. By educating students on the importance of family business, the Center aims to encourage effective next-generation governance.

Do you know of a standout family business, like the ones affected by San Francisco’s Prop J? Nominate them for the 2016 Family Owned Business Award! The Gellert Family Business Resource Center is currently accepting applications until January 11, 2016. Read the application for more information on how you can help a local family business shine for making a difference in this community.