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Demmer Center students help Manna’s Market battle hunger

When a local nonprofit battling hunger needed help organizing its operations, it turned to Michigan State University’s Demmer Center for Business Transformation for help.

Manna’s Market provides food, clothing, toiletries, and baby items to financially distressed residents of several mid-Michigan counties. As the nonprofit began to grow out of a 2,500-square-foot storefront and prepare to move into a donated 6,000-square-foot former church building, it began to look for assistance in adjusting its operations to a new space. They found their answer in a newspaper article about the Demmer Center’s work.

A part of the Eli Broad College of Business, the Demmer Center for Business Transformation provides organizations with education and hands-on guidance in strategically transforming into lean enterprises while also providing professional training and experience to MSU students.

While the new Manna’s Market building is rehabilitated, lean apprentices have been working to prepare the nonprofit for its new larger footprint.

“I worked each volunteer position at the market to see which operations could be improved upon,” said Kylee Raby (BA Supply Chain Management ’14), “and I noted the way that the market was set up so that when they moved into their new building, it would be set up to allow their operations to run as smoothly and quickly as possible.”

“I created a physical floor plan and efficient inventory process flow to make it easy for volunteers to get inventory in and out,” said Bailey Esterley (BA Supply Chain Management ’16).

But more than that, the students and their Demmer Center mentors helped Manna’s Market develop a bigger picture of its work.

The board of directors for Manna’s Market is comprised of people from many different backgrounds, noted Esterley. “We’re teaching them how to make a business plan and keep it going.”

“The experience has been fantastic,” said Jayne Flanigan, treasurer of Manna’s Market. “We have gained knowledge about putting together a business plan, setting up a warehouse, writing a proper mission statement, preparing a 5-year vision, looking at better budgeting practices, preparing an organizational chart for our 50 some volunteers, and determining what we need and what we don’t need.”

The students have learned a lot as well.

“Working for the Demmer Center has given me experience in things that most undergrads only get a glimpse of,” said Raby. “Students can get some of this experience at an internship, but the difference is that these projects give the student apprentices full responsibility with the companies and the work they are doing.”

Esterley agreed, noting that normally “When you’re learning things in school, you may not be able to apply them until a summer internship—but with the Demmer Center, I can apply something I learn the next day.

“I don’t know of any other school that offers a program like this.”

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