Topper’s Craft Creamery has served old fashioned custard style ice cream on the UCF campus since 2013. Recently, Topper’s CEO Greg Sausaman engaged the services of a team of UCF graduate students to review and evaluate his company’s strategies around complementary branding – including opportunities to create brand awareness, to identify target markets, and to brainstorm business development strategies. 

Class Background and FSBDC at UCF Partnership

The Department of Management at UCF’s College of Business offers a Small Business Consulting class (Class Designation: ENT 5946) under the auspices of the national Small Business Institute® (SBI®) association. It is a program that emphasizes the importance of experiential learning and is typically offered during the summer and fall sessions of the academic school year. Typically, the class is comprised primarily of College of Business MBA candidates, although students from the College of Engineering, Nicholson School of Communication, and other UCF departments and programs have participated. 

The class is sponsored by the Florida Small Business Development Center [FSBDC] at UCF. The FSBDC at UCF is a quasi-governmental service organization serving Central Florida’s small business community through no-cost, one-on-one consulting services, seminars, and webinar trainings on a myriad of business topics, market research, and other special programs (including the Small Business Institute®.) Clients of the FSBDC are recruited to participate in SBI® and to work with a UCF student consulting team over the course of a semester. 

The class follows the methodology of the Small Business Institute® which is a national organization first formed in 1972 as a venture that joined the U.S. Small Business Administration with leading universities and colleges to provide experiential learning opportunities in service to local small businesses. According to the organization, the mission of SBI® “is to strengthen the free enterprise system’s small business/entrepreneurship sector. SBI® enhances and improves entrepreneurship education through an extensive network of Small Business Institutes® at colleges and universities throughout the United States and internationally.” 

At UCF, teams of three to four students are assigned to FSBDC client companies accepted into the program. Upon review of each student’s academic and professional background, it is determined how the experience and skill sets that each team member brings to the class can best be utilized in a consulting engagement.  

The consulting engagement begins with each team meeting with its assigned client to uncover possible “pain points” – an expression used to describe the client’s needs. Once the team and client agree upon a scope of work, the students prepare a Letter of Engagement to describe each of the requested deliverables. This is the same approach taken by professional consultants in the world of business.   

Throughout the semester, the teams follow an agreed upon Action Plan and their progress is monitored carefully by FSBDC consultants who serve as case supervisors. The expectation is that the teams and the clients will interact throughout the semester in a meaningful manner to fulfill the needs of the client while fulfilling the expectations of the class.  

Rewarding Work  

Students who have taken the class consistently convey their appreciation for the experiential learning opportunity that stems from collaborating with actual clients in a real-world environment where they can apply their theoretical knowledge to the practical knowledge that is gained from learning by doing.  

Furthermore – the students’ dedicated work pays off. Each year the FSBDC at UCF selects and submits top quality reports generated from the class to the Small Business Institute® for competition against other nationally-ranked institutions. UCF has won 18 awards over the last 14 years as part of this annual Project of the Year competition! 

Topper’s Craft Creamery and SBI

Among the many FSBDC clients who support and participate in the program, Topper’s Craft Creamery became one of the most involved. It’s CEO, Greg Sausaman, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, an MS degree in Marketing and MS Management in Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness; both from the University of South Florida, Tampa. 

Mr. Sausaman has been a guiding force for UCF teams over the course of two semesters. As the author of Inside the Box: The Power of Complementary Branding, Mr. Sausaman is a recognized leader in complementary branding who has brought his demonstrated ability to integrate food service brands in a complementary method that maximizes revenues from participating brands to achieve robust bottom-line gains.  

As part of the final class for the Fall 2023 semester, Mr. Sausaman demonstrated his exceptional business skills in marketing and strategy for the class. The team that consulted for Topper’s Craft Creamery throughout the semester was aware of Mr. Sausaman’s extensive business acumen, but, for the final class, Mr. Sausaman was gracious enough to share his knowledge with the entire class. He brought his latest innovation, a small soft-serve ice cream machine that has an innovative “small footprint” and produces outstanding old fashioned custard style soft-serve ice cream. He even served provided samples of the frozen treat to the entire class. 

Sausaman had this to say regarding his participation in the SBI program, “Your program is excellent.  It’s a $50,000 consulting project that is free to a business.  I think if there is a decision maker that is open to the process and results, it would be hard for them to not benefit from the results of the MBA students. 

This memorable class provided a great conclusion for the semester while introducing the student teams to a successful, pioneering businessperson and accomplished author who conveyed his methodology of achieving business success in a striking fashion that the class benefited from greatly.