Students in a business information technology course in the Pamplin College of Business will unveil their newly published e-business manual, "The Online Business Guidebook," at a launch party on Tuesday, May 5 at 12:30 p.m. in the atrium of Pamplin Hall.

“We’d like to invite the Virginia Tech and local community to stop by and celebrate with us,” said Sara DiMantova, a business information technology senior from Goochland, Va., who is organizing the event. Copies of the guidebook will be on display, and attendees can sign up at onsite computers to order copies from Amazon, advertise in or sponsor the guidebook, or volunteer with the student organization that publishes the book. The Kindle edition launched on last Monday.

The guide, a step-by-step manual that seeks to meet a market need for a “low-price, high-practice” guide to e-business, has already attracted enquiries from an Internet specialist in Dell’s business development division, said Alan Abrahams, assistant professor of business information technology and the project’s faculty advisor. An e-marketing training firm in Ohio has also agreed to promote the guidebook to its webinar participants. The book’s cover includes a blurb from Nielsen Company chairman and CEO David Calhoun, a 1979 Pamplin graduate in accounting.

Aimed at fledgling entrepreneurs, the full-color guidebook offers easy-to-follow tutorials on online advertising, payment processing, product listings, Web analytics, and other technologies used in starting and growing an online business. The print guidebook will be distributed free to students at major business schools and small-business development centers across the country. Proceeds from sales of ads in the guide will go to the Virginia Tech Foundation to help fund scholarships, research efforts, and student projects.

The one-stop guide makes information more readily accessible than if readers “had to search the Web or find bits and pieces of information in magazines,” said Michael Levisay, a business information technology student who graduated last December and served as the guidebook organization’s CEO this spring. Levisay had taken Business Analysis Seminar in IT (Information Technology), a senior capstone course Abrahams teaches.

Abrahams proposed the project for the class, seeing its potential for allowing students to apply concepts learned in class and to gain experience in management, marketing, information technology, finance, and other aspects of business while meeting a market need. Studies have shown that small-business success rates are enhanced by education and training, he said. Abrahams also notes that startup companies have long been seen as an engine in job creation — a view championed by many politicians in recent months and affirmed by a new U.S. Census Bureau study that examined employment data in the 1980-2005 period.

His students established a not-for-profit organization to publish the book and organized themselves into teams, with individual students serving in such leadership roles as CEO, chief financial officer, chief information/technology officer, executive director, and editor-in-chief. The organization, to be staffed with a new cohort of students each year, plans to be self-supporting through advertising sales, corporate sponsorships, and other ventures. For example, it recently completed a contracted job for professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and Columbia Business School to promote a Harvard Business Press textbook they co-authored through a postcard campaign to 500 U.S. business professors, using a mailing list the students had compiled for the guidebook.

The project received a $2,000 grant from Deloitte, small grants from the Pamplin College, and -- perhaps most notably -- donations from the students themselves, who have chipped in nearly $4,000 in personal contributions. “Our readers are getting compelling advice from writers with first-hand experience — the students have used many of the technologies they describe to build and grow their guidebook business,” said Abrahams.

Said Deloitte campus recruiter Jeanie Darlington: “As Deloitte Consulting’s Federal Practice has grown, Virginia Tech has become one of our key sources of technology talent. The [Business Information Technology] curriculum gives students the opportunity to learn and practice many of the skills they can then directly apply in the consulting field when they enter the firm following graduation.”

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