A student organization at Central Texas College is lending a helping hand to local businesses with a new outreach program.

The college’s chapter of Students In Free Enterprise, or SIFE, celebrated one of the first victories of their “Operation Step Up” Monday after successfully helping Copperas Cove-based Michele’s Floral and Gifts open a kiosk inside the Clear Creek Main Exchange on Fort Hood.

“We were very excited to be able to help out a local business,” said David Netherwood, the chapter’s vice president. “It’s really been a benefit to (the organization) and the local businesses.”

As part of Operation Step Up, the members of SIFE work with a local business to identify their strengths, as well as solidify and expand their customer base. That could mean anything from improving marketing materials and social media presence to adding product lines, Netherwood said.

“The economy is tough on small business owners right now,” said Netherwood. “We wanted to help them with their marketing to become a little more successful and hopefully keep those businesses in the area.”

Michele’s Floral and Gifts was one of two businesses SIFE selected to help. After working with owner Michele McGuire over the summer, the organization assisted her with marketing and promotion as well as expanding her market to customers by opening the Exchange kiosk in addition to her Copperas Cove store location.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” said McGuire, who has owned the business for more than 25 years. “They were able to partner with me and tailor their services to the ideas I had and what I needed.”

McGuire said she was glad to be able to take advantage of the program and hoped it would benefit other local business owners as well.

“If you have a business and you need something, big or small, they can definitely help,” she said. “The group is hard working and has a lot of heart.”

McGuire said she and the students continue to work together on other ideas for her business. Currently, the organization is also working with Fins and Flowers Pet Shop, also in Copperas Cove, as part of the program. Netherwood said SIFE plans to continue the projects and hopes to serve even more businesses now that the majority of students and its members have returned from the summer break.

“We care about this community, and we really want to help,” said Netherwood.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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