The BC SPCA worked with Master of Management student Mandeep Nahal to help operationalize a plan to ensure the humane treatment of millions of wild animals.
Currently there is no national or even international standard for the management of wildlife that find themselves entangled in the domestic lives of humans.
“It’s unacceptable to cause animals unnecessary pain,” says the BC SPCA’s chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois. “And it concerns us that there are no rules in place for telling people how to safely remove squirrels from someone’s attic or birds from a chimney.”
The BC SPCA is developing an accreditation program that it aims to implement in order to certify companies that use humane methods. But the organization lacked the necessary resources to develop a business plan to get their program into market and achieve buy-in from pest control companies. Without this expertise, their solution was at risk of never seeing the light of day.
So the BC SPCA turned to UBC Sauder School of Business Master of Management (MM) students for help. As a client for the six-month-long MM Community Business Project, they tasked the students with assessing the accreditation program’s feasibility, and to create a plan that would see it work sustainably.
Says MM candidate Mandeep Nahal whose undergrad was in biology, “it was exciting to know that I would be putting my sciences background and new business skills to work for the BC SPCA. I’d never worked for a non-profit before and I was looking forward to making an impact.”
When Nahal completed her UBC BSc in biology she realised that she no longer wanted to go on to medical school as originally planned. Instead, she discovered that the nine-month Master of Management, offered by UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School, would equip her with a toolkit of business skills to significantly widen her career opportunities.
“Biology is great, but if you don’t want to go into health care or research, you’re kind of stuck,” admits Nahal. “I needed to know how to market myself to shape my career.”
She says she found UBC’s MM program ideal because it mixes classmates from across a wide range of academic backgrounds. “Everyone brings so much to the table and this, together with learning about marketing, finance and more, has helped me to find a better career fit.”
Nahal and her team of fellow MMs were asked by the BC SPCA’s Dr. Dubois to build upon a feasibility study completed by a group in the previous MM cohort.
“I’m a biologist like Mandeep, but I don’t have her business know-how,” says Dubois, also an adjunct professor at UBC’s Land and Food Systems (LFS). “The LFS Animal Welfare Program (AWP) is a project partner and was the recipient of two Peter Wall Institute Initiatives Grants which launched the project. Together we asked her team to come up with a five-year business plan for our wildlife accreditation program to become a reality.”
Nahal and her team began by assessing the market for the BC SPCA’s and UBC’s Animal Welfare Program collaborative project.
“Our deliverables for our client included researching grant opportunities as well as developing the business plan,” notes Nahal, who took on the role of project manager and liaison. Other roles divided among the team included communications and financial cost projections undertaken by Rachel Zhao; client liaison by Jeremy Velichko and additional project management by Shamsheer Singh.
“All these experiences were totally new for us,” explains Nahal. “I was a little overwhelmed at first as we knew this was a project the BC SPCA wanted to eventually roll out nationwide and beyond. But we were lucky they were such a friendly client and open to all our ideas.” She adds that the key to success for her was how dedicated each one of her team was to the project and how seamlessly they worked together.
The MM team finished their Community Business Project by presenting their deliverables to the BC SPCA Senior Management Team.
Thanks in part to the input of Nahal and her team, as well as the work completed by the previous MM cohort, the BC SPCA and UBC AWP were recently awarded a grant of $180,000 from the Vancouver Foundation.
This funding will support further development of the wildlife accreditation program this year, a BC pilot project for it in 2017 and a BC-wide strategy in 2018, says Dubois.
“Thanks to the business plan that the MM team created for us, we’ve got the green light to move forward. This program is going to positively affect the lives of millions of animals,” she adds.
Dubois says she appreciated the dedication of the MM students and efficiency at which they problem-solved. “Mandeep and the others left no stone unturned in their business plan – identifying a need for a liability clause in the contract, and building a viable cost structure that took in everything from travel expenses to membership fees that pest control companies would need to pay.”
On the cusp of graduation, Nahal will soon be participating on an exchange, to study Applied Corporate Responsibility at Harvard Business School.
She says her MM experience has her contemplating a career in account management.
“It showed me that I enjoy working with clients and building a relationship with them. My skills are polished thanks to the community business project and now I’m ready to go forward and start working.”