Written By Hannah Wang
A manufacturing business in Dayton, Ohio is where it all started.
Founded by two Indian immigrants, this entrepreneurial small business environment was a spark of inspiration for their daughter, Dhira Venkatramani. Growing up, she quickly realized the struggles small businesses could face—lack of resources, knowledge, or both.
One of these resources that is often difficult for small businesses to access: valuation. Valuations can often be pivotal tools for business owners, whether it be to help understand how well the business is performing, inform decisions regarding ways to grow in the future, or use them while pitching to potential investors. However, gaining an outsider’s valuation can often be expensive, and smaller businesses may not have the resources to perform such valuations on their own.
Coming to business school, Dhira figured that there must be tons of students who are well-versed in valuation or interested in learning more, who can provide these kinds of services to small businesses for free while practicing financial skills in real-world settings. She founded Valuation Services Group, specializing in pro-bono valuations for small businesses in the greater NYC area. This was no easy feat. Not only did she have to recruit a team to help her, she also had to find out how to convince small businesses that this was a valuable and reputable group. VSG is the first-ever student-run, university-based valuation services program in the country.
Although VSG’s team is composed of NYU students, they all come from different backgrounds. Unified by their desire for impact in the business world, they bring their diverse interests and experiences to the table. Hannah Wang, a current junior, was prompted to join VSG after working on loan and grant processing amidst the pandemic. She quickly realized the importance of support for small businesses and the information and resource barriers they faced. Combining this experience, her business background, and passion for social impact, she found out about VSG and reached out to Dhira to join.
On the other hand, Dara Wang, a current senior and vice president, joined VSG because of the community service aspect. She wanted to gain meaningful hands-on experience, taking the knowledge learned from classes to work with real businesses in NYC.
VSG had a full circle moment after working with another manufacturing business similar to the one Dhira grew up surrounded by. Below is a direct quote from them:
“When we started working with the VSG team for our valuation, we were a little nervous as we didn’t know what to expect. However, the team was very friendly, thorough, and efficient. They listened to our questions, made us feel comfortable, and opened our eyes to how we can improve our business. They did an excellent job and tailored their services to our needs. Thanks, VSG team, and good luck with everything you do.”
Now VSG has expanded and is composed of well over 100 members. The group consists of an outreach and valuation team and has worked with clients across a variety of industries such as real estate, food/restaurants, and ESG.
If you are a business owner in NYC interested in a free valuation, feel free to visit and if you are a student interested in joining VSG, learn more on our website or Instagram.