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MBA Students Use Class Project To Help A New Friend

Ole Miss MBA students (back row, from left) Hamilton Winters, Charles Dwyer, Grant Beebe and his dog Stella, Jay Goudeau and Anna Heimbach, with her dog Scarlett, spend time with Jimbo Waldrop (front left, with Belle) and Anna Claire Waldrop. Submitted photo

Instead of spending Valentine’s Day with her fiance, Anna Claire Stokes was fighting for her life Feb. 14, 2016 at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.

Early that morning, the Delta State University senior and fiance Jimbo Waldrop were hit by a drunk driver near Cleveland. Jimbo, who also was a DSU student at the time, was thrown from the car and suffered minor injuries. However, Anna Claire was not so lucky, suffering injuries that left her paralyzed from the chest down.

Anna Heimbach, a Master of Business Administration student at the University of Mississippi, learned of the accident through her sister, Leah, who was a member of Phi Mu sorority with Anna Claire at DSU.

“Anna Claire radiates kindness and compassion, and I have been so blessed to know her and have this opportunity to use this project for her good,” Heimbach said. “Over the past two months, I have been able to see how loved Anna Claire and Jimbo are and how much those who love her wanted this project to be a success.”

Heimbach, from Grenada, recruited fellow Ole Miss MBA students Grant Beebe of Jackson, Jay Goudeau of New Orleans, Derrick Martin of Robinsonville and Hamilton Winters of West Monroe, Louisiana, to join her in an effort to make a real difference in the couple’s lives.

The group, all classmates in Clay Dibrell’s MBA 622: Business Planning and Entrepreneurship class, collaborated to raise money for Anna Claire to have a companion dog, Belle, a Newfoundland, trained through Retrieving Freedom, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that trains service and companion dogs to meet the needs of individuals.

“This entire project has been such a positive experience,” Heimbach said. “It was such a satisfying moment when we handed the check to Charles Dwyer at Retrieving Freedom for Belle’s training.”

The group established an online store, which they operated for most of April. They sold training hours for Belle online, raising $7,100 over four weeks.

“Ole Miss MBA students are competitive and possess an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Dibrell, professor of management and the William W. Gresham Entrepreneurial Lecturer. “These students made a positive change in the life of Anna Claire and her family, as well as successfully beating the course’s record for the most money raised in a month.”

It was easy to get excited for the challenge, said Martin, who is set to begin a new job in June with BancorpSouth in Tupelo.

“The best motivation for raising money is knowing how much your cause is going to benefit someone else,” he said.

The group used Wix.com, a free online website-building platform, to build the site https://www.belleretrievesfreedom.com/ and e-commerce store. They used their marketing platform to get the word out to Anna Claire and Jimbo’s friends and direct them to the online store.

“The manner in which Dr. Dibrell sets up his entrepreneurship class allowed the students to work on a real-life scenario, which is an ideal way to educate them on strong business practices,” said Ashley Jones, director of the Ole Miss MBA program. “We are very proud of this group’s efforts to raise an extraordinary amount of money, which will greatly impact Retrieving Freedom and Anna Claire Waldrop.”

The group found sharing content on social media was the most effective way to reach their audience.

“The project made it a requirement for us to use an online store,” Goudeau said. “Wix.com and PayPal made the store very easy to manage, and we fielded phone calls and emails when people had inquiries.”

After a year of rehabilitation and therapy, Anna Claire remains paralyzed and has limited function of her left arm and hands. But she returned to DSU last fall and completed her bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing sciences in December.

Anna Claire and Jimbo were married Oct. 22, 2016 in New Albany and live in Horn Lake with Belle.

“Anna Claire and Jimbo’s story is one of inspiration and resolve,” Winters said. “Their lives changed forever that day, yet they never allowed it to define the prosperity of their future.”

Doctors say Anna Claire’s condition, deemed “incomplete,” may possibly improve in time.

“What makes the outcome of this endeavor all the more deeply educational is that the inspiration for our efforts is uniquely human,” said Beebe, who works for New York Life in Ridgeland. “Anna Claire and Jimbo are brave and inspirational.”

By Stella Connell

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