DENTON — In recent years, major firms like 7-Eleven and Pioneer Natural Resources and large nonprofits like Our Daily Bread in Denton, as well as local startups like Clean Sleep and Aura Coffee, have turned to University of North Texas students for help with everything from branding a name change to launching a new product.


Now, a new venture at UNT is expanding those projects — and, in the process, giving local businesses the chance to secure free help and to provide UNT students with hands-on experience in their fields.


The UNT Department of Management’s Family Business Initiative is revamping its longtime Family Business Breakfast as a way to better connect Denton-area businesses with unique resources at the university — including marketing, consulting, strategic planning, business analytics and accounting and audit services.


Attendees will meet UNT business faculty and students, as well as others from local businesses, and can start conversations for possible collaborations with faculty for research or class projects.


The goal is to make UNT’s College of Business a “first line resource” for area companies, said Michael Sexton, a senior lecturer in the Department of Management.


“I’m always shocked by the number of businesses that operate without a business plan or with one that hasn’t been updated in years,” said Sexton. “And, if that’s out of date, you can bet everything else is — like their marketing and social media plans. That’s the type of stuff we’re talking about.”


He added that the projects give UNT students valuable learning opportunities outside of class.


“For the students, it’s a line item on their résumé that shows they actually worked for a live client,” said Sexton. “That real world experience is part of what differentiates our students so that they can get hired.”


The event will also be used to induct Gene Gohlke, who attended UNT, and Matt Gohlke, his son, into the UNT Family Business Hall of Fame. Their company, Gohlke Pools, has operated in various forms in Denton since 1958, when Gene Gohlke built one of the first family swimming pools in Denton.