Four local Johnson County business owners recently received marketing and promotion recommendations for their businesses, courtesy of University of the Ozarks students in Marketing Instructor Jaime Encinas’ Promotion Strategies class.
As part of a semester-long class project, students were divided into small groups to work with the local business owners to create ways to help market and promote their businesses. The groups presented their plans to the business owners on campus in December, as part of their final exams.
Working with the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, Encinas enlisted four local businesses to take part in the class project — King Gallery, La Michoacana Dulce Vida, KK’s Dance Company and Reveal Cabinet & Closet.
“This was an exciting exercise,” Encinas said. “The idea was twofold: One, exposing the students to working with real businesses in real situations, and taking just another step in getting the University closer to our local community. The project was to develop a promotion strategy for each of four local businesses, or clients, based on their own strategic goals. It represented the largest portion of the students’ grade, which highlights its importance.”
Encinas said the students put serious effort into the project.
“In some cases they went through significant but valuable changes from step to step, resulting in ideas quite different from what they had started early on,” he said. “But that is how the real world works.”
Dulce Baeza of La Michoacana said she was impressed with the students’ work and appreciated the perspective the students provided.
“To be able to get feedback on my business from the perspective of younger people is very valuable,” Baeza said. “Sometimes we think we know what people want but that’s not always the case. And, it’s not easy to think about these things when you’re busy just trying to run the business every day. It was great to hear their ideas and opinions on ways to promote the restaurant.”
The students who worked on the Reveal Cabinet & Closet project recommended the business expand its social media and digital presence by setting specific goals, something that caught the attention of owner Sheena Higby.
“I liked the idea of setting social media goals and then tracking the results, something I hadn’t really thought of,” Higby said. “Getting the unique perspective of this demographic is something we don’t have the luxury of doing, so I thought it was a great way to get some new ideas.”
The students also appreciate the opportunity to work on a real-world project.
“To be able to work with real clients on real problems, using research and then pitching our ideas to the clients was a great experience,” said senior Valeria Carias of Honduras. “When we were first told about the project, I was a little terrified because it seemed overwhelming. But once I met with the client and we started putting together a plan, it was exciting to know that you’re helping a real business succeed.”
Alexandria Corona, a senior psychology major from Houston, Texas, was part of a three-person team that worked on a strategy for King Gallery, an art gallery and store in downtown Clarksville. Their plan included creating awareness and appreciation for art in the area through events such as a “Night at the Museum,” and with the slogan “Enrich Yourself.”
“It was a great experience to work as a team with one main objective — help King Gallery grow its brand and its reach,” Corona said. “When you work on these projects, you start to understand the obstacles and challenges that small businesses face. I was definitely outside my comfort zone on this project, but I think it prepared me to do these types of things in the future.”
Tanner Young, a senior psychology major from Euless, Texas, said working on the project opened a new perspective for him.
“Even though I had experience doing quite a bit of research in the past, I had never conducted business research and it was quite different,” Young said. “When Professor Encinas told us that there were no due dates, only deadlines, I think it sunk in that this wasn’t just class work; this was like a professional project that we were working on. It was really quite humbling to know that the businesses trusted us to work with them and to help them.”
Seniors Denise Garcia of Clarksville and Barbara Yanez of Chile worked with KK’s Dance Company to help the business increase awareness and retain students.
“This project made me realize how these small companies really need help and how I can help make a difference for them,” Yanez said. “I plan to pursue a career in business and marketing so I thought this was extremely helpful for me.”
Encinas said he enjoyed watching the students make their final presentations to their clients.
“It was exciting to see some of the business owners nodding their heads in agreement and it was even more exciting to hear their positive comments at the end,” Encinas said. “Some of the clients may actually implement some of the ideas, perhaps even the slogans created by the students.”
“I must express my gratitude to the Chamber of Commerce for their support from the initial contacts with the clients to assessing the students’ presentations,” Encinas said. “And, of course, my sincere appreciation to each of our clients, the local businesses that worked with us, confiding their goals, and giving us the time both on campus and on their premises. Without their support, this project would have been impossible. This was indeed as close as the students get to work in a real business environment.”