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A Creative Process

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The Marketing Student to Business Initiative:
Connecting Students with the Community

SBI Marketing Team with Lake Superior Zoo staff  
From left to right: David Duea in costume (friend of the student team), team member Chris Bock, team member Jonathan Portinga, Holly Henry from the Lake Superior Zoo, Anita Johnson Skutevik from the Lake Superior Zoo, and team member Danny Yip.

Hiring a marketing team can cost thousands of dollars and for many small businesses or non-profit organizations that isn’t an option. The UMD Center for Economic Development (CED) offers a unique program, the Marketing Student to Business Initiative (SBI), in which organizations can work with students enrolled in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) marketing program to gain customized solutions to their marketing needs. The organization pays a nominal participation fee of $300, and the students receive valuable resume-worthy experience.

During the application process, an organization identifies what they would like to accomplish. It could be a marketing plan, a branding initiative, or an improved social media presence. John Kratz, instructor of marketing, who oversees the Marketing SBI, assigns two teams to each project. “The students compete against each other for fun, and the client gets more ideas,” Kratz said. Each team designates a team leader. “The team leader works with the client to discuss the scope of work and what will be the final deliverable.”

The Student Perspective
Jonathan Portinga ('10), who majored in marketing with minors in finance and philosophy, was a team leader on a SBI project for the Lake Superior Zoo. "The Zoo expressed that they wanted a mascot. They wanted to know how to use the mascot and also how to improve their social media presence," Portinga said. “Our team conducted a situational analysis. We looked at what competitors in the industry had done in the past,” he said.

At the end of the semester, the two teams pitched their proposals to the Zoo. Portinga's team presented their concept of a tiger mascot. They shared their ideas on improving the Zoo's social media presence. His team also focused on ways the Zoo could measure their marketing’s effectiveness. Each team presented a written report outlining how their plan could be implemented. Both teams worked with a UMD graphic design student who oversaw the visuals.

Portinga’s team’s proposal wasn’t chosen. “The other team told lots of stories. I think we should have told more stories,” Portinga said. But not winning didn’t mean the process wasn’t extremely valuable. “I learned a lot about myself and about marketing and communications. I learned that I like social media and branding. I learned how to work with a client. I would highly recommend the experience to any UMD marketing student,” Portinga said.

The Client Perspective
Anita Johnson Skutevik from the Lake Superior Zoo also found the experience valuable. "The students brought some new ideas and a fresh young perspective to our marketing," she said. "We have hopes to implement some of the things that they came forward with in regards to developing a mascot for the zoo." Skutevik enjoyed working with the students. "They were very professional, and they really took the project to heart."

The SBI program clearly benefits both the students and their clients. The students work on a project that matters to their clients and has a connection to the community in which they live. The students are able to take their ideas from concept to presentation. The clients gain new ways of looking at their organization and can put into practice the best ideas that are presented. Kratz pointed out that the clients often come away with something else. "The students re-energize their clients," he said.

For more information, visit the Center for Economic Development website.







Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, August 2012

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