Bryant’s Entrepreneurial Marketing course introduces students to the key concepts, methods, and strategies used by start-up and early-stage entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. It also gives them the opportunity to put what they learn to work.
Led by Marketing Instructor Loring Barnes, the course requires students to apply what they learn through the Marketing Venture Project, a "Shark Tank"-modeled competitive consultant team project. Each team is assigned to a real business. Serving as consultants, each team delivers a compelling, actionable, and data-informed marketing plan that must meet professional standards.
“I learned so much from this class every single day, and it was eye-opening to all of the possibilities out there,” says Caroline Meizen ’21, who finished first in the competition as a member of the Triumph Consulting team alongside Zachary Richardson ’21, Andrew Dougherty ’21, and Andre Rochealeau ’21. “I was jotting down notes every time something was said and it was really exciting to not just find new ideas but to actually use them right away.”
“My job is to close the gap between classroom and career. I want my students to leave this course ready to take on the world.”
The client challenge
Barnes’ class developed innovative marketing solutions for the Providence-based Championship Melt food truck company, owned by Drew Cordeiro. Over the course of the semester, the students conducted extensive research into the industry and investigated the marketplace to create marketing plans. They also worked with Cordeiro to make sure their recommendations fit with his business. By coincidence, Championship Melt is a familiar food truck at on-campus events.
“My job is to close the gap between classroom and career,” says Barnes. “I want my students to leave this course ready to take on the world.”
“It’s really great to be able to work with a real client,” notes Meizen, who wants to go into sports marketing and says the course gave her a look behind the scenes at developing fan engagement. “You learn the importance of figuring out what your client’s goals really are and you have to be willing to change your initial ideas to match what they actually want and need.”
“They didn’t just come in and talk about their experiences. They gave us real, practical feedback on the work we had done and talked with us on how we can make it better.”
Their coursework helped them to examine aspects of creating a customer base; develop marketing techniques that match the availability of money, manpower and time; and make marketing decisions in the face of uncertainty – skills they then applied to the marketing plans they developed “You learn so much, from presentation skills to digital marketing, but you also get experience actually doing those things,” says Dougherty.
“You use everything you’ve been taught: How to put together, and stick to, a marketing budget, how to do a Lean Canvas analysis, how to manage a big project, and how to work as a team,” says Richardson. He’s also applied those lessons to his own start-up custom fishing rod business, Zach’s Custom Rods.
Tapping into a well-placed network
The students also learned from guest speakers. Eric Weiner, the founder of FoodTrucksIn.com, a national consulting and community-building organization for the food truck industry, provided industry-specific knowledge. Krupp Library Research Manager Rachel Juskuv helped them with research strategies. Associate Professor of Marketing and Global Supply Chain Management Teresa McCarthy, PhD., shared her insights and expertise regarding multi-channel marketing.
“Professor Barnes goes above and beyond. She’s always there to help or provide feedback, both in class or beyond, and she has a huge network she’s happy to connect you with.”
Entrepreneurs like Rob Toof, CEO of REEFINERY, a cannabis efficacy data collection company; John Corcoran, President of Rinn Advisors, organizational cost recovery consultancy; serial CEO/CFO Jim Sabitus; Mark Pyenson, a senior sales executive from the application technology space, and Chris Parisi '09, President of Trailblaze Marketing, all lent their expertise to the class. “They didn’t just come in and talk about their experiences,” says Dougherty. “They gave us real, practical feedback on the work we had done and talked with us on how we can make it better.”
“It was sort of amazing. They've literally started from nothing and built their own empires,” notes Richardson. “And they’re still willing to sit down and talk to you.” The connections Richardson made, he says, extend beyond the classroom: He keeps in contact with Toof even though the course has ended. “I’m still talking to him and he’s still giving me pointers”
“A project like this brings the real world to the coursework."
The students' biggest champion, though, was Barnes herself, who says that what she finds most gratifying about teaching is knowing she made a difference in their careers and startups long after her class. “She definitely expects a lot out of us, and I would say she was definitely a big factor in pushing us to do the best we could,” says Meizen.
“Professor Barnes goes above and beyond,” agrees Richardson. “She’s always there to help or provide feedback, both in class or beyond, and she has a huge network she’s happy to connect you with.”
“She told me, ‘Tell them I sent you,’” he says with a laugh.
“You can work a simulation so many times or read up on a case study, but it’s not the same as actually working with somebody on a project where there's more at stake than just your grade.”
A glimpse into life after Bryant
At the conclusion of the semester, the teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges that included Cordeiro, Barnes, Parisi, Weiner, and Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship Coordinator R. Isil Yavuz, Ph.D.
Triumph Consulting presented its analysis of Championship Melt, the food truck industry, and potential markets and areas for growth. The team also proposed merchandising opportunities, promotional events, and social media strategies, as well as a comprehensive action plan and estimated operating costs.
“A project like this brings the real world to the coursework,” Barnes states. “It’s created to address the client's needs as would be expected in any sector of business, while giving entrepreneurs the tool kit they need to take their ideas to market.”
The group won first place for the thoroughness of their research, attention to detail, ability to apply what they learned, and their polished presentation. But the real prize may be the real-world experience they gained. “You can work a simulation so many times or read up on a case study, but it’s not the same as actually working with somebody on a project where there's more at stake than just your grade,” Dougherty says. “That’s sort of like what it’s going to be in real life – you have to be able to do the work yourself.”