Marketing clinic a win-win for UW-Superior students and local businesses

Marketing clinic a win-win for UW-Superior students and local businesses

Jennifer Garland, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s School of Business and Economics, believes wholeheartedly in the power of hands-on learning.

Her annual marketing clinic pairs courses Bus 484 and Bus 477 students with local business owners to help accomplish their marketing and branding goals. Thus far, the clinic has netted some pretty impressive results, benefiting students and entrepreneurs alike.

She explained a bit about the clinic. “We collaborate with the Small Business Development Center, a program of the Center for Continuing Education, and Katelyn Baumann from Academic Service-Learning, a program of the Link Center, to find small businesses needing support, plans, and/or improvements in their marketing strategies and initiatives. Then, we create plans and reports for them,” Garland noted.

“The students present their work at the end, give full reports to their business partners, and can even put this on their resume. I’ve had students walk right into jobs based on their experience in these sorts of projects.

“I’ve also seen our small business partners apply the suggestions and plans the students create. This is not just an exercise; they really use those plans and suggestions.”

A Student Perspective

Niya Wilson, a marketing clinic participant, is currently in pursuit of a double-major in marketing and management. After graduating in fall 2024, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in sports administration.

Wilson shared some details about her experience in the clinic. “Once paired with a community partner, we meet with them and discuss their current marketing strategies and goals they have for the future. We run an analysis on the company and its competitors and make that the first part of our report.

“The second part is the actionable initiatives our group recommends to make the business goals a reality. We bring in our knowledge and provide insights on what we think should be done to see more marketing success.

“Currently, my group and I are working with Northlandia Tattoo Parlor, which is just a few blocks away from campus. Our overall objective is to enhance their marketing strategy and brand management.

“It’s been an immersive experience that has let us take what we’ve learned within the classroom and apply it in a real business setting,” she added. “Being part of such a hands-on experience has not only made Dr. Garland’s class more interesting, but has also increased our understanding of course material exponentially.”

Benefiting Local Businesses

Alan Jensen is a local business owner who has participated in the marketing clinic. Jensen is co-owner of Chester Creek Carpentry; a new, Duluth-based carpentry business with a primary focus on kitchens, bathroom, woodwork and tile.

Jensen had heard good things about the program and reached out to UW-Superior to request to be a client. He is still awaiting the final report; however, he shared some highlights of the experience thus far.

“The students were all thorough, polite and prepared. They’ve been responsive to messages, and I could tell they’re interested and excited about the project.

“I believe that, through this project, they’ll gain real-world knowledge of what a business needs for marketing. Since every business is different, they’ll have the opportunity to work with a business’s real-world needs.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for the businesses, as well as the students,” Jensen added. “As a recent start-up, I’m excited to hear what ideas they have for us, and I expect to implement most – if not all – of them.”

Positive Outcomes

Ultimately, Garland has some specific goals in mind for her students. “I’m hoping they learn content knowledge, of course. But also, professionalism, self-confidence, networking and real-life experience in the discipline.

“These students interview business owners, analyze their practices and processes, and make recommendations that include rationale, examples and research. All those things are critical skills that help students prepare for their chosen career paths.

“I really believe it’s a win-win in every way,” she added. “The students get this experience and practice, and the business owners get a very comprehensive marketing plan at no cost, other than a little of their time.

“It’s my favorite way to teach, and I’ve worked with dozens of small local businesses now. It’s always a great experience and a great success. Every time we finish, I’m already looking forward to the next one.”