Wednesday December 19, 2012

BENNINGTON -- Business management students at Southern Vermont College spent the fall applying what they learned in class to create business plans for organizations in the area. The projects found ways to attract new customers, organize fundraising events, and even sell a business.

Groups of students in Jeb Gorham's organizational management class were matched with nine organizations to develop business goals and strategies.

"Students actually have to make contact with the organization themselves, secure their client, interview their client ... and throughout the course of the whole semester the student teams build their business plan project," Gorham said.

The business plans are not necessarily executed through the project, although each organization is given the plan if they wish to use it. Some organizations have already implemented at least parts of the plans.

Pierre Massen, a junior, was in a group that worked with Mount Anthony Country Club on goals to attract more young professionals, change how the community views the country club and increase the use of the downstairs bar and party room.

Social media

"We decided the best way to reach our target market was going through social media. They already had Facebook, but we recommended that they use it in a different way," Massen said, explaining that if the course updated the site daily with pictures and messages it would attract more web traffic.


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"We also recommended they use Twitter and Instagram. We came up with some ideas such as on Twitter you could put up contests like the first five people to retweet a certain message could get 50 percent off a meal or a free round of golf and by doing that a couple times you could increase the number of followers they have and then more people would be seeing that message going out."

The group recommended Mount Anthony have an intern from SVC to maintain their social networking pages, which would make the increased web presence free and beneficial to both them and the college.

Open to all

The group also focused on ways to publicize that Mount Anthony is open to everybody and getting away from the stigma the words "country club" sometimes bring.

"(They) want it to be a place where if you just want to go to lunch you can just go to lunch in jeans with a couple of guys, or to get a few beers. Most people in the community don't see it as that, they think it's a high end country club where you go to have a $500 dinner," Massen said.

Another group of students worked with Waubeeka Golf Course in Williamstown, Mass., which had an entirely different business plan. Waubeeka is looking to purchase new mowers and other maintenance equipment, which Katherine Grayson said her group worked on.

The group initially looked at holding golf tournament fundraisers to help buy the equipment, but after the project began they heard from the course that they were considering a five-year loan. The group then looked at the fundraisers to help pay off the loan.

"We ended up calculating if they take a five-year loan the fundraisers would help pay off the loan. We also gave him the option if he wanted to make it a shorter loan we could try to do two a year so the interest would be lower," Grayson said.

To estimate how much money would be raised the group assumed half of the course's 200 members would participate in each tournament. The group then looked at how to market the event, which they decided could be best done through e-mails to members and social networking so there is no cost.

Haley Omasta's group worked with South Street Café with the assumption they would focus on advertising the downtown café. When students talked with the owners the group found out their goal did not have anything to do with the sale of merchandise, but instead the sale of the business.

Business values

It is important to the owners, Omasta said, that the business be sold to the right person who will operate the café similar to how it currently functions. With that task, the group did research to determine the value of the business and ways it could be advertised and sold.

"We came up with the idea of selling it through an eBay ad, which we thought was kind of a unique way instead of listing it through a real estate office, which would have an extra fee," Omasta said. "We estimated the value of the business, we did pictures, we made a mock eBay page in order to show them what it could be like if they were to take that route."

Non-profit organization

Another group partnered with Bennington Project Independence, which has a goal of turning its basement into a recreation area.

"More seniors are going to it each year, so they're running out of space," Brian Veith said. "To help them we decided to run a basketball tournament in order to raise money."

Each group's projects were as different as the businesses, but reflecting on the community-based effort each student agreed working with real businesses made what they learned a lot more effective.

"When you read it out of a book you may get the concept, but when you go out and actually do it in real life and you realize all the problems you have to go through in order to succeed, it's just a quicker and easier way to learn," Massen said.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi