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UH Hilo students hired to implement marketing strategies

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Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

The scene wasn’t the Trump Boardroom, where contestants are brought in before The Donald to be told “you’re fired” while hoping to hear the words “you’re hired.” But some University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo business students did get a rare opportunity to test their marketing strategies developed through their course work in a real-world setting.

The students were enrolled in a spring trio of marketing courses taught by Assistant Professor Tom DeWitt. A total of 10 student groups partnered with UH Hilo Athletics and seven with Hawaiʻi Island Gourmet Products (HIG) devising marketing strategies, which were presented to their respective management along with 20 judges representing the local business community. For Hawaiʻi Island Gourmet Products Owner Nimr Tamimi, the project was just what the doctor ordered.

“Our business has never really gotten off the ground and we realized that part of the problem was a lack of marketing,” Tamimi said. “We talked it over with Dr. DeWitt and decided it would be a good project for the students to gain hands-on experience, so it was a win-win opportunity.”

The students surveyed customers, researched markets, conducted taste tests and product evaluations on the company’s line of gourmet chips, cookies and chocolate products to develop marketing plans for understanding and strengthening the company’s local market and natural food shares. Keala Barnett and her partner Annie Lung produced a 132-page report on fundraising strategies.

Lung said they looked at a variety of options, including direct sales, selling tickets and online commerce before settling on online sales.

“Our task was to conduct our research and come up with the most useful and most profitable approach for HIG,” Lung explained. “Given the rapidly growing use of the Internet, we decided online sales via the HIG website would serve to attract both local and national buyers.”

The strategies developed by the various teams must still be implemented, so their impact on the business has yet to be determined. But Tamimi believes the project has been a good partnership between the University and business community and something the business community needs.

Tamimi received an added bonus when 60 of DeWitt’s students teamed up with 35 students from Kamehameha High School’s Business and Leadership Program to repaint the company’s Manono Street offices and manufacturing facilities.DeWitt believes there needs to be a special bond between business and community.

“Social responsibility is an important component of what we do,” DeWitt said. “A good business person is a good community person, and vice-versa.”

Also benefiting from the initiative was project leader Jonathan Bauer. He was hired for the sales and marketing position responsible for implementing the marketing plans developed in class and assisting the company with other sales and marketing issues.

Bauer led a marketing project of his own at UH Hilo Athletics. His volunteer work included creating pamphlets and booklets for the Vulcan Athletic Club and Marketing Teams seeking business backing, community membership and volunteers.

A number of other students also participated at the request of Athletic Director Dexter Irvin who saw an opportunity to address some shortcomings in the marketing of teams, students and values, while providing the students a real-life marketing experience.

“The students conducted research on all our constituencies and the outcomes exceeded our expectations,” Irvin said. “We now have several proposals and ideas on how to address each group’s individual needs ranging from online notification and social networks to tailgating, competitions for students, concession enhancements and school programs.”

Irvin added that four interns have been selected and will begin working in August with the head coaches and staff members to assist in implementing specific areas of the marketing strategy developed by the class.

“I think the business community understands that there’s got to be a certain buy-in from them if we are going to turn out the highly trained workforce they are looking for,” DeWitt said. “This is a prime example of how we can work together to develop a talent pool that’s more employment ready upon graduation.”

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