Northern Michigan University senior Mckenna Green's professional selling marketing class project has evolved into a career-enhancing summer internship with a startup company. Green said that her internship at Mario's Backyard is helping her prepare for her post-graduation plans of launching a gym business of her own.
“Working with this company both during class and now has helped me learn how to set your brand apart from others and how to market yourself successfully when starting your own company,” said Green. “I am learning a lot about what goes into marketing, as well as marketing strategies. I have also learned a lot about who to market to, in regards to knowing your audience. This is critical in starting any business.”
In the class, students were assigned to one of four business entrepreneurs, all of whom were in various stages of startup. Green and her five fellow group members were tasked with customer discovery for a product called ThatRack, a portable barbecue grill accessory that maximizes space and uses convection to enhance taste, Green said. By the end of the semester, the group had connected with 245 sales leads for the product.
“The students reached out to potential customers about whether they would use the product and for opinions and feedback,” said instructor Corinne Bodeman. “It is a really neat experience for them to work with a product's inventor while helping launch the product. Their work was to gain customer feedback that they could pass along to the entrepreneur at the end of the semester, with suggestions on how to position and describe the product.”
“I was in contact with the entrepreneur, Brennan Vaughn, from the very beginning,” added Green. “We talked a lot back and forth. I updated him regularly on the feedback I received throughout the whole process. It turns out that he was impressed with my work because he reached out to Professor Bodeman after the course, hoping I would intern for him, which I did not expect. I felt excited and accomplished when I got the offer.”
Green said that her internship position broadens the scope of work that she performed in Bodeman's class. Her first internship project has included building the company's website. She also performs social media outreach, communicates with influencers, engages in blog-related research and was involved in the launch of the company's Kickstarter campaign, which tripled its financial goal.
The other startups the class assisted with were a patented printing process for polyester clothing; an ambulatory device that was in its prototype stage, whose owner is NMU Foundation Board of Trustees member Curt Tucker, president/owner of TeamTech Motorsports Safety, Inc. ('82 AT, '08 BS); and Hydro Cinch, a patented kiteboard harness.
Bodeman said Green is one of four students who has gained real-life experience thanks to a connection made in the class.
“It's all about experiential learning,” said Bodeman. “It is important to establish real-life collaborations between businesses and students that are facilitated in the classroom.”
Green is a writing major with a marketing minor. The motivated Fenton, Mich., native is taking a personal trainer certification course to help further prepare for her goal of opening a gym.
“I would love to continue writing on the side when I graduate this fall,” said Green. “My original career goal was to write, but I got really into lifting once the coronavirus hit because my mom has an at-home gym. It was a huge coping mechanism for me during that time. I have since gotten more and more into it. Through lifting, I have learned more about myself and have had a lot of personal growth. I want to help other people experience the same thing, which is why I am passionate about opening up a gym.”