Business Students Assist Children’s Museum
The NMU chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, an international organization that focuses on community service projects outside the classroom, is working with the U.P. Children’s Museum on its store renovation (pictured in progress).
Students are helping to develop several elements crucial to any retail outlet: a marketing plan, product mix, price points, an inventory reorder numbering system and accounting procedures. All will be combined in one business plan delivered by the end of the semester and tweaked, if necessary, as the renovation progresses.
“The museum staff members are incredibly creative, but they haven’t had much business training,” said Ray Amtmann (Business), adviser of the student chapter. “We are taking their creative ideas and offering some guidance on implementing them within a business framework. Because the museum relies mostly on individual and corporate contributions for support, a successful store is important because it can offer additional assets to operate the museum. The goal is to make it a resource for parents and grandparents to purchase unique gifts they won’t find at other retailers in town.”
Six students are involved in the project. Amtmann said they benefit from the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge gleaned from lectures and textbooks on behalf of a “real-life” client.
“There’s a difference between the academic view and what happens in a business setting,” he said. “Sometimes unexpected hurdles come up that you have to contend with. They are developing leadership skills, experiencing what it’s like to work with others who have a different skill set and learning to transmit ideas in a way that’s easily understood.”
NMU student Justine Koehler agreed: “In class, you usually focus on one aspect at a time—just marketing or just accounting. Practicing these skills for an actual client has allowed us to use all aspects of business simultaneously to implement the best strategies for the museum store’s success. The experience has shown us the importance of constantly evaluating all aspects of business. It has truly been a great learning experience.”
The Students in Free Enterprise chapter also created written and online surveys to generate demographic information on visitors that the museum can use in guiding strategic planning.