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Bringing him the bacon

Madonna Hanna, right, marketing teacher at Bremerton High School, examines one of Ron Flemister’s letterman’s jackets. Hanna’s class spent about two months designing an advertising campaign for Flemister’s business, Unique Experience. - Photo by Christopher Mulally
Madonna Hanna, right, marketing teacher at Bremerton High School, examines one of Ron Flemister’s letterman’s jackets. Hanna’s class spent about two months designing an advertising campaign for Flemister’s business, Unique Experience.
— image credit: Photo by Christopher Mulally

Ron Flemister needed some help.

He had spent the last fifteen years maintaining his own custom embroidery business, Unique Experience, but he wanted it to grow — big. About $200 million big.

So he needed some advice.

He plucked up the phone and dialed up the introduction to marketing / business class teacher at Bremerton High School, Madonna Hanna.

Flemister, in his deep, calm voice, told her he needed some marketing help, but he did not want to spend a ton of money hiring a specialist.

In addition to his Navy products, Flemister sells letterman’s jackets and baseball hats, and he wanted some words of wisdom from his customers.

“Why not kids,” he said, “they are the ones who do most of the buying.”

Hanna thought it was a great idea — Flemister would have the business advice he sought and her kids would gain real world experience.

That was in November.

Since then, her class divided up in six groups and worked a few days a week on a solution to Flemister’s problem.

Last week, Flemister came in to the class and the students presented their final marketing campaigns.

Each group compiled a package of ideas, including color business cards, fliers, a new logo, store renovations and a new lighted sign. For a full hour, the kids had Flemister’s undivided attention, and they didn’t hold back one bit.

“I made the logo,” Ian Mateikat said. “Not to knock you for anything you had before, but I wanted to make something that was a little bigger and jumped out at you.”

Soraya Fullingim offered some discount ideas.

“Senior citizens remember when stuff was cheaper. They like discounts. I think you should give a 10% discount to senior citizens.”

Deno White looked like he was enjoying himself. He held Flemister’s eyes and attention for about seven minutes with a long string of suggestions.

“You’re really close to the ferry terminal and at 6:10 or 6:20 a.m. there are at least 100 people getting off the ferry boat, going in to the shipyard and you should really use that to your advantage. You’re right there.”

White also had some comments about Flemister’s store front.

“You have a lot of white spaces. You need to fill them up so they will catch people’s eye.”

Rob Knight’s comments made his fellow students gasp.

“We’re thinking of redoing your store because it seems a little . . . dirty,” Knight said.

Flemister said there was no need to apologize, he appreciated the honesty.

“It just seems like every other store,” Knight’s teammate Sarah Board added. “We were thinking of spicing it up a little bit and giving it something new.”

Other recommendations included condensing the brochure, putting a lighted sign in the window so people could recognize it at night, creating better window displays, making announcements at school events and starting a more interesting Web site.

“You’re going to need a Web site because we want you to go big,” Knight said.

Every group had their own prices for the marketing upgrade.

Flemister liked the $1,100 version, but endorsed the more expensive ad campaigns for the future when he has more funds to work with.

“I enjoyed everybody’s presentations,” Flemister said after class. “You gave me a lot of ideas. Some things I didn’t like, but a lot of things I do.”

Hanna smiled all the way through the presentations. She was glad her students could take a hands-on approach to learning.

“They could see what they are doing counts,” she said. “All their research was appreciated by Mr. Flemister.”

A lot of times Hanna’s students are unable to understand why they have to do assignments. They can’t see the big picture.

This one was easy. They could see their answer on Flemister’s face, as it lit up while they explained their ideas.

The next project for the class is to help Flemister implement some of their ideas.

Although the business owner has a long way to go to reach $200 million in revenue, he recognized one thing through this project: sometimes kids know best.

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