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Bringing him the bacon
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 lettermans 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 Flemisters 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 Flemisters undivided attention, and they didnt 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 Flemisters eyes and attention for about seven minutes with a long string of suggestions.
Youre 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. Youre right there.
White also had some comments about Flemisters store front.
You have a lot of white spaces. You need to fill them up so they will catch peoples eye.
Rob Knights comments made his fellow students gasp.
Were 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, Knights 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.
Youre 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 everybodys presentations, Flemister said after class. You gave me a lot of ideas. Some things I didnt 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 Hannas students are unable to understand why they have to do assignments. They cant see the big picture.
This one was easy. They could see their answer on Flemisters 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.