Students in the Small Business Marketing class at Minnesota School of Business-St. Cloud set out with a goal to analyze a local business’s website as part of a class project. They didn’t realize their efforts would have a transformative and award-winning effect.
“The project was to find a local small business and review their website, point out areas for improvement that would help make it easier for customers to navigate, and make it more efficient overall,” explains team member Nathan Ringham, who is earning a degree in digital video and media production.
It was about “going to a company website and analyzing what was already there,” adds Lance Johnson, a health fitness student.
But timing—and connections—can be everything.
Johnson is a former employee of the construction company, Tony’s Lifetime Exteriors, in Sauk Rapids, Minn., and suggested to his team that they partner with the company. As it turned out, the small business was in the process of updating their website and welcomed any input into the process.
Some of the team’s suggestions were pretty basic, says Johnson, “Like the main photo of the owner wasn’t very flattering,” he laughs. “They changed that out.”
Also, the “Contact Us” tab still listed Johnson as an employee even though he hadn’t worked for the business for several years. The students advised that the company update employees on the site no less than once a year.
Other suggestions the small business marketing students gave were more visionary, and Johnson is pleased that Tony’s Lifetime Exteriors seems to have implemented all their ideas, including history of the company and a mobile site that is now active.
“It’s nice to see that they incorporated what we mentioned to them to change and update,” Johnson says.
Ringham adds that the project entailed real focus by “looking at the message they were trying to send [and] how accessible the website was.”
Both Ringham and Johnson appreciate the real-world aspect of the project.
The “a-ha” for Johnson is how transferable the experience has been. As head track and field coach for Rocori High School, he has been able to help with suggestions for that website. As a personal trainer, he can see how the project prepared him for entering business on his own.
In December, the project was recognized as the regional winner of the Applied Learning Award by Minnesota School of Business. Accepting the award, instructor Frank Ayers joked, “I would like to say that my students won the award and I took all the credit!”
In reality, Ayers is impressed with how independent and professional the students were at their work.
View their work here at Tony’s Lifetime Exteriors.