As a senior with a double major in marketing and supply chain management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Gardner had her sights on a career with Google, the multinational company that’s probably best known for its web browser and associated products. Continue reading EPIC SPOTLIGHT: Alissa Gardner→
Gaining real-world experience in a career that you love. Earning credit toward your major. Making a difference in your community.
All from one class project. Pretty cool, huh?
For the spring 2017 semester, Anne Velliquette, clinical assistant professor at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, assigned a service-learning project to her Integrated Marketing Communications class. Teams formed and assignments were made. The project developed full blown advertising campaigns – and the research and pitches that go along with it – to promote Rockin’ Baker, a local mission-focused, benefit corporation bakery located in North Fayetteville.
Walton students Alexa Wood, Bethany McClain, Connor Clark, Demrie Lowry, Emma Meyer and Danielle Deats teamed up to create the Creative Lense Advertising agency for their team project and claim first place in the class competition.
“For this project we formed teams to create an advertising agency, which included coming up with an agency name, logo, and tagline, in order to prepare a campaign for our client, Rockin’ Baker,” said marketing major Demrie Lowry. “We were required to prepare three visual advertisements, a creative brief and we also created a social media plan.”
“I intend to pursue a career in marketing and this project will definitely help me in my career. It allowed us to work firsthand with a real client who actually wants to hear our ideas and feedback,” Lowry said. “I believe it will set us ahead because we have actually prepared a creative brief for a client based on their goals, which is exactly how it will be in a real-world setting.”
The client – Rockin’ Baker – prepares fresh breads such as traditional baguettes or sourdough, along with sourdough accented with nuts, herbs, olives, bananas, rye flour or chocolate. Tuesday through Saturday, it supplements baked goods with lunch sandwiches and salads.
When opening the doors of Rockin’ Baker, a rush of warm bread fresh from the oven awakes your senses. The shop doesn’t just smell good; it promotes good as well. The bakery is a registered nonprofit. It creates jobs and develops job skills for at-risk people who are interested in the culinary industry.
The team set out to reflect the social mission and fresh bread the bakery is known for.
“I learned how valuable it is to have something that sets your business apart,” said Alexa Wood, a marketing major. “For Rockin’ Baker, it’s their social mission. There are various other bakeries in NWA, but no one has the same mission and values as her, and that’s why people are loyal to her business. If you can provide something of value to customers, that’s when you get their repeat business and loyalty.”
With themes of “rising up to empower others” and “natural ingredients for the natural state,” Creative Lense team members promoted the bakery’s fresh bread and its mission to train workers in artisan baking skills, safe food handling, quality control and other marketable skills.
“Students overall embraced the social mission of Rockin’ Baker and did their best in fully understanding the challenges and limitations,” said Daymara Baker, founder and chief executive officer of the bakery. “Some of them went beyond their assignment to provide additional support to grow the business.”
The second place team, Avenue Advertising, pitched ideas for their ad campaign and used “baking a difference” to project the good work Rockin’ Baker does in empowering others through job training.
“Ultimately, we were trying to create a campaign that would be extremely low-cost, sustainable, and effective in order that Rockin’ Baker can grow and increase capital stability,” said Rachel Simpson, Avenue Advertising team member and a junior with a double major in marketing and accounting.
The integrated marketing project is a junior/senior level class and provides a hands-on experience to get students ready for the job market.
“It is a challenging yet very rewarding experience for the students. Ultimately, they are able to gain experience in two distinct advertising agency roles – that of the creative designer as well as the account executive,” Velliquette said. “Many of them have the goal of working in some capacity for an ad agency. And even those that may have other plans, the real world experience provides great resume and job interview material for the students. Many past students have told me how proud they were of their work and that during interviews, it helped them to land an internship or job.”
To learn more about Rockin’ Baker, visit rockinbakeracademy.org on the web or on Facebook under RockinBaker. The bakery is located at 3761 Mall Avenue in Fayetteville.
Information moves markets. That’s something every business student understands – or should.
Jessica Darby wrote her honors thesis on the relationship of rice markets and information while she was a University of Arkansas undergraduate. Now, as a doctoral candidate in the university’s Sam M. Walton College of Business, she’s studying ways that timely and accurate information flowing out of the supply chain can help rice farmers in Arkansas and around the world.
Darby researches how rice farmers get their information about markets and how they make decisions based on that information. She’s asking farmers if better sources of information, additional resources and more analytical tools can be developed to help with market decisions.
In spring 2017, Darby gained support for this research by winning a prestigious and highly competitive Adam Smith Fellowship from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The one-year fellowship for graduate students – which includes a quarterly stipend – can total up to $10,000. Fellows also are eligible to apply for conference and research support.
“I believe that working with the Mercatus Center will help me develop market-based tools and address relevant policy levers to reduce the information burden for farmers,” Darby said. “I want to articulate the power of markets in agricultural supply chains.”
Her research can also be a powerful tool in helping the farmers and the economy of Arkansas. Arkansas is the largest rice-growing state in the nation, with the crop grown on 1.3 million acres each year, mainly in eastern Arkansas counties stretching from Louisiana to Missouri.
Darby’s interest in commodities such as rice and the behavior of commodity markets was sparked by an internship as a commodity analyst with an Arkansas-based global trading and sourcing company, and a second internship with one of the largest shippers of grain on the inland river system. The latter gave her insight into the role that public information – especially United States Department of Agriculture reports – plays in decisions.
“In both roles, I was responsible for producing regional analysis to determine potential growth and necessary defense strategies to adapt to changing market and political environments,” Darby said.
Darby was introduced to free-market concepts and information’s impact on commodity trading and pricing through a Walton College supply chain class on capitalism and a class on futures and options in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. The latter class sparked an interest in working with Andrew McKenzie, a professor of agricultural economics and agri-business.
“He introduced me to Milo Hamilton’s book, When Rice Shakes the World,” Darby said. “Hamilton discusses the implications of policies on the functioning of global rice markets and argues for a ‘freer, market-oriented way for rice.’”
McKenzie directed Darby’s honors thesis on rice futures markets. The two published that research in the U of A undergraduate research journal Inquiry and then extended the research. Darby presented this extended research as a paper at the NCCC-134 Applied Commodity Price Analysis, Forecasting and Risk Management Conference. The two then co-authored an article on the topic – “Information Content of USDA Rice Reports and Price Reactions of Rice Futures” – that was published in Agribusiness: An International Journal.
“Our research shows that the USDA provides the rice futures market with important information needed by Arkansas rice mills and farmers to market their crops,” McKenzie said. “The Arkansas Farm Bureau notes that Arkansas farmers produce more than 9 billion pounds of rice each year, which generates billions of dollars to the state’s economy and accounts for approximately 25,000 jobs, crucial to rural communities.”
The impact of such research on Arkansas and its economy inspires Darby to continue to dig into the topic. “It’s important to me that my research connect to industry,” Darby said. “I have to see the practical application for both farmers and agri-businesses – especially those involved in the food supply chains here in Arkansas.”
McKenzie added that, in an era of declining federal budgets, the kind of research he and Darby have produced provides economic justification for the continued publication of USDA reports. Darby said that it also illustrates an opportunity for the private sector to provide additional valuable information.
“Our results undoubtedly show that USDA reports play a vital role in helping futures markets to discover price and that this is particularly important for the U.S. rice market, where there is a paucity of private data and forecasts to supplement government numbers,” McKenzie said. “However, our research also highlights the fact that rice futures are a thinly traded market with low liquidity and volume.”
McKenzie and Darby are currently engaged in potential research to explore factors that may be driving low trading levels, which increases uncertainty for farmers. Darby said the aim is to determine potential solutions to increase volume and open interest through both regulatory changes and private information provided by partners in the supply chain.
Darby earned a B.S.B.A. in economics from the Walton College in 2015 and a Walton M.B.A. in 2016. She says her passion for reading, research and free-market capitalism left no doubt she would enter Walton’s doctoral program right away. Winning the Adam Smith Fellowship is pushing that passion into a whole different realm, though.
“I believe that it will enable me to examine and better articulate the power of markets in global agricultural supply chains,” Darby said, “as well as the power of global agricultural supply chains in the structuring of global markets.”