Local nonprofit owner finds success using AU students' ideas for her business
When Kris Hovsepian, Ashland University professor of marketing, visited local nonprofit Paid in Full at the beginning of January, she was happy to see that some of her students’ ideas were being used.
Hovsepian’s retail merchandising students researched the second-hand store last semester, finishing with presentations to its owner, Mandy Heilman, on how she could improve the business.
“To see that she is making the suggested changes is rewarding,” said Taylor Anderson, one of the students. “This is why I believe it is important to have classes like Prof. H's that give you real-world experience and a chance for your voice to be heard.”
One of the ideas Heilman said she used was moving racks to a different location, completely redoing the entire layout based on student suggestions.
“We created a business rack that includes the entire outfit – top, bottom, some a light jacket or scarf plus jewelry to really make the outfit complete,” Heilman said.
Another one was posting signs in English and Spanish, as well as more signs to explain prices.
“We changed our prices to be more specific,” Heilman said. “They are slightly more than before but still affordable. We kept our policy of ‘time’ as payment too in case people can't afford to pay.”
Not having enough people who want to give their “time” as volunteers consistently has been an issue for Paid in Full. That’s why Heilman told members of the team with the winning presentation, which included Anderson, that it would be difficult to institute many of their recommendations.
But Heilman discovered that the price shift she tried allowed her to hire someone on “a very part-time basis.”
“Plus, I've gotten a few more volunteers through community service recently and it's been helpful,” she said. “Still working on the volunteer thing. That's something we need to continue to increase.”
One of those volunteers is a woman who is handling Paid in Full’s social media, which the students proposed that Heilman increase.
“She does fun posts about new items and works to get the attention of people on our group page,” Heilman said. “She will also be posting about our events and reminding people about our special sales and food pantry. I figured out how to use Canva to make more elaborate signs/Facebook posts.”
Canva is a graphic design platform that is used to create social media graphics and presentations.
“I'm trying to research more places to advertise on our budget,” Heilman said.
Heilman said she was already working on the students’ recommendation to pave her gravel parking lot before their presentations and is hoping that will be able to happen soon.
Carpet in the store also will be coming as Home Depot is working with her through a "Team Depot" project that shouldn’t cost her anything, Heilman added.
“Mandy is moving forward in such a positive direction to continue the success of her nonprofit,” Anderson said. “I look forward to stopping in soon to see it come to life.”