Neuqua marketing students get real-world experience

NAPERVILLE — From burgers to Big Frog, Neuqua Valley High School marketing students are earning a reputation for bringing a fresh look to businesses around town.

Beth Knuth, a business education teacher at the high school, said local entrepreneurs are reaching out to students to create logos, promotions and campaigns that advertise their businesses. “It’s almost becoming a marketing agency,” Knuth said of Neuqua’s Business Department.

Knuth said textbooks and lessons are great for teaching skills to students. “It’s one thing to learn about marketing; it’s another to apply what they’ve learned,” Knuth said. “[The business projects] really give the kids authentic experience,” Knuth said.

Just his past fall, Neuqua students participated in Tom & Eddie’s Burger Challenge where students created a sandwich from scratch in the class and competed to sell the most sandwiches at the restaurant. Each of the three marketing classes created a sandwich — a Buffalo ranch chicken sandwich, the European burger with mushrooms and Swiss and the “Holy Guacamole” chicken sandwich — and the Buffalo ranch won.

Students not only benefited by earning real-world experience, but a portion of the proceeds from the sandwich sales went back to the school.

Now students are tasked with creating a marketing campaign to promote the Big Frog shop opened by Naperville entrepreneurs Scott and Marcia Parrill in November. The business is tucked in a storefront next the Jewel/Osco just a few blocks east of the school.

Big Frog allows patrons to custom-design T-shirts and other apparel using a special direct-to-garment digital printing process that is like an ink-jet printer for apparel. Unlike traditional silkscreen printing processes, Big Frog has the flexibility to print multiple colors on one item or hundreds of items without extra setup fees and artwork charges. “If you can put it on a computer, we can print it on a T-shirt,” Scott said.

Longtime Naperville residents the Parrills, whose children attend the school and are Neuqua alumni, challenged students to create a plan to draw in customers during the month of July, a time of year considered slower in the T-shirt business, according to Scott. He said numerous students have visited the store and asked questions. “I am impressed with some of the questions that students have asked,” Scott said.

This week, marketing teachers Joe Moreau and Knuth are winnowing through the student presentations and assigning grades. The roughly 90 sophomores, juniors and seniors were divided into groups of four, and each class has about eight groups.

The top two presentations in each of the three classes will pitch their campaign on Friday to Leeward Bean, founder and chief executive officer of Big Frog. Bean agreed to help judge the contest in honor of a huge milestone for his company — the opening of the franchise’s 50th store in Naperville.

Knuth said she and Moreau plan to work with the six finalist groups to tweak their presentations before Friday.

The winning team will be awarded $1,000, and a $500 donation will be given by Bean to Neuqua Valley’s Business Department.

Depending on the feasibility of the winning presentation, Scott said he might implement the plan at their store.