Entrepreneurial Capstone Develops Strategies for Local Change – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Entrepreneurial Capstone Develops Strategies for Local Change

In this spring’s Entrepreneurial Studies capstone, HWS students took a hands-on approach to developing ideas to impact the Geneva community and the local region. Taught by Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Thomas Drennen and Visiting Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies Craig Talmage, the course challenged students to apply the skills they have learned throughout the Entrepreneurial Studies curriculum to businesses in Geneva — and then, during the second half of the semester, to the students’ own ideas.

During the first half of the semester, Drennen and Talmage, along with Margiloff Family Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow Ed Bizari, guided students as they devised targeted strategies to amplify sales of locally sourced homemade sausages at the Geneva deli and grocery, The Market. With the goal of connecting local consumers and local products, small groups of students ultimately created detailed marketing proposals for The Market, where the business’s owner, Richard “Soapy” Madia, makes sausages with apples and cider from nearby Red Jacket Orchards.

The capstone — and the program itself — is designed with the local community in mind, to help as many residents, businesses and organizations as possible, “while giving the students practice with using the skills we teach in the minor,” says Drennen.

At the midpoint in the semester, students delivered presentations to Madia at the Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship, a few doors down from The Market itself. Highlighting a range of options to promote products and drive sales, the presentations included ideas such as meal kits, weekend breakfast options, targeted coupon distribution and social media marketing strategies. Since the sausage is made with locally sourced ingredients, students saw potential to draw Millennial customers, health-conscious families and restaurants that source local products.

“With our proposal, we really wanted to touch on the heritage and lineage of the sausage,” Cameron Adams ’18 explained during the presentation with Chad Tokowicz ’18 and Molly Neureuter ’18. Targeting households with children in particular, the group developed a new tagline: “‘From our family to yours: Madia’s gives a unique local twist to the traditional old world sausage recipes that will enhance your everyday dinners.’”

As for Madia, he says he is excited to look at their suggestions and begin implementing ideas such as using Facebook, or creating breakfast and lunch specials that appeal to clients in this area. “I’m glad I got to be a part of this project and I admire the thinking and courage that went into these proposals,” says Madia.

During the second half of the semester, students used the same skills and process to explore their own ideas for businesses, non-profits and services, which resulted in ideas ranging from an app to help political candidates with fundraising, to a technological solution to help mitigate the opioid epidemic.

“We want to give students the confidence to think outside the box, to generate transformative ideas and have the skills to put them into action,” says Drennen. “This new academic program will empower students who have these great ideas with the tools they need to make these dreams come alive.”

In a March article, The Finger Lakes Times profiled the collaboration between The Market and the Entrepreneurial Studies program.