Undiscovered Maine students take on a consulting project

Undergraduates in the Undiscovered Maine student research project took up a new task this spring semester—consulting with a Montessori school in Franklin County. This project perfectly demonstrated the mission of Undiscovered Maine, which is to provide valuable educational opportunities for students to learn web and social media strategies as well as organizational, management, and marketing skills to help small businesses in economically-disadvantaged areas of Maine.

“The students in the small business team were interested in doing a consulting project,” says Dr. Nory Jones, Professor of Business Information Systems and faculty advisor for Undiscovered Maine.” The Maine Mountain Children’s House (MMCH) was exactly what our team was looking for.”

Good old-fashioned networking connected the Montessori school with the Undiscovered Maine team. Kathy Stovall, Class of 2022, has a child who attends MMCH. She used the school as a philanthropic project in one of her management classes. Kathy knew MMCH was struggling with its marketing outreach and connected the director, Bethany Mahar, with the Undiscovered Maine team.

Public schools usually have the financial means to provide diverse programs to accommodate many different students. But small private schools in rural areas don’t always have that luxury. MMCH found it challenging to create awareness and position themselves relative to more traditional schools in the area. Located in Kingfield, Maine, MMCH offers a different approach to learning. A Montessori educational experience emphasizes fostering the whole child’s growth and creating a connection to the natural world. MMCH faced the challenge of how to educate potential new families about this holistic approach to education.

Undiscovered Maine students put their business curriculum into practice. The team performed a SWOT analysis to measure the school’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. “Many of the topics I have covered in class were transferable to this project,” says Hana Boucher, a second-year marketing major. “Specifically, the SWOT analysis and several marketing techniques, including identifying the target audience. Since I am from the economically underdeveloped region of Aroostook County, I’m no stranger to the struggles of small businesses. It was very rewarding to do meaningful work for the betterment of a Maine business.”

Business students researched areas of interest that directly impact MMCH. They offered ideas on attracting prospective families by building brand awareness, reinventing their social media, and collaborating with local businesses. Students also created actionable templates to help with social media and marketing and recommended a software system to help them automate their processes. Another area of research led to recommendations for new and thoughtful ways MMCH could collaborate with the local public school system.

“I was honestly amazed,” Mahar says. “I didn’t know that college students, who do not have young children of their own and are not in the education field, were able to grasp the essence of what MMCH is trying to offer our families and how we are marketing that. I was really impressed by this team. They offered me tangible information that could actually improve our business.”