A marketing plan crafted by University of South Alabama Mitchell College of Business Master’s of Business Administration students has helped a national school supply wholesale distribution firm expand its business.
USA students assisted Educators Resource® President Jack Summersell and Executive Vice President Brad Summersell in creating a marketing plan that could be used by clients of the educational resources distribution company, which employs 70 people at its 90,000-square-foot headquarters off Schillinger Road in west Mobile.
The second-generation family business is a leading wholesale distributor of supplemental teaching materials and supplies. Educators Resource distributes goods to resellers, which include physical retail teacher stores, catalog companies and Internet sites. Those customers, in turn, sell directly to the teachers and schools.
The brothers asked the MBA students to craft a marketing plan for their new business, The School Place, LLC. Through a licensor-licensee model, The School Place offers entrepreneurs access to its trademarked brand, a point-of-sale system customized for teacher supply stores, inventory management, marketing support and Web site templates; as well as assists with financial planning, commercial real estate issues and merchandising. The School Place provides business opportunities for teachers looking for career alternatives.
The Summersells said The School Place concept stemmed from their attempts to stabilize and grow a customer base which has historically experienced a high rate of turnover. The School Place also features a centralized on-line teacher store that provides a commission to the local School Place store on every sale.
“By providing a proven model for our retail customers, we hope to take our company to a new level of success,” Jack Summersell said.
One way the new system helps the clients is by managing inventory and ordering supplies weekly, rather than on a traditional quarterly or semi-annual basis. A tight inventory allows for better cash flow at the retail level and greater loyalty to the Educators Resource distribution network. Through the new computerized system, the Summersells have been able to increase the percentage of goods a retail outlet buys from them. They have also set up biweekly marketing e-mail templates which their clients use to market directly to teachers, focusing on seasonal items that are good retail sellers.
“We allow the local entrepreneur to focus on the relationships with their customers, and we help them handle inventory management and technology,” Brad Summersell said.
Dr. Deborah Spake, associate dean of the Mitchell College of Business who teaches in the MBA program, said the Summersell project allowed the students access to local entrepreneurs who are running a nationwide company.
Through her Strategic Marketing class, the students met with the Summersells and crafted a marketing plan template for start-up School Place stores. That plan is now being put into action by entrepreneurs opening teacher supply stores, the Summersells said.
Spake said the Summersell project is an example of how USA Mitchell MBA students are gaining real-world experience in the classroom and serving local businesses.