Deer feed helps students learn business practices

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
December 10, 2009

Indiana State University students have done their part to make sure Midwest deer hunters have a satisfying hunting season.

Last spring, students in Aruna Chandra's corporate strategy course created a business plan for a start-up company's newly designed deer feed.

The relationship came about when business partners Patrick Arendt and Tim Fealey were looking for a way to grow the ideal deer for hunters. The men, who eventually formed the company Wisconsin River Wildlife Company after receiving the assistance of the ISU students, wanted to manufacture a deer feed to help produce plump deer with big antlers and healthy coats.

So they contacted Chandra, an associate professor of management at ISU, for help.

With little to no knowledge of the deer feed business, Chandra and her students set about the task of getting a feel for the industry. The class created a survey to learn about the competition. They gathered a list of existing products used by deer farmers across the nation. From there, they evaluated potential competition by interviewing deer farmers for their opinions on existing products.

The class divided into groups to develop business and marketing plans. ISU MBA student and Terre Haute native, Barbara Esparza concentrated her efforts on marketing.

"The deer feed project required us to work both on individual group assignments and on the overall group proposal," Esparza said. "It was challenging to learn enough about this topic in order to present it in a beneficial way to the experts."

Other groups of students focused on developing a Web site design, making suggestions for trade show displays, marketing the deer feed and designing brochures and promotional handouts.

"There were points throughout the semester where the students were skeptical about getting the work done, but they pushed through it and came up with a great business plan," Chandra said.

As the class developed new pieces of the project, they kept in contact with the Wisconsin-based Arendt and Fealey through conference calls. When their work was done at the end of the semester, students made their final presentation to satisfied clients.

"The students took the information I presented them, conducted independent research and followed up with pointed and appropriate questions that proved to be as much assistance to Wisconsin River Wildlife Company as it did to the students," Arendt said.

Even the presentation was a learning experience. Students delivered it to Arendt, Fealey and Chandra - who were all in different parts of the world at the time - through online presentation software.

"This was an added benefit to the class because they learned how to use this technology to communicate business practices," Chandra said.

In the end, Fealey and Arendt were very pleased with the business plan. The students gained invaluable real-world experience, and Midwest deer have become more attractive to hunters.

"This project helped to bridge the gap between theory and practice," Esparza said. "Finding the balance between what your customer needs, what they want, and what you are able to provide is a valuable tool."

Contact: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, rachel.mcclelland@indstate.edu, (812) 237-3790.

Writer: Bailee Souder, Indiana State University, media relations intern, bsouder1@indstate.edu, (812) 237-3773.