Pace Magazine

Hands-On Learning with Real, Small Businesses

Johnni Medina
July 10, 2024
Students stand with the Twenty Sided Team

For the past five years, Kathy Winsted, PhD, has connected her digital marketing students with local small businesses. Her goal is to give her students invaluable real-life experience as they apply their learning to a practical situation, while offering small businesses a free audit of their marketing strategies.

This spring, one of the businesses that students collaborated with was Twenty Sided Store, a board game shop and event venue in Brooklyn. Two groups presented their ideas for how Twenty Sided could continue their marketing efforts, including search engine optimization, expanded social media content calendars, and custom bots powered by Chat GPT to run analytics. One group even reached out to potential influencers and began negotiations for influencer deals.

I felt like I actually got a lot more experience out of it than I would in a hypothetical case study. —Derasmo

For Mike Derasmo '24, a recent Global Marketing Management graduate, the project was a unique opportunity. "It was definitely interesting to work with a real small business,” he said. “It was a lot more interactive and hands-on. I felt like I actually got a lot more experience out of it than I would in a hypothetical case study.”

This takeaway is exactly the reason Winsted continues to team up with businesses for this project. “I'm a huge believer in learning by doing,” she said. “Students have to not only learn the course material but figure out how to apply it to a specific business situation. You can only learn so much by watching a video. Real learning happens when you have to create an ad or present Google analytics findings to a real client."

Kathy Winsted and her digital marketing class, as well as the Twenty Sided Team and business owner Kadidja Dosso of Dosso Beauty
Kathy Winsted and her digital marketing class. In the front row, from left to right is the Twenty Sided Team (Luis Chato, Lauren Bilanko, and Morgan Beetham) and owner of Dosso Beauty Kadidja Dosso 

Morgan Beetham, who leads Twenty Sided’s marketing efforts, was thrilled to get outside input on the work the Twenty Sided team has put in over the past 13 years they have been in business. "Seeing our business through the eyes of someone navigating our website for the first time was really helpful,” she says. “The students at Pace had some great ideas for ways to reach a younger generation and clarify our brand."

I'm a huge believer in learning by doing. —Winsted

Lauren Bilanko, co-owner of the store, wasn’t sure what to expect from the final presentations and found herself excited by the enthusiasm and efforts of the students, who went above and beyond to understand their business. “The amount of research and development the students did to evaluate our marketplace was impressive,” she said.

At the end of the class, the Twenty Sided team left with a whole new perspective and a list of potential, actionable items. According to Beetham, “I've already started implementing a posting schedule more in line with their suggestions.”

Professor Winsted has developed a great program that mutually benefits both the students and small businesses like ours. —Bilanko

Students had the opportunity to not only apply their learning to a real-life scenario but practice their skills collaborating with and pitching to a real client. Derasmo cites it as a transformative experience, saying, “It's definitely helped me prepare for a professional career. Whether it’s applying the skills I learned to a new job, or even creating my own company now that I’ve seen how all these decisions get done. It was a great experience to have.”

Bilanko agrees, seeing the value not just to businesses like hers, but through the enthusiasm of the Pace students. "Professor Winsted has developed a great program that mutually benefits both the students and small businesses like ours. We hope to be invited to participate again next year."

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