Pioneer Balloon Co. partners with WSU student group
Pioneer Balloon Co., an international balloon manufacturer and distributor headquartered in Wichita, hired Wichita State University’s Barton International Group (BIG) to conduct strategic market research in the United States.
BIG is a consulting firm founded and led by undergraduate students in the W. Frank Barton School of Business. The organization provides members with professional experience outside of a classroom setting.
Pioneer Balloon partnered with BIG in September 2011 to explore new business opportunities with Hispanic populations in Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles. In Dallas, members attended the World Balloon Convention, featuring displays by Certified Balloon Artists from the United States and around the world.
“The Barton Group helped us to identify what our options were for breaking into a new market,” said Norma Roberts, domestic markets director at Pioneer. “They provided those options, as well as examples of how to take action and what would provide the most return.”
Senior Laura Schlapp and junior Blake Krier are two students heavily involved in BIG. Schlapp, an integrated marketing communication major, management minor and BIG’s director of marketing, conducted secondary research, attended the convention in Dallas over spring break and presented findings to the company.
“I think this will help me especially in a marketing or PR career because the ability to present and sell your ideas is extremely important,” said Schlapp. “Understanding the data is important, but you also have to be able to sell your ideas and explain why your idea is the best, and why your idea will make the company successful.”
Although Krier, accounting and finance major and BIG’s co-CEO, was not directly involved in the research for Pioneer, he saw how the partnership benefited the students who participated.
“My favorite aspect was getting to see all of our members travel across the country over spring break this past semester,” Krier said. “It was fun to see them all get that opportunity and apply the skills they have learned in the classroom.”
Building a resume
Previously, BIG has worked with companies such as The Coleman Co., MoJack Distributors and Spirit Aerosystems. In the organization, members receive professional experience by completing projects that give businesses an advantage in the competitive global marketplace.
“Anything that can help build your resume and skill set will help set you apart from other applicants for jobs,” said Krier. “Getting involved is also a great way to build your network.”
Schlapp, who has been working in the Administration and Finance office at WSU for three years, advises students to gain experience before graduation in university organizations or by enrolling in WSU’s Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program.
“I have found my classroom experience has been enhanced, because when I learn about concepts in the classroom, more often than not, I am able to tie it in with my job or organization,” said Schlapp. “I think experience-based learning is important, and WSU gives you many opportunities to learn in the field that interests you the most.”