College students collaborate to market makerspace
By KATIE BARCELLOS
Feb. 26, 2018
RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — Rutland Economic Development Corp. and students at Castleton University are teaming up to spread the word about the Rutland MINT makerspace, where creative minds can build viable businesses.
Michael Talbott, chairman of CU's Media and Communications Department, said students will collectively act as a marketing agency for the MINT, which stands for Make, Invent, Network, Tinker.
They will also create a student-run content lab that designs alternative forms of empathetic advertising, rather than utilizing a traditional, direct-sales approach.
"We're teaching a very contemporary approach to storytelling," Talbott said. "It's something that every company is doing right now — creating content labs in-house with companies who want to advertise. This is a rapidly growing area in the media industry."
The modern approach to advertising has been adopted by major brands like Netflix and Dove, reaching viewers through images and a flowing story line that is relatable and interesting, Talbott said.
It's the next step in commercial advertisement, Talbott said.
"Facebook and Instagram have changed the way content reaches users," Talbott said. "The social media management job is disappearing. We train students in careers that don't exist yet."
Jeff Weld, dean of advancement at CU, said the collaboration is the perfect confluence of a liberal arts education, experiential learning and developing professionals for the future.
"Connecting our students with businesses and nonprofits through their work is exactly what we aim to do at Castleton," Weld said.
The lab will benefit the MINT makerspace at 112 Quality Lane in Rutland, where for a $50 monthly membership, people can practice their skills on equipment and materials not commonly available, such as a full woodworking shop, a metal lathe, 3D printer, welding tools and computer-aided design, among others.
Professors Andrew Wilson, Stephanie Wilson and Bill DeForest agreed to incorporate an advertising assignment in their advanced public relations, video production, and graphic designs classes at Castleton, so the 45 students involved receive course credit for creating a content lab that experiments with new ways to get the word out about the MINT.
Talbott said one of the goals of the lab is to identify which students are great leaders and who will take the reins next year when the project transforms from an incubator collaboration between REDC and Castleton into a student-run lab.
"I want students to lead it," he said. "I want organizations to come to them and I want them to decide who to serve."
Talbott said he hopes this will help the makerspace attract more memberships by telling stories about the creative people who use it and why.
"We are getting a firsthand experience working as a team of professionals," said Olivia Maher, a Castleton senior working on the public relations of the content lab.
"We're looking at other makerspaces in the area as something to learn from," she said. "It's awesome to do something like this while we're in school before we enter the big, scary job world."
REDC is providing utilities and 8,000 square feet of space for the MINT for three years while it works toward sustainability, as well as a $50,000 donation for MINT, said Lyle Jepson, executive director of REDC and the dean of entrepreneurial programs at Castleton.
"Our goal is to have the MINT become self-sustaining," he said. "At the end of the three-year period they'll generate revenue through memberships and donations."
Karen McCalla, director of the MINT makerspace, said the collaboration is a great way to advertise the space for students and younger people, and she hopes it is the beginning of a relationship with Castleton University.
"The MINT is something a lot of students don't know about," McCalla said. "This is the first part of a big push to do more outreach on all college campuses in this region. There are so many student resources available there."
REDC approached Castleton to spread the word about the MINT, the free 10-week business-training courses and six-week mentorships REDC offers to anyone who wishes to turn their craft into a viable source of income.
"We're trying to create excitement for innovation," Jepson said. "It's a training center. People are learning, playing, and building careers all at the same time."
Abrams said they're teaching how to define a business concept, make an elevator pitch and do market research at the 10-week REDC courses.
"Participants can expect to have a completed business plan by the end of the class," Abrams said. "They're dedicating three hours a week, 30 hours total, to lay the foundations for their business."
Currently, 17 are people taking the courses, with ages ranging from mid-20s to 60s, Abrams said.
"We want to grow the local population with well-trained, smart employees," Jepson said. "We need skilled professionals who want to stay here."
After the classes are complete, participants who want to continue to learn how to expand their skills and possibly create a career are invited to participate in a six-week mentorship with local representatives of companies such as Casella, Carpenter & Costin Landscaping, and Awesome Graphics.
Jepson said REDC expects small businesses to spring from the creative opportunities available at the MINT.
"People need to know that one of the most important aspects of the MINT is the networking," Jepson said. "People learning from one another is beneficial for everyone."
Information from: Rutland Herald, http://www.rutlandherald.com/