Management Students Partner with Local Businesses for Hands-On Experience

Students in the consulting practicum class teamed up with Kudzu Brands CEO Murphy Capps for a semester of hands-on experience.
May 19, 2020

In the world of business, there’s no substitute for experience.

That’s the idea behind the consulting practicum course in UNC Asheville’s management and accountancy program, taught by Susan Clark, assistant professor of management. The class worked with two local businesses, JB Media Group, founded by UNC Asheville alumnus Justin Belleme, and Kudzu Brands, run by CEO and Creative Director Murphy Capps. Students worked side-by-side with Belleme and Capps to develop their own business strategies for real clients.

“I just wanted a little more hands-on experience with things in the management world that also, from a student perspective, was a big learning opportunity,” said Hannah Ramirez, a senior management major who transferred to UNC Asheville in 2018. “Throughout the whole course it’s been excellent to have the perspective of what it’s like to work with a client with branding, but also still be able to look at it from, how can you learn from this? What skills are we applying that we already discussed? Where can we grow before we enter the workforce, as well?”

Ramirez worked on the student team with Capps as she developed a complete rebrand for one of her clients. While the student team developed their own plan in tandem with Capps, they were able to meet with Capps’ client, share their ideas, and be a part of the entire process.

“I told several friends and colleagues that I learned as much from the students as they learned from me,” said Capps, who met with the class every other week. “They had such great ideas, insights and perspectives. They were not afraid to challenge me or ask tough questions. This helped me to stretch my own thinking and or to reconsider my ‘stance.’”

“We’ve been doing a side-by-side with Kudzu Brands, so we’re doing everything that the company is doing, and a lot of the time she’ll take our ideas and she’ll implement them into their strategy, which has been really interesting and really helpful for us,” said Abby Zimmerman, a senior mass communication major. “She’s always given us feedback on how we’re doing up to her standards, and that’s been really helpful for our learning process.”

It’s exactly the kind of experience Ramirez was hoping to gain as she pursues her own work, running her own photography business.

“Myself as a small business owner, it’s given me a new perspective on ways I can market my own brand and tell my own brand story. I think their generosity with those materials has been an educational resource for us,” Ramirez said. “This experience working in a group has been really valuable for me since my business is independently run—I am the photographer and do everything from communication on day one to delivery. So for me this group experience is something that I tremendously value. Learning how to communicate with others to create one final deliverable is an experience outside of my normal business realm, and it’s strengthened a lot of the skills I wanted to grow and made me aware of where to work further.”

The opportunity to work with and learn from Capps is one Zimmerman said she was especially grateful for as she works towards her dream job at Walt Disney Company. “She’s so organized,” Zimmerman said. “She always makes sure to tell us our work is valued. She’s posting pictures of us on Facebook. It’s like having a business mom, it’s great.”

As for Capps, she was so impressed by the students that she worked with that she cried at their final presentation. “I was so proud, and blown away by how professional and polished the final work was,” she said.

“For me as a transfer student to UNC Asheville, offering a course like this and Dr. Clark leading something like this, is something that I recognize I would not have gotten at my prior institution,” Ramirez said. “So there’s just a deep appreciation for what UNC Asheville has done in offering consulting practicum as a whole, and it’s something that I would love to see continue, and I will recommend to any student who has the opportunity to participate in it.”