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WSU Tech, Wichita Chamber partner in effort to boost small businesses

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 4:21 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - WSU Tech and the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce on Monday celebrated the successful launch of a partnership between Wichita small businesses and WSU Tech digital marketing students.

Last year, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wichita Chamber conducted roundtable discussions with small businesses from various industries to identify challenges for economic recovery, WSU Tech said in a news release. A common theme from those discussions were that businesses were feeling challenged with having knowledge and time to invest in digital marketing, trying to reach new customers and to shift to conducting commerce online.

“This idea all started after I attended a COVID Task Force meeting with the Wichita Chamber and heard the marketing needs from our local businesses,” said Dr. Sheree Utash, President of WSU Tech. “I immediately thought of our talented digital marketing students and how they could gain some real-life experience while supporting our community.”

WSU Tech said this prompted the college and the Wichita Chamber to launch a new partnership, “to provide applied learning opportunities for digital marketing students through connecting them with Wichita small business owners to assist them with their digital marketing needs and help them pivot to an online space.”

Following a survey and a selection process by WSU Tech and the Wichita Chamber, two businesses were matched with two students to beta test the partnership.

“I came into this project with a little apprehension,” said Erynn Dixon, a second-year digital marketing student at WSU Tech, partnered with Hopping Gnome Brewing Company. “I was met with an openness to ideas and suggestions that made it an enjoyable experience.”

WSU Tech said second-year digital marketing student Nathan Gilbert was partnered with Tillie’s Flower Shop, a family florist that is also Wichita’s second oldest business.

WSU Tech said Dixon and Gilbert assisted with projects ranging from search optimization to the creation and implementation of an online chatbot.

“The Chamber is so pleased to partner with WSU Tech’s digital marketing program to identify real-world experiences for students while simultaneously filling a huge need for our small business members,” said Angie Elliot, Vice President, Member Engagement & Small Business for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The pandemic has heightened the importance of businesses utilizing digital tools to identify, attract and serve customers. We look forward to continuing to explore ways to fill this need with project-based initiatives.”

Utash called the partnership “a win-win situation for all involved.”

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