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From left to right: SDSU students Kat Alberto, Jackson Novak and Jack Peabody From left to right: SDSU students Kat Alberto, Jackson Novak and Jack Peabody

SDSU Marketing Class Undertakes Life-Changing Experience

SDSU students in a marketing class rise to the challenge to use their skills to help the community.
By Fowler College of Business News Team

“The craziest part was just seeing her amazement for things that we all took for granted, such as having a bed, desk and decorations.”

During fall 2020, Steven Osinski, marketing lecturer at San Diego State University, offered the 26 students in his Marketing and Sales for Social Impact (MKTG 478) class an opportunity to gain real-world experience while also helping those in need.

Through this project, the class was able to impact the lives of mothers and children experiencing homelessness in San Diego County through two local non-profit organizations, Home Start and Humble Design

Osinski told the group the class would be “a blank canvas” and challenged his students to take an active role in the classwork and use their skills to benefit the community. 

With $5,000 of privately donated money for each organization, the students divided into two groups and began working with staff members of Home Start and Humble Design to assess their marketing and fundraising needs. 

Unexpected challenges

A student team led by Breanna Luke worked primarily with Home Start to reimagine and transition their annual fundraiser, Hallo-Wine, into a virtual wine tasting event by creating social media messages and promotional videos. The students also volunteered to package, coordinate and deliver the wine tasting kits that would be provided to the donors prior to the Oct. 24 event. Within two weeks of the event, they were faced with an unexpected challenge. 

“We learned that due to COVID-19, Home Start’s wine distributor couldn’t provide the promised wine,” said Luke, a senior majoring in marketing. “To overcome this issue, we reached out to the Gallo Wine Company, whom our class already had a business relationship with, who generously agreed to donate ten cases of wine at no charge.”

Thanks to the students’ efforts, the event raised $38,000 for Home Start, whose mission is to provide “every child a safe, stable and nurturing home.” 

A second team of students, led by Amy Cordell, worked with Humble Design’s staff to gather donated furniture and home décor. Located in five U.S. cities, Humble Design utilizes the decor from various sources to furnish homes and apartments for individuals and families emerging from homelessness. 

Market research has found that the probability of a formerly homeless family avoiding future homelessness dramatically increases if they can move into a furnished home versus an empty dwelling. 

“We reached out to all kinds of furniture stores to try to create partnerships for Humble Design and to ask for donations,” said Cordell, an international business senior. “However, COVID has reduced store profits, so fewer companies were willing to donate, despite the fact that more people were experiencing homelessness and needed our help.” 

As they scoured the county for furniture, the Cordell-led team also helped Humble Design relocate to a new facility by designing, organizing and stocking their new warehouse which was completed in early October. 

Following COVID-19 safety protocols, the students agreed to safely collected and moved donated furniture and housewares to an apartment that was slated to go to a single mother and son who recently left homelessness for SDSU’s Day of Service on Nov. 5. 

The students were on hand when the young mother walked into her newly furnished apartment and they caught her surprise and gratitude on video. “Her response was quite overwhelming,” said Cordell. “The craziest part was just seeing her amazement for things that we all took for granted, such as having a bed, desk and decorations.” 

Impacting lives

As the semester concluded, the students reflected on their experience in the class, its impact on them and their understanding of homelessness. 

“Working with the nonprofits has opened my eyes to the issue of homelessness surrounding San Diego, as well as throughout the world, but it is heartwarming to know that Humble Design and Home Start are making a positive impact on people in need,” said Kacie Yonemoto, a senior majoring in marketing.

The experience also gave Luke perspective on her job search, saying that as a team leader, she enjoyed being the direct point of contact during the project since she found her “passion in maintaining positive, beneficial relationships.”

“Because of the experience I have gained from this project and class, I hope to see myself having a career in project management,” Luke said.