Catawba College business students consulting with NC Museum Of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 26, 2021

During the fall semester, the N.C. Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures collaborated with three different classes in the Ralph W. Ketner School of Business at Catawba College — introduction to entrepreneurship, marketing research, and the MBA course marketing management, courses taught by Dr. Jeremiah Nelson and Dr. Jennifer Yurchisin.

“The students had so many great ideas,” reflected Beth Nance, executive director of the museum, following business plan presentations at the end of the semester in Nelson’s introduction to entrepreneurship.

Located in Spencer, the museum offers visitors exhibits ranging from antique dolls and toys to contemporary childhood favorites. After visiting the museum early on in the semester, students remarked that the museum really has something for everyone — not just die-hard collectors or small children. There is clearly a lot of untapped potential for expanding the audience to increase visitor traffic.

Groups of students highlighted combinations of operational tactics, partnership ideas, and marketing strategies that they felt would positively impact the visitor experience or generate new visitor interest. One team suggested “pop up” exhibits at stores, community centers, and even other museums to create awareness at potentially no cost to a very specific audience. Several groups pointed out the opportunities of advertising on social media, since it is very budget-friendly and can be very targeted based on demographics. Additionally, the potential for free engagement with different groups using hashtags would generate awareness among niche enthusiasts. One student pointed out that many Tiktok posts with #miniatures have more than a million views.

The entrepreneurship students really got excited about the project. McKenzie Webster, a junior majoring in biology, found developing the business plan to be an exciting challenge. She shared that “trying to find a way for the museum to improve without it losing its character was my group’s top priority.” Marko Sudar, a freshman computer science major, agreed. He observed, “This was a really exciting journey and my group was really happy to be a part of it. Finding what is special about the museum and exploring ways it can stand out among museums and other entertainment options challenged us to apply what we learned in class.”

“I think working with a real client and having the opportunity to develop a business plan for a real business was a unique and overall amazing experience” remarked Harmony Speer, a Catawba College sophomore majoring in business administration and sociology. “We took what we learned in the classroom and applied it to a real-life situation in the moment. This experience was one-of-a-kind and a great learning experience that went well with the topics covered in class.”

In Yurchisin’s marketing management course, students identified target markets and conducted a SWOT analysis of the museum, developing a list of suggestions for promotional materials and activities. In her undergraduate marketing research course, a group of students performed a demographic and psychographic profile of the museum’s visitors.

Dr. Eric Hake, dean of the Ketner School of Business noted, “Every semester, faculty within the Ralph W. Ketner School of Business collaborate with local businesses to coordinate classroom-based research to serve the needs of our students and our community. Project-based learning is an important complement to individualized business internships, both of which integrate class-room theory with hands on practical applications.”

To explore ways you can work with business students and faculty at Catawba College, contact Dr. Eric Hake at

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