We are Yassine Berrouj and Eetu Tanskanen, both of us are students at Häme University of applied sciences. I study international business while my project partner Eetu studies bio and food engineering.
We have both enrolled at the FUAS summer school in order to make summer more productive and expand our skills and expertise. Since we are both interested in business development and marketing , being a part of the FUAS innovation school was an easy and clear decision.
We have been assigned two projects that allowed us to interact and work with real companies in the business world. This is a critical experience since it is also a test for our skills and ability to use our knowledge and skills.
We were both curious and excited about taking in new projects and working on it that´s why we were some of the first student to express interest in the presented projects.
Marketing Finnish products to the world
Our first project is related to a new revolutionary Finnish company that aims at launching a new Finnish product abroad. This project is extremely interesting to us for various reasons.
The first reason is the new Finnish company that we cannot name for security reasons until the official launch of the new product is planning on going international and exporting their product abroad, mainly to the Asian markets. The entire process and business development of the firm is unique and their patented product makes them stand up to their competitors in the field. The company was flexible and opened the doors for us to help them develop and build various aspects of their work. Due to the limited amount of time that we had to work on the project and since we had other projects to work on we had to chose what work aspect to focus on when working with the company. After long discussions and brainstorming sessions we have come to the conclusion of choosing to focus on the marketing and testing aspect of the new revolutionary product. It was not an easy decision since the co-founders of the firm had multiple ideas and most of them were extremely interesting and appeared to be a perfect match to the kind of work that we are aiming at. However, our professor, Mr Vesa Tuomela, has been the most helpful, professional and organized professor that I have met at my university. Mr. Vesa has helped us and the co-founder of the firm with the brainstorming sessions. During the brainstorming sessions we have had the chance to practise our presentation and product development skills; negotiations also took part of the project.
Since the product is entering a new market, testing it before the official launch is obviously a necessity so we have thought about plans to help the firm test the product, evaluate customers reactions to it and assess its taste and how future customers would evaluate the product. We had to organize more meetings and brainstorming sessions in order to agree on how shall we proceed with the testing but it came to our knowledge that the company has already conducted tests on the product so they have informed us that more product-testing is not required as they would rather want us to produce marketing material and help them build a story for their new innovation therefore we had to cancel our plan of initiating product tests and assessments and eventually proceed with the marketing aspect of work of the project.
Creating new marketing material for a new product, building a story for the product and help potential customers connect with the product and understand its value is not an easy task. We had to revise the basics of marketing, discuss the product in detail with the co-founder and draft a project plan that comprises the marketing work. Producing marketing material for the firm was based on shooting videos and building a story of which the customers react to the product and share their experience of what the product offers and how they may perceive it. In order words, multiple video shooting needed to be done in addition to editing and script writing. Our team did not have experience with video production even though we had the basic knowledge of video production. Nevertheless, our school had already scheduled a video production workshop for us within the same week. The workshop timing was arranged perfectly with our needs of more video production skills so that by the time we needed to shoot videos and make the early arrangements we were even more confident about our skills of producing good quality marketing material for the company as promised.
We have started preparing the setting, booking the rooms and informing the individuals that agreed to take part of our project. We had various people from different backgrounds but mostly an academic background because HAMK has had visitor professors from Brazil and it was great having them help us first with more planning and brainstorming and eventually the video production.
We have then started producing the marketing material, produced video materials and content that may be useful the for company´s future marketing campaigns and penetration to various international markets. It has been interesting how we have already managed to help the firm develop the product and understand more about their value and potential customer reaction to their innovation because during the video shooting itself both our team and the co-founder of the firm has learned new information about the product that none of us has been aware of before.
The co-founder took notes of the new discovery and we took notes that may be critical to the product´s success and future development. The project is still ongoing and we are now working on producing more marketing material to the firm and edit the produced material.
This new Finnish product is interesting for various reasons. Mostly because the product is going to be launched abroad initially, it has a new patented formula so it is a new innovation and most importantly it is also a natural product whose components are derived from the virgin Finnish nature. Finland has a good reputation for healthy lifestyles and untouched forests. The later belief or rather fact makes Finnish products that are derived from the nature have a natural competitive advantage in the international market especially that Finland is also known for great innovation and smart ideas. The later reasons has made us have strong hopes and also believe in the product´s success. This is important because it helps us stay more creative and have a continuous motivation to work on the project and produce useful and productive material.
Building a sponsored welcome package for international students
Our summer school has had various projects on the queue but our team had a specific interest in the welcome package project. This is a project about building a welcome kit for the international students at Häme University of Applied Sciences. The welcome kit will be sponsored by various companies and firms around the region. We were more than happy to take the initiative and manage this project. Since the project´s origin is from the school´s management we had to discuss our work with our professor and the university´s strategy director. They were both helpful and they explained to us what is needed and what are the possible way to make the right arrangements in order to ensure the project´s success. We had to first draft a project plan, organize our schedules and initiate a series of brainstorming sessions and discussions as well as drafting the project canvas, making notes and visualizing our ideas. At the first thought the project work seemed to be as simple as negotiating with companies and selling them the project ideas but that was not the case, we had to first create a whole sponsorship program that would be the basis of our work. It takes time to build a sponsorship program because it is comprised of various stakeholders and the program needs to offer certain value to all the participants. We had to make an initial draft of the sponsorship program that our professor again has been helping us with. Mr. Vesa´s help has been critical in the development of the project since he has more experience and a broader insight into what could be the value of our sponsorship program. Moreover, the sponsorship program needed to be discussed with our school´s management and other parties.
Eventually we have managed to create a final draft of our sponsorship program. The sponsorship program helps regional companies gain more visibility and reach to customers and in exchange they would help with creating the welcome package for the upcoming 40 international students.
The program offers companies a unique opportunity to shine and be more visible by being advertised as the international student´s sponsors on our main stands at the university that will help them reach thousands of customers. Moreover, partner companies will be mentioned on a leaflet that is a part of HAMK stories yearly produced magazine and also on HAMK´s main social media channels that have thousands of followers. In addition, our team have been thinking that the new international students would need a simple but efficient map that could help them navigate around Hämeenlinna and reach their most interesting spots for various activities thus a new map for the city of Hämeenlinna needed to be designed and a part of our sponsorship program was to highlight our partners on the map. Our team needed to recruit a designer but thankfully HAMK´s strategy director Ms. Mervi friman has had suggested one of the best designers in the university in order to hep us make the map go to the real world and help the new international students navigate and find their way in the beautiful Hämeenlinna. Ms. Sannamaria Grip has agreed to join our team and has been since actively designing and helping create the new map. We were both surprised on how efficient and fast Ms Sannamaria´s work and how she has sent us various initial drafts of the map that we continuously developed together in order to produce the final version.
Thereupon our team had to start selling the sponsorship program and convicting companies that joining this project is offering them a good value but first we had to practise our sales skills with Mr. Vesa who arranged a private workshop in order to practise our sales skills and get us ready for the market. Immediately after the sales workshop we were ready to go and start presenting our project to the companies though we had to do company research first and call to arrange appointments.
It´s been useful and productive pitching to companies and telling them about our plans for the upcoming international students. We have had the chance to polish our sales and planning skills as well as schedule and make early arrangements for the sales but at the same time we were helping make the city more international, market our own university and help firms understand the value of international student for all stakeholders. Fortunately, most firms were open to participate in the sponsorship program and demonstrated interest in helping the international students have a unique start of their journey in Finland.
During our team´s multiple brainstorming sessions we have thought that our package should have objects like reflectors, maps, free tickets to various attractions in the city that could help students have a positive first impression of Finland and help them integrate in the Finnish society.
The later objects would be useful to students throughout their journey in Finland. Companies will also benefit in different manners since these students are also future customers that will eventually help local firms grow and build a larger customer base. We have already managed to finalize six promising agreements with local companies. The latest agreements that we have made will help us have more objects in the student´s welcome package. We have decided that the objects will be comprised in a compact and high quality backpack that is sponsored by our main partner, Erämaailma Hämeenlinna. Local gyms like Foreover Hämeenlinna are offering students free gym cards and the castle of Hämeenlinna is offering free entry tickets and other city books. Various partner companies are offering different gifts and sponsoring different objects for students.
The welcome package project will open multiple doors to the incoming international students of HAMK. It may help them build a grasp knowledge about the city´s main companies and future employers. Moreover, it will also build a unique connexion between students and companies since similar to an investment. Our partner companies were willing to help students have a positive and unique start of their first academic year in Finland and that is how they have invested resources in the future talents and at the same time strengthened their connexion with HAMK and the other stakeholders. This connexion is useful for the future since it may be the basis for further cooperation and other interesting projects.
We are currently still searching for more companies to join our sponsorship program thus more project presentation, negotiations and research are taking part of our daily interactions with companies in Hämeenlinna. However, the later skills are not sufficient in order to make a sale and generate good results, the belief in our project and the work that we are doing has had a great impact on the way we work. Both dedication, communication and commitment are important in our team. Since the beginning of our project our team has shown extraordinary interest and passion in the projects that we have worked on. Furthermore, the staff members at the FUAS innovation school in HAMK also needs to be credited, they have been constantly supportive and invested all of their resources in order to create a perfect learning environment for us.
Of course not all companies are interested in joining the new sponsorship program but so far most of them have joined us. It is normal that some firms may not even be interested even though the whole package offers more value to firms, a large and dense marketing opportunity, reach to more customers and even help them build a reputable image in the whole country but throughout convincing these firms, negotiating with them and persuading them we have managed to upgrade and develop certain skills that are important in nowadays business world and working by convincing these firms to join us we have managed to upgrade our skills and progress with our learning journey. Nevertheless, it has been useful editing and testing our sponsorship plan both before and during presenting it to companies. That way more information is delivered and firms could easily understand why should they join and how they gain great value by joining.
Overall, it has been both productive and useful working on the later projects. This is an opportunity for students to polish their professional skills and have an early and smart entry to the business world.
Yassine Berrouj and Eetu Tanskanen
FUAS innovation school students