It takes a lot of legwork to gather information on a potential international market, but there are students chomping at the bit to do it.
Students in Western Washington University’s International Business Projects class recently finished helping a couple of local businesses and a public sector agency do market research on countries where they might be interested in selling products and services. They presented their findings in class as well as to the companies in December.
“The nice thing is, companies don’t expect too much, maybe just a couple of takeaways,” said WWU professor Tom Roehl. “But some say this saved them two months of work.”
It turns out to benefit the students as well because of the real-world experience. Jake Davis, Wilson Doldier and Peyton Endsley were assigned a project working with Faithlife, a Bellingham company that provides digital tools and resources for Bible study.
Doing this for a company was an eye-opening experience.
Jake Davis, WWU student
Faithlife officials were curious about the potential of selling their products in the Russian, Italian and Arabic markets. Doldier and Endsley know Russian and Italian respectively, but Davis had to tackle the Arabic market with no knowledge of the language. He quickly learned that finding concrete information is difficult; at one point he found himself talking to someone in Lebanon about the market.
“Doing this for a company was an eye-opening experience,” Davis said, noting how different it was than doing a project in a classroom.
Roehl said small to mid-size companies usually are the ones wanting to participate. They tend to be interested in expanding into an international market but are too focused on domestic sales to do much research.
“Once they are shown there is an opportunity, many of them decide to run with it,” Roehl said.
Everson-based Retrotec learned quite a bit from the project, said Jay Edmonds, a technician sales representative for the company. Retrotec makes a variety of diagnostic tools for homes and offices to test for air leakage, energy efficiency, fire safety and other factors.
Retrotec wanted to find out what countries in Latin America might make a good market for the company’s products so three students — Hayden Loch, George Fotinopoulos and Sam Henkels — researched and made a final presentation to the company earlier this month. The students found they had to spend a lot of time translating information from Spanish to English to figure out what rules were in place. While it meant plenty of work for students, it also gave them insight on how a company works.
“It was cool to see how companies try to network, seeking out places to sell products,” Fotinopoulos said.
Edmonds said the final presentation went well, as the company was able to obtain lots of information that would have taken much footwork to find. The company will go over the report some more and may start working with trade associations and trade shows to see if their products can draw interest.
Roehl is always on the lookout for companies that want to participate in these class projects. For more information, email him at email@example.com or call 360-650-4809.