Students learn marketing with Ice Buddy campaign
Applying their classroom knowledge to a challenge in the real business world, some students at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) recently teamed up with an entrepreneur with Island ties to create a marketing plan for her new product, Ice Buddy.
Pamela Norris Norwood, the chief executive officer of Ice Buddy Systems, based in Maryland, first visited the high school marketing class taught by Josh Burgoyne in February. Ms. Norwood's 45-minute presentation about the concept and development of Ice Buddy and her marketing needs captured the students' attention and inspired their enthusiasm, Mr. Burgoyne said.
Ms. Norwood conceived of Ice Buddy as a portable cylindrical container for storing medications, ice, water, and food in emergencies. Designed with two separate modules, the top portion consists of a cooling unit with a double-hulled core to provide storage for medications, medical supplies, and food.
Pamela Norwood holds a certificate of appreciation she gave each member of the Ice Buddy team. From left, students Emma Conley, Joe Baldwin, Stetson Nunes, Brooke Aubin, Matt Rivers, and Calla Gillies, teacher Josh Burgoyne, and students Nicole Merritt, and Allison Silva. Photo by Janet Hefler
The bottom module, an ice storage unit, is lined with a special food/health-grade lining that slows down the melting time of ice. Its compartment holds up to seven pounds of ice, a standard size for bags sold in grocery and convenience stores. As the ice melts, the water can be accessed for drinking via a spigot.
Ms. Norwood came up with the Ice Buddy concept in April 2005, months before the Hurricane Katrina disaster. "When Katrina hit, everyone who was working on Ice Buddy at the time kept calling, pointing out how if Ice Buddy had been on the market, then we would have been able to save lives," Ms. Norwood recalled.
It seems only appropriate that her collaboration with the high school marketing class resulted from old-fashioned Island networking. Ms. Norwood's family has owned property in Oak Bluffs since 1965 and she worked summers at the Captain's Table Restaurant and Hilliard's Candy Store.
While home visiting her mother, Penny Norris, in Oak Bluffs last December, Ms. Norwood attended a holiday party where she met Meverell Good of Vineyard Haven.
Mr. Good had taught the high school marketing class last September until Mr. Burgoyne was hired. After talking at the party with Ms. Norwood about Ice Buddy and her need for a marketing plan, Mr. Good suggested it would make a good project for the high school class and introduced her to Mr. Burgoyne.
A graduate of MVRHS in 1997, Mr. Burgoyne studied entrepreneurship as one of his college majors. He said he welcomed Mr. Good's suggestion because the Ice Buddy project provided a good opportunity to combine lessons in marketing and entrepreneurship. He thought the product's humanitarian applications lent a community service component to the students' participation, as well.
Over the past few months, the students worked on a marketing campaign that included an analysis of advertising costs and suggested media outlets, sample print, and radio and television ads. They also created marketing surveys aimed at medical professionals, school administrators, and the public, which helped them learn how to form effective questions and target a specific audience, Mr. Burgoyne said.
On April 28, Ms. Norwood returned to the Island for the students' 30-minute marketing presentation for Ice Buddy. About half of the 15 juniors and seniors in the class took part; several were absent for sports events.
Joe Baldwin and Nicole Merritt provided a product overview. Emma Conley and Tim Scott explained the design and contents of suggested print ads. Mr. Baldwin brought a radio ad to life by reading it as Celine Dion's recording of "My Heart Will Go On" played in the background.
Stetson Nunes, Calla Gillies, and Allison Silva discussed how they researched statistics and determined demographics for surveys. The class presentation also included a video about bird flu and pointed out the potential need for Ice Buddy if a pandemic predicted for next year should occur. Clearly delighted with the students' work, Ms. Norwood remarked afterwards, "I feel blessed to have you guys. You are my marketing team, and have done a phenomenal job. Let me ask you - how did it make you feel, working on a real live project? I mean, literally, you are making history."
Matt Rivers told her, "I thought it was amazing that we had the chance to try to do something that would help not just our community, but maybe the whole world, and it was actually an honor. I've never done anything that could potentially help save a lot of lives, and I think that's an amazing personal feeling."
In a conclusion for the class's written report, Mr. Rivers also had thanked Ms. Norwood "...for giving a bunch of teens she didn't know the opportunity of a lifetime."
Providing the students with an Ice Buddy update, Ms. Norwood's account of recent production woes offered some valuable insights into frustrating roadblocks she runs up against as an entrepreneur. "We have over a million orders, sitting and waiting and ready to go. So it's not a question of wondering if anybody is going to buy it," she said.
Ms. Norwood has been traveling extensively, talking with investors and seeking out potential markets. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Army have shown interest in the Ice Buddy, Ms. Norwood said, as well as many churches and the Siuna Foundation, which provides medical missions in Central America.
Armed with requests, Ms. Norwood said she "hit a brick wall" when it came to production. After selecting a New Jersey manufacturer specializing in molded plastic that promised to manufacture all of Ice Buddy's components, she found out she would have to contract with a second company in Utah to produce the bag.
"We have two companies we are trying to coordinate, so right now, I feel I'm doing more social work than business, because I'm trying to manage personalities on a daily basis," Ms. Norwood told the class. "We have the design. The problem right now is getting it made, going from the mold to the prototype. Once it is made, we're good to go."
Ms. Norwood said she has been meeting with angel investors and seeking a bridge loan to cover start-up costs. She estimated the first Ice Buddies will roll off the production line in September and promised the marketing class they will be the first to get them.
After presenting the students with certificates of appreciation, Ms. Norwood told them, "That's your ticket in the front door for a job interview at my company." She said she will use their marketing materials on her new web site, www.icebuddysystems.com.
Also at the April 28 presentation were MVRHS principal Peg Regan, school superintendent James Weiss, assistant superintendent Marge Harris, Ms. Norwood's mother, and Mr. Good.