Students work with car show
I-S program focuses on marketing
By Holly Neumann
The Iola Car Show and Iola-Scandinavia School District’s DECA program have formed a partnership.
According to Joe Opperman, marketing and PR director for the car show, the show needed help collecting information.
“As our sponsorship program has grown, so has the number of prizes included in the Super Saturday Giveaway,” he said. “This is a feature of the show that allows all volunteers, vendors, attendees and participants to register to win a variety of free prizes. Registration happens throughout the show, with winners drawn on Super Saturday.”
The program started with five or six prizes in 2015 and has grew to more than 70 last year.
“The system of manually filling out registration cards and dropping them in boxes had been outgrown,” Opperman said.
When discussing improvements for what they see internally as a “good problem,” they knew they wanted to modernize, digitize and streamline the process for registrants, and they needed volunteers to manage it.
“It didn’t take long to conclude the local DECA group would be a great fit,” he said.” We’ve worked over the years with Mrs. Scott, who is the DECA adviser at the high school. She does a great job in promoting practical business training, free thought and entrepreneurship in young minds.”
DECA, which stands for Distributive Education Clubs of America, prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.
“DECA is basically a marketing and business club for high school and college students,” said Laura Scott. “Our competitions involve engaging in marketing related written tests, ad campaigns and role plays. It has evolved into five basic business areas, including Personal Financial Literacy, Business Management and Administration, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism, and Marketing.”
When a number of local DECA students advanced to the national level of competition in Atlanta, and were fundraising toward that effort, Opperman saw an opportunity and reached out to the organization.
“Because the trip was right around the corner, the Iola Car Show Board of Directors met, with the concept of advancing funds to the group to help make the trip possible,” said Opperman. “In exchange, DECA would agree to develop and service the needs of our project.”
The board saw this as an opportunity to help youth in the community and approved an advance of $1,500 toward their trip.
“We asked the Car Show to help fund our trip to Atlanta and were approached with a proposal that we take on a new marketing initiative they are implementing this year,” Scott said. “For our help in creating the plan, manning the positions during the show and creating the database, they are helping to fund our chapter’s endeavors.”
This includes not only their trips to competitions but also their community service projects.
“It’s hard to imagine a better fit,” Opperman said. “With the guidance of Mrs. Scott and some key leadership from a number of upperclassmen DECA members, the participants in the giveaway should have a much better experience. The car show takes big steps forward in servicing a need, and a number of bright young kids are gaining valuable, real-world experience outside of the classroom.”
Opperman noted the car show did not give the DECA group anything.
“They had to earn it,” he said. “The students were asked to develop and present a business plan, plan for staffing and even asked to look into acquiring a co-signer on the advance.”
This included many forms of business experience from customer service, business planning, capital acquisition, problem solving teamwork and more.
“Potential lessons abound, and it’s up to each student to recognize and take what they can from the experience,” he said. “For many, volunteering at the show will not be a new experience, but this probably gives them more control and responsibility than they’ve had in the past.”
The students will be collecting customer contacts and building a database.
“From that database, they’ll be using tools to select random winners,” Opperman said. “There are also marketing components involved in the process. Information gathered in the process will be used as it has in the past for marketing purposes to help further future show success.”
Prizes come from the sponsors and vary in type and value.
“Some are gift cards, goodie bags and sponsor products,” he said. “A few of the more elaborate examples include several Traxxas RC vehicles, with the marquee prize being a vehicle located and sponsored by our friends at the Rawhide Boys Ranch. This year’s car is a 2006 Dodge Charger.”
Opperman thinks this partnership is important for the car show and the students.
“Getting and keeping youth involved in volunteerism is important for the show,” he said. “It’s a great character developer and helps to demonstrate the values of volunteerism and giving back. In this case, it also shows them firsthand the sort of civil services the car show provides in enriching the community.”
They hope it will be an ongoing relationship between the DECA program and Iola Car Show.
“This project has opened the door for a recurring role with DECA, which will also help provide the program with a form of regular fundraising,” said Opperman.