Students team up with Manayunk merchants for business competition

It is widely known throughout Philadelphia that Manayunk’s popular Main Street destination attracts a mix of young bar hoppers by night and older window shoppers by day.

The demographic divide poses a tough challenge for business owners to attract one group without alienating the other.

“Our demographic is so changeable based on day of week and time of day,” said Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation.

Martin Pulli of Martin Pulli Fine Jewelry on Main Street knows these crowds well. The Ambler native fondly recalls his younger days venturing to Main Street for the Manayunk nightlife scene and accepts that the area tends to attract “part time users of the community.”

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But in order for local businesses to survive and thrive, Pulli says, they need to target and appeal to the older, wealthier demographic. So, he set out for ways to do just that by teaming up with a group of business students at Philadelphia University.

Pulli, along with Steven Frumkin, professor of Business Administration at Philadelphia University, developed a competition for Frumkin’s MBA students.

The goal is to create a marketing strategy that will attract more of the 35-55-year-old demographic without alienating the younger 20-35-year-olds, all while attracting more foot traffic to Manayunk’s business district.

Over the past several months, students have split into groups and paired up with Main Street businesses to start developing marketing plans.

As a five-year member of the Manayunk Development Corporation Board, Pulli was able to bring seven Main Street businesses on board for the project. The participating businesses are Bryn Mawr Running Company, Cadence Cycling, The Little Apple, Main Street Music, Martin Pulli, Nicole Miller, and Salon L’etoile

In the shop

The students of team “Huan” met at Martin Pulli’s shop last week to finalize their presentation as Pulli stocked his shelves and prepared to open his store.

All of Frumkin’s students had just returned from a trip to China over spring break, where they visited, among other things, a huge shopping mall filled with counterfeit luxury goods.

In their last meeting before their final presentation, the students expressed confidence that they understand what consumers want.

“Everybody wants to be connected,” Pulli explains. “They’re looking for the kind of thing people see in old movies.”

He means that small town, village mentality, that the students agree has shifted into cyberspace.

“It’s not just about business; it’s about how people interact in a community,” he adds.

Frumkin’s students launched into a philosophical discussion about the mix of media platforms in which our personalities now exist, such as Facebook.

They concluded that there is no difference between our physical selves and our online virtual selves, and that consumers would like to be connected on every level.

The students proposed sending online newsletters to Pulli’s customers, synching all of his social media platforms, designing a new website with more video content, and eventually partnering with other Main Street businesses to host “hospitality events.”

They plan to invite recipients of Pulli’s newsletter to attend a party, similar to the popular “First Friday” event in the city’s gallery district.

‘Money is universal’

Back in Professor Frumkin’s classroom at Philadelphia University, students address the project’s challenges.

They explain that some businesses have been reluctant to open up their books to students and have trouble understanding the business jargon that students have learned to use over the course of their study.

But one student points out that it’s an easy obstacle to get around.

“Money is universal”, said Andre Spinney.

Teamed with The Little Apple, Spinney describes to his classmates how the language of business easily gets garbled, but adds that when he’s explaining how to make more money to his client, “It doesn’t matter what language you’re speaking.”

Both Frumkin and Pulli value the chance to give students real world experience in the business industry, something that’s hard to come by in a book.

Frumkin says he wants his students to struggle as they leave their academic “comfort zone” and enter the workplace.

“All these problems are good because these are the things that they’ll face [in the business world.]”

After class, two students rushed up to their professor, concerned that one of their teammates wasn’t pulling his weight in the group.

He jokingly replies “He’s the colleague that comes back from lunch drunk.”

Judges make the final call

The students will present their marketing recommendations on Tuesday morning in the Tuttleman Auditorium at Philadelphia University to four judges selected by the Manayunk Development Corporation.

The winning team will be awarded with the satisfaction of a good grade. As for those hard-earned bonus checks; they’ll have to wait until next year.

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