For many people, there is nothing more satisfying than engaging in meaningful work that has a positive outcome for society.
During the spring 2020 semester, students in John Peloza’s B&E 327 Global Scholars class had the opportunity to do just that. The class conducted an experiential learning project with Louisville-based nonprofit social enterprise Anchal Project (pronounced "on-chal").
Students were divided into teams, and each team was provided with actual funding and tasked with creating and implementing a unique marketing plan for the same item from Anchal Project's shop. Students gained an appreciation for the impact the company is making, and their work resulted in positive financial returns.
“Reading through the class syllabus, it initially seemed like another group project, but after we took a trip to see the facility, it truly turned into a real-world experience," said Taylor Davis, `22.
Anchal Project's CEO and co-founder, Colleen Clines, is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and was the keynote at the Gatton College's inaugural Business Innovation Summit and Conference. Clines and her team work with artisans in India to bring handmade quilts, table linens, apparel and other goods to consumers. Their primary goals are to reform traditional textile manufacturing practices and to create innovative solutions to tackle social inequalities.
Clines was connected to the Gatton College through her supplier relationship with TO THE MARKET, a company that uses technology to provide supply chain transparency and sources and manufactures socially and environmentally responsible products. Founder and CEO Jane Mosbacher Morris and her husband Nate Morris have made significant contributions to the college, including the Nate Morris Fellowship.
Inspiration for Anchal Project came to Clines when she traveled to India for a graduate seminar. While there, she was introduced to the exploitive world of the commercial sex trade and the extreme lack of opportunity for women. She became determined to create positive social and environmental change using her design background. “We felt compelled to take the project beyond the classroom with the conviction that our design training, in collaboration with local leadership, could address seemingly intractable social and environmental systems," said Clines. "The women we met became our sisters; sisters we had to fight for.”
For Kaleigh Shaw `21, the most impactful moment of the project was hearing the stories about the Indian women leaving their generational sex work roles and providing new opportunities for their families. “My entire team was inspired by the human aspect of Anchal,” she said. “Their company is much more than bags and quilts, and we wanted to accurately capture their work in our messaging. We utilized a personal selling strategy and focused on how Anchal Project changes women's lives. For example, we showed every customer where each bag is signed by the artisan who made it. After seeing this detail and hearing about the conditions the women live through each day, customers felt personally connected to the story and were more likely to support the brand."
Then, due to the pandemic, the students experienced something they could never learn in the classroom - an actual business crisis that resulted in the need to pivot their marketing plans to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
Said Davis, “My group’s original plan was to have a fully digital sales approach, but we changed that after seeing how our sales numbers compared to other groups who did in-person marketing. I learned an exponential amount about the faults and advantages of online marketing. For example, now I understand how companies, especially smaller ones, struggle in times when everything is virtual.”
High-impact projects like this is just one example of how the Gatton Colleges realizes its mission of preparing leaders for a global economy.
Clines and the entire team an Anchal were extremely pleased with the positive outcome and sales traffic the project provided, especially considering the limitations of the pandemic. “The sales will immediately provide an impact for our artisans during this challenging time,” she said.