Editor’s note: This sponsored article is published as part of Kennesaw State University Division of Global Affairs’ annual sponsorship of Global Atlanta.
With many nonprofits facing a financial strain from charitable donations declining during the pandemic, Kennesaw State University students are helping one affected organization launch a new product so that it can weather the storm and continue bringing music education programs to children around the world.
International marketing students in Kennesaw State’s Master of Business Administration program recently began collaborating with Amani Project, a nonprofit that works with community organizations in five countries to create free music-making clubs for at-risk children. Guided by educators and professional musicians, club members make their own instruments and hold performances, promoting community engagement and emotional learning.
The MBA students are creating marketing plans to help Amani Project launch its new commercial subscription service called WorldStage. Formed in response to the recent drop in private donations – Amani Project’s primary source of funding – WorldStage adapts the in-person clubs to a virtual setting for a more affluent audience. Subscribers get access to virtual music lessons from experts and celebrities and complete group projects using digital platforms like WhatsApp and YouTube.
Mona Sinha, associate professor of marketing in the Michael J. Coles College of Business, has long valued Amani Project’s work. When she learned about the challenge of marketing WorldStage globally, she saw it as an opportunity to serve the community while teaching her students to find real-world business solutions.
“I wanted my students in the international marketing MBA class to work on a real corporate problem,” Sinha said. “Once I thought about the situation the world has been in and all of the challenges people are facing, I realized this was a chance for me and the students to give back to society.”
In Fall 2020, Sinha officially partnered with Amani Project. She assigned student groups to research the six countries in which the organization was considering rolling out their streaming platform: Australia, Canada, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. They created market analyses for each country and presented market entry strategies to Amani Project leadership during a Zoom presentation at the end of the semester.
The Amani Project was excited to partner with the MBA students.
“As a small nonprofit, our capacity to expand into new regions is limited,” said Andrew Lewis, director of programs and strategy for Amani Project, who met with Sinha’s students twice during the semester. “Having the KSU MBA students join our team in this capacity was incredibly helpful to advancing our mission.”
The students conducted extensive research on each country’s culture and economy as well as on any potential competitors WorldStage might face. For example, the group studying South Korea learned that most school-aged children there participate in 6.5 hours of after-school tutoring per week. They recommended that marketing materials focus on how WorldStage can increase academic achievement and make students more attractive to college admissions departments. Based on South Korean aesthetic preferences, they also suggested colors and design elements that would make Amani Project’s website and content most effective.
Helping Amani Project weather the financial storm caused by the pandemic was a fulfilling exercise for the Kennesaw State international marketing students.
“This project was the first of its kind I’ve completed in my academic career and I completed it with a real sense of pride,” said Diane Humes, who was part of the group researching United Kingdom. “The research became stressful at times because I developed a real allegiance to the cause and wanted to make sure the work was a thorough as possible.”
“I learned a lot about the challenges of entering a new market and how many businesses fail when doing it because they don’t take the time to research their new audience,” said Shanice Williams, whose group studied South Korea. “We were given the opportunity to help a great organization.”
The collaboration was more than simply a learning opportunity for the MBA students. Amani Project already has started using the market analyses and entrance strategies in their presentations with outside investors. They have also extended the partnership, with students in Sinha’s Spring 2021 international marketing class currently researching launching WorldStage in Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, and Indonesia.
Lewis is confident the work will help the organization attract a new audience for their music education program while also securing the future of their club for disadvantaged youths.
“Young people deserve to be heard today more than ever,” he said. “Amani works to ensure that every young person is able to express themselves to the best of their ability. The more tools they have, the louder their voices can be heard.
“Our partnership with KSU MBA international marketing students exponentially expands our capacity to bring the Amani WorldStage program into regions we haven’t been before – allowing young people from all over to connect through music and emotions.”
Learn more about Amani Project and share the hashtag #ListenUpWorld.