Students, faculty advise local shop owners on marketing solutions

Matt Peters
map006@marietta.edu

Jennifer Sturgill presents at Spet. 14 PioPitch session. Photo by Matt Peters

The semester’s first PioPitch session took place on Thursday Sept. 14 in Marietta College’s Timothy O. Cooper auditorium. The session featured two presenters: Laura Pytlik (owner-operator of Wit & Whimzy) and Jennifer Sturgill (owner-operator of Green Acres of Marietta).

Both businesses are located on Front Street in downtown Marietta, and both are approaching their second year of business.

Pytlik, the first presenter, sought solutions for reaching new customers, managing her inventory, and increasing sales.

“I’m trying to learn how to sustain myself, make [my business] fireproof, and still grow and succeed when I can’t control the economy,” Pytlik said.

The former Marietta College employee opened Wit & Whimzy last September, after retiring from her long-held position as Administrative Coordinator of the college’s petroleum engineering department. Pytlik originally pitched the store concept in January of 2016, at a prior PioPitch session.

“I wanted to feature items that were made in the USA; artisan-crafted, unique things that would draw in a wider audience,” Pytlik said. “All students said; we don’t have much money to spend, and we need cool stuff at a low price point.”

Taking the students’ feedback into account, Pytlik proceeded with her vision for the store. After a year of business, Pytlik is now seeking to expand her customer base through use of social media and search engine optimization (SEO).

This time, audience feedback focused largely on the use of Instagram and Facebook as marketing tools. These sites’ location-tracking features make them particularly powerful tools for small business owners seeking to expand beyond a local customer base.

“It’s hard to get outside of the street a little bit – to get people coming to Marietta, Ohio. But that’s absolutely what we have to do as small business owners,” one audience member commented.

College Faculty and community members listen intently to Pytlik’s presentation. Photo by Matt Peters

Sturgill, the second presenter, sought solutions for improving her in-store experience and increasing sales within her local customer base.

“I need them to do the treasure hunt… How do I get you guys to go through the store and take your time?” Sturgill asked.

The California native opened her store, Green Acres of Marietta, in 2016 shortly after moving to the area. The shop carries antiques, jewelry, and other collectable items.

For Sturgill, audience members emphasized the importance of identifying her target market, and using Facebook to reach them. Many identified Sturgill’s “charismatic” and “bubbly” personality as her most valuable marketing asset.

“You have a great attitude – a spunky attitude – and I think your store should match that,” junior Mel Shuler said.

Sara Rosenstock, Associate Professor of Art, added that Facebook can be an effective “storytelling” platform where Sturgill can utilize her personality.

“That’s the value of antiques – the story,” Rosenstock said. “I would really promote that more.”

The next PioPitch will take place on Thursday, Oct 19. It will feature Megan Dowler of Blossom Yoga and various members of Fifth Street Consulting Agency. More information can be found at http://www.marietta.edu/piopitch-future-presentations

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