June 19, 2017 at 4:30pm

Students in Millikin University's Tabor School of Business recently worked with the government of Ecuador to develop a U.S. market entry strategy for Ecuadorian handicrafts. The project was part of Millikin's International Business Consulting course led by Dr. J. Mark Munoz, professor of international management at Millikin. The course provides an opportunity for students to take part in real life projects for companies, and sometimes governments, in various parts of the world.

Haley Hogenkamp, who recently earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Millikin, was one of the 11 students that worked on the project.

"This class and experience has further taught me three important lessons," Hogenkamp said in a recent interview with the Herald & Review. "How to manage ambiguity, how to see from another's perspective and how to envision the improvement of a community through the lens of sustainability."

Millikin Ecuador Project

The handicraft business sector has a high economic importance for the country of Ecuador. Handicrafts contribute to the growth of the country's economy by generating foreign exchange earnings as well as direct and indirect employment.

The Millikin students spent the spring semester working with the Pro Ecuador Institute for Promotion of Exports and Investments. Pro Ecuador is in charge of promoting the export offerings of Ecuador, ranging from traditional to non-traditional products, and identifying new markets and exporters.

Millikin Ecuador Project

"We have worked with Pro Ecuador, a government organization aligned with the Ecuadorian government, and their role is to promote the sale of various products of Ecuador in the U.S.," said Dr. Munoz. "I had a chance to meet with the trade commissioner, Borys Mejia, and I told him about the work, some of the projects we've done at Millikin, specifically the Tabor School of Business."

The students researched everything, from the U.S. market and buyer requirements, to negotiation and culture relations. They used many government-related databases to gather information and find where the imports and exports are coming in from all over the world. They produced a professional market report and personally delivered it to artisans, economic development leaders and the mayor of Ibarra, Ecuador, in May 2017.

"Very few universities offer that kind of hands-on experience, at least not at the undergraduate level," said Dr. Munoz. "Giving the students the confidence and experience to enter the business world ready to prepare and present such work, it provides companies a service for free that would normally cost thousands of dollars."

Millikin Ecuador Project

Dr. Munoz added, "Millikin is focused on Performance Learning and providing students with real problems to solve, projects with real-world applications that will give them a practical, and not theoretical, experience."

The officials in Ecuador were appreciative and told Dr. Munoz that they intend to implement suggestions made in the presentation. The students' extensive bound report included every aspect of the market, something that did not exist before they did the research.

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