PR, Advertising Courses Prompt New Brand Name
Before graduating from high school in Fort Wayne, Ind., Haley Deiser asked her four best pals to autograph a pair of white canvas shoes symbolizing their friendship. Deiser brought the shoes to Butler when she entered as an education major in fall 2009.
She created more doodled footwear for her friends attending Indiana University and Ball State. Everywhere the shoes were worn, people wanted to know who made them and how they could get some.
Deiser’s Babygirl Designs was born. In little more than a year, she has created and sold more than 100 pairs of shoes by word of mouth and through a Facebook page. She charges an average $40 per pair.
The hand-drawn designs generally incorporate the wearer’s name and choice of colors, accented by geometric patterns of lines, swirls, spirals and hearts. She marks the sole of the shoes with a large numeral 5, her “lucky number.”
“I want to give other people luck,” she said.
As her business took off, Deiser decided to change majors to the Strategic Communication: PR and Advertising program of the College of Communication (CCOM). Emphasizing the skills of integrated media and marketing, the program offered courses Deiser wanted to take in order to refine and build her business.
“I’m minoring in digital illustration; it should help me translate ideas into products,” she said. “I’m constantly thinking of ways to solve problems. I am what you call ‘the thinker,’ the person in advertising who comes up with big ideas that others put into practice.”
An important lesson from her first advertising class sticks with Deiser: A business must know its target audience. “I started my business going on instinct, on what I wanted the shoes to look like,” she said. “Now, when I design, I know I have to think like my customer.”
A marketing course convinced her that, although the name Babygirl Designs fit the custom clothing and accessory lines she would like to develop eventually, her unique shoes deserved their own brand name, one that would appeal equally to women and men. She’ll rename her shoes Pembertons when her new business web site debuts this summer.
“Haley is quite the young entrepreneur,” said Ed Kanis, director of CCOM’s Center for Strategic Communication for Nonprofits. “She has taken her design and creative talents and applied them to footwear. Now, she is exploring how to broaden her reach.”
Strategic Communication program director Mark Rademacher said Deiser “offers a prime example of what students value about the curriculum. They realize that what they’re learning in class will give them the skill sets and tools to realize their passions.”
Faculty collaborate with students to find ways that students can “do something” to test and refine new skills while still undergraduates, Radmacher said. In Deiser’s case, “we showing her how to use web and social media tools to reach a bigger audience and grow awareness of her business outside the Butler bubble.”
Deiser’s favorite advice so far has come from Assistant Professor of Education Catherine Pangan. “She told me to ‘Be extraordinary.’ ” Deiser said. “I promised myself that I would live passionately, because that’s what artists do.”
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