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How a Student-Led Agency Uses Branding to Make a Difference

Apr 2, 2020
Remora Strategy, a new student-led agency at Vanderbilt Business, helps social enterprises market their brand

By Jong Eun Jung

Kelly Goldsmith, Associate Professor of Marketing

Many social enterprises, non-profits, and minority-owned businesses can’t find the marketing budget to compete with their much larger counterparts. Meanwhile, marketing students struggle with the chicken and egg problem: They need experience to get a job, and a job to get experience.

Remora Strategy helps solve both these problems.

Remora Strategy is a new student-led agency at Vanderbilt Business School that helps social enterprises, non-profits, and minority-owned businesses improve their branding for pro bono or low bono rates. It’s run by Master of Marketing and MBA students, who have the opportunity to gain marketing experience and give back to the community.

“It’s great for the students to be able to get involved in hands-on experiential learning. It’s great for the clients to benefit from the students’ insights,” said Kelly Goldsmith, the faculty advisor for the agency. “And lastly, it’s great for Owen and Vanderbilt to have Remora as a student-run organization! It’s truly something we can be proud of.”

Symbiotic Relationship

Julia Bridgforth (MMark'20)

Julia Bridgforth (MMark’20)

Julia Bridgforth (MMark’20), the founder of Remora Strategy, has always been passionate about storytelling and social justice. When she was accepted to the Vanderbilt Business Master of Marketing program, she looked for something that could combine her interests. She visited the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, where Director Mario Avila helped her come up with the idea of creating an agency that created stories for small businesses while having a social impact.

Bridgforth founded Remora Strategy on the idea of a symbiotic relationship, and she took the name from a real-life animal: Remora fish help giant sea creatures by cleaning them, while the sea creatures provide the remora fish with food and protection, mutually benefiting each other through their symbiotic relationship.

“There’s such a need for students to get hands-on work with clients. And so this allowed students to continue having real client work experience while continuing their education… while also helping social enterprises and nonprofits and women or minority-owned businesses which… have the best stories to tell but lack the resources to skillfully craft stories and push them out to the correct people in the right way,” Bridgforth said.

Real-World Client Work

Lucas Hagerty (MBA'21)

Lucas Hagerty (MBA’21)

Remora Strategy currently has two clients: Community Foundation’s Sports Fund and Patina Antiques and Interiors. For these clients, Remora provides a four-week long brand and marketing program that involves analyzing the existing brand, creating a clear mission, crafting the voice and message, and developing a logo that effectively represents the mission. “(Our clients) already had a great brand, but they just needed a little bit more crystallized, more focused mission (and) purpose,” said Lucas Hagerty (MBA’21), one of the founding members of Remora Strategy.

Because this is their first year, the agency has focused on creating best practices for future projects so that Remora Strategy will be sustainable. With these guidelines in place, Remora will be able to expand next year to accept more team members and clients. “Right now, what we’re really focusing on is setting up the agency that will allow it to live on forever,” Hagerty said. “I think this will be a great way… to do good on campus, and then also do good for yourself because you’re building up this vital career like real world consulting experience. I think (this) is a great combination for students that really sets them up to be the best applicants possible as they enter the workforce.”

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