By Kara Sherrer
Last year, Julia Bridgforth (MMark’20) founded the marketing agency Remora Strategy to connect marketing students at Vanderbilt Business with non-profits and smaller businesses in need of advertising support. Run by Master of Marketing and MBA students, the agency offers students the opportunity to gain marketing experience and give back to the community.
The organization takes its name from a real-life animal, the remora fish, which also participates in a symbiotic relationship. 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.
“Remora provides students the obvious benefit of executing what I teach in class out in the real world, with real clients,” said Kelly Goldsmith, the faculty advisor for the agency. “By taking the work outside of the context of a single class, the students can take more time to identify and dig into client challenges, are called on to leverage skills they have learned across the Owen marketing curriculum, and have higher stakes and goals they need to rise too. The quick growth of Remora shows the abundance of hungry and talented marketers we have at Owen, and I hope it will help to continue to attract excellent marketing talent who are up to the challenge of getting their hands dirty while in graduate school.”
A year after its inception, Remora Strategy has grown to 4 clients and 16 students. Four MBAs from the class of 2022 — Ricky LaChance, Jeff Pritchett, Ethan Seigel, and Franklin Popek — serve as account executives and manage client teams made up of other MBAs and Master of Marketing students.
The high level of MBA involvement is an unexpected yet welcome development this year. “Originally, the plan was to focus on Master of Marketing students looking for their first real client experience, as many of them were joining the program immediately out of undergrad,” explained Lucas Hagerty (MBA’21), one of the founding members of Remora Strategy. “Then we decided to expand to include first year MBAs who needed to talk about leadership experience during their summer internship interviews. We now have 4 account executives who manage their own teams of students servicing the 4 clients.”
Remora’s current clients include:
- The F.I.N.D. Design: a non-profit organization that provides programming to empower and support young minority girls in Nashville
- TBD Health: a startup providing take at-home STI tests with a focus on the young female demographic
- CookingUp: a Nashville-based for-profit cooking class looking to shift to becoming a nonprofit cooking class
- Hama Beauty: an e-commerce cosmetics startup that helps users sort through more 10,000 products to find the perfect ones for their skin
Client work varies broadly depending on the needs of the organization and can vary from pure brand positioning to consumer research to product development. “We try to meet once a quarter as a full agency to share project updates, learn about specific deliverables’ and share learnings from the work done to date,” Hagerty explained. “I meet with the client heads once a month to make sure projects are moving smoothly and talent is being fully utilized across our teams.”
Startups and non-profits interested in working with Remora Strategy should reach out to Lucas Hagerty at robert.l.hagerty@Vanderbilt.Edu.