Practical learning in real, small companies
4 mins read

Practical learning in real, small companies

For the past five years, Dr. Kathy Winsted has been connecting her digital marketing students with local small businesses. Her goal is to give students invaluable real-world experience as they apply their knowledge to real-world situations while also offering small businesses a free audit of their marketing strategies.

This spring, one of the companies the students worked with was Twenty Sided Store, a board game store and event space in Brooklyn. Two groups presented their ideas for how Twenty Sided could continue its marketing efforts, including search engine optimization, expanded social media content calendars, and custom bots powered by Chat GPT for analytics. One group even reached out to potential influencers and began negotiating influencer deals.

I felt like I actually gained a lot more experience than if I had just taken part in a hypothetical case study. —Derasmo

For Mike Derasmo ’24, a recent Global Marketing Management graduate, the project was a unique opportunity. “It was definitely interesting to work with a real small company,” he said. “It was a lot more interactive and hands-on. I felt like I actually gained a lot more experience than I would have in a hypothetical case study.”

That’s the realization that’s why Winsted continues to work with companies on the project. “I’m a big believer in learning by doing,” she said. “Students not only have to learn the course material, but also how to apply it to a specific business situation. You can only learn so much from watching a video. The real learning happens when you have to create an ad or present Google Analytics results to a real customer.”


Kathy Winsted and her digital marketing class, as well as the Twenty Sided team and Dosso Beauty owner Kadidja Dosso

Kathy Winsted and her digital marketing class. Front row, left to right, Twenty Sided Team (Luis Chato, Lauren Bilanko and Morgan Beetham) and Dosso Beauty owner Kadidja Dosso

Morgan Beetham, who leads Twenty Sided’s marketing efforts, was delighted to receive external feedback on the work the Twenty Sided team has done over the past 13 years of operation. “Seeing our business through the eyes of someone who is browsing our website for the first time was really helpful,” she says. “The Pace students had some great ideas on how to reach younger generations and explain our brand.”

I am a big believer in learning by doing. —Winsted

Lauren Bilanko, co-owner of the store, wasn’t sure what to expect from the final presentations and was thrilled by the enthusiasm and efforts of the students, who exceeded expectations to understand their business. “The amount of research and development the students did to assess our market was impressive,” she said.

By the end of the session, the Twenty Sided team came away with a whole new perspective and a list of potential, doable items. According to Beetham, “I’ve already started implementing a release schedule that’s more in line with their suggestions.”

Professor Winsted has developed a great program that benefits both students and small businesses like ours. —Bilanko

The students had the opportunity to not only apply their knowledge to a real-life scenario, but also practice their skills by collaborating and presenting to a real client. Derasmo calls it a transformational experience, saying, “It definitely helped me prepare for my career. Whether it’s applying the skills I learned to a new job or even starting my own business, now that I’ve seen all those decisions being made, it’s been a great experience.”

Bilanko agrees, seeing value not only for companies like hers but also in the enthusiasm of Pace students. “Professor Winsted has designed a great program that benefits both students and small companies like ours. We hope to be invited back next year.”