Alumni connection provides students opportunity to consult with Hamilton Beach Brands on Latin America business possibilities

May 28, 2019
They collaborated with students from the School of Law to understand the legal implications of their marketing strategies.

Students in the Business in Latin America course with George Hiller, lecturer in international business, consulted with Hamilton Beach Brands this semester, exploring opportunities for the company in Latin America. They collaborated with students from the School of Law to understand the legal implications of their marketing strategies.

“This course taught me so much,” said Rachel Kleiman, ’20, a leadership studies and Spanish double major. “I had very little background in business and decided to take this class because of my interest in studying Latin America.  This course demanded that we look at an issue from all sides—cultural, legal, and logistical.”

Greg Trepp, B’84, president and CEO of Hamilton Beach Brands, was eager to explore expansion ideas for the company, and saw a similar opportunity for Robins students to learn from the task.

“We were interested in finding relevant information that could help improve our small appliance distribution strategy to ensure we secure a leadership position in the eCommerce channel within the largest markets in South America,” Trepp said.

The course split the students into two groups exploring opportunities in four different countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.

Kleiman and her team researched market-entry strategies for Hamilton Beach products in Peru and Argentina. They worked closely with representatives from the Richmond-based company throughout the semester to ensure the most accurate data before the final presentation.

“Even if you conduct a lot of research and think that you know almost everything about a company, you are still always learning,” Kleiman said. “We became aware of all the factors involved with international expansion. For example, various countries in the same region can have such different demands and expectations for a product.”

Paulo Alanis, vice president of international business in Latin America for Hamilton Beach, met with the students at their final presentations. He expected to see an overall view of the market in Latin America regarding retail, specifically products Hamilton Beach sells. But, he says, the students gave him those details, and more.

“The final presentation showed a more detailed vision of the countries that were subject of this project,” Alanis said. “It was very informative and helpful to our efforts of understanding of the opportunities to expand our business and the best approach to do so.”

The students in both groups emphasized the importance of social media in marketing new products in the region, specifically in brand building in Chile and Argentina. Kleiman’s team recommended that Hamilton Beach add a pasta maker to the small appliance mix for the Argentine market with its large percentage of descendants from Italy. The other team created a video commercial in Spanish to promote Hamilton Beach smoothies and a healthy lifestyle. 

Michael Opstelten, ’20, was a member of the second team, and said he gained invaluable experience while presenting to the client.

“In the business world I will need to be prepared to present to clients, and this was the perfect opportunity to gain those presentation skills,” Opstelten said. “Being able to work and present on real issues is a whole new level of learning. To have an impact on a company’s operation makes me really excited to start working and make an impact for future employers.”

“It was all very remarkable,” said George Hiller, lecturer in international business who taught the course. “I am always amazed at the new skills and competencies that students develop with these clients.”

Alanis and Trepp took away significant details that will help Hamilton Beach prepare for Latin American business, but both agree the dedication the students gave to the projects is what impressed them the most.

“I was very impressed by the ease and clarity the students displayed during the presentations. They showed a clear command of the information they produced,” Alanis said. “They were all very articulate and confident. I really appreciate the effort, dedication, and talent that the students poured into this project. It was very enjoyable to work with them.”

Kleiman and other students agree, the ability to work with a real client and collaborate on marketing strategy is difficult to top when it comes to business school experience.

“Being able to showcase a whole semester's worth of research, collaboration, and discovery-all directly back to the client-was exhilarating and satisfying,” Kleiman said. “I learned so much in one semester.”