Business Innovation Group (BIG)
Parker College of Business


A Student’s Take on Covid-19

written by Emilee Saigh, Public Relations Senior

Unprecedented Times

We keep seeing it in the news, in university-wide emails, on social media, and everything in between. These are “unprecedented times.” Somehow it makes it all seem even more daunting than it already is.

Emiliee Saigh (right) and her mom enjoying a walk together.

I’m a 22-year-old college senior. I was supposed to walk in Paulson Stadium in May and ceremoniously celebrate all of the hard work that my peers and I put in these last four-ish years. But now things are different. Classes are all online. Graduation is virtual along with orientation and meetings and seeing loved ones. At first it was all too much to handle. As someone who believed they handled change well, I was not handling it well at all. It’s been a learning experience and a growing experience, but what’s gotten me through is that I’m not alone.

Let me preface the rest of this piece by saying that as a rational, college-educated human, I am completely cognizant that all of the shutdowns, online switches, and weeks of isolation are for the greater good. While I might not get severely sick, my grandma could, my significant other could, and thousands more who have preexisting conditions and health issues that make them part of the “vulnerable” population could. So, yes I’m disappointed and overwhelmed (and I might have cried a few times), but I recognize that this is all in the name of effectively saving others’ lives.

So how are we getting through this? If you would have asked me two months ago what I thought the latter half of March and beginning of April would look like, I would have said that I would be giving campus tours and working on admissions events and making some final memories with the people I love most in the place I love most. For Chanel Leiva, she would have told you that she would be working in the adult health clinical rotation and continuing to get hands-on experience as part of our prestigious nursing program. McClain Baxley would have told you that he would be writing for the Savannah Morning News and going to sporting events and hanging out with his friends. And Maria Rampaly would have told you that she would be finishing up her first year as a Georgia Southern Eagle, practicing the cello and piano, and being one of the brightest new tour guides the Southern Ambassadors have ever seen. For myself and these three students, this time looks different, but we’re making it through.

Baxley is a senior multimedia journalism major. He has been published in many different media outlets in Georgia and has had national media coverage on his work as the editor of the George-Anne during the book burning events that took place on the Statesboro campus. During these unprecedented times, he has been cooking for his family, supporting his sister, a high school senior, and working on stepping away from technology and all of the negativity circulating social media. Stepping away from his busy schedule has left him with more time to focus on himself and his goals. He said, “I need to graduate by next May. That’s my biggest goal so that’s been a huge motivator [during this time].”

Staying motivated hasn’t been the easiest for Rampaly, a freshman music education major. “I feel like I’m forcing myself to be motivated since the fun stuff that happens in college [is] gone, and now there is only school work,” she said. She has found that trying to stick to a somewhat normal routine has helped her stay on top of things. By doing her work when her classes would normally meet, she’s hoping that her motivating factor of keeping up her GPA will continue to drive her to make the grades. Rampaly has also taken advantage of Netflix Party and FaceTime to be able to watch movies and see her people.

Maria Rampaly and friends practicing social distancing.

A topic that has been discussed during the closures and stay-at-home orders is mental health. This is something that I, along with many other college students, struggle with. It’s even more important during this time of social distancing and constant access to social media to take care of ourselves. For me, some ways that I practice self-care include being intentional with the activities I do for myself and taking time for me. For those of us who are spending this time with our families, it’s important to remember that you also need to spend time with yourself. Whether it be going for a run like Baxley and myself do, or facetiming with loved ones as Rampaly does, or maintaining some semblance of normalcy as Leiva does, it’s important to take care of you too.

Leiva is a junior nursing major and a resident advisor at one of our residence halls. She, along with many others, has recently experienced the massive change of no longer having a job or a place to live in Statesboro causing her to immediately move home for the rest of the school year. In this change, keeping a routine has helped Leiva’s mental state. She said, “I’m someone who thrives off of structure, and online classes give me way too much wiggle room.” To combat this, Leiva makes a daily schedule of tasks to accomplish but adjusts when needed. Her two younger siblings are her biggest motivation in these unprecedented times. She has stepped up to be the role model for them and encourages study sessions as well as self-care sessions to make sure everyone is doing okay and still getting their work done.

Chanel Leiva’s workspace.

I think that for all of us college students who are trying to navigate what online classes look like, how to stay motivated and productive, and just keeping it all together, we need to extend some grace to ourselves. I have had to come to the realization that this is just one of the many things happening right now that I can’t control, but I can control how I react and adapt to it. I have started to take walks and regularly exercise (because I have time now). I have spent more time outside working and doing school work than I would have before all of this, and I have spent more time with my family. Being grateful for the little things is something that I am more conscious of now because all of my “lasts” are gone. I’ve already had my last sporting event, my last campus tour, my last coffee dates, organization meetings, and hangouts with my friends. If these unprecedented times have taught me anything, it’s to be grateful and here for the now. Live in the moment. Take in each Tik Tok, home-cooked meal, walk, video game session, or whatever it is you’re doing to get through this. Enjoy it. Stay home. And take care of yourself.


BIG Client Spotlight: Five Hives and Vines

Five Hives & Vines recently won a Silver award at the American Advertising Awards (ADDYs) presented by the American Advertising Federation of Augusta. FabLab Director and Graphic Design Professor Santanu Majumdar incorporated the project into a class project where students created bottle labels that will be utilized to market the meadery’s signature creations.

Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art (BFSDoArt) student Elaina Frampton designed the logo. The senior graphic design student’s logo was not selected as the first choice for Five Hives & Vine’s main line of mead but was instead chosen to be used as the design for a “special offering” mead, such as a seasonal line. Frampton created the design herself, and Majumdar assisted in creating the physical prototype for the competition.

Five Hives & Vines is owned by Eric and Debbie Van Otteren, along with their son and daughter-in-law, Zach and Brooke Van Otteren, and friends Wes and Ashley Vanmeter. The company hopes to begin Statesboro operation later this year. The group intends to open a meadery with an event center and pick-your-own berry farm. There will also be beehives on the property that will be utilized to harvest and sell local honey products.

Business confidence is strong, but headwinds are present

Georgia business leaders have confidence that business is improving, but also have growing concerns over hiring and employment, according to the 2018 fourth-quarter (Q4) survey results by Georgia CEO, a news source that shares the state’s most important features, videos and newswires with Georgia’s top business leaders. 

The purpose of the survey is to get the pulse of Georgia CEO subscribers on a quarterly basis in order to better understand how general business conditions are affecting Georgia markets and companies. The survey asks participants to reflect on and analyze the conditions of the current quarter while looking forward to and anticipating challenges in the next quarter. The news outlet partners with Georgia Southern University Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research (CBAER) to prepare and analyze the survey. 

Looking toward Q1 of 2019, 51 percent of survey respondents believed the volume of business will increase but anticipate that sales will remain stable over this same time frame. At the same time, only 26 percent of respondents believed hiring conditions would improve, while 34 percent noted that the financial health of companies is improving. Hiring and keeping the right employees will be the key to many of these companies making the most of their opportunities.

“If we look at the overall impression of the current environment, we see that respondents are confident about the growth of business moving forward,” said Ben McKay, CBAER assistant director. “At the same time, we did see a drop in confidence between Q4 2018 and Q1 2019. This could be related to the news about the partial government shutdown because our data was collected in January during this event.

When asked about the factors influencing the responses and decisions by survey participants, 28.5 percent said an increase in business demand had the biggest influence, while government policy was close behind at 25.8 percent, followed by concerns over competition for supplies at 11.8 percent. These answers point to favorable sentiment toward business conditions for the upcoming quarter.

A convenience sampling technique was used for this study, and the questionnaires were emailed to subscribers of each of the 12 Georgia CEO daily newsletters. Georgia CEO publishes newsletters in Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Middle Georgia, Newnan, Rome, Savannah, Tifton and Valdosta. The survey was open from January 8-28, with 208 valid responses recorded.

Student Spotlight: 3DS Winners, Ghost Runner, to Represent GS at Georgia Inventure Prize

Georgia Southern’s Business Innovation Group hosted its annual 3 Day Startup (3DS) competition February 22-25. 3DS is a world-renowned program that brings together individuals from various backgrounds in a learning-by-doing environment to give students the tools needed to start successful companies. Students talk about ideas and form teams on Friday and work on bringing those ideas to life by Sunday evening.

On Monday, February 25, the competition culminated with a “Shark Tank” pitch competition. Six teams pitched ideas including aquaponics, a speeding device, bags made from textile waste, peer-to-peer lending, roommate matching, and a running app.

Panelists, consisting of members of the University Intellectual Property (IP) committee, chose “Ghost Runner” as the idea that made the most progress over such a short period of time.

Panelist and Professor of History and Director of Digital Humanities Robert Batchelor said of the app, “Ghost Runner seemed scalable. I really liked the idea that it solved a problem of messy apps for this on the market AND was something that small businesses, running tournaments, etc., could rely upon as an app solution to marketing.” 

Overall, he said, “I thought all of the students were extremely articulate, highly motivated, and [presented] clever ideas.” 

The winning team includes four College of Engineering & Computing students: 

Marcus Joachim, Computer Science // Wyatt Landers, Computer Science // Jacob Poston, Computer Science // Shadrach Stark, Mechanical Engineering 

The team also included three College of Arts and Humanities students:

Zee Doehling, Graphic Design // Thomas Martin, Graphic Design // Michael McFarland, International Studies

“Ghost Runner” will work with the Business Innovation Group (BIG) to prepare to represent Georgia Southern at the inaugural Georgia Inventure Prize Competition. Each college and university in the state was invited to send one team to Atlanta to compete April 3-4. The top five finalists will present via live GPB broadcast and streaming, with up to $50,000 in cash prizes and in-kind professional services.

“3DS was like entering an alternate reality because I’d get there early to start working an our business pitch and next thing I’d know an entire day went by without me even noticing,” Zee Doehling stated.

UGA SBDC to speak at annual painter’s conference

In the month of March, the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Georgia Southern will be speaking at an annual painter’s conference as it visits Savannah this year. The Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) is a national trade association which will be bringing in members from throughout our nation to learn best business practices.

John Myers, SBDC business consultant, will be speaking to the PDCA members, along with his Savannah associate, Chase Cowart, about person-to-person sales. The session titled, “Buying Personas and Sales Types: Identifying the Types of Buyers and the Types of Salespersons, Making a Match and Closing the Sale” is about differences in communication and decision-making methods between buyers and sellers. Often when there is a mismatch, a seller is unable to adjust to a buyer’s needs with the result being frayed relations, inadequate delivery of necessary information, and ultimately, lost sales. There are methods to prepare for these situations so that the salesperson can make adjustments which align with the buyer and facilitate a better experience and higher closing rates.

For sales and marketing related concerns as well as for other business issues which are holding a company from reaching its potential, the UGA SBDC at Georgia Southern is a resource to explore.