A Bushel of Business: ENTR Students Consult for Michigan-Owned Startup
What do apples have to do with entrepreneurship? More than you might think!
During the Winter 2022 semester, University of Michigan Entrepreneurship students and a Michigan family business united over a common cause – bringing fresh Michigan apples to people across the country.
“The Apple Truck is a high-energy start-up. We deliver 20 lb boxes of freshly-picked Michigan apples to sites in Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina during fall apple season,” said owner and creator Dale Apley.
The Apple Truck operates like a mobile farmer’s market. During their “apple tours,” they deliver pre-ordered boxes of apples to 120 stops in eight states around the country.
In 2022, the Apleys hoped to expand their business beyond the apple tours.
“During our tour, we had several requests to ship our apples or offer some type of subscription service. We also witnessed an opportunity to sell additional items and merchandise at our stops and sell these and other products year-round on our website,” said Dale.
The Apple Truck needed help to research and form a strategy that would allow them to grow their eCommerce and non-tour related income. That’s where these students come in.
ENTR 560, Project Management and Consulting, offers a unique opportunity for students to solve real-life problems faced by startups around the world.
For Mingyuan Li, Master’s student studying Human-Computer Interaction at the School of Information, this presented an opportunity to apply his entrepreneurial curriculum outside the classroom.
“When I witness problems that have not been resolved in life, I always wanted to think of solutions that could not only resolve the problems, but also try to think of ways that could help more people and bring convenience and pleasure to their lives,” said Mingyuan.
The group of students conducted market research and helped The Apple Truck realize their vision – the Michigan-owned business now offers an apple delivery service as well as weekly subscription boxes.
“This class is exciting to me because getting practical experiences would help me to understand the concepts learned in class better,” said Mingyuan.
Mingyuan’s group was paired up with The Apple Truck with the goal of forming a new marketing strategy, including new product options, product positioning for those items, and a social media strategy for launch.
For Mingyuan, the experience was crucial to gain real-life experience in consulting.
“We learned about how to understand the needs of clients, how to conduct research, and how to provide the most valuable solutions to clients.”
In addition, the students also made some improvements to The Apple Truck’s website to aid in eCommerce sales.
“We provided solutions such as redesigning the website for Apple Truck to better reach more consumers and increase the accessibility of their website.”
Once the class ended, the project came full circle when The Apple Truck hosted the very first stop of their Fall 2022 tour at The Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, MI.
The stop provided an opportunity for ENTR 560 students to see their hard work up-close, and finally taste the farm-fresh apples they’d been thinking about all semester.
Mingyuan says that this experience was crucial to the development of his entrepreneurial skillset.
“If you want to pursue a career where there will be skills, such as project management and consulting, needed, then this is the class to get hands-on experiences!”
Looking to gain hands-on experience in the entrepreneurship world? Check out our ENTR course offerings to learn how you can solve real problems facing startups arounds the world.