High schoolers working on campaigns to promote Louisiana seafood _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Frank Wallace, left, Assitant Dean of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's College of Business Administration, and Richard Hartley, right, Director of Special Projects for the Office of Lieutenant Governor, listen to marketing ideas for the Louisiana seafood industry from Acadiana High School Students, from left, Charis Davis, Madeline Brasseaux, Michael Sinegal and Tyler Conner Thursday in Scott. The meeting was part of the Louisiana Business Challenge project.

Over the next few weeks, teams of high school students from across the state will develop national marketing campaigns for one of the state’s tastiest draws — its wild-caught seafood.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Moody College of Business’ Louisiana Business Challenge is inviting high school teams to develop a social media-focused marketing campaign for Louisiana’s wild-caught seafood.

So far, more than 50 high school teams have entered the challenge, and six finalists will be selected to pitch their ideas to judges in March. At least $25,000 in scholarship money is available from UL-Lafayette to the winners, and the university is working to secure private dollars to offer more scholarship options to students, said Frank Wallace, assistant dean of the Moody College of Business.

The event also is sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and Associated Grocers Inc., a Baton Rouge-based food supply company.

Wallace and Richard Hartley, director of special projects with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, met with a team from Acadiana High School on Thursday to discuss the challenge with students and to help promote the competition.

“We want to make grocery stores aware that social media is a viable concept and promote it to their customers,” Wallace said.

Some grocery stores may use social media, but many of their customers aren’t aware of it, Wallace said.

Acadiana High has at least two teams from its Academy of Business and Finance who have entered the competition. Academy classmates and seniors Charis Davis, Madeline Brasseaux, Michael Sinegal and Tyler Conner decided to work together to devise a social media strategy for the challenge.

The team already has started doing research and plans to meet soon with grocery store owners, fishermen and shrimpers.

Conner, 17, said each member brings his or her own strengths and background knowledge to the team. Conner brings experience from working at a local grocery store. Sinegal’s family owns a seafood restaurant in Franklin, and Davis and Brasseaux have connections to local seafood restaurants.

Wallace told the students Thursday that synergy is important to any team project.

“Being in the business academy has helped us grow as students,” said Davis, 17. “We’ve worked together for the past four years.”

Research will be key in developing their project, Conner said.

“It’s hard to get all the research done,” she said. “We’ll have to think more about how social media can be useful to the customer. They don’t want spam.”

The team discussed some strategies for how to target customers, but those ideas are for the judges.

As part of the challenge, teams may choose to target one type of wild-caught seafood or the entire seafood industry.

Hartley touted students’ success in the college’s last business challenge, held in 2012. In that challenge, high school teams were asked to pitch social media plans to promote tourism in the state or in their parish. The winning team, of Beau Chene High School, pitched and launched social media training classes for small businesses in St. Landry Parish and also developed virtual “trails” visitors could follow to learn more about the parish’s food and culture.

“If history repeats itself, we’re expecting great ideas from this year’s teams,” Hartley said. “This is a great promotional tool for the state and the seafood marketing board.”

Though the posted deadline has passed, the college is still offering interested teams the chance to register. Visit http://business.louisiana.edu/lbc to learn how or email bestin business@louisiana.edu.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.