November 25, 2015 | By Jake Weber
A holiday shopping guide—for Albion? "At first I thought maybe only the College staff would check it out, but it's cool to see students looking at the site and saying they will utilize it for holiday gifts."
So says Julia Malecke, '17, one of the contributors to bringithomebrits.com, a website designed by English professor Glenn Deutsch's Professional Writing class. With a focus on holiday shopping, the site highlights a number of Albion businesses, giving future customers an idea of what—and where—to buy local.
After dividing a city map into different regions, the students in the class visited various retailers and offered them a page on the website. "The first question was always 'How much will this cost?' because everyone thought we were selling something," said Julian Vandenberg, '17. "Once they learned that this was a class project and free, they were really glad to help us."
The students then conducted multiple interviews at each business, to determine what products might fit the holiday shopping theme. Vandenberg was somewhat surprised to learn that this "focusing" was harder than he originally thought.
"Each business had much more to offer than we could write about. The hair salon has tanning and nails but we didn't talk about that, because you can't really bring those home to somebody," he notes.
Another discovery was the robustness of some businesses. "I had no idea that such a big business was being run out of the little watch shop," says Vandenberg of Hadfield's Watch Repair on Superior Street. "His website has hundreds of thousands of page views and he has repeat business from places like Japan.
"I went to the hair salon on one of their peak days and there were dozens of people in there. It was an eye-opener to see how much business there is in Albion," Vandenberg adds.
The students also illustrated their web pages, a learning experience in itself. "I'm not a photographer and the first pictures we took weren't right," Malecke recalls. "We got feedback and were able to take more constructive pictures that presented the products better. I learned more about photography without a separate class."
Neither Malecke nor Vandenberg are intending on a career in professional writing, but both are quick to name the benefits of taking the course.
"I've done market research but not the actual writing component of selling a product," says business and organizations major Malecke. "It's something I might have to do in my career and now I've found I like it, too."
"I'm looking at doing wealth management, and for that career you have to build up a customer base, and to do that you have to write confidently about yourself and your services," says Vandenberg. "Very few firms get big enough to where I could hire my own marketing director, so at least starting out, I have to do this on my own. This course was super valuable for that."