When you think of someone in professional sales, your inclination is to ask what product or service they represent.
But this fall, several students in the College of Business and Innovation were focused on a cause rather than a product as they took the Sales for the Social Impact course.
The University of Toledo has a Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute to respond to human trafficking and social justice through teaching, research, and engagement. So the COBI class attacked the serious issue of human trafficking, a topic “relevant to who we are,” noted Lora F. Parent, Lecturer, COBI marketing and sales departments.
The course is offered once a year, was completely funded by a grant from 3M and UT is one of only 11 universities in the country to obtain this grant, which emerged through the relationship the COBI Edward Schmidt School of Professional Sales has with 3M.
Parent said, “The COBI students created a series of How-to videos to help human trafficking victims learn how to assimilate back into society after the traumatic experience of trafficking. They may not have the skills or know how to do so. The videos were a type of ‘Sales 101’ program to help them succeed.”
Furthermore, each student had a goal of raising $200 for a Pathways project. Pathways is a local organization that addresses the broad objective of helping low-income people achieve self-sufficiency through programs that empower, encourage, and provide supportive services, and can help trafficking victims with issues such as housing, legal, medical care. Asking area companies such as Target and Wal-Mart to donate $10 gift cards for the trafficking victims, the 10 students in the class raised $2,240.
“The other task for the students in this Sales for Social Impact course was to create a sales plan for how trafficking victims could create a business,” Parent said. “The class was divided into three groups to develop plans, having chosen a food delivery subscription service which would hire human trafficking survivors as employees. A milestone for the program participants would be obtaining a driver’s license, something that makes them feel normal.”
In November, five students - - Crystal Glambin, Sarah Dreier, Eric DiBell, Patrick Jones and Phillip Coveney - - went to 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota to present their project to executives there.
“They did great, and 3M was impressed,” Parent said.
"The University of Toledo embraced a topic most do not what to touch,” said Debra Asplund, Global Strategic Account Leader, 3M. “They researched and presented a solid plan around human trafficking and the Social Justice Institute. You could feel the passion the students had for this project. Well done, Rockets.”
Glambin, a COBI supply chain management and marketing major, said, “The outreach/volunteer opportunities really made the whole class for me. Actually talking to human trafficking survivors and thrivers and learning about their journey and struggles really helped us become invested in the project. And it was really helpful when we were looking for ways to better serve their demographic; it helped us overcome our unconscious biases and really understand their lives better.”
“I am planning to continue volunteering with the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the Lucas County Chapter,” she continued. “They are planning to implement as many of the sales plans that we developed (we had a total of three different ventures) and all of the programs were designed with the intent of hiring human trafficking survivors.”
Parent said, “What was unusual about this class was bringing a social and an emotional topic into a business setting. This was a different type of selling, and it was hard to develop a plan, but the students succeeded in shedding light on a product to benefit trafficking surviors.”
Parent explained that the Sales for Social Impact course will next be offered to students in spring, 2017. “The Pathways Project should be implemented by then, and we can analyze where the money went to, did the trafficking survivors see and benefit from the videos. We want to see the long-term impact, and 3M wants to see if this is a sustainable idea.”