Learning in the Real World

It is a commonly held belief that experiential learning is one of the best ways to learn a concept. By applying what you have learned in the classroom and interacting with it in a real and impressionable way, you are more likely to learn that knowledge or concept. The Research Analytics course at the A.B. Freeman School, taught by Professor Janet Schwartz, is one of those courses, where you leave the classroom and come back, having learned so much more.

The main focus of the course was to leave with a knowledge of how to make collect data, analyze it and make decisions, despite the fact that data will never be perfect. In class, we learned about different analytical tools and practiced analyzing data with case studies. But all of that was to prepare us for our big, semester long project. In the middle of the semester, we went as a class to Liberty’s Kitchen. For those of you who do not know, it is a local nonprofit that helps young people in New Orleans gain skills in the service and hospitality industry and helps them find jobs. The students learn all the aspects of working in the industry and run the cafe out front, which has wide range of coffees, breakfast and lunch items. It is a really wonderful organization here in the city and has been making a positive impact in the community. After meeting with some of the management team, we discussed the problems they were facing that our class could help with. They came up with two main focuses: donors and brand awareness. As we had two teams, we each picked one issue to focus on. My team selected brand awareness as the focus of our project.

Liberty’s Kitchen is located in the same complex as a Whole Foods on Broad Street. While this is definitely a nice location – the facility is very new and modern – there are some issues that arose. Liberty’s Kitchen was having a hard time attracting customers, many of whom were bypassing the cafe to grab a cart and get their groceries. We wanted to assess a few things with our research: 1) How aware are both customers and people who have never to Liberty’s Kitchen before of their mission? 2) What is the reason people are not going to the cafe (hours, pricing, location, etc) and 3) Are there ways that Liberty’s Kitchen could not only make them customers, but loyal ones? Our research focused on answering these questions. We made a survey and split our survey time evenly between when the cafe was open and when it was closed. We also tried to go when Whole Foods had peak hours, which occurred when Liberty’s Kitchen was not open. We also split it up over the course of the week so that day of the week would not impact our results. While there are always biases that impact data, such as response bias, we tried to minimize them as much as possible.

After conducting our survey and analysis, we came to some interesting conclusions. We discovered almost 100% of the customers who had gone to the cafe had a great experience. We also found out that many people did not know it was there or thought it was a Starbucks. Our main suggestions to Liberty’s Kitchen surrounded on increasing foot traffic by increasing its brand awareness. We recommended that a student in the organization set up a sample booth to interact with people as they walked in and out the complex. That way the positive impact Liberty’s Kitchen is making is transparent! After presenting our findings to the management team, we received a lot of positive feedback and excitement surrounding our ideas. They even implemented a few them after the class ended! It was a great experience working for an organization trying to make positive change in this city we love while gaining a new perspective on how to use data to solve problems.

Grace Cammack

MBA Candidate 2016