MAKING THEIR MARK
RISE29 interns share expertise to help eastern NC seafood business
Making a name for your company is never easy, especially in an industry as well respected as North Carolina’s commercial fishing enterprise.
Dell and Richard Newman, owners of Belhaven’s County Road Seafood, had the knowledge, passion and work ethic to make their business a household name. They were just missing one ingredient — the marketing expertise.
That’s where East Carolina University’s student entrepreneurship program RISE29 stepped in.
Armed with a team of talented students, RISE29 connected County Road Seafood with a pair of interns from ECU’s College of Business who share an enthusiasm for marketing and business management.
The team spent the spring semester figuring out new ways for County Road Seafood to share its love of North Carolina’s seafood industry with new customers.
“It was really exciting to work with County Road Seafood because I have always been interested in fishing,” said Julie Ann Vincent, a marketing major who graduated this spring. “It was cool to get an insider’s look at the industry.”
Vincent and her teammate Noah Dove, a rising senior majoring in business management, were tasked with helping the company find new clients, increase the company’s brand awareness, and help County Road Seafood find and keep quality employees.
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County Road Seafood’s products include soft shell crab, shrimp, scallops, oysters and a range of locally sourced fish. While the company saw success in several shops in Belhaven and Washington, it has dreams of expanding.
That’s where RISE29 stepped in.
Vincent and Dove quickly familiarized themselves with the state’s fishing and restaurant industries and developed an expansion plan to help County Road Seafood gain 20 new clients in North Carolina and Virginia. Those clients include traditional restaurants, butchers and food delivery boxes.
“I was excited to bring my knowledge and connections from the grocery industry to the table and learn new things about a parallel industry that I wasn’t familiar with before,” Dove said. “In class, I’ve learned about conducting research and interacting in a business environment and was able to implement that in my day-to-day internship activities. It was satisfying to see County Road Seafood take the research we conducted and the tools that we made for them and implement them into their business strategy.”
The duo developed a matrix that considered regional food pricing, size, rating, quality and range of disposable income to identify potential new clients in Cary, Raleigh, Durham, and the Virginia Tidewater region.
Vincent and Dove also worked with Beaufort Community College, NCWorks and the Rivers East Workforce Development Board to create a class for new County Road Seafood hires. The class would include orientation information, fundamentals for food safety, and included hands-on training and interviews. With an eye on graduating high school students, college-aged students, and young adults looking to start a new career, it could help the company recruit the more than 30 employees it needs to expand the business.
Finally, the duo aimed to spread the history and mission of County Road Seafood through “about me” marketing cards. These cards help clients and customers get a better understanding of the company and the product they’re buying, establishing a greater sense of loyalty and trust between consumers and producers.
“It was an amazing experience getting to pursue my own ideas,” Vincent said. “I was able to create an ‘all about me’ card that my client plans to use in the near future. These cards will help the consumer learn about County Road Seafood’s story and get a good idea of where the seafood they are considering buying is coming from.”
Dove added that he hopes County Road Seafood can use the tools and techniques developed during his internship with RISE29 to grow its business. Working with a company that shared his values of hard work has helped him prepare for the business world.
“County Road Seafood valued hard work and quality work,” Dove said. “We were able to tell this about the client from the beginning. I enjoyed sharing those values with them because not only would I produce quality material for them, but we would also get it in return.”
RISE29 will begin recruiting for Fall 2021 internships in late June.