A Story of Synergies: Part-time MBA student finds success at work and in the classroom

Two years ago when I decided to pursue a part-time MBA, I was focused on finding a program that would enhance my current career while potentially preparing me for a new one.  With a full-time job and part-time grad school, I knew I would have to find some synergies between the two so that my energy could be spent wisely.  While I committed to my employer that I would find at least one significant opportunity in my classes that would involve our business, I never dreamed it would bear the fruit it has.

For the better part of 16 years, I have worked in sales and marketing for McLeish Corr-A-Box Packaging & Design – a designer and manufacturer of corrugated (paper) boxes, displays and retail packaging.  My personal focus has always been on the environment; taking a green approach to providing immediate economic payback. I was interested in design innovations built around eliminating excess and using recycled paper products and by-products, allowing the environment to be the driver of efficiencies.

In January of this year, at the beginning of the winter semester at Ryerson, our new courses for the semester included Advanced International Marketing. We were given a case project which involved marketing a “new product to a brand new market”.  Our instructor informed us that we could pick an existing product in a new market, or “invent” our own new product, however hypothetical it may be. When I met with my group, which included fellow students Ben Samms, Andrew Luong and Henry Chastny, I recalled an idea I had come up with a year earlier while working with a client in the film and television industry.  I knew that there was an existing market for white plastic sheets, green paint, and a great deal of labour spent putting them together to build sets for visual effects shots in movies, TV shows and commercials. I pitched my idea to the group: create alternative green screen material made up of approximately 90% recycled content which would be more cost effective to produce.  The group loved the idea.

Since the focus of our project was on the marketing a new product, it did not matter as much if the product worked.  Despite that, however, I decided to jump on this opportunity. I then made sales pitch # 2 (of about 47 – only one of which was actually in an elevator) to my boss who gave me his support in pursuing the idea, although it was with close to no budget.

Primary research consisted of several in-depth interviews with industry insiders, including directors, cinematographers, art directors, and even an Oscar nominated documentary Producer.  Our group also conducted considerable secondary research, developed a viable marketing plan, and produced an “A” paper and presentation.

For my fellow group members, the case was closed, and we moved on to our next set of courses.  For me, however, the story continues. A week or so after our class presentation (and three days after my daughter was born) I was on a film set with our new distribution partner, William F. White International Inc., to film a marketing video while also verifying that our new paper green screens work.  They do.

The expected synergies created from working on a case for my MBA class and working for my employer at the same time were incredibly powerful. Our group work was leading me in the right direction to discovering distribution channels, which in turn added depth to my understanding of the existing market.  Meanwhile, the technical research I was doing at McLeish with our design and manufacturing teams was leading to further insights on the marketing side.  As time went on, and more people involved in the project saw the win-win scenario emerging, technical advisors began offering marketing tips and my marketing colleagues began probing with technical questions.  These were unexpected synergies. The result has been a project moving ahead at warp speed toward an August 2013 launch and plans for immediate line extensions and further market development.

Kevin Moroney is a Market & Product Developer with McLeish Corr-A-Box Packaging & Design and a part-time Ryerson MBA student.

Pompeii uses GreenScreenz technology

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