Matteo Peroni, assistant professor, in marketing, recently led a group of Lynn students alongside the Social Impact Lab, partnering with the Senegal-focused African Tourism Solutions (ATS).
Run by Lynn alumnus Alioune Mboup, ATS is an organization committed to shifting the perception worldwide that Africa is a continent tarnished with poverty and danger. It creates travel packages to encourage the public to experience the many unique, authentic adventures of the sub-Saharan area.
“People tend to cookie cut Africa as a one-size fits all [place],” said Peroni. “People see it as being filled with war lords, poverty and whatever else. But, there are pockets of hope throughout the area that fail to gain the exposure they truly deserve, and that is what Mboup is seeking to change.”
In an effort to assist Mboup’s efforts, Peroni connected the organization with the university’s social impact lab. From there, the transition to developing a consulting project for his graduate level marketing course based on ATS was rather simple.
“There was a perfect marriage between Mboup’s business ventures [ATS], the Social Impact Lab and what I was hoping my students would take away from their course,” said Peroni. “I think a lot of students who may be intimidated by the idea of starting to run businesses, if they look at things differently, they can find a way to give back to society like ATS is attempting to do.”
Within the graduate level course, roughly 12 students took part in the consulting concept. While many were anxious about working with a business in Africa in relatively uncharted territory, they savored the opportunity to grow their understanding of the foreign entrepreneurship realm of business.
“From the outset, my students had to dig deep in both the culture of Senegal and surrounding sub-Saharan areas,” said Peroni. “The hope was that, at the end of this project, the students could contribute to Mboup’s goal of changing the perception of Africa. They really had to open their eyes to change the way they perceived countries like Senegal going into this program.”
To close the ATS tasks, the class hosted a lengthy presentation to review their findings and suggestions for the future. Jerry Hildebrand, director of the Center for Social Impact and an attendee, was remarkably pleased with the students’ efforts and Mboup’s progress thus far.
“When I went to the presentation, it was so impressive what this educational tourist program was doing in Senegal,” said Hildebrand. “Being a for-profit with a social mission, Mboup’s venture is more of a social enterprise, one that has sparked interest within our office on potential projects in Africa down the road.”
As part of the initiative, the marketing students conducted research on the target market in Senegal, suggested changes to Mboup’s website and performed eye-tracking tests to see what drew viewers’ attention. In addition, the students sampled brochures for ATS and created numerous ideas for Mboup’s social media and YouTube platforms.
“The students knew ATS lacked an extensive marketing budget,” said Peroni. “They were realistic in their recommendations and proposed ideas only Mboup could possibly see through [to the end].”
In researching the sub-Saharan areas of Africa, the class quickly realized the many attractions that would incentivize tourists. From the lion encounter, where individuals can walk among lions conditioned to respect the presence of humans, to the notably pink Lake Retba, visitors would have a wide variety of adventurous destinations.
“Mboup has a long-term vision of expanding ATS beyond Senegal, to the aforementioned pockets of hope,” said Peroni. “Hopefully, some of these proposals from the class can help him use the surrounding areas as a launching pad toward bettering the path for socially-inclined entrepreneurs in Africa.”
In the end, this consulting effort on behalf of Peroni’s graduate level students showed the power of collaborative teamwork in a social movement. While there is much left for Mboup and ATS, this relationship with the Social Impact Lab certainly helps in pushing the organization closer to its goals.