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MBA team proposes business plan for ETSU's Carter Railroad Museum

This month we are highlighting a few of the MBA capstone experience projects created in collaboration with the ETSU Research Corporation. The first project we are showcasing is a strategy development project for ETSU's George L. Carter Railroad Museum.
View of a museum train model from above, including train, buildings and railway.

Since August, East Tennessee State University MBA students Krystal Chavez, Lisa Dunkley and Mark Weaver have worked with Dr. Fred J. Alsop III, director of the George L. Carter Railroad Museum, to construct a business and marketing plan for the museum in tandem with a scheduled museum relocation.

The MBA team reviewed the moving plans, completed a competitive analysis of similar interactive museums, provided an updated economic forecast and model, and developed a post-move marketing strategy. All this work resulted in the creation of a proposed business plan for the Carter Railroad Museum. 

Train Museum (2)

"Yesterday I reviewed their final report and it is much more than I expected it to be," said Dr. Alsop. "Not that I never had faith in this team of students to produce a good working business and marketing plan for the university’s railroad museum projected onto a new location with a larger facility – I just was not prepared for the very thorough and professional product they collectively produced." 

The Carter Railroad Museum sees thousands of visitors annually and includes four large operating layouts in three different scales provide viewing enjoyment. The museum includes historic prototype railroad memorabilia, toy trains and model railroading locomotives, rolling stock and structures.

The MBA team, as part of their capstone strategic experience, spent the past two semesters working on the project for Carter Railroad Museum. The students worked under the direction of Dr. William Heise, professor of practice in ETSU's Department of Management and Marketing and ETSU Research Corporation Fellow. 

"Dr. Heise provided the tools we needed to learn how to build a strong business plan and marketing strategy for their venture into their new location," said Weaver, MBA student. "We learned so much as a team, relying on each other’s strengths to brainstorm creative ideas that could add revenue streams to the museum experience. We learned how to analyze competitors to understand the target market for a niche business. The MBA program at ETSU provided a real world experience that we will be able to apply to any future business."

Alsop has already shared the work with the museum Board of Advisors, who have also expressed their kudos on a job well done.

"Thank you for deciding that the railroad museum was a project worth your time and energy, and thank you for the outstanding presentation you made on March 30 as your final report to us," Alsop said. "Rest assured that we will be using it as our roadmap to a bigger and better museum that will best serve the people of the region in the tradition of the original mission of ETSU."

The museum is currently transitioning through a relocation process due to renovations in its previous location, ETSU's Campus Center Building. The museum's next location is still undecided. 

Photos by Krystal Chavez, MBA student

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