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Georgia Southern students go ‘bananas’ for local baseball team, create new merchandise concepts

Katie Hillery, left, Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas, Rachel Hart, Lizzy Mackerty from Savannah Bananas, Jessica Longoria and Curtis Sproul, Ph.D.

Fans at home games of the Savannah Bananas baseball team have a new, appealing way to stay cool on sweltering Savannah days thanks to the creativity of several Georgia Southern University Parker College of Business students. 

Rachel Hart, Jessica Longoria and Katie Hillery were the brains behind the Fanana, a battery-operated misting fan that Savannah Bananas fans can use to keep cool during games. 

Hart, Longoria and Hillery’s team was one of six in a small business management class that created a product concept or prototype for the Savannah Bananas to help enhance the fan experience for home games. 

“This project helped us use the materials we were learning in class and apply them to real life,” Hart said. “To prepare for the project, we found available vendors who would supply the product, conducted a price analysis and conducted market research.”

The class, instructed by Curtis Sproul, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, on the Armstrong Campus, presented their ideas to Jesse Cole, the owner and president of the Savannah Bananas. In addition to the Fanana, the organization has adopted another idea from the class — a T-shirt design contest. 

“Everything we do is about how we get our fans involved in the experience of our company, and we had never done a fan-designed T-shirt contest,” said Cole. “When we put that out there, we had hundreds of comments and almost 100 submissions of really well-done artwork. When we narrowed it down to the final five, we ended up getting thousands of comments and remarks. That shirt, I could argue and say it’s been one of the bestsellers we’ve ever had in our four years here, and it all came from working together at brainstorming ideas.”

Cole was notably impressed with the students.

“The class’ enthusiasm was second to none,” said Cole. “I have spoken to a lot of classes in my day, and seeing these kids really get excited about it meant a lot because obviously, the Bananas are part of this community.” 

Sproul believes students gained invaluable real-world experience from the project.

“This project helped these students by giving them experience with product design from conceptualization to market,” said Sproul. “They were able to grow their skill set by overcoming challenges such as working with a company to make sure their creation was a unique, cost-effective, feasible and quality product, while having to make adjustments to the product.” 

Hart agreed. 

“This experience has given me real-life marketing and research experience that I can use in a future career,” she said. “Our teacher, Dr. Sproul, offered encouragement and advice along the way that helped us perfect our product. We are very excited that Georgia Southern and the Savannah Bananas gave us this opportunity.”


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