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Student-run Jacht Club aims to give UNL students hands-on experience

The team behind student-run ad agency Jacht Club works in the agency’s Downtown Haymarket office.

A class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is attempting to show advertising students the ins and outs of running an agency by providing real world experience, with real clients and real bills to pay.

The main goal of Jacht Club, the student-run agency, is to teach students across campus about the business side of advertising.

After just two years of operation, Jacht (pronounced “yacht”) Club now boasts several paying clients, including Iguana’s Bar in Lincoln, NBC Bank and the Nebraska Shrine Bowl.

Students must apply for Jacht Club by submitting a résumé, portfolio and availability throughout the semester and conducting an interview with class supervisors.

Mallory Vogt, an account executive for Iguana’s and a senior advertising and public relations major, said her experience has been invaluable to her career.

“I got an advertising internship in Dallas last summer and I wouldn’t have been able to get that without Jacht,” she said.

While Jacht Club’s mission is to teach students how to run an agency, Amy Struthers, who is the lead supervisor of the class and the one who came up with the idea, said helping students find work is the real goal of Jacht Club.

“Ultimately that’s what we’re here for: Getting students great jobs in this digital age,” she said.

However, Struthers (left) said she hopes the agency will become a place to hone skills for all UNL students, not just those focused on advertising and public relations.

“It can and should be an incubator for students across campus,” she said.

Struthers said that’s why Jacht Club is always looking to recruit students who major in accounting and marketing, broadcast and journalism, graphic design and web development.

The agency also has a partnership with the Raikes School and designed the school’s rebranding campaign. Now, Jacht Club is helping to do the same for the Raikes School Design Studio.

“We want our students to learn how to work with developers and programmers,” Struthers said.

The idea for Jacht Club came to Struthers in 2008 when she visited the University of Oklahoma’s student ad agency and realized it was the next step for UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Two years later, Struthers taught a class that looked at how the college might make a student-run ad agency feasible. At the end of the class, her students pitched the idea to a group of business professionals, including Patrick Smith (right) and Steve Kiene of Nebraska Global.

Struthers said Smith and Keine asked the students what they needed, and the students had a few things in mind. First and foremost: A white board and some markers.

“We loved the spirit, loved the attitude on what they were looking to accomplish,” Smith said.

So Nebraska Global donated some space in its Haymarket office, WiFi, furniture (including a white board) and computers. Jacht Club also received financial investments from Swanson Russell marketing agency, Bailey Lauerman and James Valentine, a Lincoln native and guitarist for the band Maroon 5.

Smith and Keine have also served an advisory role to Jacht Club when it comes to the financial side of the agency.

“Patrick has been an amazing startup mentor,” Struthers said. “He holds us to our promise to be self-sustaining within the first four years.

This year, Struthers said, Jacht Club has exceeded its revenue projections. It has also started paying rent for its office space, which is one floor below Nebraska Global’s office.

“These kids are dealing with real customers, real demands, they’re having to keep track of their business and their performance, collect bills, service accounts and ask for business from new or existing customers,” Smith said. “All of those things are not provided inside of the academic setting.”

Credits: Photos of Jacht Club by Paige Yowell. Photo of Struthers from journalism.unl.edu. Photo of Smith from Nebraskaglobal.com

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