KU students collaborate to form experimental digital agency

Instead of looking for internships with companies around the region, a group of University of Kansas students decided to create their own digital agency.

Instead of looking for internships with companies around the region, a group of University of Kansas students decided to create their own digital agency. 

The student-led venture, Coral, began this semester, and works with everyone from local businesses and startups to nonprofit groups on designing and creating any digital elements they might need. 

We caught up with some of Coral’s founding members, Foster Casterline and Stephanie Spicer, to learn a bit more about the program and what they’ve worked on:

Silicon Prairie News: Where did the idea to start Coral come from?

There was no one “aha!” moment we thought to create Coral. The “legal structure” part came out of necessity since we were well into our first project and were starting the second.

We already had a group of friends curious about improving their technical skills as a team while working on projects, some more experienced than others. Once we realized we had a set of diverse and talented people who could benefit from this and the network to provide them with projects, forming it into a company was the next logical step.

SPN: Why do you think a program like this is important for students to get involved with?

Working with a team of other students on client projects has many benefits: it’s important to supplement theoretical learning with experiential. We have a wide range of backgrounds, allowing students to learn from and challenge each other’s many different perspectives. These projects are great to add to portfolios and resumes and, being deadline-driven and team-oriented, they are valuable experiences beyond the projects themselves. We encourage everyone on our team to help build Coral as a company. Additionally, Coral is a great way to expand their networks.

SPN: If someone is interested in working with Coral, what does that process look like?

So far, our projects have been web design and development for startups or organizations in our personal networks. We’re starting to reach out and plan to expand our capabilities by recruiting more students. Before deciding to take on a project, we set up a discovery meeting to talk about their idea, scope, timeline, budget and any other questions we both might have. If it’s a good fit, and we have the resources, we’ll move forward with assigning a team and setting deadlines. Showing our clients our progress throughout to get feedback has been immensely helpful for both of us.

SPN: Has Coral worked with any clients yet? If so, who and how did it go?

We’ve had several client projects this semester. Our clients so far include a KC startup called U-Hoops, Say Cheez Lawrence (a photo booth company), Greater Kansas City Spinal Cord Injury Association, Information Systems Association at KU (ISAK) and the blog for KU’s business school. The latter three will be finished soon. All of our projects have been a tremendous learning experience, which was always the intention of Coral (along with doing great work). It’s been awesome to see what a group of students can do in a short time. When many students are involved, the design and development can be more difficult to manage, but ends up better than one of us could have imagined and built ourselves.

We used this past semester as a pilot. We wanted to validate that this kind of environment would be a good way for students to learn quickly and gain better experience than doing tutorials alone or just projects in the classroom. We’ve seen exciting progress from everyone who’s been a consistent part of our team. Over this summer, we will be making changes based on what we’ve learned so far. Next semester, we’ll be looking for new talented students and leaders with a diverse skill sets and following that, new projects.

If you’re interested in working with or learning more about Coral, contact the team at hello@builtbycoral.com.

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