Brewing Success: Marketing Students Explore Branding Solutions for Carmela Coffee

By Denise Gravatt | 08/25/2023

Tags: Bulletins | Marketing
Categories: Academics | Research | Faculty/Staff | Students

From the Classroom to the Coffee Bar

Carmela Coffee

FAU Marketing students spent a semester deep diving into “real-world” marketing challenges faced by Carmela Coffee Company, a  casual-dining coffee bar with nine locations across Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties in South Florida. 

Carmela, named to honor the hardworking and courageous examples demonstrated by women every day, promotes its vision of community as one united by appreciation of coffee and shared moments. Offerings center around premium coffee grown on their farm in Costa Rica, El Cuminate, along with a curated menu: gourmet toasts, invigorating juices, wholesome sandwiches, and crisp salads. Seeking to expand the Carmela brand and home away from home atmosphere across Florida and U.S. Southeast region, company executives decided to partner with FAU business students for marketing research support, innovative strategies, and new insights.  

Behind the student-company collaboration with Carmela and other companies, is Eileen Acello, Marketing Instructor and FAU’s American Marketing Association Faculty Advisor. For her courses on Advertising, Consumer Behavior, Retail Management, and the Marketing Strategy Case Competition, Eileen coordinates with local and national companies each semester to provide her students with experiential marketing projects. Students engage in real-time marketing activities, where they analyze, research, and resolve actual scenarios faced by a company. Divided into “marketing teams” to simulate professional practice, students work together to develop solutions for the sponsoring businesses and their brand(s).

In my courses, students work in teams to create and conduct primary research in the form of surveys, interviews, and focus groups as well as secondary research to develop recommendations for their ‘client.’ The opportunity to not just understand, but also to apply class concepts to current marketing scenarios—they start getting experience in building a portfolio as they prepare for their journey outside of the FAU classroom.

                                                                                                                                                                       ~Eileen Acello, FAU Marketing Instructor

Carmela presented the challenge to students: develop a marketing strategy for improving awareness among targeted consumers while building excitement around the Carmela Coffee brand, thus increasing sales and market share. 18 student teams, including both in-person and online classes, presented their research findings and recommendations in person and via Zoom, with a final research report submission. Carmela’s brand representatives “judged” the presentations in class and by viewing them online, and shared constructive criticism and feedback. The top two (2) teams were chosen for prizes and accolades from Carmela on their social media platforms.

One of the very reasons we started Carmela is for community, so working with the FAU community and the entire experience was great: the presentations, the students, the opportunities, and the professor. We 100% recommend it – the time investment was worth it! The students surpassed my expectations. They were so into the project and the company and had so many good ideas and were so creative. They gave us an out of the box perspective with details from their research into our target markets. I took ideas from all the presentations: implementing new social media ideas, new product ideas, new ways to present drinks, each store having its own target market, and even plans for a food truck.

                                                                                                                                                ~Olga Rodriguez, Carmela’s Director of Operations

As businesses increasingly seek out marketing graduates with both the knowledge and applicable skills to meet their marketing needs, collaboratively working with real "clients" provides FAU students with a glimpse into what awaits them beyond graduation– presenting, collaborating, and receiving authentic feedback from genuine corporations. Students appreciate the career-building experience, finding the marketing projects fun, rewarding and highly beneficial:

I loved the Carmela case we did in class. It was a new teaching style, and it is by far my favorite. We got to work on real numbers and a real business that used our recommendations. I learned life skills like group work and communication, public speaking, operations of a company, and creative thinking.

~Summer Stillufsen, FAU Marketing Student

Taking Retail Management with Professor Acello has been one of the most insightful and rewarding classes I have ever taken at FAU. We got hands on experience working directly with a local business. We divided into teams and needed to come up with new ideas for Carmela Coffee to better market and grow their company. Through this experience, I learned skills like project management, time management, organization, communication skills, and the ability to work in teams with an open mind. This fun and challenging class pushes you to think outside the box, and I highly recommend for anyone majoring in or interested in marketing!

~CassidyEspinoza, FAU Marketing Student & Carmela Challenge Winner

My group and I learned so much about teamwork, business analysis, and how to dive deep into a company to find their strengths and weaknesses. We presented Carmela Coffee with areas to reevaluate; we gave them short-, medium-, and long-term goals for them to immediately jump-start on. Not only was this class educational, but it was also very hands-on and not a typical wall to wall lecture class. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ~Tianna Gaddis, FAU Marketing Student & Carmela Challenge Winner 

Previous participating brands include Campbell Soup Company/Pacific FoodsE&J Gallo Wines/Barefoot Wine and High Noon Vodka Seltzers, Newell Brands/Mr. Coffee, PepsiCo/Starbucks Cold & Crafted On-Tap, New Amsterdam Vodka/Pink Whitney, Wawa, Inc. Convenience Stores, and Hormel Foods/Skippy Peanut Butter.

If your company is interested in participating in future marketing research collaborations with FAU Business, please contact Eileen Acello at