I-Comm student helps businesses thrive

Despite being a second-year business student, Mackenzie Haines credits his co-op with the Business & Commercialization Solutions (BCS) team for identifying the field in which he now sees himself working: helping businesses thrive.

“I feel like this position has really helped me to develop my professional skillset and develop a clearer vision of my career long term,” says Haines, a student in NC’s Honours Bachelor of Business Administration – International Commerce and Global Development program.

Alongside assisting small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), he points to one of the most interesting parts of his job as a research assistant with BCS: The uniqueness of each research project in which he’s involved. Every day and every project is different.

“I have worked on projects that cover the food industry, wine and spirits, horticulture products and the event and planning industry.”

In his role on the BCS team, Haines works on applied research projects to solve real-world problems relating to operations management, sales and marketing for SMEs. Projects include market research, competitive analysis, target market identification and marketing plans.

One of his favourite research projects was for an industry partner in the wine and spirits industry. He had the responsibility of carrying out the project entirely on his own.

“It was great being able to do such a comprehensive project myself because I had a chance to work on skills I learned during my in-class program.”

“I got experience doing an environmental scan of the industry, an analysis of potential competitors, a target market analysis, and I also looked at the packaging and promotional trends for the company,” explains Haines. “It was great being able to do such a comprehensive project myself because I had a chance to work on skills I learned during my in-class program.”

He and his business research team are currently working on a project for a partner in the event industry. A facility is looking to potentially update their business processes. “We are looking into new ways for this business to generate income and ways they can improve their current processes.”

Like many students during this past year, Haines has had to get used to the reduced presence on campus due to the pandemic. Besides interacting with other students, he misses the beauty of the grounds at the Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

His deep appreciation for the great outdoors fueled his first foray into college life when he enrolled in NC’s Horticulture Technician program – graduating in 2017.

While studying, Haines was hired as a research assistant with R&I’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) for a co-op placement. He was involved in an applied research project that saw NC build a sustainable vegetable garden for a restaurant at the nearby White Oaks Resort.

Haines and another co-op student designed the garden and placed soil and mulch in separate plots. “We grew a variety of vegetables and ornamental flowers, including okra, tomatoes, nasturtium, kale, borage and strawberries,” Haines recalls. “That was a really interesting project!”

After graduating, Haines worked in landscaping for a few years. During one off-season, he was working in retail, where he met a co-worker who was enrolled in the Business – International Commerce program at NC.

“When I decided I wanted to go back to school, it was because I wanted to expand my career options; I was tired of how seasonal landscape work was, and I was enjoying my retail job, so I considered business as an option.”

Haines lives with his girlfriend and their dog and cat in Hamilton. While he’s still passionate about plants and growing his own food, he has also been perfecting his cooking skills throughout the pandemic.

“I have started trying to get better and challenge myself to learn new and different recipes,” he adds. “My current favourite is Italian food, and I have been practising making fresh pasta recently.”

The two also make time to enjoy the outdoors to either hike or camp.