DENTON (UNT), Texas — A North Texas ranch that helps people and animals when other therapies fail is getting help itself from a group of University of North Texas marketing students.
Founder Bob Williams started Ranch Hand Rescue Counseling Center and Animal Sanctuary nine years ago as a combined rescue facility for animals and therapy center for trauma survivors who don’t respond well to traditional counseling. The organization’s mission is strong, but the group struggles in other ways.
“They have great potential, but the messaging is confusing,” said Robin Kelley, a UNT senior marketing major who worked with the organization. “Is it an animal sanctuary or is it a people counseling center? If you can’t understand the purpose right off the bat, then there’s a problem.”
The ranch provides counseling and animal-assisted therapy to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, abused children, battered women, rape and human trafficking victims and others with mental health issues. It also serves as a rescue sanctuary for abused and neglected animals. Each human client chooses an animal to partner with and engages with that animal in each of their therapy sessions.
Williams said his passion is to provide free, subsidized counseling, primarily to victims and children.
“Some people will tell an animal something before they tell a person. There is something very calming and beautiful about this unconditional love from these animals that can’t take care of themselves,” he said.
Kelley and other UNT marketing students enrolled in an Applied Marketing Problems course worked in teams to create business plans for Ranch Hand Rescue. The plans focus on helping the organization with its biggest issues: how to expand throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth region, how to make the brand recognizable and how to improve fundraising and messaging.
“We’re coming up with everything – the business strategy, the numbers, growth projections, analytics,” said Ashley Majalca, also a marketing senior. "This class is making a visible difference in the community, and it's great because we get to see tangible results from our work.”
Principal lecturer Michael Gade said the class “provides a real life business experience as students move from the academic world to their professional career.”
The students presented their concepts to the organization in April, and Williams and his team will have the final say on which student ideas are implemented.
“I’ve gotten to apply what I’ve been learning, and it’s very rewarding to be able to say I’ve helped rebrand this organization that touches you personally,” said Kelley.