Proving that great publicity comes in all shapes and sizes, Fannin Remodeling targeted a dozen first and second graders in March, and hit the bull's-eye. “We taught them a construction course,” says Chuck Fannin, president of the Toledo, Ohio, company. “We were exhausted afterward, but we had as much fun as the kids.”

The goal wasn't so much to generate business as to “leave a positive impression of our company and the construction industry with the school, parents, and children,” adds his wife and company co-owner Deb. “It was absolutely good PR.”

The event derived from a “Mini Course Day” at the school of the Fannins' son Kurt. The school had sent home a flyer asking parents to share a special skill or knowledge with the children. In response, Fannin Remodeling created a two-hour class that began with a “production meeting” and ended with the 12 students assembling a lemonade stand that the company's staff had largely pre-built.

“They were just so excited,” says Deb Fannin of the young remodelers. Asked if any had parents in construction, “almost all raised their hand."
Courtesy Fannin Remodeling “They were just so excited,” says Deb Fannin of the young remodelers. Asked if any had parents in construction, “almost all raised their hand."

Highlights for the kids included wearing toy hard hats and tool belts, which were donated by Menards, a Midwestern hardware chain, “punching in” their time-cards, learning the functions of various construction tools, naming their own “companies,” “blueprinting” their lemonade stand designs, and eating Rice Krispies Treats that looked like Bob the Builder.

“We put the tools and toolbelts in a Menards shopping bag with our most recent newsletter and a letter to the parents,” Deb says. Two weeks later, the children received packets containing a course certificate and two photos — one of themselves, and one of the entire class.

Fannin Remodeling spent about a week putting the class together, and four employees instructed it. But the payback began immediately, in the form of community goodwill and one very proud son.