Meet Backpack, an Innovative Brand Communications Agency Run by University of Minnesota Students

 

By the minneapolis egotist / /

Formerly known as CLAgency, student-run business has served clients since 2014

The next generation of marketing and business leaders are getting a head start at the University of Minnesota.  In addition to being college students, this group is also running its own brand communications agency, offering unmatched expertise on youth culture and trends to clients.  It’s called Backpack, and it’s an ambitious project that is benefiting students and the greater Twin Cities community.

“Our agency gives motivated liberal arts students real-world experience,” said Scott Meyer, CMO of the College of Liberal Arts and founder of Backpack. “It’s really the closest thing you can get to a real agency.  The students walk out with a portfolio and tools they need to get that first job,” said Meyer.

Founded by Meyer in 2014, Backpack has 39 paid employees. The jobs are filled through an application and interview process; students with majors in and outside of liberal arts are guided by top communications and marketing professionals in the Twin Cities.  As a bonus, Backpack employees have an opportunity to be interns at local marketing agencies like Fast Horse or be embedded at clients who are on retainer. 

“We are students, and we’re proud of it.  We see our student identity as our greatest asset.  It’s so rewarding to be able to provide a unique context for our clients, unlike anyone else in the field,” said Selena Thor, general manager of Backpack.

According to Jörg Pierach, founder of Fast Horse and board chair of Backpack, “Backpack offers students a chance to build critical soft skills like leadership, teamwork and professionalism. I’ve seen first-hand the profound impact it’s had for students seeking a toehold for their careers. It’s become the first place I look for the kind of entry-level professionals who can thrive in our fast-changing and fast-paced industry.” 

The agency is full service, offering content creation, storytelling, design, photography and social media with an emphasis on connecting clients to Gen Z audiences.

Backpack’s largest client is the College of Liberal Arts, but the client roster reaches beyond the campus.  ServeMinnesota, Reading & Math, Inc., The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, The TOASTER Innovation Hub and ULLU streaming platform are current clients.

“ServeMinnesota has worked with Backpack for nearly two years— we hired them to help us understand what marketing approaches would best reach Millennials and GenZs,” says Lisa Winkler, vice-president of external relations, ServeMinnesota. “We have worked with firms that specialize in college promotions, but Backpack gave us unparalleled intel about what appeals to students, plus amazing creative and connections to so many additional segments of the university. I often say that working with this group is the best part of my job – they are bright, talented, and committed to delivering outstanding results.  I’m eager to see what they do next, because the future is so much brighter with them in it!” 

 “When I joined Backpack in the spring semester of 2016, little did I realize how much it would prepare me to take on life post-graduation,” says Kyle Tsuchiya, University of Minnesota 2018 graduate. “Not only did it give me real agency experience doing work for real clients, but it also helped me understand the value of my liberal arts education, and it connected me with people that I admire and hope to remain in touch with for years to come.”

For more information, please visit z.umn.edu/backpack.

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