Rappahannock Oyster Capstone Project

Shucking Success

March 12, 2024

Students Complete Capstone Project with Rappahannock Oyster Co.

Sam Louis Taylor and Lindsey Norment completed the culminating project of their graduate degree over wine and oysters. While working on their Capstone Project with Rappahannock Oyster Co., Norment and Taylor visited the company’s local restaurants during peak hours to get the full customer experience. “We shared several happy hours playing secret shoppers,” Norment said.

The two partnered on the project to address marketing and customer engagement challenges within the business. Norment is the brand director for Virginia Tourism, so she was intrigued by working with Rappahannock Oyster Co., which not only has restaurants across the country but both a wholesale and consumer sales business. “It is a tough industry, and they are competing as a lean organization,” Norment said. “It was great exposure to decision-makers and an opportunity to gain insight behind the scenes of the business.”

For Taylor, it was a revelation about how hands-on the co-owners were each day. “When you’re a leader in an organization like this, it all depends on how much you’re willing to move,” he said. “Your day can start with your accountant, then a trip to your oyster farm before heading over to the packaging center and finishing it out interacting with customers at your restaurant. It is really impressive.”

Norment and Taylor analyzed Rappahannock’s competitor marketing and e-commerce presence and examined their sales data and customer profiles before developing and presenting a strategy for the organization to increase online sales revenue and expand outreach.

“Much of our focus was on building on the family legacy into a modern iteration of the brand,” Taylor said. We really tried to suggest solutions that would push the boundaries and add value.” Much of Rappahannock’s current business relied on word of mouth. Norment and Taylor developed an integrated marketing proposal to reach new audiences and engage current customers.

As a family-run organization, the co-owners, who are also cousins, are very close to the brand. Rappahannock reaches consumers through its online store, catering, and restaurants, so Norment and Taylor worked with employees across the organization to gather information. “We knew we needed to be authentic and maintain the brand's integrity,” Norment said. “We got to see how much they care about their business and its legacy and what it means to Virginia. That kind of engagement was exactly what we wanted.” 

Taylor has a background in public policy and government affairs and is currently an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He said the Capstone experience was insightful for him. “I’ve always worked in big organizations where sometimes jobs can feel too siloed,” he said. “It was such a great experience to see how a smaller organization operated, especially regarding the relationships with its customers and business.” 

The alumni still keep an eye on Rappahannock and look forward to the organization's continued expansion and success. “We’ve appreciated their growth in Richmond—they have done so much for the community and state,” Norment said. “We were both happy to be a part of that.”