Monday, January 26, 2015

Shaking it out: An interview with the freshmen who won the National Diversity Case Competition

Earlier this month, we welcomed 140 students from 35 schools to the Kelley campus to compete in the fourth annual National Diversity Case Competition. The energy in our building was hard to describe.

As faculty liaison Mikel Tiller recently put it: "These bright, energetic young minds, bringing their own unique perspectives to bear, are a huge source of energy and direction for us. How can anyone ever learn anything by embracing sameness?"

We're proud of our all-freshman team, Vineyard Consultants, for taking 1st place. They were up against upperclassmen in teams from Yale, Berkeley, NYU, and Wharton, and they didn't take that lightly. They spent time building their case over winter break, and just before presenting they went into an empty room and danced out their nervous energy.

In the case, Vineyard Consultants were asked to identify a fashion-forward brand that Target should partner with to target Hispanic shoppers. They landed on a brand partnership with Julia y Renata, a growing Mexican designer brand that is well-known in Mexico, Spain, and parts of Latin America.

Vineyard Consultants are:
  • Maya Caine, Information Systems and Business Analytics major, French minor
  • Mica Caine, Information Systems and Security Informatics major, French minor
  • Thomas Dougherty, Economic Consulting and International Business major, Chinese minor
  • Keiondre Goodwin, Economic Consulting and International Business major, Chinese minor

Three team members sat down to reflect on the NDCC, their first case competition and certainly not their last.

Talk about your case. What business solution did you present to the judges?

THOMAS: Target really wanted to find a partnership or method to connecting to these women, as they are a growing demographic. The design brand Julia y Renata was already popular across the world, and we felt with the right spectrum of marketing, they could capture the customer loyalty of all types of hispanic women in America.

MAYA: Our partnership with Julia y Renata will entail a women’s ready-to-wear diffusion line that will be specifically tailored to Hispanic women. This line will accommodate sizing for pear shaped, curvier, and petite sizing which are more common among Hispanic women. Another large part of our recommendation is recreating the women’s clothing section to be more boutique style and engaging to female customers.

KEIONDRE: Our solution encompassed how Target could recruit these designers and various marketing strategies such as Hispanic media outlets, celebrity promoters, and an expansion on the current line.

You faced tough competition from Berkeley, Yale, Wharton, and other top ranked schools. Were you nervous? How did you handle your nervous energy?

THOMAS: Heck yeah we were nervous! Instead of letting this dominate us though, we recalled our team chemistry and focused on the goal. Our team chemistry was really strong, and this enabled us to turn this nervousness into motivation which carried us through the competition.

MAYA: To shake out any nerves before the final round, we went into an empty room and blared music and danced all around the room. Although it was a pretty unconventional way of preparing for our speech, it got us extremely pumped to present.

KEIONDRE: Seeing the names of Yale, Wharton, and Berkeley was slightly intimidating, but also exciting. Personally, it gave me more motivation and made me aware of the level at which we were competing.

Did you learn anything about yourself? Did this surprise you?

MAYA: From this experience I have learned a lot about what I would like to do in the future. This role of consulting for Target has influenced me to consider consulting as a future career. I was not very surprised by this because I have competed in other case competitions and I have also enjoyed them.

THOMAS: I found out how much I liked to let loose, and how important that was. If I wasn't able to open up and be myself around my team then I wouldn't have suggested many of the ideas that I did, many of which were vital in our presentation.

KEIONDRE: I learned how much I enjoy and value working and leading a team. It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to motivate your team members and help them shine to their fullest potential and in turn have them support you the same way. This surprised me a little, because I tend to let others do the upfront leading and motivating, but I really enjoyed taking on that type of function leading up to our final presentation.

What did you learn about collaboration and working as a team?

MAYA: With this case heavily involving fashion, my sister and I took on most of the research dealing with the designer. We are religious watchers of America’s Next Top Model, so we were more familiar with the fashion jargon than our male teammates. This whole experience has taught me that the success of any team lies within each team member’s ability to deeply dive into an aspect of the case that resonates with their interests, skills, and passions.

THOMAS: Every good team is brutally honest. They're honest because they care, and learning to build on each other is fundamental.

KEIONDRE: I realized how essential it is to have a great team chemistry. I believe our team chemistry and trust in each other’s natural strengths are what allowed us to be successful.

How many hours did you spend preparing your case?

THOMAS: Oh Jeez, don't get me started.

KEIONDRE: Let’s just say syllabus week wasn’t a week to relax and cruise back into the swing of things. We hit the ground running after having done research and collaborating even over winter break.

You’re all freshmen. Where do you go from here? What goals have you set for yourself in the next 3-4 years?

THOMAS: The bar is high, no doubt. From here, we want to build on what we've learned, fix our mistakes, and follow what we're passionate about (once we figure that out). In 3-4 years, I hope to be working for a company that can give me something new every day, and something that builds day after day.

MAYA: Since Mica and Keiondre are on the Kelley Student Diversity Council, Thomas and I plan on joining as well. This way if we do not compete next year, we can still be a part of NDCC. We have also made plans to compete in some other cases in the future.

KEIONDRE: Within the next couple of years, I hope to delve deeper into business and discover how I can fully use my skill sets in business and foreign languages to pursue internships and a job that I am passionate about.

What advice do you have for teams in next year’s NDCC?

THOMAS: Meet with professors, and go above and beyond with your information and research. Make sure you double check everything, and make your proposal as feasible as possible. The final test is looking at it and deciding if you could see it in the store tomorrow. Once you're there, make it look good.

MAYA: My advice is that the success of any presentation lies within the details. Aside from researching the specifics that surround our presentation, we went the extra mile to add unique details. Some of these extra details being a designer “lookbook” and an appendix including cost breakdowns for the judges.

KEIONDRE: I would suggest that the competitors truly consider the case from the perspective of the company’s executives. They’re looking for real, feasible plans they can actually implement.

Congratulations to all schools who placed in the NDCC this year:

1st place - Indiana University
2nd place - University of Washington
3rd place - University of Southern California
4th place - University of Pennsylvania
5th place - Emory University
6th place - University of Georgia
7th place - Penn State

Runners up:

Purdue University
Florida A&M University
Yale University
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
New York University
Hampton University- Official
Washington University in St. Louis

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