Tag Archives: case competition

Something special every day: Foster students provide solutions to zulily

Zulily1
zulily, the darling e-commerce flash-sale company based in Seattle has had exceptional growth since emerging on the market in 2010. “zulily has grown substantially, exhibiting astronomical growth over the last five years. zulily reported fourth quarter and full year 2014 net sales at $1.2 billion, up a staggering 72 percent year-over-year.”¹

They have cornered the “mom” market by focusing on products for women and children with a focus on delighting their customers with short-term (3-days) sales on unique products from both boutique brands as well as name-brand fashion. In recent years, zulily has begun to expand into related categories – such as homewares. Encouraged by their powerful e-tailing platform and passionate customer base, zulily continues to focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience for all of its customers, each and every day. The Foster School of Business partnered with zulily to explore the critical question through the Strategy Development Case Competition: Where should zulily focus their growth and expansion?

Each quarter the Foster School partners with a Seattle-based company to develop a customized business case as part of a required capstone course (MGMT430) for all graduating seniors. The case, written by Sadie Raney, Foster MBA Alumna (’14) and overseen by the course coordinator, Rich McPherson presents an urgent business issue in a condensed format.

Nearly 60 teams of students presented their solutions to panels of
judges composed of alumni, friends of the business school and zulily leaders. Although the case challenge centered on expanding addressable markets, the winning team built a compelling argument for remaining true to the zulily brand and their core customer – mom by developing a rewards programs. The winning team highlighted that there are still opportunities to gain market share with moms throughout the United States. Their solution was backed by their business finding – 80% of future revenue comes from 20% of existing customers.

Zulily2
The winning team hard at work at zulily’s headquarters

Members of the winning team were: Kevin Cruz, Kayla Jedele, Erinna O’Brien, Phi Pham, and Bryanna Woo, had the opportunity to present to the Customer Experience team at zulily headquarters a few days after the competition – and a few days before graduating! The general consensus of the senior leaders of the students’ “bloom” rewards program (featuring a flat membership fee to enable customers’ early access to specific daily sales and free shipping on a monthly basis) was that it is ‘simple, clean, and easily understood.’ Kayla Jedele “loved actually presenting to zulily employees both in the competition and during our office visit because it meant they cared about our work. They were just as excited and invested as we were which really enriched the whole experience.”

Erinna O’Brien said of the experience overall: “I had the most incredible experience at Foster doing this case competition with my team. The key to our success was trusting one another, not being afraid to speak up and capitalizing on our best skills.”

¹Brohan, Mark. “Zulily sales spike 72% in 2014.” www.internetretailer.com. 12 February 2015. Used content from earnings press release hosted on zulily: http://investor.zulily.com/releases.cfm

YEOC marks end of the year with competition and celebration

With summer break just on the horizon, students are preparing for a little down time before they transition to the next chapter in their lives. However, before the vacations and summer jobs begin, YEOC marked the occasion with the Annual Case Competition and End of the Year Celebration.

Inspired by the popular TV show Shark Tank, the entrepreneurial-themed case competition highlighted the students’ creativity, business insights, and teamwork skills. Prompted to “solve a problem that the world is facing today using technology” students worked together in groups to create their own innovative solutions. With thirty judges from the business and higher education communities in attendance, thirty YEOC student teams competed against one another for the top prize. After three rounds, it was the “Piezo board” that took first place. Described as a piezoelectric crystal floorboard that captures energy from the footsteps of passing pedestrians, the winning team received a check for $1,000 and a trip to the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Gala.

During the celebrations, EY took the time to showcase their commitment to the YEOC program. With a giant check in tow, the company renewed its pledge of support with $225,000 over the next three years. EY partners Glenn Carrington and Matthew Alexander also surprised the audience with personal donations of $1,000 each.

See photos of the celebration below:

YEOC students
A group of YEOC students
YEOC Mentors and MITs
YEOC Mentors and MITs
Winning team
Winning case competition team
sponsorship renewal
EY’s $225,000 sponsorship renewal for YEOC

Find out more about the YEOC program on the Foster website.

Foster MBAs take first in their division at ethics competition

Evening MBA students  Kayla Erickson, Garin Wedeking, and Naveen Ahmed
Kayla Erickson (MBA 2016), Garin Wedeking (MBA 2015), and Naveen Ahmed (MBA 2016)

Foster Evening MBA students Naveen Ahmed, Kayla Erickson, and Garin Wedeking took first place in their division at the International Business Ethics Case Competition (IBECC) on April 23 in New Orleans.

The International Business Ethics Case Competition is the premier international competition of its kind. It is jointly sponsored by the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association, the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University, and the Opus College of Business of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Foster MBAs competed in the full presentation competition. The team identified an ethically-problematic issue and designed a presentation to address that issue. They picked the use of technology at Uber. In their presentation they explained the legal, financial, and ethical dimensions of the issue and recommended a solution that addressed all three dimensions. The presentation was judged by professional corporate ethics and compliance officers. The purpose of the competition is to show students it is possible to do business profitably while acting ethically.

According to Elizabeth Umphress, associate professor of management at Foster, “The team was extremely well-prepared, and did a fantastic job!”

GBCC student teams tackle solar energy

Foster School Team showing off their school spirit!
The Foster School team members Eric Zhu, Emmeline Vu, Morgan Bell-Smith, and Dinesvara  Airlangga show off their school spirit!

This Saturday, the Global Business Center hosted its 17th annual Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) – where twelve teams representing eight countries competed for the title of GBCC Champion.

Each of the undergraduate student teams spent 48 hours analyzing a business case on First Solar Inc.  In 2010, First Solar was the global leader in production of solar panels. However, by 2013, Chinese producers dominated the world market, helped by generous government subsidies.  First Solar was also challenged by falling prices for solar panels made with a competing technology.  First Solar responded by vertically integrating into the solar systems business, making the company a “one-stop shop” for utility customers.  First Solar’s sales have been concentrated in the US market, but they are exploring opportunities outside the US.  The GBCC student teams were tasked with identifying the external forces affecting First Solar’s business over the next five years and then prioritizing the non-US target markets.

Four teams were selected to move on to the final round: the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Florida State University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Southern California.

GBCC 2015 Winning TeamOur final round judging panel commented that this was one of the most difficult and complex cases in the history of GBCC. In the end, the judges chose the Chinese University of Hong Kong as this year’s GBCC Champion.

We would like to acknowledge the hard work of our GBCC Student Leadership Team who spent countless hours organizing this event.

GBCC would not be possible without our major sponsors. A special thank you to The Boeing Company, Costco Wholesale, F5 Networks, Russell Investments, Starbucks Coffee International, and Wells Fargo for their generous support.

Foster students brew up delivery solutions for Starbucks

Guest post by Josina Garnham, experiential learning manager

Starbucks winning teamThe warm chocolatey-caramel notes swirling through the air is what you notice first–often times before you even open the door. When you do enter the storefront, you are enveloped by the sound of well-selected jazz, the buzz of the espresso machine and the friendly baristas calling out the names of customers and their made-to-order beverages.

Starbucks, a ubiquitous brand globally and especially here in Seattle, is seeking to extend this experience from their stores to meet its customers’ just-in-time demands. Graduating seniors from the Foster School were invited to join Starbucks in developing solutions on how to deliver fresh beverages without compromising on quality and maintaining the company’s value of “delivering our very best in all we do.”

Each quarter the Foster School partners with a Seattle-based company to develop a customized business case as part of a required capstone course (MGMT430) for all graduating seniors. The case, written by Anna Fung, Foster PhD student, and overseen by Rick McPherson, course coordinator, presents an urgent business issue in a condensed format. The Foster Strategy Development Case Competition is one of the largest single-day case competitions in the world. This winter’s competition with Starbucks featured 54 teams comprised of over 225 students.

For Dave Twehues, director of Global Corporate Strategy, the decision to partner with the Foster School was an easy one: “I think the value of the case competition from Starbucks is twofold. First, the participation of our partners as judges is a great way for Starbucks to connect with future business leaders and second, the exposure to the creative solutions delivered by the student teams brings fresh perspectives to really difficult business problems.”

To develop a winning solution, the students focused on Starbucks’s mission and values: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Madeline Sykes, a senior finance major, noted, “it is important to do research on the company’s values and we knew Starbucks values its customers very highly. We started off our presentation by presenting a story about a target customer and the customer’s needs.”

Student teams have three weeks to research the issue and prepare presentations summarizing their recommendations to business leaders—both Foster alumni and Starbucks employees who serve as judges. For Matt Hansen, an accounting major, “the Q&A section…is the hardest part to prepare for. This is one area that our team spent a lot of time focusing on because it is where groups can differentiate themselves by their ability to think on their feet and shows how confident they are in their business proposal/strategy.”

The winning team of Renee Chiang, Allison Gaylor, Matt Hansen, Rebecca Ruh, Kamal Sohal, and Madeline Sykes proposed meeting the challenge of delivering Starbucks beverages with the solution of creating smaller satellite “stores” which would focus on preparing drinks for delivery exclusively. Current stores maintain a brisk business with customers walking in the doors. The student’s research—including frequenting area Starbucks cafes—led them to hypothesize that increasing demands on these storefronts for delivery orders would slow service in both areas. From these small-scale, delivery-focused beverage outlets, bike messengers would be deployed to deliver both hot and cold drinks in specially designed temperature controlled bags.

Beyond understanding the company’s values, having a strong situation analysis, well-justified idea, and presenting their solution in a clear and compelling way, what really differentiates teams are their interpersonal dynamics. Ruh said, “Our success in the case competition was rooted in the relaxed, yet focused environment we created. Our vision developed alongside our team synergy. Taking this experience into the future, the strengths of lightheartedness and creativity, are key components that will define future teamwork endeavors, essential in today’s business world.”

“What I learned about teamwork and team dynamics I will definitely…take with me to my future career” said Renee Chiang. “This was my first time participating in a case competition and it taught me to be confident with myself and my ideas. That confidence would definitely be something I hope to apply to my career—from negotiation to pitching my ideas.”

On March 18, 2015 Starbucks announced the launch of delivery services in Seattle and New York City. Foster School of Business students will be amongst the first to be delighted by having a perfectly prepared, hand-delivered cup of coffee to fuel their last quarter of studies before graduating in June.

To learn more about previous Strategy Development Case Competitions please see our competition webpage and the following Foster Unplugged posts: Alaska Airlines and
Seattle City Light

Foster undergrads win first place at accounting case competition

PwC Case Competition winners
PwC Case Competition winners from left to right: Lindsey Jackson, Natasha Pulliam, John David McCleary and Trenton Dos Santos-Tam

Another Foster team takes first place!

After winning the PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) Case Competition local preliminary round, competing against 46 other universities via video for one of five finalist’s spots, and presenting at the company’s New York City headquarters, a team of four Foster accounting undergrads took home the first place prize.

Frank Hodge, Foster professor and Accounting Chair, reports that during the final round (which included challenging questions from PwC national partners and directors) the students “presented with poise and handled the questions beautifully!”

Congratulations to students John David McLeary, Lindsey Jackson, Natasha Pulliam, Trenton Dos Santos-Tam and faculty coach Jake Thornock!

Foster undergrads take 2nd place at National Diversity Case Competition

For the first time in UW history, Foster School students participated in the Kelley School of Business National Diversity Case Competition at Indiana University. Traditionally held during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Foster undergrads competed against students at Yale, Morehouse, and more to take the number 2 spot and win $5,000 in prize money.

Congratulations to Danielle McConnell, Tina Moore, Mayowa Laniran, and Joshua Banks for all of their hard work!

See photos from the competition below:

Diversity Case Competition
Students competed against Southern University, Yale, Morehouse and University of Arkansas to make it to the final round
Diversity Case Competition
Team Foster presenting in the final rounds to 10+ corporate judges and all universities
Diversity Case Competition
2nd Place Plaque!
 Diversity Case Competition
Final results
Diversity Case Competition
Team Foster all smiles after taking 2nd place! L-R: Tina Moore, Mayowa Laniran, Danielle McConnell and Joshua Banks

Insurance Ad Wars: Foster Teams Provide Liberty Mutual Insurance Recommendations for Market Positioning

MGMT 430 students
Winning Case Competition team

This post was written by Josina Garnham, Foster’s Experiential Learning Manager for the Undergraduate program.

What do a gecko, a caveman, and a charismatic woman named Flo all have in common? Each is trying to sell you home, car and life insurance. Liberty Mutual Insurance has not opted for this approach, despite industry research demonstrating them to be a “laggard brand.” Should Liberty Mutual adopt a new marketing scheme or are there better alternatives to position them in the market for long-term customer retention?

The Foster School of Business partnered with Liberty Mutual on the development of a customized business case as part of a capstone course for graduating seniors (Management 430). The case centered on how Liberty Mutual might attract new customers and how to maintain customer lifetime value (i.e. the longer the company can retain a customer the higher the profit margins.) On November 21st, twenty-seven teams provided formal presentations on their recommendations to these critical issues to professionals, including a number of loyal alumni, and senior leaders from the company.

Strategy Consultant for Liberty Mutual, Rory Barratt “was impressed by the depth of analysis the teams were able to deliver given the short turnaround time of three weeks and felt there were many actionable insights that Liberty Mutual could use to reassess their strategic positioning.”

The insurance ad wars began in earnest in 2006 with Liberty Mutual’s competitors spending an average of two-to-three times more on advertisements featuring quirky characters. Current target customers for Liberty Mutual tend to be the parents and grandparents of today’s college students. The student’s recommendations included how the company can expand market share with new products and new customer bases – including Gen Y. The winning team: Jagger Beato, Woo Chan Lee, Jose Pena-Rodriguez, Janet Yang and Michelle Zhou proposed that Liberty Mutual shift their marketing resources, look carefully at product bundling, and renew their focus on mobile and web traffic.

The Case Competition provides students with tremendous learning opportunities: applying analytical frameworks, teaming and leadership skills, and exemplary presentation skills. For Michelle Zhou, the biggest lesson from the competition was “that effective teamwork is not only about cooperating with the rest of the team, but also about challenging each other’s ideas to improve and innovate…All of the team members constantly played the ‘devil’s advocate’ to further challenge and improve upon our original ideas. This strategy prompted us to dive deep into our recommendations and prepare for ways to defend for our (ideas) during the final presentation.”

From Janet Yang’s perspective, “the biggest take-a-way from participating in the case competition is the importance of understanding a company’s values and culture…We were able to come up with our recommendations to align with the company’s needs.”

One of the key benefits for both students and companies who engage with the Foster School on the Strategy Development Case Competition is the opportunity to meet one another in a high-performance environment. Conversations over the informal networking lunch included discussions about career paths, learning about full time and internship opportunities at Liberty Mutual, and the buzz of anticipation surrounding the announcement of teams who would advance to the semi-finals and final rounds.

As a senior transitioning to the professional world, Woo Chan Lee believes “this experience will strengthen my ability to work in teams, especially in the areas of delegating tasks and communicating through-out a project… I’ve learned the process of conducting industry/market research and the importance of balancing (the) company’s interest with potential recommendations that I will be making in any professional setting.” Barratt amplified this point from a business perspective by saying “the presentations themselves were of high quality and the students should feel confident that the skills they have built as a part of this case competition will serve them well as they enter the world of work in the near future.”

After congratulating the winning team, Tom Troy, Executive Vice President of Regional Operations, West at Liberty Mutual was impressed by the “level of engagement we encountered. It exceeded our expectations and left us longing for more opportunity to hear and see the students engage with our business opportunities.   The energy level was fantastic and the insights into our business problem proved to be both authentic and inspirational.”

To learn more about undergraduate case competitions, visit the Foster School website.

Foster School students win 2nd place at BYU Business Language Case Competition

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Saya Kashiwamura, Janet Yang, and Gail Letrondo represent the University of Washington at the 2014 Brigham Young University Business Language Case Competition in Provo, Utah.

Although belated, the Global Business Center would like to extend an enormous congratulations to Janet Yang, Gail Letrondo, and Saya Kashiwamura who won 2nd place in the Chinese track of the BYU Business Language Case Competition on November 7th.

The Brigham Young University Business Language Case Competition is a unique opportunity for students to showcase their business acumen and foreign language skills by analyzing a real-life global business problem, and presenting their solution to a panel of judges made up of international business professionals in a non-native language.

These three young women competed against teams from prestigious universities across the country. They did an outstanding job analyzing the case and presenting their solution – in Mandarin Chinese! Judges were impressed by the insightful and innovative problem solving and detailed financial reports presented by the University of Washington team.

Student teams develop innovative solutions to increase profitability of the world’s largest festival

Photo of Winning Team
2014 Winning Team members Michelle Hara, Zach Bickel, Erica Cheng, and Crystal Wang with Larry Calkins of Holland America Line

Did you know that during the 16 day Munich Oktoberfest an average tent with 7,500 seats sells over 4 million euros worth of beer?

This weekend at the  2014 Holland America Line Global Case Competition, over 100 Foster School undergraduates grappled with how to increase the profitability and global reach of Oktoberfest, the world’s largest festival. The Global Business Center is pleased to announce that this year’s competition was a great success!

Teams played the role of outside consultants hired by the Munich Oktoberfest Organizing Committee to develop a strategy recommendation to increase profitability of Munich Oktoberfest. Teams spent 48 hours developing their background analysis, and on Saturday November 15th presented their recommendations to panels of community member judges. The top four teams were selected to move on to the final round.

After watching the final round teams present, the panel of six finalist judges determined a winner. This year’s deliberation was particularly challenging because each of the finalist teams had an insightful and innovative recommendation.

Team 2 members Zach Bickel, Erica Cheng, Michelle Hara, and Crystal Wang, were named the 2014 Holland America Line Global Case Competition Champion, and awarded $1,000. Their recommendation to increase profitability of Oktoberfest was to replicate the festival abroad, specifically in Munich’s Sister City, Sapporo, Japan. Their team determined through detailed analytics that a Sapporo Oktoberfest would prove successful due to existing infrastructure, socioeconomic factors and a strong cultural identity.

This year we had seven outstanding freshman teams participate in the ‘Freshman Direct Track’ of the competition, where only teams of Foster School freshman compete against one another. Judges were blown away by the extraordinary recommendations the freshman teams developed.  The title of Freshman Winning Team and an award of $500 was achieved by Christopher Cave, Carly Knight, Jennifer Louie, and Molly Mackinnon.  We are excited to see these students getting involved so early in their Foster careers!

The Holland America Line Global Case Competition is an introductory case competition and an exceptional learning experience for Foster School students. It provides an opportunity for students who have never competed in a case competition to ‘get their feet wet’. This year learning opportunities included a ‘how to approach a case competition’ training session, taught by Foster School faculty member Leta Beard, and a coaching round which provided teams the opportunity to get feedback on their presentation from business community and faculty coaches before presenting in front of the judges panel. Thank you to all of our volunteers who made the event possible!

Visit our website to find out more and learn how to get involved next year.

The Global Business Center would like to thank Holland America Line for their generous support of this unique educational event for Foster School of Business students. Holland America Line is a leader in the cruising industry and a longtime supporter of the Foster School of Business.