Quinlan students place third at International Case Competition
By Whitney Critten | Student reporter
A team of Quinlan students took home a hard-earned third place at the NU-CUIBE International Business Case Competition in fall 2016, the highest finish since Quinlan began competing four years ago.
The international business case competition at Northeastern University in Boston brings together 16 of the nation’s top undergraduate business programs—including Quinlan, American University, James Madison University, and the Villanova School of Business—to examine a real-world business case and provide recommendations for a company and its stakeholders.
The Quinlan undergraduate students—Hannah Kern ’18, Nicole Karwowski ’18, Jack Bobruk ’18, and Adam Hepp ’17—called themselves Four the Win, and worked with Professor Mine Cinar to prepare for the competition.
“These students were extremely dedicated to this competition, and put in the time to learn essential concepts that would help them perform well. This third place finish demonstrates that Quinlan is educating its students to become the next generation of responsible business leaders,” says Cinar, who is also the director of Quinlan’s Center for International Business.
The case for Unilever in India
At the competition, they had just one day to develop a strategic plan that would help Unilever implement sustainability goals to combat diarrhoeal disease in India, find new suppliers, increase brand awareness, and reach new consumers for its LifeBuoy soap in either rural or urban areas.
“We were given a lot of background data on Unilever, and we needed to come up with a plan to increase sales of the soap aggressively,” says Karwowski.
The team recommended three major strategies for Unilever:
- Incorporate educational programs on hand washing in elementary schools in India
- Switch to fair-trade suppliers of palm oil—which is used in manufacturing soap—in order to reduce its environmental footprint
- Launch marketing campaigns at large, religious festivals in India to reach the target audience of families
After impressing a panel of first-round judges with their recommendations, the Quinlan team was one of four to advance to the semifinals. In the semifinals, the team presented to a different panel of judges and answered questions on their strategy for Unilever's LifeBuoy soap in India.
“Presentation is everything, so it was a great learning experience for my team to present our ideas and solutions to an esteemed group of professionals,” says Kern.
Preparation is key to success
The undergraduates did extensive preparation for the competition, including studying film of cases from previous years and reviewing different models and ratios they could implement when analyzing their own case at the competition. The team also prepared by revisiting key concepts learned from their time at Quinlan.
“I was able to understand consumer behavior and forecast what trajectory Unilever should take thanks to my introduction to marketing class taught by Professor Jenna Drenten,” says Karwowski. The students then worked to refine their presentation skills to ensure that their message was delivered convincingly.
“We met with Professor Cinar before leaving to go over case expectations and the importance of slide presentation,” says Kern. “Her feedback really helped our team deliver a strong and detailed presentation to the judges that we were very proud of.”
A powerful learning experience
After the competition, the students reflected on the value of their experience.
“My team and I were excited to see how what we learned in the classroom could be applied to real-world problems,” says Karowaski. “Our third place finish makes us optimistic that Loyola is preparing us well for the future.”
The team agrees, however, that the best part of this experience was working as a cohesive group and learning from one another.
“We really bonded as a team and pulled out each others' strengths,” Karwowski adds.