A team of Georgia Southern University students received first place for the 2017 Student Challenge, a business case competition for National Retail Federation Student Association members to demonstrate their creativity and business acumen to retail executives, sponsored by KPMG. The finalists attended the Federation Foundation's gala in New York City, where the top team was announced last month.
Jeffrey Licciardello, senior public relations major with a marketing minor, Kelsey Wertz, senior marketing and logistics major, William (Keller) Campbell, junior marketing and logistics major, and Alexis Montaño, junior marketing major with a management minor, worked together on the competition.
Their goal was to create a 20-page pitch presentation, a mock website and a 90-second pitch video to convince STORY CEO and Founder, Rachel Shechtman, to bring their story to life through one of these themes: travel, sensory or made in America. The proposal was created to provide an experience for the customer through selected merchandise, marketing approach, social media campaigns and curated events.
Kathleen Gruben, Ph.D., faculty advisor to the team, associate professor of marketing and director of the Center for Retail Studies at Georgia Southern, worked with the students every step of the way, including accompanying them to the GALA.
"The team of four was a dream team," said Gruben. "Throughout the process, the team took all criticism as positive and adapted accordingly. They addressed every minute criticism the judges gave. They were bound and determined they would win."
Georgia Southern's team was one of three teams to make it to the final round along with the University of North Texas and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
"Being on stage was absolutely nerve wracking," said Licciardello. "Throughout the conference, we really got along with the other teams, so I knew I would be excited no matter who won - deep down in my gut I was anxious to hear the results. The competition was tough and the other teams had concepts that had their strong points. However, when Mark Larson from KPMG said the words ‘Georgia Southern,' I was absolutely blown away by emotions and pride."
Each student will receive a $5,000 scholarship along with having had the opportunity to present in front of nearly 780 retail CEOs and senior executives, industry insiders, celebrities and students and faculty from 80 other universities.