Wake Forest Retail Innovation Challenge

Elevator pitch in the elevator

Conducting an elevator pitch is nothing new for a MBA student. What about doing it in front of strangers in a real elevator? On November 17, team aurelie, encompassing with teammates Judith, Boon, and I, partook in the Wake Forest Retail Innovation Challenge, the most amazing experience we have ever had in our MBA journey.

Being well prepared as we were, our team felt pretty confident about our business plan. We began our pitch in the left elevator, where we clearly demonstrated our business ideas, and found judges smiling as the elevator stopped. Immediately after that we knew we did a good job. In fact, compared with other 15 MBA teams, including such prestigious MBA programs as Harvard, Tuck, and UC-Berkley, aurelie is composed of all first year Smith MBA students from Asia countries. Although being treated as an underdog, we never lost faith in ourselves.

The second pitch, which was also the last one, challenged us more than the previous one did. As I was speaking, one judge suddenly interrupted and raised questions: “What is your target market?” “International market or US market?” I assertively replied with smile. Because we already simulated the cut-off in the elevator in Marriot hotel last night, such questions could not give us any trouble. Indeed, as we walked out of the right elevator, we were almost certain that we could make it to the final run.

Fan Favorite Award

Besides to top three places, one additional award, fan favorite, was introduced by the organizer when the contest was ongoing. Given the fact that our school has comparative smaller amount of student body, I was concerned that our team could be slaughtered by other teams in this category. However the truth proved me wrong. After posting our competition news in our Smith official Facebook group page, we received unbelievable supports from our peers and seniors. They not only voted for us, but also reposted the news and spoke for our team. I even received an email from our associate dean, stating that he already voted three times for aurelie! Thanks to everyone`s helps, aurelie, along with ZipCart, another team made up of Babson MBA student, led the competition at the moment.

Final 20-minute presentation

Following three hours of battle and two hours of waiting, finalists were disclosed. aurelie was called amongst them! The final task was to deliver a 20-minute presentation in a boardroom for 10 judges with backgrounds like Wake Forest University faculties, professors, and experienced venture capitalists.

Being a big fan for NBC Apprentice TV shows, I have watched all of the episodes. I could vividly recall the relentless words throw by judges. Now that it was my turn to speak in the real boardroom, I felt surreal. Nonetheless, I felt more of excitements than nervousness.

As the only female member, Judith spoke with authority and evidently pointed out the existing problem in the cosmetic industry. I then presented the solution, our product features and feasibilities, and endeavored to convince 10 men with frown on their face. Advocating a female-oriented merchandise to a group of totally non-target audiences, I needed to speak with passion and knowledge. I was self-assure that I did persuade many since some even spoke from my standpoint to clarify puzzles in others` minds. Boon then took over by presenting the financial plan. He obviously showed his understanding in the figures.

After finishing our presentation, we were exhausted. From October 15 to November 17, in order to give birth to a whole new business plan for the Retail Challenge, aureie had uncountable meetings and stayed in the school till midnight lots of times. Finally, the challenge was over. We walked out of the BB&T building with smile and hoped for the best. We knew that we had done our best; we had no regret.

The reception dinner held in two hours. First came with fan favorite award. It was won by ZipCart from Babson MBA. Our team was not shocked because they did enlarge the lead between us before the result was revealed. Then it came to the top three places, announced by Steven Reinemund, dean of Wake Forest MBA program. Third place: ”Innovative Delivery System from Clarkson University”, “second place, iCash from Wake Forest University”! While seeing the joy expressed from the winners, at the moment, I could obviously listen to my heartbeat. Prior to the reception, I just told myself to hope for the best and prepared for the worst, and now, I saw the possible 30,000 prizes in the front and started to feel anxious. “Finally”, said by Steven, ”first place…trendster from Harvard Business School!” Looking at Judith and Boons` faces, we were speechless. We did not obtain any award at that night.

Takeaway from the competition

Although we did not win anything at that night, deep in mind we were proud of ourselves. It has been quite a journey. Judith and I scratched the idea by ourselves before the competition was due in three days. Boon and Chris joined us one day afterward. Our diverse specialities allowed us to cooperate with each others smoothly. We worked hard to get our ideas across and to be imaginative in seizing any any possible ideas and attempted to make it work in our business plan. We were learning by doing and realized the spirit of entrepreneurship along the way. We received incredible support from friends, professors, faculty members, and classmates that we felt like we were dreaming. If you ask me what I have learned throughout the process, I would say that The Retail Innovation Challenge enabled me to realize how difficult it is to develop a product and unveil it in the market.

Fortunately, I have cultivated good relationships with my lovely teammates and got a chance to network with other MBA students. It was a wonderful learning experience! Although just finishing my first business competition, I already can not wait for the second one to come!

Let`s wait and see my journey in China Business Plan next time!

(From left to right, Boon, Judith, and Grant)

For more information, please click the link below and find aurelie.


4 thoughts on “Wake Forest Retail Innovation Challenge

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