For the fourth consecutive year, HWS students received top honors in a competition hosted by the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. Six HWS students attended the Early Leaders Case Competition (ELCC), where they competed among a pool of 50 students from some of the top business schools in the country. The competition brings together undergraduate students to compete in a business case competition designed to simulate decisions faced by business leaders across the globe.
“The breadth of knowledge that our students take to this competition demonstrates how our economics department really prepares students for careers,” says Assistant Professor of Economics and Pre-Business Adviser Warren Hamilton, who’s also served as a judge at the annual competition. “Our students were on par with students from some of the most prestigious business schools in the nation, showing the merits of their liberal arts education by adding a depth to their teams as they applied their critical thinking and analytical skills.”
HWS students who participated in the competition included second-place team member Paige Anderson ’16 and third-place team member Gyuri Dragomir ’17 as well as Clint Dunn ’17, Justin Partyka ’16, Jack Remmert ’16 and Nikolai Stern ’16. They competed against students from Cornell University, Rutgers University, University of Oregon, Oberlin College, Knox College, Allegheny College, University of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo, Bard College, Ithaca College, Ursinus College, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Brockport.
When students arrived on Friday, Nov. 6, they were split into randomly assigned teams and given until 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to review the case, develop recommendations, and create a presentation to be given to a panel of judges who critiqued and challenged their proposals. This year’s challenge was to develop a business plan for Taco Bell to implement over the next two to five years that would increase the company’s growth.
“Working with a randomly compiled team and a time limit was a valuable experience,” says Anderson, an economics and international relations double major. “The time constraint was the most challenging part of the competition; attention to detail is so critical when creating a professional presentation but it is hard to do in such a short time span. You have to be willing to delegate tasks and trust that your teammates will complete them.”
Anderson’s group addressed the scenario by creating a concept called “Taco Bar,” a fully-equipped bar with a scaled-down Taco Bell menu. Their goal, she explains, was to create a “fun environment with cheap food and drinks” to attract millennials and college students – the restaurant chain’s core demographic. To tackle the time constraint, her team focused on constructive criticism, highlighting any flaws that the judges might find and then worked to make improvements. This strategy, combined with a positive collaborative environment are what she believes helped her group succeed.
“This weekend showed me that everyone has very different skill sets but they are all important and diversity helps to create a successful plan,” Anderson says. “The biggest thing I learned is to be confident in your ideas.”
With his team placing third in the competition, Dragomir says they developed a dual approach to tackling the challenge by first “bouncing around creative ideas.” Their two-prong strategy included expanding Taco Bell in India, which he says is a “huge untapped market.” They also created “Travelin’ Tacos,” a taco food truck that would sell signature tacos at professional athletic events, as well as during political debates to “appeal to people that are not necessarily interested in sports.”
“It was an excellent opportunity to network with students from other schools and to meet top class students that have the same interest and drive as you,” says Dragomir, a media and society major.
The ELCC competition was started nine years ago by Rochester’s Simon Business School. HWS started sending students six years ago. This year, more than 100 students applied for 50 available spots.
“I would encourage anyone to apply even if you don’t feel you have a strong business background,” says Anderson. “You learn so much by participating and being surrounded by people with very diverse backgrounds. It was an extremely valuable experience.”