This past weekend the Foster School of Business sent two undergraduate teams of students to participate in the 9th annual Brigham Young University (BYU) Business Language Case Competition in Utah. There are two tracks to the competition – Mandarin Chinese and Spanish – and Foster School teams competed in both. This unique competition gives students an opportunity to use their non-native language skills to tackle a real business challenge and then present solutions and answer questions completely in their second language.
Competing against universities from across the country including Emory, Babson College, BYU and Indiana University, the two Foster School teams did exceptionally well. The Chinese Team placed first! Morgan Iacolucci, Stephanie Lim and Joyce Tang made up the team – all of whom have lived or studied abroad in China and were able to bring those experiences to their business solution. The Spanish Team, comprised of Demetra Xenos, María García Quintero and Benjamín Ferrara, also made it to the finals and placed third.
The business case focused on the global expansion of Blendtec, a Utah-based company which produces high quality commercial and retail blenders, mixers and mills. As Benjamin Ferrara summarizes, “Blendtec was previously forced to globalize when some of their clients, like Starbucks, went international. Now they have the chance to control their globalization and are seeking recommendations on which markets to enter, how to enter them and how to leverage their existing partnerships with international businesses.”
The teams had the chance to visit Blendtec headquarters, meeting with founder Tom Dickson, touring the factory floor, and asking questions of executives to aid them in their case analysis. Competitor Stephanie Lim explains, “Blendtec has engineered the world’s best blender but still struggles to translate its technological dominance to sales and faces challenges from its competitors to steal market share, especially in its international presence.”
The Mandarin Team’s winning strategy recommended retail expansion in China. As Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) student and competitor Joyce Tang said, “in the end, the judge panel told us that what carried our team to take first place was: 1) our culturally relevant customer-centric approach, 2) our strong presentation skills, and 3) our position as the only team to incorporate improvements from the first to the final round.”
The Spanish Team recommended that Blendtec make their image more approachable and relevant to blender consumers; they also recommended entering Canada, Germany and Singapore. The judges praised them for the depth of their research and their comfort with the Spanish language. For competitor María García Quintero “presenting our ideas in Spanish gave me an insight to what my career might look like abroad. This case has not only allowed me to use what I have learned in my business classes, but it has also challenged my language skills.”
This is the first time that a UW team has placed 1st at the BYU Business Case Competition, and along with each team earning a cash prize, the Mandarin Team also took home their own Blendtec blenders. In a summary of his experience, Morgan Iacolucci says “the event was less of a competition as much as it was an opportunity for students interested in looking beyond their borders to share ideas. We met students from virtually every corner of the country and were critiqued by judges from around the globe. It was the epitome of an ‘international’ competition.”
The Global Business Center would like to extend a huge congratulation to both teams for all of their hard work!