Bentley Business Bowl
Students put business skills to the test in annual case competition
What do Mexican pizza, Adidas and fashionable fabric face masks have in common?
All were featured as case studies in the 24th annual Bentley Business Bowl. The day-long academic competition, sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Business and the Bentley chapter of the National Association for Black Accountants, encourages students to draw upon their business knowledge to create innovative solutions for real-world corporate challenges. At stake: Cash prizes ranging from $850 (first place) to $375 (fourth place), and something even more valuable: bragging rights.
More than 100 students, grouped by class year and competing in teams of up to five members, participated in the event, which took place Feb. 20. Teams were given time to analyze a specific business case study, then presented their recommendations to a panel of judges. Afterwards, students had the opportunity to network with business professionals, many of whom are Bentley alumni.
Due to COVID restrictions, this year’s competition was a virtual event. But as Aaron Jackson, associate dean of business and Economics professor, notes, this necessity came with a silver lining. “In the past, judges needed to be local, since this was an in-person event,” he explains. “But this year, we could include judges from all over the country. Those who’d wanted to be involved in the past, but couldn’t be here physically, were really thankful for the opportunity.”
Read on for more from this year’s participants, in their own words:
Team Members: Hayley Bravin, Rhea Desai, Anna Jones, Natalia Moulding, Sophia Nikolopoulos
Anna says: “I’d never done a competition like this before, but my friends and I thought it would be fun to do together. We ended up having a great time! We were a bit nervous to present to the judges, but really appreciated their constructive feedback.
As a first-year team, we were given two cases. One involved Pixza, a social enterprise based in Mexico. The company offers a unique product — pizzas with blue corn crusts and local ingredients — and a unique business model: they employ the homeless. We had to evaluate if the company was successful at helping others and making a profit. We felt Pixza was doing a great job with both, but its founder was taking on too many roles (CEO, manager, waiter, etc.). We recommended hiring additional staff and suggested splitting the company into two entities — for-profit and non-profit — so each could focus on its own mission.”
Team Members: Brian Lau, Yifan Wang, Michael Watkins, Gina Zheng
Brian says: “This was my first time doing the Bentley Business Bowl, but I’ve participated in other case competitions. They’re great ways to build your business acumen, from financial modeling and strategic analysis to presenting your ideas to industry professionals. The cash prize was a great incentive, too!
Our case involved a company that makes fashionable, high-quality face masks. They were facing supply chain issues due to COVID restrictions, and we were tasked with evaluating potential suppliers. The company was also looking to expand their product line to include high-end options, so we considered both short-term and long-term goals. Ultimately, we recommended one supplier whose existing retail network could immediately boost sales and build brand awareness. Post-pandemic, we recommended the company work with a second supplier that could help it expand into the high-end market.”
Team Members: Rui Guo, Yanjun He, Xiaoshuang Liu, Ziyun Miao, Xiaojun Zhang
Xiaoshuang says: “The competition was challenging, but so much fun. It’s a great chance to gain business experience, work with students from diverse backgrounds, and network with business professionals. Adding this experience to my resume will also help me stand out to employers during my job search.
Our case involved Adidas. Retail businesses suffered a lot because of the pandemic, and our goal was to create a plan that would help the company recover in a post-COVID world. We offered three key strategies to help Adidas restructure and return to pre-crisis revenue levels: Control their supply chain risk; continue building a strong and integrated digital ecosystem; and adjust their product mix through acquisition. As every member of our team has a different area of expertise, we were able to draw on each other’s strengths and present a comprehensive business plan to the judges.”
“I competed in the Bowl every year while I was at Bentley — and am proud to say my teams placed among the top three each year! This was my fifth straight year as a judge.
Every year, I really enjoy seeing how teams come together under extreme time constraints to attack a problem and formulate well-informed strategies to address them. I also love to see the camaraderie among the group, that they’re all striving to do their best for each other. I’m still best friends with the team members I competed with, and we reflect on our Bowl experiences fondly and often! I’m continually amazed by the talent the students bring to the competition each year.
I also make it a point to participate in the networking sessions. I work in the non-profit sector, so they’ve become a great way to connect with students who may be interested in an ‘atypical’ career path like mine. I like to show students they can be successful in any field they choose, as long as they are willing to make sacrifices and put in the hard work. I’m also partial to the networking sessions because that’s how I landed a summer internship during my sophomore year!”