First-year students help Parachute develop customer-acquisition plan to ensure a smooth landing in BU111 Live Case Competition

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Earlier this month, first-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics presented their first integrated case solution of the program.  The Live Case Competition is the culminating project of BU111: Understanding the Business Environment andgives first-year, first-term university students a significant opportunity to consult on a real problem faced by a real company.

“The skills that students develop through the various BU111 assignments will promote their effectiveness and business success,” said Dave Swanston, Lazaridis School lecturer in strategic management. “The Live Case Competition is a key project that allows students the opportunity to apply their gained knowledge and skills that help them to connect the classroom and business environments, and to apply their new talents to address a real business issue. These real-world experiences are invaluable.” 

This year’s case company, Parachute, had previously worked with the Lazaridis International Case Competition (LAZICC), a week-long case conference that brings together 16 schools from around the globe. Led by a team of Laurier students, the LazICC club has built a strong reputation for offering engaging cases, partnered with exciting cultural experiences.  Parachute was so pleased with the insights gained in this competition, they came back to support this first-year project.

Parachute’s CEO, Lazaridis School alumnus, Bruce Hodges (BBA ’90, MBA ’95), said, “In 2022 we were at the International Case Competition case, and our ask was broader – with presentations covering lending capital, acquisition, marketing approaches, financials etc. For the undergrads, we focused it solely on customer acquisition. We expected that there would be a significant delta in the quality of the work from the first-year students vs the international case teams. And we were wrong – we were very pleasantly surprised that this was not the case – the top pitches were excellent!”

The case asked students to develop and recommend a detailed and implementable customer acquisition strategy that would allow Parachute to achieve their growth targets over the next five years. Students  completed extensive independent research and provided evidence to support their recommendations.

From initial written reports in their BU111 labs, students were put into groups for the Live Case. They developed their solutions and presentations with feedback from their upper-year Instructional Assistants (IAs), and competed in their smaller lab groups. The winning teams from each lab continued to the semi-finals, with six teams progressing to the finals, on Saturday, Dec. 2.

“Without exception the presentations were top notch,” said Hodges. “This was great to see, as one of the key skills I developed at Laurier was my presentation skills – perhaps something that some may see is a nice-to-have, but I rely on presentation skills literally every day and I have throughout my career. The quality of the presentations was impressive. And sometimes there were a few slips – which is also part of the process. As I mentioned in the wrap up, that’s also a key part of being a good presenter. It’s not about the slip up, it’s about the recovery. And once again the teams all did well at that.”

Having the opportunity to present to a judging panel from the case company adds an element of professionalism and impact to the case experience. Thank to our judges from Parachute and industry who joined our students at this year’s finals: Bruce Hodges (BBA ’90, MBA ’95) – CEO & founder; Mark Levitan – COO & co-founder; Karen Radic – head of credit; Caitlin Carter – head of customer success; Mike Holland – advisor; Melaina Vinski – advisor – Neuroscience PhD; Michelle Lennox, CPA; Phil Serez (BBA ’90). 

“As a startup, our team works 24-7, and carving out a Saturday for an event like this is a material ask. The team was super excited based on their experience in 2022, and they came away impressed, thankful, and energized from the quality of the presentations, the energy of the students, and the great organization of the day,” Hodges said. “Laurier shone – from the facility, to the faculty, to the organization, and most importantly the quality of the students, the presentations, and the solutions.”

Congratulations to all first-year students for completing the first case competition as part of the Lazaridis BBA.  An extra congrats to those teams who made it to the semi-finals and the six teams who presented as finalists to Parachute:

First Place: BLAZED Consulting – Ben Allday, Dua Asad, Adam Anderson, Emily Ancimer and Zainah Alvi.

Second Place: P.L.A.C.E. Consulting – Chloe Armstrong, Prem Bhatt, Evelyn Papa, Anika Smith, and Liam Toews.

Third Place: BAVEK Advisory – Valentina Santarossa, Arshan Singh Sidhu, Edward Tay, Konstance Voudouris, and Braden Warnell.

Finalists:

BizBetter – Dylan Baker, Saanvi Gupta, Lucas Matijas, Ife Odeleye, and Josh To.

Gilded Consulting – Ella Jazvac, Millie Jorgensen, Ryan Jormakka, Brendan Kaneko, and Nima Karimpour.

Paradigm Consulting – Adrian Barfoot, Nolan Goranson, Elysha Janhunen, Elan Kernitzman, and Guiliana Mascitti.

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We connected with the semi-finalist teams to learn more about their experiences with the BU111 Live Case. Read more from these impressive teams:

What was it like competing in BU111 Live Case?

“It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in school! Being provided such a unique experience so early in my post-secondary journey was unbelievably valuable to my learning experience – it didn’t just offer ways to learn and improve, it made me WANT to pursue those opportunities!” – Adam Anderson

“The experience was great! From the initial stages of creating our individual reports and then being grouped with like-minded individuals, there was always an opportunity to learn and grow. The competition allowed us to apply the theoretical knowledge we had gained in class to an actual scenario.” – Elan Kernitzman

How did it feel presenting to judges from Parachute?

“In every school presentation I had done, the stakes never stretched beyond achieving a high grade. For the first time, I was in front of a panel of judges who weren’t looking to decide between grades, but instead if they saw genuine value in what we were delivering and if they should actually act upon our advice. It was exhilarating knowing that an entire business’ operations could change depending on the quality of our presentation, and I think that additional pressure is one of many factors that fueled our desire to outperform our competition. We didn’t just want to win; we wanted to help this company succeed.” – Adam Anderson

“Presenting to these judges was exhilarating because it felt like we were making an impact. We were no longer just receiving a grade for school; we were making an impact on Parachute to help them succeed. It was an experience that I had never had before.” – Emily Ancimer

“Besides being extremely stressful, I also had strong feelings of imposter syndrome; Why would the executives of a multimillion-dollar company listen to me? I’m just a kid. But after receiving positive feedback and words of encouragement from students, IAs and staff that I hold on the highest pedestal, I no longer underestimate my abilities and the value we provided to Parachute. Presenting to the judges from Parachute was an honour; one that I am ecstatic I got the opportunity to experience.” – Edward Tay

How did this competition contribute to your learning in BU111 and to your first term at the Lazaridis School?

“It’s funny that the recommendation our group decided on was actually one that the CEO of Parachute had already previously tried. It made me realize that all these concepts we learn in BU111 are highly applicable in the real world and Lazaridis School is able to facilitate an environment in which we can equip and practice that ‘CEO mindset’.” – Dua Asad 

“The experience of participating in the BU111 Live Case allowed me to connect the content I was learning in my lectures to a real-world company. Using the analytical tools learned in classes allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the forces that needed to be addressed, leading to a complete, feasible and effective recommendation. The experience emphasized for me why the content of the course is so important both now, in my first year, but also as I move on to my later years of education, and eventually as I enter the work force.” – Chloe Armstrong

“ This competition helped me gain a better understanding of real-world applications of BU111 content. The professor was very helpful in guiding us through the course concepts and reiterating key details that apply to businesses such as Parachute. Overall, because of this competition, I’m coming out of my first term with more confidence in my presentation and analysis abilities.” – Giuliana Mascitti

Do you have any words of advice for next year’s BU111 competitors?

“Remember to have fun with it! This project is sizable and very demanding, so it’s natural to experience some stress. But as a first-year student, this competition is likely the closest you’ve ever been to a high-level business setting, so it’s crucial not to let that anxiety grow out of control! The more excited and passionate you are, the stronger your presentation will likely be in both your recommendation and your performance!” – Adam Anderson

“Talk to your IA! My IA was an integral part of improving our case presentation and my overall skills as a business student. You can talk to them about anything from the competition itself to things outside of BU111. My IA was a great support throughout my fall term. Also be sure that you believe in and understand your solution– that really makes the difference in your ability to convince others about its value.” – Anika Smith

“Embrace the challenge, collaborate with your team, and don’t be afraid to think creatively! The experience is about more than finding solutions but the journey of learning and growth – and even if you don’t make it past a certain stage in the competition, the knowledge and experience gained on the way is still worth it!” – Saanvi Gupta

Finally, to those considering Laurier as a university destination next year, we asked our finalists, who are just wrapping up their first term, what they would share with you:

“To high school students considering the Lazaridis School: Embrace the myriad opportunities this school offers to showcase your full potential. From innovative academic programs to vibrant extracurricular activities, make the most of every resource. This institution is more than a place of learning; it’s a platform for growth and advancement.” – Zainah Alvi

“The Lazaridis School has a lot to offer and you’ll be all set for the real world upon graduation. Give everything your best shot and you’ll be rewarded! There are lots of opportunities within and outside the BBA program to develop real skills and knowledge that will prepare you for life during and beyond university. Check out all their amazing clubs! Nonetheless, choose the school that speaks to you and don’t be afraid to explore many options.” – Anika Smith

“The Lazaridis School offers a dynamic and supportive environment where you can transform your passion for business into meaningful action. Even after only one term, it’s a journey worth taking.” – Saanvi Gupta

“The Lazaridis School teaches real-world tools and provides many opportunities to test them out. It has only been a few months in the BBA program, but after talking to countless upper years and seeing the material taught, I believe that this is one of the best business programs out there. Lazaridis School offers many opportunities for business students to apply their class-learned skills in real cases.” – Prem Bhatt

“Laurier is an amazing school and is a great community to be a part of. I have learned so much in my short time being here I would recommend this school to anyone.” – Ella Jazvac

Hodges added, “My time at Laurier is one of the most important elements of my life experience. The skills I learned – including presenting – are a huge part of who I am today. To be able to contribute to that to students, and to give back, is an addition to the great memories I have, and I am thankful for that. To be here judging with one of my friends from undergrad, Phil Serez, whom I presented with in cases like this, made an incredible day perfect. Laurier is more than a business school, it’s a family!”


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