Several Niagara University food and consumer packaged goods marketing students sharpened their business skills by participating in case competitions at two conferences held in February.
At the AMA Rochester Collegiate Relations sixth annual Collegiate Conference, seniors Olivia Copeland, Garrett Gardner and Baillie Latour competed against student teams from Rochester Institute of Technology, St. John Fisher College and SUNY College at Brockport to develop a B2B inbound strategy for First American Equipment Finance, one of the largest leasing companies in the U.S.
“The Rochester AMA was a great experience to learn about local companies in the marketing field and put our marketing skills to the test,” Copeland said.
“Being able to work with my classmates and compete against some of the best local schools was awesome,” Gardner added.
The three students, joined by Amber Thiel, then traveled to San Diego for the National Grocers Association Foundation Student Case Competition. There, they presented strategies to help Stepherson’s Superlo Foods, an eight-store, family-run chain in Memphis, hire and retain millennial and multicultural associates.
“My group and I gathered for months gathering information, building our presentation, developing a video, and memorizing our parts,” Copeland said. “Our presentation … discussed background, demographics, recommendations and financials.”
The team made it to the semifinals of this national contest in its first year of participation, competing against teams from St. Joseph’s University and Western Michigan University.
“Judges and industry onlookers walked away impressed with Niagara University’s presentation and grasp on a key industry issue of multicultural millennial labor retention,” said Alan Stock, director of the Food Marketing Center of Excellence and Faculty Fellow at Niagara.
The students also were able to network with industry professionals from companies including Kellogg’s, Mondelez International and Harp’s Foods, and meet career counselors to gain greater insight into career opportunities in the field.
“The experience was valuable, because we were able to network with people in the food industry, which has really helped me make connections as I approach graduation this May,” said Latour, who noted she never realized how large the grocery industry was. “I also really enjoyed presenting the case study for a real company, knowing that they truly cared about our ideas.”
Gardner noted he gained greater insights on the food industry beyond Western New York at the conference, which helped him to realize “how large and powerful the food industry is.”
Thiel discovered a new avenue for her career. “I learned a lot about the NGA and what they do for the independent grocer, as well as food policy,” she said. “I ended up applying for a position with them because of the work they are doing.”