Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Be The Case

“The case method is great!”

It might be the most cliché phrase used to describe Darden, but it’s true.  Business concepts, analytical formulas and economics theories are all important, but the case method allows us to learn those things in the context of a authentic, accessible, fascinating scenario.  At Darden, we learn our frameworks through a series of real cases instead a pile of textbooks.

The only thing more realistic than case method is real life—something I realized during our Marketing Intelligence class this year.  The curriculum is designed to expose us to data collection and analysis methods that can help us extract consumer insights from surveys and interviews.  There are no cases in this class: we ARE the case writer, and the outcome depends on how we help our clients.

Professor Kathryn Sharpe collaborated with the Charlottesville Community Investment Corporation to assemble a group of local entrepreneurs looking for help growing their ventures.  Students were partnered with these entrepreneurs, each with their own set of skills, challenges, and questions.

Our team had the pleasure of working with Lorraine Pike, a Charlottesville resident hoping to start a mobile juice stand on the Downtown Mall.  Lorraine has several vegetable juice recipes that were handed down to her from her father, who grew up in Jamaica.  Her kids love the juice, and she has a hunch the public will too.
Lorraine and her son.

During our final term as First Years, “Team Juice” learned survey and marketing concepts in class and then applied them to Lorraine’s venture.  We conducted in-depth interviews with folks who live and work near the Mall to learn more about their views of health, food stands, and fresh juices.

Using those insights, our team crafted a survey that helped us quantify consumer attitudes and purchasing behavior.  We distributed the survey online and in person, handing out yummy treats from Cinema Taco as rewards for those who were brave enough to take the three page questionnaire.

Who wouldn't want a free taco on Cinco de Mayo?
Team Juice spent hours putting together interview checklists, survey questions, and Power Point presentations that showcased our interview and survey findings.  We met with Lorraine each week to keep her posted on our progress, and to learn more about her efforts as well.  Hopefully she will be able to use the insights we uncovered to further develop her business plan!
Sean builds, Blythe eats.

It was an absolute blast to put together a series of recommendations and findings for a real life client.  As I head off to my summer internship, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll see Lorraine’s smiling face on the Downtown Mall when I come back, peddling her homemade juices to happy customers.

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