Almost all businesses will seek advice at some point in time to improve their operations.
For Loose Button, a start-up company selling beauty and lifestyle products, that time came up recently. They had the goal of turning a sagging business around within 90 days, a task they challenged aspiring young consultants at the Capital One Case Consulting Competition during the 2013 National Business and Technology Conference.
The competition was split into two rounds. All the teams were given 7 minutes to present their advice to judges. After the morning’s preliminary rounds, 4 of the top teams were selected to advance to the finals. There, each of the 4 teams would present in front of a packed room and a panel of judges.
No matter if you’re a business or engineering student, the ability to carefully analyze a company’s situation and provide advice is no easy task. However, for the team of Nick Barbour, Shawn Lucas, Gabriel Pirvu, and Amanda Tartas, their ingenuity would propel them to a first place finish and $2000 of prize money.
The four presented a plan for Loose Button to launch a new product line of colourful socks. The idea was to create demand amongst young, wealthy consumers, and in doing so increase profits for Loose Button. Not only would the boldness and appeal of the socks provide both income and marketing, the idea also complied with Loose Button’s brand image.
Loose Button’s executives certainly liked to idea. They were a part of the judging panel that ultimately gave the team of four the win. It looks like the consulting advice proved to be a great success.
The Cannon was able to interview with the four team members, finding out more about their success.
The Cannon: Congratulations! When you guys entered the competition, did you guys think you were going to win?
Gabriel: That’s funny, we were just talking about that! We went in with no expectations. We just wanted to do a case for fun, and I don’t know, as we were working on it the idea kind of snowballed to something big. We got to the finals and were pretty excited about that, and I don’t know, went on from there.
C: Who came up with the idea to use coloured socks?
G: Nick was on his computer when we were brainstorming ideas and we went from tampons to random crap. And then Nick was looking up happy socks and he was like, “Oh, that would be pretty cool if we did happy socks.”
Shawn: We just kinda stepped down from that like, is this something we can actually go with? I like this, let’s do it!
G: We were a bit back and forth with the ideas and at the end of the day we were like, it’s kind of more of an entrepreneurial case, we should go with something that’s unique. I guess we’re all from different fields of expertise, like Shawn, heavy in finance; Amanda does a lot of consumer journeys and she’s got a math background too. Nick, he does a lot of market research and he’s done a bunch of good work on consulting cases and so did Amanda, and then I do marketing and stuff.
Amanda: The idea definitely evolved. It’s not like we came up with this thing in a second. It took a few iterations and doing additional research, looking at what already exists and looking at the brand that we’re working with to make sure it was in line with that. So it took a lot of refinement until it got to the final product.
C: So do you guys all come from a business background?
G: I’m at Laurier with business and Shawn is too, third year. They’re third year as well but…
Nick: I do science.
A: Yeah, we’re both double degree, so we go to both Laurier and Waterloo, so he [Nick] does business with computer science and I do business with math.
C: Where are you guys planning on going from here? Are you considering a full time career in consulting?
G: Right now I’m at RBC working in a consulting role and so is Nick, actually. I didn’t know what to expect going into it. A lot of what I learned in the workplace was very applicable and I guess it really helped. A career in consulting does seem pretty attractive at this point.
A: I work at a consulting firm right now here in Toronto as a co-op student. So obviously I’m definitely looking at a career in consulting! And that’s why this competition was so attractive for that.
C: Do you guys think this competition affirmed the direction you’re going in with your careers?
S: For myself personally, I feel like this overall conference was pushing more towards the entrepreneurial side than the consulting side, but it’s definitely something I would consider in the future. Consulting has always been a very interesting industry to get into.
G: It’s like Drew Dudley said, you just have to come up with the idea. It seems pretty attractive.
C: Was there any phase in the planning for this consulting competition where you guys felt discouraged or you felt that it wasn’t going to work?
N: Thursday night. That’s when the slides were due. We originally had it in as a Groupon thing. The more we thought about it, the more we thought that it really hurt the brand a lot. And then we were like, OK, we can’t do this. So there were 4 hours left, what idea do we come up with instead to really propel the brand forward. I think that was time when we were really discouraged.
S: Thursday night, when it was coming to the crunch time, we were very like; “Guys, we need to finish this.” Doubts started to rise.
G: We’re all on co-op right now, so we all met right after work, so it was really tiring. The entire week we were there. I had a really busy week this week. Right after work until midnight, and then go to bed. Wake up at 6 or 7, and then… Well, it was worth it!
C: What would you say to other aspiring young consultants out there?
S: If the opportunity arises, even if you don’t think – we never thought we had much of a chance to begin with – just go with it! That always turns out real well. Deal with things as they come.
G: I think a big part is surrounding yourself with really amazing people. Honestly everyone did so well, and everyone delivered on time perfectly. It came together really well, yeah, just go for it!By: Mark Ye – Writer Published March 17, 2013 Image from loosebutton.com