Students Present Business Solutions to Industry Experts at the Inmar Analytics Forum

A team of students from the Wake Forest School of Business Winston-Salem MBA program took first place in a student case competition during the Inmar Analytics Forum. The case competition was presented by the School’s Center for Retail Innovation and sponsored by Inmar.

Teams were challenged to help a fictional 500-store grocery chain empower consumers to make healthier choices while positively impacting sales. Students were given just 10 days to work on the case, and then presented their business solutions at the Forum before hundreds of industry professionals representing the manufacturing, retail, healthcare, academia, and government industries.

For the first time, a playoff round between five teams of students in the Charlotte and Winston-Salem MBA programs determined the two teams that would move on to compete at the Forum.

“We selected the best from each campus,” said Roger Beahm, WestRock Executive Director of the School’s Center for Retail Innovation. “What made this program even more unique is that we partnered with the School’s Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program to embed a student with specific data experience on each team.”

The MBA students are all working professionals who balanced the demands of the case competition with their coursework, full-time careers, and personal commitments.

The first-place team of Alexis Gabard, Megan Smith, Daniel Orman, Jacob Horvat, and Chuck Fort (all second-year MBA students), and Oliver Yuan (MSBA ’18) received a check for $15,000.

“The case competition was a fantastic experience that gave us the opportunity to take all we’ve been learning in the classroom over the last year and apply it to a real-world business problem,” said Jacob Horvat (MBA ’18). “We were very successful at figuring out the individual strengths each of us brought to the team and we were able to divide and conquer through excellent communication.”

The second-year students on the Charlotte MBA team were Jaclyn Hartzell, Jon Easton, L.G. Hillebrand, Ashley McWilliams, and David Root, along with Steffani Gomez (MSBA ’18). They received a $10,000 prize as finalists.

“Coming to Wake Forest and participating in a case competition allowed me to apply the knowledge from my undergraduate computer science degree and the skills I’m developing in the MSBA program,” Gomez said.“ Being able to present in front of industry professionals is an experience that rivals the prize money. You can’t even put a price on that.”

Inmar CEO David Mounts announced the winners at a reception in the Benton Convention Center. “Wake Forest is a hot school,” Mounts said during his remarks. “The caliber of the students is wonderful. We’ve hired many Wake Forest students. They are team players, have high character, possess an incredible work ethic, and they want to win.”

The winners were determined by a panel of judges that included Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drugstores; John Kenlon, president, retail group Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.; and Diana Medina (MBA ’14), director of e-commerce merchandising, Lowes Foods. The Forum attendees also served as judges, voting via text at the end of the presentations.

“The case is very relevant,” said Medina. “Retailers are looking to incorporate more offerings into their store space to cater to health-conscious consumers and help their customers have healthier lifestyles.”

“The pace of change in this sector is at warp speed,” Anderson said. “I’ve been dealing with food and drug companies for 37 years, and I’ve never seen more powerful changes than we’re experiencing. We find that anecdotal evidence doesn’t work anymore with the consumer. The presentations we heard at the Forum show the power of business analytics and data to ensure success for companies in the future.”