Last year the Bensadoun School of Retail Management at McGill University and RILA’s Retail Innovation Center launched the Global Retail Challenge (GRC): a unique student case competition with a focus on the global grand challenge of building a more circular economy for retail and consumer products.
The competition brought together 25 talented, motivated teams of multi-disciplinary students from across 6 countries to learn how their skills are needed to drive sustainable innovation in the retail industry, exposing them to future career opportunities.
Faith Knox and her team took first place in the 2018 GRC. In the Q&A below, she shares her experience participating and offers words of wisdom to students entering the 2019 Challenge.
Faith is now a rising senior at Texas A&M University working towards her Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus on marketing, and is currently working as a merchandising intern with Levi Strauss this summer.
A. Texas A&M has majors for each department in the business schools. In the marketing department, the retailing center is a big focus. The program director shared with Retailing Center’s Zale Scholars (The Zales program at A&M is a retail program, that students must apply to) about the challenge and asked students to apply for the A&M team. The team was picked by the Retailing Center director, so half the students on the team were fully committed to retail as a future career path which made it more exciting.
The excitement of being able to travel to Canada and the full global experience and competing with teams from around the world was another big draw. Usually teams are coming to the U.S., so this was exciting for us to be the ones traveling to a new country.
Lastly, the fact that this competition was a long process. We knew it would give us a chance to learn a lot more about the industry, since most case competitions are short sprints.
Q. What did you find most valuable about the experience?
A. I was drawn to the fact that this was a longer project, we got to really experience the process rather than just doing it all in one weekend. On top of that, our team was made of students with different backgrounds, so it was cool that each of us had a portion we got to lead and get excited about (the logistics, the finances, etc.).
We became really interested in entrepreneurship and the GRC showed us that it was something we could do. Most competitions are strictly consulting based as opposed to being able to create a business model. None of us had ever had an interest in entrepreneurship prior to GRC.
Sustainability became a huge focus for me personally – I now understand that businesses can be built on sustainability and it can be something that actually creates value for the company while also being better practice for the environment.
GRC has given me a better perspective and a real point of view. Since GRC, I’ve been able to talk about my experience with RILA and the GRC in all of my applications for scholarships and am now a finalist for NRF’s scholarship – I firmly believe this experience has given me a leg up!
Q. What did you learn about the retail industry during the GRC that surprised you most?
A. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the circular economy and importance of sustainability. A lot of people don’t understand retail and everything that goes into it – so many people say they aren’t doing retail even though their backgrounds work well with retail. It just has so much more that you expect. It was great to see members of our team discover the opportunities of the retail industry.
Q. What advice would you give students entering the 2019 Global Retail Challenge?
A. Small things about the process, set aside some time the week before to devote to the project.
Get a clear expectation of what you expect from your team members - keep communication open.
When you’re at GRC, put as much effort as you can into meeting the other students and getting to know them and learn about their perspectives.
I still talk to some of the students from other teams – one of the girls from Ghana is working in NYC this summer and we still talk and plan to meet up. Take advantage of the common ground that you have by being fellow participants.
Don’t worry too much about being overly competitive – do a good job, but focus on your experience as well.
I had a few projects I was doing at the same time for my courses – but I tied my projects to my GRC project so that I could combine some of my work and get advice from my professors along the way.
Q. Where do things stand now with your solution?
A. We were able to transition our project for Aggie PITCH, a Texas A&M initiative which allowed our team to present to investors. Aggie PITCH helped us find a mentor to refine our pitch and how we would gear it towards investors. While we didn’t win, the team was very excited and a few of us still hope to pursue our idea or another venture after graduation.
For more information about the Global Retail Challenge or to get involved, please contact Katie Nicholos.