Three Marymount University students teamed up and put their entrepreneurial skills to the test in a high-profile business competition, and placed in the top 10 teams while putting their ideas and their school on the national level.
Joshua Dungo, Mariana Reyes and Carolyn Treuting were members of Marymount’s semifinalist team in the 2021 NRF Foundation Student Challenge, which features the chance to present a pitch to leaders from retail’s biggest companies and scholarship awards of up to $6,000. The trio acted as entrepreneurs to establish a small business venture and pitch a set of products to Nordstrom through a pitch presentation and a 90-second video designed to convince the retailer why and how their businesses could collaborate.
“The NRF Student Challenge was a great opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in my fashion classes to a real life opportunity for retailers,” Treuting said. “I never would’ve thought that I would sit down for almost five hours with a calculator in hand to configure the final calculations for a financial budget. I greatly advocate that fashion students participate in any student challenge…you might discover your greatest strengths and passion for your future career, without knowing it beforehand.”
The other nine semifinalists, who hailed from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Columbia College Chicago, Georgia Southern University, Savannah College of Art and Design – Atlanta, Southern New Hampshire University and University of Wisconsin – Madison, pitched their products to other well-known corporations such as Target, Home Depot and the Qurate Retail Group (QVC, HSN and Zulily).
“Our NRF Foundation Student Challenge teams are getting important real-world experience at a time when many traditional internships have been canceled,” said Bill Thorne, executive director of the NRF Foundation. “With our business case competition, students are building their skills, applying what they’ve learned in their classes and exploring the great career opportunities available in the retail industry.”
After advancing to the second round of the national competition, teams then revised their pitch decks and videos to submit for another round of judging by retail executives. Each team also participated in a question and answer session with the judges to present their pitch verbally and defend their proposal.
The top three teams, two of which are from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and the other from Savannah College of Art and Design – Atlanta, advanced to the final round. The winner will be announced during the virtual NRF Foundation Student Program.
Even though Marymount’s student team fell short, its members and faculty advisors are proud of their strong performance in the competition.
“Carolyn, Joshua and Mariana deserve great congratulations and recognition for their accomplishments,” explained Dr. Jennifer Yang, Assistant Professor of Fashion Merchandising at Marymount University. “Every time I had a Zoom meeting with them, it was obvious that they were passionate and driven about the competition. They went above and beyond in this project while juggling their classes, part-time jobs and family responsibilities during this difficult time with the pandemic.”
“It was a pleasure getting to collaborate with my fellow classmates for the NRF Student Challenge,” Reyes added. “Not only did we learn a lot about what it takes to start our own business from scratch, but we gained professional experience that will help us in the future. Huge thanks to Dr. Yang for her outstanding guidance – we could not have gotten as far as we did without her!”
Since its launch, more than $300,000 in funds have been awarded through the NRF Foundation Student Challenge.