Students put marketing skills to test

A team of Okanagan College School of Business students find national success in marketing competition.

Okanagan College business administration students (seated

Marketing plans for skateboards and cabinets proved to be a recipe for national success for a team of Okanagan College School of Business students, including one who calls Summerland home.

Brea Retzlaff was on the team of Okanagan School of Business students who cleared the field of 30 colleges and institutes in the seventh annual Vanier BDC Marketing Case Competition held in Montreal Feb. 10 to 12.

Coached by professor Rick Appleby, the team was given a real business case to analyze in less than three hours and prepare a 20-minute presentation.

“Being in there for three hours, you have a specific time limit, so it’s tough to come up with a whole marketing plan in that time. My teammates had to do different parts. It’s a tight time period to get everything done. You want to do more, but you can only do the bare minimum pretty much,” Retzlaff said.

The first day’s case focused on a start-up skateboard shop in Calgary, and the Okanagan team decided to name it Fresh, with the slogan, “This isn’t a hobby, this is my life.” They identified their target market and the methods they would use to reach out to potential customers.

Finalists presented their pitches to six judges from different backgrounds and companies, as well as the other 100-plus students, coaches and public in attendance. Presentations were also delivered in the language preferred by each team, making for a multicultural experience.

Each presentation was timed, and penalties were given for coming under less than 18 minutes. Everyone was stopped at 20 minutes, whether they were finished or not, and then judges had five minutes to pepper the students with questions.

“You’re comparing the skills you learned at Okanagan College to those from schools across the country,” she said.

“I listen to presentations from real businesses and startups every week,” said Steve Abrams, of IT Venture Fund at BDC Venture Capital. “As a first time judge, I was very impressed with the quality of the presentations, especially given the students only have three hours to prepare.”

From among the 30 participants, the judges chose six finalists, which included Okanagan College. Retzlaff said their team was selected to present first at 10 a.m., meaning they had to be ready to plan at 7:30 a.m.

They were presented a new case about the challenges facing a cabinet-making business in Lethbridge — less exciting than skateboards, but the team decided to come up with a different spin.

“It wasn’t as fun to develop a marketing plan, but we would make up cabinets and donate them to the community so they would get community recognition,” she said.

The judges awarded the team with the third-place plaque for their efforts. “It was very exciting. We were happy and impressed,” Retzlaff added.

The Okanagan team consisted of third-year bachelor of business administration students Emily Johnson, Gavin MacVicar and Retzlaff. The first-place team was Mohawk College from Hamilton, Ontario, and second place went to College Lionel Groulx-Quebec.

Okanagan College will be hosting the Western Canadian International Business Competition this year, involving student teams from across Canada that will run a fictitious company in a global industry using computer simulation. The competition is scheduled for March 23 to 25 at the Kelowna campus.  Retzlaff said she’s keen to compete again. As a member of Students in Free Enterprise, she will be involved in another competition in Vancouver this weekend.

“It’s a real business situation. You learn to adapt quickly, think on your feet and apply the lessons we’re learning in school to a real business,” Retzlaff said.

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