April 12, 2007

Student Teams Compete in Cornell Marketing Contest

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Yesterday, in a format similar to the popular game show, “The Apprentice,” the Hotelie Entrepreneurship Club held phase one of its first annual “The Entrepreneurs” contest, pitting two teams head-to-head in a series of product marketing competitions. The winner of the contest will receive a $500 cash prize.
For the first leg of the competition, teams were challenged to come up with the most lucrative strategy possible given a $50 starting budget, with a focus on selling Cornell paraphernalia to alumni, professors and Cornell students in the Hotel School building. The team with the highest overall profit would be declared the winner.
The Hotelie Entrepreneurship Club was founded three years ago in an attempt to “give students entrepreneurship experience without having to commit a lot of time,” said Sasha Kaplan ’07, the club president and a student in the School of Hotel Administration. In addition to its annual “The Entrepreneurs” contest, the club gives its members the opportunity to present their business proposals to visiting businessmen and women hosted by Cornell. Most notably, the club has invited Harris Rosen, president and CEO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, to review students’ ideas.
“The Entrepreneurs” might serve as a prelude to the start of The 82nd Annual Hotel Ezra Cornell, a tradition in which Hotel School students are given the opportunity to display their business expertise over one weekend by essentially “running the Hotel,” said Debbie Stock ’10, a member of the mostly-freshman Red team, one of the two sides competing in “The Entrepreneurs.” Stock, another student in the Hotel School, revealed the team’s strategy, which targeted Cornell undergrads in particular.
“Buy anything, get a free cookie. Spend $10 or more, and you can play ‘flip-cup’ — with water, of course — with one of our team members. If you beat him, you get a price reduction,” Stock said.
When asked if they would win, the whole team answered with a resounding “Yes.” However, this reply did not differ much from that of their opponents, who, unlike the Red team, planned to “go directly to faculty, their secretaries and T.A.s,” explained Andrea Vidler ’08. Vidler’s team, composed entirely of juniors from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the College of Engineering, decided to donate ten percent of each sale to a charity of the buyer’s choosing as an incentive to attract more customers.
“We’re definitely going to win,” said Vidler in front of her teammates, who all nodded in agreement while busily sorting products and confirming prices amongst themselves.
The final judge of “The Entrepreneurs” was visiting lecturer Jim Quest, a recently-appointed Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Hotel School and an alumnus himself. When asked about his opinion of the event, Quest replied, “Selling is not taught on this campus anywhere. There are many wonderful students who graduate who cannot sell themselves … this is a missing piece we are trying to fill with events like this one.”
Just before the winner was announced, Kaplan also spoke to the contestants — her club members — reminding them that “The point is to learn as students through this opportunity,” referring especially to the primarily freshman Red team.
In the end, seniority prevailed in phase one of the contest, as the Red team was defeated by their Green team rivals. Still, both teams will have a chance to put forth their efforts in a few weeks at their next competition, where they will be advertising for an infused liquor-themed V.I.P. party at Stella’s Bar and Grill.