For the second year in a row, the same team of Drexel LeBow undergraduates participated in the L’Oreal Brandstorm Case Competition. This year, though, this team of three young women won first place, beating out teams from Harvard and Berkeley to represent both Drexel University and the United States at the 2018 international finals in Paris.
Drexel’s team, dubbed DragonFire, consisted of three LeBow seniors: Amalya Boulajouahel, a business and engineering major with a finance concentration; Bianca Fernandes, a marketing and business analytics major; and Laura Sturzenegger, a marketing, finance and business analytics major.
In the annual business case competition, held in New York City and sponsored by L’Oreal’s Professional Products Division, teams were charged with inventing “the Professional Salon Experience of the Future.”
DragonFire’s product idea, titled “Connect,” utilizes technology and big data, with data collection uniting salons, consumers and L’Oreal. Boulajouahel notes that she and her team members all worked at SAP for co-op, and their backgrounds in technology and data analytics were an asset in the competition.
After submitting their initial idea, along with a video, in February and being accepted into the competition a few weeks later, the team spent two months honing their product in consultation with a L’Oreal employee.
“We’re on the right track,” Sturzenegger says. “I think this can be completely implemented.”
The three students met as members of Alpha Kappa Psi, the co-ed business fraternity. They have been friends since their first year, well before they became team members working on the 2017 L’Oreal competition. “I believe it’s the things we’ve learned as brothers that gave us the confidence and skill to make it to this point in the case competition,” Fernandes says.
Stanley Ridgley, associate clinical professor of management, served as team advisor and mentor, working with the students through long evening sessions preparing and honing their five-minute presentation.
“This is the most dedicated and coachable team I’ve worked with,” he says. “They were willing to work, to grow, to change and to put in the practice time.”
At the Dream Downtown Hotel in New York, the team delivered its presentation in a round-robin format, pitching a rotating groups of judges with a large clock ticking down the seconds. Boulajouahel called the experience “very intense, but very rewarding.”
After five times through the presentation, the Drexel team advanced to the competition’s finals. Along with teams from the University of Michigan, New York University and Penn State University, the team made their presentation received follow-up questioning from David Greenberg, president for L’Oreal’s Professional Products Division in North America, for an hour following the final round before receiving word that they had won.
Even with their outstanding performance in New York, the team isn’t resting on their success.
“We received a lot of very good feedback,” Boulajouahel says. “We want to incorporate different perspectives, like the social media aspect of the product, in order to make it even more accessible to everybody.”
Teams competing in New York came from Harvard University, University of California Berkeley, University of Southern California, New York University, North Carolina A&T, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, University of Texas and Penn State University.
The team from Penn State joined Drexel into the top two, with both teams representing the United States at the global competition on May 17 in Paris. Boulajouahel and Sturzenegger have both visited France previously; Sturzenegger studied abroad at ESCE Business School in Paris in fall 2015.
“We’re very motivated,” Boulajouahel says. “It’s amazing that we have made it this far.”