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Michigan Ross BBA Team Among Top Finishers at National Women’s Case Competition

Group of four Michigan Ross BBA students holding a Michigan Ross flag in front of a backdrop at the National Women's Case Competition

A team of undergraduate students from the Ross School of Business recently placed third among 25 teams from business schools across the country at the 2024 McCombs National Women’s Case Competition held at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Throughout the four-day competition, students were challenged to think critically and creatively to solve a real-world issue for the sponsoring company, Apple Inc. The Michigan Ross team of Bizzy Webb, BBA ’26, Delisa Troupe, BBA ’27, Aleena Malik, BBA ’27, and Jessica Goldberg, BBA ’24, received $1,500 from Apple for their third-place finish, the highest placement for a Ross team in the competition’s history.

To gain further insight into their experience, we asked team members to share how Michigan Ross prepared them for the competition, why they felt they were so successful, and how it will help them in their future careers.

Photo of Bizzy Webb, Michigan Ross BBA student wearing a light blue suit jacket with a white shirt and with long dark curly hairBizzy Webb

Program/Year: BBA ’26
Minors: Entrepreneurship, moral and political philosophy
Future Career Plans: Currently concentrating in marketing and strategy. This summer, I will be serving as an engagement and marketing strategy intern at National Geographic.

What was the case you were tasked with solving? How did you go about it?
Teams were tasked with tackling the “Sustainability Synergy” case, which revolves around devising an iPad packaging strategy aligning with Apple's ambitious environmental goals while addressing key factors like customer experience, product reliability, and cost efficiency. With Apple targeting carbon neutrality by 2030 and striving for plastic-free supply chains by 2025, our role as the Apple hardware and operations teams was pivotal in brainstorming sustainable packaging solutions.

We grappled with selecting the optimal option among three proposed choices: recycled cardboard with plastic wrap, cardboard with paper wrap, or a smaller cardboard box with plastic wrap. Our strategy involved thinking beyond the provided options, proposing a novel approach with a smaller box design, eschewing plastic wrapping, and introducing an innovative soy-based polymer spray coating. We meticulously analyzed the financial implications, crafted a marketing strategy emphasizing the eco-friendly coating, devised a detailed manufacturing and supply chain rollout plan, and delved into the chemistry of soybean-derived polymers to ensure feasibility and effectiveness. This endeavor demanded a delicate balance between sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and meeting Apple's stringent quality standards, posing a challenging yet crucial task for all teams involved.

Why was it important for you to participate in the National Women’s Case Competition?
Participating in the National Women's Case Competition was a transformative experience. It offered a platform to refine my public speaking skills, collaborate with a renowned team of women, and address a significant real-world challenge—Apple's mission to achieve carbon-neutral and plastic-free packaging.

Beyond these motivations, I felt compelled to apply to NWCC 2024 for the opportunity to connect with fellow undergraduate female business leaders around the nation, and I recognized this competition as a platform for personal growth, allowing me to immerse myself in a comprehensive business case covering various aspects like marketing, finance, supply chain management, economics, which aligns seamlessly with my curriculum as a BBA student at Ross.

What did you learn by participating?
Throughout this experience, I gained profound insights into the power of curiosity and the importance of taking bold initiatives for the greater good. Sustainability in packaging was a novel field for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my knowledge and grapple with the ethical considerations inherent in pursuing various packaging alternatives to mitigate CO2 emissions. Additionally, this competition offered a platform to hone my public speaking skills, allowing me to captivate audiences with effective projection, intonation, and stage presence.

Why do you think your team was so successful?
I attribute our team's success to our unwavering commitment and determination to devise an innovative solution to the challenge. Rather than opting for any of the provided solutions, we made a strategic decision to address not only Apple's goal of carbon neutrality but also its commitment to being plastic-free by 2025. This led us to embark on extensive research, focusing on solutions that were compostable, recyclable, biodegradable, safe, cost-effective, easily integrated into the supply chain, and upheld the customer experience.

With a product integrity rate of 99.4% and 100% plastic-free, our soybean polymer solution provided complete protection from oil and water while reducing CO2 emissions by an impressive 80%. Our choice to prioritize sustainability and innovation, even in the face of challenges, reflects our dedication to doing what is right, echoing the ethos of Tim Cook himself.

How has Ross helped prepare you for competitions like these?
Ross has thoroughly equipped me for challenges like these by seamlessly integrating real-world applications and case studies into my curriculum. Through courses like Strategy 290, for example, my group and I had the opportunity to develop a consulting plan for Hella Cocktail, a real-world business entity. Presenting our strategy to their executive team and receiving valuable feedback further enriched our learning experience. Moreover, Ross excels in fostering a culture of teamwork and collaboration by providing numerous opportunities to engage with diverse teams. These experiences have enhanced my ability to navigate group dynamics, facilitating the creation of team charters and effective collaboration within this competition.

How do you think participating in this competition will help you in your future career?
Leading in the 2024 National Women’s Case Competition, along with my dedicated teammates, Delisa, Jess, and Aleena, has shown me the power of aiming high. It's about more than just hitting targets; it's about reaching beyond them with purpose, curiosity, and unwavering determination, all while embracing the maize and blue spirit!

Photo of Delisa Troupe, BBA student at Michigan Ross who has long dark hair and is wearing a white shirtDelisa Troupe

Program: BBA ’27, minors in international studies and UX design
Future Career Plans: Interest in finance/private equity or consulting. This summer, camp counselor at Camp Michigania.

Why was it important for you to participate in the National Women’s Case Competition? 
There have been many times in my life where I have felt deterred from joining clubs, going to events, or becoming involved because I believed I would feel uncomfortable in certain spaces. My fear of sticking out has sometimes prevented me from putting myself out there and striving for what I want.

This competition allowed me to develop problem-solving, analytical, and presentation skills, network with professionals at Apple, and foster a sense of inclusivity and belonging. Participating in opportunities like this sets a precedent for other people like me to do the same and not feel afraid to join spaces that, historically, were not meant for women. Women have taken great strides in the United States to gain the same opportunities as men, and the competition created a space for me to improve my skill set and do something out of the box without fear of being different or sharing my unique insights with the world. 

What did you learn by participating? 
I picked up on the strategies that winning teams employed, including their methodologies, presentation styles, and the way they structured their arguments. These observations were complemented by the feedback our own team received from the judges, which highlighted both our strengths and areas needing improvement. Integrating these insights helped me decipher the critical elements of constructing and presenting a compelling case that resonates with the judges.
The competition also offered a unique opportunity to develop my teamwork skills in a setting where none of us knew each other previously. We had to leverage each other's strengths and manage our time efficiently to produce a cohesive and persuasive presentation. With the extensive work and limited time frame, I honed my adaptability and collaborative skills, navigating different working styles and perspectives to achieve a common goal.

Why do you think your team was so successful?
Our team successfully pitched a unique idea that genuinely surprised the judges, showcasing our creativity and deep research. Our extensive preparation was evident in both our speech and slide deck, which resonated perfectly with Apple’s themes and aesthetics. We ensured our presentation was not only visually appealing but also aligned with Apple's brand identity. Throughout the competition, we maintained a high level of professionalism, demonstrating our thorough knowledge of the content. Our ability to communicate complex information clearly and confidently further highlighted our expertise and commitment, leaving a lasting impression on the judges.

How has Ross helped prepare you for competitions like these?  
Ross helped me prepare by instilling a mindset of excellence and perseverance. This, coupled with the presentation skills I honed in my BCOM 250 class, proved invaluable. Despite encountering several roadblocks and moments of discouragement, Ross taught me the importance of resilience and determination. This preparation ensured that I approached the competition not just with the proper technical skills but with an unwavering commitment to succeed.

How do you think participating in this competition will help you in your future career?
This case competition was a comprehensive learning experience that significantly enhanced my ability to succeed in high-pressure, collaborative environments. It refined my analytical and presentation skills, underscoring the importance of teamwork and adaptability in achieving success. The competition also expanded my critical thinking skills, pushing me to think outside the box and consider every potential problem with our proposed solution. Additionally, it hardened my competitiveness and drive to succeed, as the intense environment and high standards demanded relentless focus and a winning mindset, fueling my determination to excel in future challenges.

Photo of Aleena Malik, BBA student at Michigan Ross with long straight dark hair wearing a dark red sweater with a gold necklace and smiling Aleena Malik

Program/Year: BBA ’27
Future Career Plans: Interests in marketing, strategy, and consulting. Marketing intern at Constellation Energy this summer

Why was it important for you to participate in the National Women’s Case Competition?
I'm competitive in nature and love the experience of working to achieve the goal of winning business case competitions, and wanted to gain real-world experience that I could share in future interviews.

What did you learn by participating? 
How to delegate tasks and be very open in communication with my team to share my personal needs and thoughts on our solution.

Why do you think your team was so successful? 
From our very first team meeting, we built psychological safety, a factor that research has shown is the most significant when it comes to producing successful teams. This allowed us to trust one another. 

How has Ross helped prepare you for competitions like these?
I've taken two Ross classes up until this point — BA 100 and BCOM 250 — which have helped with presentations and research proposals. Also, being surrounded by my Ross classmates and professors has prepared me to be confident in these settings.

How do you think participating in this competition will help you in your future career? 
It was a great experience involving teamwork with diverse teammates, working with little direction, and communication.

Photo of Michigan Ross BBA student Jessica Goldberg with curly brown hair wearing a white dress with yellow graduation scarf smilingJessica Goldberg

Program/Year: BBA ‘24, minor in education
Future Career Plans: Moving to Austin, Texas to work for Apple, Inc. as a product manager in their Early Career Rotational Program

Why was it important for you to participate in the National Women’s Case Competition?
Participating in this competition marked a significant milestone in my academic journey. It coincided with my final month in college, a period I eagerly anticipated. Having previously interned at Apple, I was enthusiastic about taking on one more case competition. My comprehensive coursework at Ross equipped me with a variety of frameworks and theories, which proved invaluable in tackling the competition's challenges.

What did you learn by participating? 
One of my capstone courses, MKT 470, focused on sustainability in business. This course provided numerous frameworks and lines of reasoning that greatly contributed to our solution strategy. Additionally, courses like BL 300 and BL 413 offered essential insights into ethics, law, and their intersection with sustainability and marketing. I distinctly recall Professor Rogala's MKT 413 class where sustainability claims were thoroughly discussed.

How has Ross helped prepare you for competitions like these?
Beyond specific content knowledge, the numerous team-based projects I participated in at Ross were instrumental in preparing me for this competition. These experiences not only sharpened my ability to navigate team dynamics but also ingrained the rigorous standards expected by Ross professors. In our Ross team projects, we would implement countless revisions based on professor feedback, this became second nature and allowed me to look at our pitch with a critical eye, helping us rewrite it dozens of times for a final message that helped us succeed. Foundational courses like BA 200 fostered critical thinking and navigating ambiguity, while RIS and strategy courses further enhanced these abilities.

How do you think participating in this competition will help you in your future career? 
Just as in the case competition, my future career will require navigating ambiguous situations and devising innovative solutions. My Ross BBA degree provided unparalleled preparation for these challenges, and I am grateful for the comprehensive education it offered.

Documents & Links
Learn more about the Michigan Ross BBA Program