Michigan Ross Master of Management Students Just Won A Big Check For Putting Community First

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How do you expand a brand associated with affluence in a community challenged by gentrification, economic upheaval, and scarce resources? If you’re the winning team of this year’s Net Impact Case Competition, you put community engagement at the heart of your strategy.  

The second annual Net Impact Case Competition, sponsored by Business + Impact and the Erb Institute, challenged 15 teams of undergraduate and graduate students from across Ross programs to explore the impact of increasing Whole Foods’ footprint in Detroit. Teams were asked to propose how they would go about opening a second store location in a socially responsible manner, with consideration to the community’s struggle with food access and economic development. Teams had just one week to research the case, devise a proposed solution, and present to a panel of judges.

Team iMMPact, made up of Master of Management students Caroline Denney, Grace Kendra, Lucas Mata, Brian Nelson, and Ronak Pate, put together the winning solution.

They proposed a four-pronged approach that was rooted in understanding the community the store would serve. The plan included choosing a competitive yet accessible location; prioritizing affordability by building upon Whole Foods’ new 365 store model; allowing local urban farmers to sell produce directly to consumers on site; and providing community members a simple ride service to and from the store. The team used data on the performance of Detroit’s first Whole Foods Market, launched in 2013, to inform their proposal.

“Overall, our team recognized the importance that expansion is something to be done with the community, not to the community and paying attention to what is and isn't working in the model will be essential for success,” said Team iMMpact member Grace Kendra.

Kendra noted that in addition to her team’s ability to collaborate, their diverse professional backgrounds served them well. “We come from a variety of backgrounds, including anthropology, sustainability, environmental science, and engineering. Therefore, we were able to draw on our unique experiences and individual strengths to come up with a robust solution for Whole Foods' expansion in Detroit.”

For their community-oriented solution, Team iMMpact was awarded $2,000. Congratulations to these true “masters” of management!

More about the Ross MM Program