Today in Class: Managing a Very Real New Product Launch for the World’s Fastest Growing Luxury Brand
By Aaron Schmit, MBA
It started with an email — an email from the Ross MBA Program Office announcing a new course opportunity that sounded too good to turn down.
Sure, it had a strange name (Living Business Leadership Experience) and I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting myself into, but I knew I’d have the opportunity to work for Shinola on launching a new product and that was exciting to me.
I was relatively familiar with Shinola and the fact that they’re a luxury goods retailer, and their commitment to the city of Detroit has always inspired me.
Since my acceptance into the LBLE course, my team has experienced a fair amount of … well just about everything, but nothing has been more challenging than the ambiguity of the course itself.
It’s important to know that this isn’t like your typical business school class. We’re not studying cases or even meeting with professors all that often. Essentially, we’re sort of “employees” of Shinola, working in real-time to help them expand the business.
But, because this class is so new, our teams have had to be adaptive, process-oriented, and committed to learning on the fly with Shinola. In many ways, this is exactly what it’s like to work at any strong startup.
Shinola is experiencing tremendous growth and expanding to new product categories. Given this expansion, we have had to look at product opportunities and how those markets compared to the few markets in which the company currently operates (watches, leather, etc.).
Another challenge has been trying to figure out how to work with the other Shinola groups and coordinating our efforts to optimize the outcome. Shinola currently has four LBLE groups: Finance, E-Commerce, Marketing, and Supply Chain. While the functions may be different, all the groups need to share information received from Shinola to be successful.
We meet every Tuesday to debrief the prior week’s work. I love hearing about the problems within other groups working with Shinola or the other companies LBLE students are working with. (The LBLE class also involves student teams working with Ford Motor Co. and NRP group, which is a Cleveland-based real estate developer). Sharing the challenges and listening to feedback has felt like a group therapy session. It provides a sense of relief that the rest of the groups are facing similar challenges.
One thing about LBLE that I find very attractive is the opportunity to work with companies at different stages in their strategic processes.
While Shinola is launching a new, finished product, teams working with other companies are earlier in the development process. By having the variety of stages, the course can appeal to many different students that are looking for specific skills to sharpen.
Additionally, I have personally enjoyed working with the BBAs in our group. There are very few courses that allow that kind of interaction between MBAs and undergraduate students, and I have appreciated that aspect.
The mantra of “Learning Business by Doing Business” is what drew me to this course in the first place — and it definitely works. I feel more prepared to lead in my full-time job post business school than ever before. In fact, I have enjoyed the course to the point that I am now an LBLE Ambassador, so please feel free to reach out and ask questions about the course! I am always happy to chat about my experience.
Professional Hockey Player,
Private Equity Investing
Vista Equity Partners
STUDENT CLUB INVOLVEMENT
President, Ice Hockey Club at Ross
President, Private Equity Club
Vice President, Sports Business Association
BEST ROSS EVENT IN THE LAST YEAR:
Kids Halloween Party with Partners Club (I had a 1-year old ladybug last year and will have two daughters doing the Halloween Party this year)