Nico Dirksen, Mark Ziebarth, Nathan Ziebart, Blair Baldwin and Cooper Simson took home the bronze for Okanagan College. (Photo contributed).

OC Business students earn bronze at collegiate case competition

The competition was held at Vanier College in Montreal

Okanagan College business students earned bronze after capturing third place among 30 student teams at the Scotiabank Canadian Case Challenge.

The competition, held at Vanier College in Montreal, melds business strategy, marketing and management into one of the most challenging collegiate competitions in the country. The first day, all 30 teams were sequestered in isolation as they wait to be given the business case. Once given the details, students had 3.5 hours to analyze the information given, put together recommendations and build a presentation to deliver to a panel of industry leaders.

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“It’s a major competition, the judges are incredible and the entire experience is extremely intense,” said Blair Baldwin, Okanagan School of Business professor who coached the team alongside Mark Ziebarth.

The students’ first case was from a coffee company based on Prince Edward Island that was seeking recommendations that would grow their company, with a specific marketing budget in mind.

Nathan Ziebart, a third-year marketing student on the team, said the team’s recommendation to expand wholesale distribution to similar clients in other regions was a challenge.

“Coming up with three good alternatives was quite difficult. The analysis was pretty straightforward, but because of the limited budget and being a business-to-business case, there were limited options that we could present,” Ziebart said.

“In a competition like this, we really get to apply all of the skills and knowledge that we learn in class and bring it out it to be tested. It adds a new level to the learning,” said Cooper Simson, a finance student also on the team.

Their approach worked. The team found out Saturday night that they would advance to the final round on Sunday. That case featured a Calgary-based alternative fitness business specializing in parkour ninja warrior-style training, seeking expansion opportunities that would see them grow market share.

The team suggested changes to their business model to allow memberships and hourly rates for specific drop-in times, in addition to holding an accessible competition tailored to families, youth and non-competitors.

Once the finals were over, Baldwin said multiple people praising the OSB contingent’s performance.

“Our team put on a very creative presentation to the judges. So many students, presenters, coaches came up and shook their hands saying, ‘Okanagan School of Business keeps raising the bar,’” he said. “What stood out for me was the countless hours — over 40 hours in training for five weeks — prior to going to Montreal. Their dedication to learning and representing the Okanagan School of Business was admirable. They knew they were entering a tough competition and wanted to compete at a high level.”

“It’s opportunities like this that really exemplify why the Okanagan School of Business is such a great place to study, getting to challenge ourselves and hone our abilities,” said Nico Dirksen, who is specializing in accounting.

Finally, 90 minutes after they presented, the judges announced the winners. Okanagan College took home the bronze.

“Podium finishes at a case competition of this calibre cannot be achieved without a great deal of preparation and work,” said Bill Gillett, Dean of the Okanagan School of Business. “I congratulate the students and the faculty for the incredible effort they put in and for representing the College so well.”

Related: Okanagan College business students soar

Related: New Okanagan College facility gets students job-ready

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