The National Retail Federation (NRF) holds an annual Student Challenge. This year Gabriella Florio, Hunter Poorman, and I decided to compete against other NRF member schools. Our challenge was to act as the product development team for Akola, a Ugandan jewelry brand providing jobs for women in need, and partner them with another retailer. We had to develop a jewelry line, financial analysis, and marketing plan with the guidance of our mentor from KPMG. This company is a multinational professionals service network, which was provided by the NRF.
When brainstorming a potential retail partner, my team and I knew we needed to think outside of the box to advance to the next round. We wanted a retailer that shared Akola’s values of giving back to the community and could turn the culture of the jewelry into an experience. After researching several retailers, we found Disney Parks in Florida would be a great partner. We chose to retail in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park because of the cultural connection, creative storytelling, and strong CSR initiative, just like Akola.
Once we saw the business opportunity between Akola and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we ran with it! My team and I created a product assortment of four jewelry lines that would connect Akola to Disney’s animated film, The Lion King. We designed our jewelry with all naturally sourced Ugandan materials such as raffia that was provided by Akola. Product lines we designed were inspired by songs in the film. After reaching the semifinals, we had the opportunity to interview with industry professionals from major retailers such as Nordstrom and the CEO of Akola.
The 2019 NRF Student Challenge was an amazing experience for my team and me. This competition forced all of us to think outside of the box to help innovate retail. We put so much time and effort into this project and to see the end result was truly rewarding. The opportunity the NRF provided us with is one we will always be thankful for!
We would also like to thank the NRF, our LIM College classmates, the faculty, and our KPMG mentor Greg Brunner for their support. We would like to give a special thank you to Professor Greene for being there every step of the way and continuing to inspire the way we think about retail!