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Business Undergraduates Win Big

Leavey School of Business undergraduates took two of the top three spots at the U.S. finals for the Unilever Unigame business case competition and are moving on to the international finals this May.

When global consumer goods behemoth Unilever, parent of over 400 brands and employer of over 168,000 people worldwide, announced its 2016-2017 Unigame business case competition, Santa Clara University undergraduate students rose to the challenge in a huge way. Over 160 teams applied for the U.S. portion of the competition, with only nine being selected for the finals. Not only did two student teams from Santa Clara make the finals-- they ended up placing first and third overall.

The opportunity to participate in this competition was brought to students through SCU's Net Impact, a business student organization on campus. Entries were short video proposals sent in by teams of three students attending the same university. This year’s competition was spurred by a single, open-ended prompt addressing one of Unilever’s business needs:

“We are in a retail revolution, which changes not only how consumers shop, but also how we interact with them. Develop a business case to speak to how Unilever can efficiently, effectively and most sustainably reach these digital consumers with our products and platforms.”

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First place winners, Margo Gentile (Class of 2019, Marketing), Alexander Golden (’17, Marketing, German Studies), and Caleb Zatto (’18, Marketing, Communication) received a $7,000 cash prize for their proposal “Snap2Save,” which marketed to millennial consumers in a way that capitalized on sustainability and social contribution by utilizing Snapchat’s prize lens and unique filter features. Third place winners Sanika Lakka (’17, Web Design/Engineering), Clarissa Nguyen (’17, Finance), and Kaila Richardson (’17, Marketing) received a $3,000 cash prize for their proposal “Digital Derma,” which also proposed ways to leverage Snapchat in marketing Unilever products.

“We are so proud of these two Santa Clara student teams. The initiative and ingenuity shown throughout this competition is a perfect example of the entrepreneurial mindset that our students strive for and that we work to instill throughout their time with us,” said Caryn Beck-Dudley, dean of the Leavey School of Business.

On top of their cash prizes, the finalists will have the opportunity to interview for jobs at Unilever in the Unilever Leaders Internship Program or the Unilever Future Leaders Program. The winning team, Snap2Save, will be taking an expenses paid trip to London to compete in the international portion of the Unigame competition taking place May 2-5, 2017.

Alexander Golden, Santa Clara University senior and a member of the first-place team, called the entire competition “an amazing and eye opening experience that allowed us to travel across the United States and [one] that might have opened the door for us to impact the entire packaged goods industry.”

“We learned a lot about the company, what it means to work in a small team, what it means to go on a business trip, corporate objectives, and what kind of job opportunities are available for people our age,” said Golden’s teammate Caleb Zatto. He felt the team was “well-spoken and poignant,” and that their “effective, concise, and engaging presentation style” was a huge advantage.

SCU team Digital Derma presenting at the Unilever Business Case Competition, U.S. nationals.

For senior Kaila Richardson, a member of third-place finalist Digital Derma, “the 2017 Unilever Unigame experience was absolutely incredible!” She and her roommates Clarissa and Sanika applied on a whim when they heard about the competition, figuring that their different majors and backgrounds would give them an edge.

“The actual pitch competition was scary and intimidating, yet incredibly exciting and took us out of our comfort zone,” she said. “We all feel like Santa Clara prepared us well for the experience. We each had taken a public speaking class through the Communications department, which helped give us confidence on the stage. We also feel thankful to live in the heart of the Silicon Valley and that our education is innovative, relevant, and always up to date on the new advances of trends and technology.”

The competition was open to undergraduate and first-year graduate students across the world. Twenty-seven teams, including Snap2Save, will be competing against each other in the international finals this May, vying for the grand prize and bragging rights for the year. No matter the outcome, these Santa Clara students have raised the bar for student entrepreneurs across the University, the country, and possibly the world.

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Unilever Business Case Competition winning teams - from left to right: Digital Derma (SCU), Snap2Save (SCU), & Texas State.