Brewing Up Business | Rollins College Nespresso Challenge

Rollins College Crummer MBA Students’ Business Plan for Nespresso in Final Round of International Sustainability Competition

Four MBA students from Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business traveled to Nestlé Nespresso’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland in June to compete in the final round of the 2017 Nespresso Sustainability MBA Challenge. The world’s leading premium portioned coffee brand challenged 88 teams from top business schools in 25 countries to leverage its commitment to sustainability to attract customers and recruit top talent.

Along with fellow finalists Yale University and Melbourne Business School in Australia, the Crummer team of full-time Early Advantage MBA students Michelle de Obeso Hernandez and Lavanya Setia, and Professional MBA students Matt Dickey and Austin Montgomery, presented to a judging panel of sustainability experts, business strategists, academics and senior Nespresso executives, including CEO Jean-Marc Duvoisin. Crummer won the competition in 2013, its inaugural year, and has presented in the finals more times than any other school.

“Nespresso leaders and competition organizers have noted that, year after year, Crummer is recognized as a top competitor in an impressive field that includes many of the top 50 MBA programs in the world,” noted Keith Whittingham, Ph.D., associate professor at Crummer, an expert on sustainable enterprise who mentors the team each year and accompanies
them overseas.

I have learned to turn differences of opinions into advantages, to listen, take initiative, manage my time and be patient. Most importantly, I’ve learned to be a team player and a leader, and to always push the boundaries and challenge myself.  – Michelle de Obeso Hernandez

“Our students are taught to lead and thrive in today’s complex business environment, from learning how to tackle the big question, working in team environments from day one and taking a practical (not purely academic) approach to problem solving. Our classes frequently engage in consulting projects for real companies.”

Excelling in the Nespresso Challenge, with its sustainability focus, is a natural fit for Crummer, having offered such courses for almost 10 years. After observing that students, consumers and businesses now put increased value on serving the broader community as well as shareholders, the MBA school created a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Enterprise that launched last fall and is expected to become a popular choice among the seven concentration options.

Having returned to the United States, Montgomery has had time to reflect on his competition experience and how the lessons learned will continue to pay off. “The decision to pursue my MBA at Crummer was an investment in my future that has already propelled me to advance personally and professionally. The opportunity to combine skills learned from my time at Crummer, challenge them against other students from top MBA programs across the globe, and earn a place in the finals was an incredible experience. Our team found success by leveraging the diversity of our perspectives and expertise; something I will continue throughout my career.”

The students’ proposal, titled Nespresso Connect, recommended breaking down silos and re-conceiving their network from a linear model to a “value web” where all stakeholders in the supply chain are inter-connected, not just adjacent ones. The students showed aligning all parties, including farmers, suppliers, distributors, employees and consumers, would remove information barriers, allowing the coffee brand to create greater shared value. The students suggested elevating these relationships from merely transactional to transformational.

Dickey summed up the competition process for the team. “The challenge forced us to remove the parameters we place on ourselves in our current professional and academic roles and imagine what is possible first, then how to effectively utilize the resources available to achieve it. Nespresso has a strong base of 12,000 employees committed to sustainability, but it can intensify its impact on its carbon footprint exponentially by activating its millions of customers in a similar way.”

Knowing their proposal would be thoroughly critiqued by the CEO of a billion-dollar brand, the team pushed themselves to think like an executive. This included positioning Nespresso’s HR department as the catalyst for change and implementing a social media campaign encouraging stakeholders from around the world to connect by sharing the story behind their daily cup of coffee using #NespressoConnect.

Setia felt a positive energy and spirit on the Rollins campus during the two weeks they had to work on their initial entry. “The support we received from the Crummer community, even on nights and weekends, demonstrates how committed the school is to providing us with life-changing opportunities, such as the Nespresso Challenge. This global platform to meet people from different locations and disciplines broadened my perspective. The critical analysis and feedback has been a great source of self-evaluation, which has helped me identify my career and personal goals.”

“Going into my first semester at Crummer, I was looking for three things: international exposure, opportunities for personal and professional development, and to meet like-minded people,” said De Obeso Hernandez. “Through opportunities such as the Nespresso Challenge, this is exactly what I got. I’ve learned to turn differences of opinions into advantages, to listen, take initiative, manage my time and be patient. Most importantly, I’ve learned to be a team player and a leader, and to always push the boundaries and challenge myself. These are skills I’ll bring to all future endeavors and continue to develop.”

It appears the buzz from competing abroad will not fade any time soon for these MBA students, who had an incredible experience with lessons they can tap into for the rest of their careers.

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