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B1G Case Competition: Developing Solutions for Bath & Body Works

By Megan McCarthy

February 20, 2024

Big 10 Case Competition
Megan McCarthy

As I woke up early Wednesday morning, I started to mentally prepare for what was ahead. My team from UW-Madison was about to travel to Columbus, Ohio – to The Ohio State University – for the B1G Case Competition to compete against seven other teams to solve business solutions for Bath & Body Works. My team is comprised of three other students, Josiah Owen, Juhi Goenka, and Shuting Zheng (essentially my dream team) as well as our presentation coach, Anastasia Stelse.

As we arrive at the Madison airport, we sit at the gate all buzzing to get our hands on the case. We board our flight to Chicago, have a quick layover, and then onto Columbus. Upon our arrival, we check-in to the Blackwell Hotel and quickly found a lunch spot. We eat as a team and then plan the rest of our day and head back to the hotel to get prepped for the networking dinner. Once dinner time rolls around, we hop on the bus and head to the event held by Bath & Body Works (BBW). We have a blast at our networking dinner! We were able to talk with senior leadership at Bath & Body Works as well as other student consultants from different schools. At the dinner, we play duck-pin bowling, bocce ball, and other various arcade games. Getting to meet students from other business schools was the highlight of the night, hearing about different programs and expanding our networks. On our way out of the dinner, instead of taking the stairs, we were able to take a slide down to the bottom floor of the restaurant – Josiah completing this feat with a pizza in hand! We then boarded the bus back to the hotel.

As a team, we decided it was necessary to be prepped for the next day, which would be a long one.  We made a team Target run. We bought the essentials: Celsius energy drinks, candy, healthy snacks, and maybe some not-so-healthy snacks too (we are college students, it’s in our DNA!). On the walk home, we admire the city and campus and debrief what we’ve learned during our networking session, getting to start on the brainstorming process early.

As we wake up the next morning, we gather in the lobby as a team to collect ourselves and we head to Gerlach Hall – the Grainger equivalent at OSU – for the case presentation. As we eat breakfast, we are presented the case and then we are released to begin work. Due to our non-disclosure agreement, I unfortunately cannot share the case content, but can note that we had a huge task at hand.

One of our first priorities as a team was to get comfy as we knew that we would be in our workroom for a long time and needed to be in the right headspace to brainstorm. We head back to the hotel and plan on meeting up in fifteen minutes so we had time to change into sweatpants and to digest the case on our own before we regrouped. Then, it was go-time.

Megan and her team

We first start with our root-cause analysis, trying to dive into the real reason that BBW was having these issues. After our root-cause we then moved on to solution brainstorming, we took every whiteboard space we could to write down any idea that we had and then we bucketed these ideas into concise overarching topics. Around 3pm, we had our solution flushed out, it was time to start working on the presentation and research the data to back up what we were proposing, this was the most time-consuming part of our task. From 3pm till about 3am we did just this, fueling ourselves with energy drinks and our copious amount of snacks that we had stocked from Target. These twelve hours were filled with cartwheels in the hallways, walks around the block to clear our heads, as well as late-night UberEats McDonald’s (which was reviving). At 3am, we finalized our slides and then started to practice our presentation, getting through two dry runs that brought us to 5am – totaling nineteen hours spent in a room together. At this point, we debate if it is even worth going to bed but we decide to take the one-hour nap before we wake up to get on the bus to head to the Bath & Body Works corporate headquarters.

We arrive at BBW and the first thing I notice is the smell, everywhere you go there are candles burning to pump the signature BBW scents throughout the building. We are brought to the opening ceremony and then we have an hour to prep our presentation one last time before we give our big presentation. Our dry-run, I will not lie, was horrible, we were exhausted and burnt out from our late night and now the nerves were high. Nevertheless, we persisted. Once we get into our presentation room, we smash our presentation out of the park. After all our dry runs, our final was clearly ourbest.. We beam as we head out of the room, ready to hear the results of the competition. After waiting a couple of hours, they announce who is moving on to the final round and we don’t hear our names. We are disappointed but still proud of all the work that we were able to accomplish.

Straight from the final presentations, we head to the airport to get back to Madison. In the airport, we take a couple of much-needed naps and debrief our learnings. Overall, I am proud of my team, we worked hard to come up with robust solutions and we had a great time doing it. I am so thankful to have the team that I did, we all worked so seamlessly and supported each other through it all and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work and travel with. Going forward, I leave empowered to apply the invaluable lessons learned and the strengthened teamwork forged in these 48 hours. Now, excuse me while I catch up on some well-deserved sleep!