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Ignite Case Competition: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

By Megan McCarthy

November 14, 2023

Megan McCarthy

The first module of classes is complete, I have finished three of my classes in my first year of the MBA program – Accounting, Data to Decisions, and Leading and Working in Teams. Every year, in between modules one and two, we have the infamous Ignite Case Competition. Ignite is a three-day team-based competition where you and your core team (a randomly assigned group from the MBA first-year class) compete to solve a complex problem with a local business. This year we were helping a non-profit resort from Door County, Wisconsin called “The Rushes”. 

            Before The Rushes was introduced, we listened to Professor Mary Kate on how to best approach a consulting case, as well as attended a panel by the winning teams from last year’s case competition. We soaked in all this information to help us start off our brainstorming on the right foot.

            The Rushes then presented us with their challenge. The Rushes is a time-share model non-profit resort where owners can buy weeks (deeds) out of the year in one of their many townhomes. During the summer months, the Rushes are busier than ever but the off-season is another story. Due to an increasing age demographic of their owners and a decreasing want for time-share opportunities, the Rushes came to the Wisconsin School of Business for help. 

            After listening to the challenge statement, my team and I started work. My core team consists of six people including myself. We have Shiyue who represents the Marketing specialization, Juhi who is Supply Chain, Shagun and Steven from Technology Strategy and Product Management, Connor who is Corporate Finance and Investment Banking and me, who represents Strategic Human Resource Management. Due to all our vastly different perspectives, we were able to break down this problem from multiple angles and divide up the work, so we all played to our strengths. Since the beginning of the semester, my team has been a privilege to work with. We all are caring and kind to one another, but most importantly, we have all become close friends. This has helped us become a successful and dynamic team that I have the privilege to work on. 

            On the first day, we met up and had a brief brainstorming session. We came up with all the questions that we wanted to ask the Rushes team the next day during the Q&A segment as well as taking time to define the problem at hand. We produced a few preliminary ideas for solutions, but we mainly tried to stay focused on diving into the root cause of the problem. 

            The next day, we met up for the Q&A session and were able to dive into all our questions and listen to the answers to other group’s questions. After the session, we spent the rest of the day in a breakout room where we brainstormed and began working on our final presentation. We all decided to head home where we would individually work on our slides and then that night, we met on Teams for a dry run of our presentation.

            The next morning, we woke up bright and early, eager to present our ideas. We met up and did one final run of our presentation and then we were the first group to present. We went in and presented our solutions to the team.

            Our proposal was a two-sided approach. We did research on online hotel platforms so that The Rushes could modernize and become more marketable to Millennials and Gen Z. We also proposed to further this connection to new generations by marketing more on their website and social media platforms, emphasizing the off-season activities they offered. 

            After our presentation, we waited to hear back from the judges and sat patiently as all the other groups were presenting. Nerves were high and people were buzzing. After what felt like a lifetime, we had our results. My team won! We were so excited! We were so privileged to have worked on such an amazing project and to solve an important challenge for a great organization. 

            Ultimately, I took away a lot from working with my team on this project. We became closer. Getting to work on a complex problem pushed our skillsets and forced us to work harder than we had before for other team projects. We were able to produce a robust solution and celebrate our hard work! I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in this time-honored tradition at the Wisconsin School of Business and I look forward to being a part of more activities like this in the future.