Samford University Brock School of Business and Department of Journalism Mass Communication students were selected the winners of the Taziki's Collegiate Marketing Challenge Dec. 14.
The Samford team was headed by Caitlin Lindner, a senior marketing and entrepreneurship major from Savannah, Ga., and included Henry Heaton, a senior journalism and mass communication major and marketing minor from New Orleans, La., Reed Richardson, a senior journalism and mass communication major and Latin American studies minor from Nashville, Tenn., and Jenna Young, a senior marketing major from Spartanburg, S.C. The group was under the faculty direction of Betsy Holloway, associate professor in the Brock School of Business.
They competed against 24 college teams from five states to make it to the top three finalists, and then went up against the teams from the University of West Virginia and the College of Charleston to win the grand prize.
"Our students participated in this competition above and beyond their regular course load; which says something about our students' dedication to seeking real-world experiences," said Howard Finch, Brock School of Business dean. "This is one of many ways students use what they learn in the classroom in a real world setting. It is exciting to see the students use their entrepreneurial spirit in this way."
As part of the project, the student teams were challenged to propose a market for a new Taziki's Mediterranean Café and to develop a business and marketing plan around their idea. The Samford team chose to focus on the New Orleans, La., area, particularly the Uptown region, because the demographics are closely aligned with Taziki's top-grossing market in Mountain Brook, Ala. Their plan for the New Orleans market was designed and based on research at the current Alabama stores and research the team conducted in New Orleans.
"This challenge was an amazing experience. Through this experience I had the opportunity to take things I had learned in the classroom and from various internships and apply those to a real world example," said Lindner. "My team and I also had the opportunity to meet, interview and network with business professionals in Birmingham, Ala., and New Orleans, La., all of which provided an invaluable experience for us."
Taziki's created the competition to offer a real-world business challenge for students and to encourage team-building as well as creative thinking. In addition, Taziki's wanted to offer a program that would inspire students' entrepreneurial spirit while at the same time, give the students something to build on for the future.
"While many brands use traditional media to build awareness and drive-trial," said Seth Williams, Taziki's director of marketing. "We have found that success comes from connecting the community and guests in more personal ways, and this competition allowed us to do just that."
Taziki's has five new restaurants currently under construction and many more in varying stages of planning. With rapid growth anticipated in the coming years, which will bring them into many new areas, they felt this challenge was just the thing they needed. It has given them the opportunity to tap the minds of some of the Nation's brightest future marketers. The concepts and ideas presented by the many teams will fuel new creative marketing campaigns for years to come, according to Williams.