The Crocs shoe company miscalculated when it tried to boost business by selling accessories such as backpacks and sunglasses because “that wasn’t their industry,” says Jaelon Brooks ’22. “They didn’t tap into the right market.”
Instead, according to Brooks, the company should expand its offerings by selling rain gear, swimwear, and shower footwear. “In the long term, we want to see Crocs continue to stay in the footwear industry, but we need to see them add new items,” he says. “We believe that Crocs will be successful in adding rain and aquatic apparel because they create the rubber materials already.”
That's just one of the insights he and teammates Katherine Zhang ’23, Joseph Saoud ’22, and Behrooz Dinyarian ’23 shared as part of their case study of the company for this year’s Business Intensive Seminar.
Knox’s annual Business Intensive Seminar is designed to introduce students to the business world, help them recognize that business has an impact on a wide range of careers, and gain a better understanding of themselves and how they relate to others, says Jim Foley ’78. Foley, director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University, has led the seminar since 2017.
With a focus on two broad themes, leadership and innovation, the 19 students in this year’s cohort engaged in sessions covering such topics as marketing, emotional intelligence, ethical business decisions, and entrepreneurship.
“Out of all the varying subjects, my favorite part of the seminar was learning about emotional intelligence and communication,” says Taylor Skidmore ’23, an anthropology and sociology major. “The reason I found this section so interesting was because it was content that I related to the most because of my academic background. I also was so surprised by this section because I didn't realize that these topics were valuable in business. It showed me that my current interests [are related] to the business world and it was an eye-opening aspect of the seminar I greatly enjoyed!”
In addition to attending sessions and discussions, students divided into teams to research and put together the case study presentations that judges evaluated on the final day of the seminar. The team projects “really bring everything together” because students were applying their newly learned skills, Foley says. Teams selected a real-world company facing challenges, then analyzed its strengths and weaknesses and developed recommendations on what the company should do to improve its outlook.
Brooks says that contributing to the team’s successful presentation was a gratifying experience and that he also benefited from the seminar in other ways.
“I learned how to analyze a financial report from year to year for any company and how to effectively communicate in a diverse workplace,” says Brooks, who is majoring in business and management. “I have gained connections with different alumni in the marketing field, and I gained knowledge of the numerous steps to start up my own business.”
He adds: “The Knox Business Intensive Seminar was rigorous and challenging, but all special things come with hard work. Knox has always done a great job of connecting current students with alumni, and that makes this program possible, so I want to thank Knox again for this special opportunity to increase my business knowledge and gain important skills for my future career goals.”
Mujtaba Hassan ’22, who is majoring in computer science and business and management, says the seminar was exactly what he needed to sharpen his leadership skills, innovation skills, and understanding of ethical business. “I have learned an incredible amount in a very small amount of time, something that I credit to Jim Foley’s sincere dedication and commitment to organizing this seminar, and the amazing alumni engagement.”
Because this year’s seminar was all online, numerous alumni were able to lend a hand and share their knowledge with students. For example, Abdul Oganla ’16, Hiba Ahmed ’15, and Rick Rivero ’99 led a panel discussion on ethics, emotional intelligence, and communication strategies. A day later, Dana Brown ’19 and Jessica “Jessie” Johnson ’12 spoke about business innovations, design thinking, and effective presentations.
Alumni judges at the final presentations included David Barth ’65, Dan Taylor ’72, Merry Mosbacher ’80, Liz Janz Miller ’87, Helen Lin ’94, Gary Novak ’09, Ariyana Smith ’16, and Deja Jenkins ’19. Jenkins participated in the seminar as a student in 2017 and as a mentor in 2018. Alumni who served as team consultants and mentors were Mosbacher, Danita Fleck ’83, Cortney Hill ’17, and Srikaran Masabathula ’18.
The students who participated in this year’s Business Intensive Seminar were:
Khoa “K” Pham
The Business Intensive Seminar is funded by David ’65 and Dian Barth and the Robert ’66 and Carolyn Romsa Parke ’67 Ethics Fund.