Large group of UF MBA students in the Zonky office in Prague
UF MBA students in Prague.

UF MBA students act as consultants to help real Czech businesses expand

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In November, students in the UF MBA Weekend Professional Two-Year South Florida program took their studies from one international business hub to another. Trading the skyscrapers of Miami for the City of a Hundred Spires, UF MBA students traveled to Prague for a week to lend their business knowledge to real Czech companies looking for guidance.

Dan Cox (MBA ’20) and his team initially planned to help Bagind, an up and coming leather goods store, create an entry strategy to the United States, including supply chain logistics, a competitor analysis, SWOT analysis and a marketing plan. However, the team had to pivot quickly once they learned more about the challenges Bagind faced.

“When we met with Lukas and the employees of Bagind, we learned there was much more we could offer his company,” the BankUnited Digital Banking Product Manager said. “Simple changes in operations could bring about great strides to improve his company’s efficiencies and position in the market.”

Cox’s team ultimately gave Bagind advice on aspects ranging from digital marketing to operations to financials as well as a U.S. market entry plan.

The exercise in consulting with Bagind taught Cox about everything from the construction of leather goods, the design work for a European market and the successful marketing strategies of the next generation, he said. The biggest lesson he learned, though, is one he plans to translate to his own role.

“A plan does not always need to be perfect to succeed,” Cox said. “Execute a plan as far as you can, take a step back, iterate, plan and execute again.”

Similar to Cox’s team, Jessica Gonzalez (MBA ’20) and her peers worked with chocolate company Steiner & Kovarik on an expansion plan to the U.S. Specifically, the chocolatier requested help with understanding the current size of the U.S. market for premium chocolate and how the company might be able to grow and thrive there.

“As a team we provided them with market data, like size and target consumer, potential competitors, U.S. pricing and provided insight regarding the various selling platforms they could engage in to increase their brand awareness,” Gonzalez, Category Manager with CVS Health, said.

The experience offered Gonzalez a unique opportunity that she doesn’t normally experience in her role at CVS Health.

“As a Category Manager/Retail Buyer, I’ve had the opportunity to work with various categories, but never consumables,” she said. “This experience allowed me to learn about the premium chocolate business from start to finish. I gained a better understanding of each process – sourcing to manufacturing to seeing (and trying) the final product in one of their retail locations.

“I even had the chance to make my own custom chocolate bar!”

Autumn Bowes (MBA ’20) and her team were tasked with providing a B2B strategy that would allow Daytrip, a platform that connects travelers with local drivers, to add the United States to the list of 60-plus countries it serves.

Prior to traveling to Prague, Bowes and her team met with the company leaders via Skype to collect valuable information they’d need to provide Daytrip with an expansion plan, as well as information about the competitive landscape, partnership opportunities and consumer behavior as it related to brand positioning.

While the Skype meetings first seemed like just the means to an end, Bowes found that getting to know the Daytrip team was essential to not only developing their market-entry plan, but also the personal relationship that would push the team to find a successful solution. 

“After the first few meetings at the Daytrip offices, we developed a genuine interest in seeing this company succeed,” Bowes, a business analyst with Florida Power & Light, said. “Together, reviewing process after process, we learned the intricacies of their operating activities – ultimately exposing inefficiencies that became pivotal to our strategy. As a result, we delivered a phased approach that would not only help Daytrip enter the U.S. market, but also become a sturdy company that can sustain both large-scale growth and strategic partnerships long-term.”

Bowes found that working with Daytrip highlighted the importance of a positive and collaborative work environment.

“From the moment we stepped onto Daytrip property, we were treated with respect despite our cultural differences,” she said. “Truthfully, I was expecting a room of skepticism. There we were, a group of international students walking in to evaluate their business practices, likely exposing weaknesses and recommending change. I was expecting resistance.

“Instead, the Daytrip team actively listened to our questions, answered as many as they could, and truly valued our insights. It was one of the most authentic professional paradigms I’ve experienced, and the project outcome was better because of it. As an analyst, I often support teams who don’t know me, which creates a similar dynamic. If I can establish this type of experience for collaborative sessions with new teams I work with, who knows how much more effective we can be together.”

Interested in gaining real-world business experience that you can use to transform your career? Request information about the UF MBA Weekend Professional Two-Year South Florida