Creative Solutions Lead to Case Win

Five MBA students claim first place at Sawtooth Analytics Competition

PROVO, Utah – Apr 07, 2017 – John had Yoko, Scott had Zelda and Johnny had June, but for five BYU MBA students, the secret to case competition success depended on a muse of their own creation: a hypothetical math student they named Gabi.

Jason Alleger from Redmond, Washington; Gabriel Chiararia from Marilia, Brazil; Derek Egan from Cottonwood Heights, Utah; Megan Spencer from Lodi, California; and Chase Thomas from Bakersfield, California; won Sawtooth Software’s Marketing Analytics Consulting Challenge and brought home $3,000 thanks to their creative solutions, including their young friend.

Before ideating solutions to the challenge from co-sponsor Sylvan Learning, the team decided to create Gabi, a “muse” to represent Sylvan’s target customer. When making decisions and analyzing their target audience, the team would consult Gabi’s consumer profile.

Only after the competition did a judge inform the team that Sylvan itself had created a muse to help in its strategy: a seven-year-old girl who struggles with math—named Gabi.

“We talk about her before every meeting,” says Jennifer Brandeen, vice president of strategy and business development at Sylvan.

The BYU team just happened to create the exact persona for the competition.

“It was a one-in-a-billion fluke; if I were a judge I would have been freaked out,” Alleger says.

The team’s unison with the judges was only a reflection of their harmony as a group. Chiararia and Egan first joined forces on an MBA river rafting adventure in Moab, Utah, in 2016. One of the activities involved frantically draining boats of water overflow with only a few buckets. After surviving the leadership-training activity, Chiararia knew that he could trust Egan with anything—including difficult case competitions. Together they assembled the rest of the team based on their unique skill sets.

“I’m super impressed with everyone on the team,” says Egan. “We worked very well together even under pressure. We all had individual strengths that we contributed.”

After competing against their peers at BYU, the team moved on to the second round, facing MBA students from Ohio State University, Michigan State University, University of Utah, and James Madison University. Teams designed surveys using Sawtooth technology to collect and analyze statistics in order to determine price points, market share, and consumer insights in order to determine if the company should expand their tutoring services in-home or online.

With Gabi in mind, the BYU team decided to create a personal tutor-student matching system to help parents find the right tutor for the right price.

“It was risky because we ended up setting aside some of what we learned from the data, but it paid off,” says Thomas.

After a week of late nights, the team celebrated its win by getting a full night’s sleep. Each member will use the prize money to fund various travels.

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A team of BYU MBA students won Sawtooth Software’s Marketing Analytics Consulting Challenge and brought home $3,000.

Media Contact: Jordan Christiansen (801) 422-8938
Writer: Abby Eyre