A team of three University of Connecticut students won first place in a food marketing competition held in Washington, D.C., on November 12th.
The team consisted of John Daly, Jacob Tymczak, and William Hyers III, students in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. It was put together by assistant professor Christina Connolly, who previously worked with the team on this competition at Caltech.
Hiers, a senior environmental economics major, said it took time for the team to adjust and work together cohesively, but they quickly became a “really complementary team.”
The Food Distribution Study Group, which sponsored the competition, had each team consider an actual food marketing problem, and each team was required to submit a 10-minute video proposing a solution. The top three teams were then invited to a Food Distribution Research Society meeting to present their solutions in person and answer questions from the judges.
The UConn team was assigned to create a solution for Metin LLC, an Uzbek company looking to expand its international market beyond Russia. Their solutions will be sent to Metin LLC for consideration.
Hiers said the company analyzed various markets and products to “squeeze out the best markets and products for our company.” The researchers ultimately proposed a plan that would encourage the company to sell dried fruit to the UK and fresh fruit to China.
Hiers said one of the team's strengths is the diversity of the three members' strengths.
“We were different ages, we had different interests, we came from different backgrounds, we were definitely different majors, and that diversity was what brought us together,” Hyers said.
Hiers said the team's differences in skills and interests, including Tymczak's videography skills, gave them an advantage in the competition.
“It wasn't his major, but he was great directing us, directing the camera, and making sure the video presentation was really polished,” Hyers said. Told. “John is very technical and very analytically oriented, whereas I love to talk, so I'm obviously a people person.”
Hyers also said he believed their success could be partially attributed to the way they analyzed the big picture rather than focusing on the minutiae of the problem.
“We were doing analysis that other groups hadn't thought of, and when we received that feedback, we kind of braced ourselves and said, 'Okay, how detailed can we make this?' “I thought about it,” Hiers said.
Hiers said the team took a month to prepare the in-person presentation after the video was selected as one of the finalists. Hiers also said the team assumed the length of his presentation until two weeks before the conference would be 10 minutes, but then found out it needed to be 20 minutes.
“About two weeks after we started, I was ready to give a 10-minute presentation when I received a document saying there would be 20 minutes and 10 minutes of Q&A,” Hiers recalls.
Hyers said the presentation took place in a more intimate setting than expected, with only his team, advisors and three judges in attendance. He also said the judges appeared critical during the Q&A.
“I have to say we were a little shocked when we found out we won,” Hyers said. “It didn't seem like the judges were really leaning towards our opinion.”
In addition to having their solution sent to Metin LLC, the team received a plaque and a $1,000 cash prize split among three people.
“What we did was work really, really, really hard and do a good job, and thankfully we got an award for that,” Hiers said.