Four undergraduate students at Georgia Southern University started out as strangers. After a few months together, the jewelry line they created from scratch earned them thousands of dollars in scholarships through the NRF Foundation Student Challenge.
“This is the most real-life experience you can get,” says Cayley Creekmore, who worked with teammates Shannon Foote, Anna Tiller and Woodley White on the business case competition. “You go from nothing to a full product line. You learn every side of the business that you wouldn't normally have learned in the classroom experience.”
KPMG presented the scholarship and matched each team with a mentor who guided the students throughout the Student Challenge.
Georgia Southern edged out more than two dozen other teams, earning recognition on stage at the NRF Foundation Honors and a $5,000 scholarship for each team member.
“I was shocked to learn that they really didn’t know each other well before this project, which made their success even more impressive,” the team’s KPMG mentor Renee Howard says in a news release from Georgia Southern. “For four virtual strangers to come together, mobilize and create such an outstanding product in such a compressed time frame speaks volumes about not only the talent of these women but their character.”
The students acted as members of the product development team for Akola, a growing, innovative jewelry brand employing women in crisis in Uganda and Dallas, Texas.
Georgia Southern selected Free People as their retailer, noting the store’s mission is similar to Akola’s. Their jewelry line, named WISH, is designed to give women the ability to help others achieve their dreams. The team thoroughly evaluated the Free People consumer to create a line that meets their needs and can be naturally incorporated into most of the clothing sold by the retailer.
The Student Challenge teams began work on the project in spring 2019. It culminated in January, with each of the final three teams traveling to New York City for the NRF Foundation Student Program and to make their pitch in a board room to retail executives who served as judges in the competition.
“Persistence and consistency pay off,” Foote says. “This has been an amazing opportunity to grow and learn.”
Since the launch of the NRF Foundation Student Challenge, nearly $300,000 has been awarded to undergraduates nationwide.
More details about how to participate in the 2021 Student Challenge will be released in the coming months.