School of Management Students Research Company Expansion

Posted: March 14, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nicole Hitpas

In fall 2007, Ratner Companies posed a real-world competitive strategy inquiry to the School of Management (SOM) MGMT 451 New Venture Creation class taught by Mahesh Joshi.

Mahesh Joshi
Mahesh Joshi

Owner of the Hair Cuttery and Bubbles Salons, Ratner was interested in expanding into markets beyond the domestic United States.

A student team formed and was charged with exploring the current market and competitive climate for hair salons in Puerto Rico. The four-member team of Melanie Torres, Ross Stegall, Elon Backer and David Rheaume embarked on market research to determine the viability of Ratner Companies expanding its Hair Cuttery salons into Puerto Rico.

After completing their research, which included the distribution and data analysis of surveys in Puerto Rico, the students met with Ratner top management representatives in February and presented their strategic analysis.

“I believe the students were very thorough, professional and thoughtful in both their research and presentation. It was both fun and enlightening for me to participate,” says Les Mardiks, Ratner senior vice president and general counsel.

“It was definitely challenging and interesting, and I appreciate the university making an effort to give students the chance to participate in a project like this. I gained real-world experience presenting a proposal for a project that will have an impact on a real company,” says team member Melanie Torres.

“This project was special because the end result was very tangible,” says student Ross Stegall. “Rather than pretending to own or operate a business or pretend to be researching for an imaginary business, we were actually communicating and doing work for a well-known business with its roots in the Northern Virginia area.”

Torres adds, “I feel that I applied skills to this project that I learned specifically because of the SOM courses I have taken. It has also given me a fresh perspective on the real world in that now I understand why so many of my classes require teamwork – that’s what it’s like in the real world.”

“We learned how to work in a team, we got to experience the real world, and it helped me decide whether or not I want to be an entrepreneur or enter the corporate world,” explains team member David Rheaume. “I definitely want to be an entrepreneur because I believe there are limitless possibilities of starting a successful business “This project [taught] us exactly what we should expect when we have that degree in our hand and are applying for a job.”

Strong ties to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area business community help make experiential learning a focus of the SOM curriculum. Networking events, the ‘Ask the Professionals’ series, guest speakers in the classroom and class projects such as the one for Ratner Companies help students build contacts before they leave the university.

Professor Joshi adds, “Such events help students in several ways: it builds their confidence, they get to see how a decision of a critical magnitude is made at a large firm, and most important, the tools and skills learned in the classroom are actually useful to managers.”

Write to at