Two teams tie for top spot in UHV graduate business competition

Two teams tied for first place during the May 8 UHV School of Business Administration MBA Case Conference. In one team, top row from left, were Karyna Maraghi, Saima Bagha, Chelsea Creamer and Lorraine Smith. In the other team were, from left, Safa Qureshi, William Rivers, Jesse Nemons Jr. and Sakina Kasamali.

Two teams with completely different approaches to a food supply business tied for first place Saturday in the 27th University of Houston-Victoria School of Business Administration’s Master of Business Administration Case Conference.

Chelsea Creamer of Tomball, Lorraine Smith of Katy, and Karyna Maraghi and Saima Bagha of Houston were on a team that tied for first place with a team made up of Safa Qureshi of Richmond and Sakina Kasamali, Jesse Nemons Jr. and William Rivers, all of Katy. The conference was held virtually for the first time through Microsoft Teams and included 93 students on 25 teams. Students prepared presentations about Sysco, a wholesale restaurant supply company.

When Bagha’s group began analyzing Sysco, it chose to focus on how the company can reduce costs, especially in areas including vehicle maintenance and fuel for deliveries. The team recommended that the company invest in electric vehicles for deliveries as well as eco-friendly packaging for products. These tactics would reduce the company’s carbon footprint as well as transportation costs.

“Our team worked very well together,” Bagha said. “After we put in so much work, it was amazing to see our effort be recognized. It’s a huge achievement, and we are so proud.”

As they prepared their recommendations, Bagha and her teammates met at least once a week through Microsoft Teams and used the platform to share notes, files, reports and materials. In the week leading up to the competition, the team met three times to go through the presentation.

Jifu Wang

“The teams did a wonderful job analyzing both the external challenges and internal capabilities and resources to deal with those critical challenges,” said Jifu Wang, associate dean of international initiatives for the business school. “They have shown their competence and sharpness in business environment analyses and critical issue identification. What is more important is their ability to plan out doable and measurable actions for results in their recommendations. Their written project and presentation in the MBA Case Conference reflect their caliber for promising executive capabilities and the quality of UHV in preparing the MBA students for their managerial careers.”

When Rivers and his teammates met for the first time, they agreed they wanted to take an out-of-the-box approach that would stand out. Their main goals were to have recommendations that were sustainable, generate cash and increase the company’s brand.

“One of us suggested we begin by creating a relief program for customers, and it all came together from there,” he said. “It worked so well because we were all so excited about the concept, so we were dedicated to finding a way to make it work for the company and its customers.”

In their recommendation, the team suggested the company distribute a total of $10 million to a group of 133 customer restaurants that meet a list of eight criteria. The funds could be used for anything and would be given with a three-year contract with Sysco. In the deal, Sysco would be repaid in six months, and the customers would be able to use that initial cash infusion to purchase equipment, expand their operations or just get back on their feet after the pandemic.

“The restaurant industry was hit hard by the pandemic, and we saw an opportunity for Sysco to invest in its customers in a way that would help the customers recover and then reinvest in Sysco,” Rivers said.

Rivers and his teammates also used Microsoft Teams for much of their preparation and planning. They met at least twice a week and spent a significant amount of time reviewing, critiquing and tweaking their presentation to be sure they would do well.

Other teams that placed in the MBA Case Conference were:

  • Second place – Jack Johnson III of Missouri City, Husna Kassim of Houston, Yovana Lowry of Pearland and Tomeka Sanders of Fresno
  • Third place – Craig Burton of Madison, Blake Daniel of Victoria, Kevin Nguyen of Houston and Scott Rauba of The Woodlands

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.