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Business students pitch Northeastern to victory

It may be time to start using the word “dynasty” when describing the success of Northeastern University’s Huntington Management Consulting group, which won the undergraduate case competition at Wake Forest University’s Marketing Summit last weekend.

The first place finish by the Northeastern team—consisting of Jake Wainwright, DMSB’14, Joe Haniak, DMSB’14, Jed Baker, DMSB’14, and Madeline Lutkewitte, DMSB’14—is the university’s second victory at the Marketing Summit in the last four years; last year, Northeastern placed second.

Eleven schools participated in this year’s competition, five of which competed at the undergraduate level against Northeastern including Wake Forest University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California, Berkeley.

“I’d take my undergrads against a graduate team any day,” said Raymond Kinnunen, club adviser and associate professor of International Business and Strategy in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “We work hard at it and we go there to win.”

Huntington Management Consulting is an undergraduate club comprising Northeastern business students who gain real-world experience through intercollegiate case competitions, in which they routinely place among the country’s top business schools. To practice for these competitions, students often work with the entrepreneurs of alumni ventures, who provide free analysis and consultation in exchange for the opportunity to hone their skills.

At this year’s competition, teams pitched a marketing proposal to Cheerwine, a family-owned soft drink company in North Carolina. The purpose of the plan was to help the company expand distribution across the United States.

Teams had 36 hours to prepare their proposals, which consist of analyzing the problem, answering questions, and coming up with creative solutions to the problem, explained Lutkewitte, who competed in her fifth case competition but couldn’t discuss the details due to a confidentiality agreement.

The Northeastern team learned the case’s specifics on Thursday night and met with Cheerwine’s senior vice president of sales and operations. Teams then had to present a solution to Cheerwine representatives and a panel of judges Saturday afternoon.

“We slept for about three or four hours Thursday night and 45 minutes Friday night,” Lutkewitte said.

The group started preparing for the competition during the first week of January with weekend practice runs organized by Kinnunen, who goes by Coach K. He would give the students a case on Saturday mornings and by Sunday they would have to present a solution to other Northeastern professors or Huntington Management Consulting alumni.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, so the presentation skills I have gained by regularly presenting to judges who are alumni of the club or professors has taught me how to step up my game,” Lutkewitte explained. “It’s real world experience.”