It’s one thing to hear industry professionals speak at an event. It’s all the more impactful when you can have lunch with them, ask questions that directly pertain to your interests and goals, and seek their advice. The Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) Industry Summit offers just that kind of interactive experience for CARS students and all Bryan School majors.
“The whole day is designed to give students the chance to have hands-on experience in solving a real-world business problem and to interact with senior-level industry professionals,” says Nancy Hodges, CARS department head and organizer of the event. March 24 marked the CARS department’s third time offering the summit, which is sponsored by a different organization each year. The 2016 sponsor was VF Jeanswear, a division of VF Corporation, the world’s largest apparel manufacturer.
With the theme of “Innovation,” the 2016 summit featured a panel discussion by top VF Jeanswear executives, a product innovation competition, and a reception that gave faculty-selected students the chance to network with industry leaders in a more informal setting.
How to channel passions into successful careers
“It is incredibly encouraging to meet people who share the same passions I do and who have channeled these passions into successful careers,” says sophomore Megan McAbee. “They offered me great insight into the future of the retail industry, as well as some helpful tips about how to be successful in my future job, post-graduation. ”
Sebrina Hernandez, vice president of retail marketing for VF, shared her advice to curious students who wanted to know how they can best prepare themselves for the real world. “They were interested in our roles and how our career paths evolved,” she says. “My advice was to find your passion, knowing that sometimes it takes a few years and a few roles to find the right fit. You don’t have to have the perfect plan at this point; it’s not going to be perfectly scripted.”
Developing and marketing an innovative product
The product innovation competition was another highlight, particularly for the winning team: Seniors Jessica Cranfill, Brianna Nowak, and Taylor Rutledge. Specifically, for undergraduate CARS students, the competition tasked student teams with developing and marketing an innovative product in just 24 hours and then presenting their final projects to the executives, who served as judges and gave valuable feedback.
“Our charge was to create an innovative boy’s denim line to be exclusively sold at Walmart for VF,” says Rutledge. “We choose to rebrand Wrangler by introducing two new sub-brands that each incorporated a special sweatshirt denim fabric to follow the athleisure trend. We developed everything from a social media account with an active marketing strategy to the actual products we envisioned for Wrangler’s rebranding. We even segmented the sub-brands by age range to help create a more cohesive brand for each particular group. We did what millennials love to do: toss out the old, keep what works, and introduce something new.”
Nowak, whose passion is marketing, appreciated the opportunity to take another step toward her future career path. “I believe our marketing strategy was well done and efficient. We were able to explain to the judges, who are not millennials, features of an app they were not familiar with, which got them excited,” she says.
The VF executives valued the opportunity for dialogue. “As an industry leader in the apparel category, VF Corporation actively engages with the students who will be driving industry trends and innovation in the coming years,” says Jimmy Shafer, vice president and general manager for youth apparel.
“Being able to hear their criticism and feedback specific to my work, was a priceless
experience,” says Jessica Cranfill. “They were able to grade our case study on a real world basis and gave us a look of what will expected in the workplace.”
“The whole day is designed to give students the chance to have hands-on experience in solving a real-world business problem and to interact with senior-level industry professionals.”
– Nancy Hodges, Burlington Industries Professor and Head of the Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies