Modern Meal Makers finish first in 2018’s Core Challenge
What do a weather-proof inflatable tent, organic meal kit delivery, and a plush toy integrated with technology all have in common? They were all invented by the finalists in this year’s Questrom Core Challenge, an honor given to the three top teams to present what they’ve been working on for the semester.
The Cross Functional Core, SM323, consists of four courses in Marketing, Operations, Analytics, and Finance, all of which are integrated into a semester-long project focused on new product and or service development. Students’ business skills are put to the test in small teams tasked with developing and presenting a uniquely designed product or service, addressing everything from current customer and market needs to individualized marketing plans and operations processes.
Each year, a committee of faculty members nominates the SM323 teams with the most innovative, imaginative, and interesting Core projects. Out of approximately ninety Core plans for review, only three finalists are chosen to present their semester’s work in front of a panel of judges and sponsors.
This year, the Core competition was sponsored by TJX Companies, Inc., the multinational, billion-dollar retail corporation behind stores like HomeGoods, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx. On the panel of judges was Dustin Leszcynski, AVP Director of Campus Recruiting, The TJX Companies, joined by Questrom faculty Ian Mashiter, Senior Lecturer, Strategy & Innovation and Director, BUild Lab, and Paul Cosway, Lecturer, Strategy & Innovation.
The three finalists this year included aeroTent, described by its inventors as a “better shelter with ease of setup, transport, and a comfortable interior,” Bump It Up!, a plush toy that emphasizes both social and musical interaction amongst children, and this year’s winners, Modern Meal Makers, a food service with deliverable organic meal kits and on-site healthy cooking classes.
THE DELICIOUS SERVICE
The team describes Modern Meal Makers’ service as “a food service for busy, health-conscious young adults in the Greater Boston area who want the experience of cooking fresh and healthy meals.” With meal delivery, single and three-course cooking courses, and a surplus of freshly washed and chopped ingredients, the Modern Meal Makers team seeks to help create value for the world by keeping young Bostonians healthy.
Team point-person Luorong (Sophie) Sheng (Questrom’18) explains how the cooking classes and meal kits would work. “Our service offers hands-on, 3-recipe cooking classes in an intimate setting with an executive chef who will guide you through the process every step of the way. Complimentary wine will even be served during the class! Moreover, you’ll be cooking with solely organic, locally-sourced ingredients sure to keep you both healthy and satisfied,” she says. As for the meal kits? “Every ingredient in these kits is not only entirely organic and locally-sourced, but also comes washed, chopped, sliced, peeled, and prepped. All you have to do is mix them together and cook it by following the easy recipe provided, to enjoy a fast and healthy meal.”
Their presentation wowed the judges, securing them the first place prize—individual awards certificates and the entire team’s name on the Core Challenge trophy. “I felt excited and in shock when we won the first place award,” says Sophie. “We were only able to do one rough run-through.” However, the team’s cohesion, dedication, and hard work proved one run-through was all they needed. “When we actually gave the presentation, all the memories of the last year just flooded back and we aced it.”
Sophie says she’s learned invaluable lessons about business, teamwork, and her academic interests from the Core project. “It was probably the most stressful, memorable, and fruitful semester of my college education. It gave me a glance at data analysis, leading me to continue to study Operations Management. It completely changed how I view and evaluate a business.”
As for advice for future Core students, Sophie says to roll with the punches. “It’s okay to have a team that is not perfect. Remember that with great power comes great responsibilities.”
Lastly, Sophie wants students to know that it’s not as daunting as it may seem. “It’s not that scary as some may describe. Cherish the time because you will miss it when it’s over,” says Sophie. There’s also time for fun— team member Maximiliaan Ponsen (Questrom’18) notes his favorite memory was sneakily adding a photo of his Operations professor, Professor Kadets, in the final presentation. “It was a small inside joke and gave many people a chuckle.”
In addition to Sophie and Max, the Modern Meal Makers included Robert Jacobson (Questrom’18), Samuel Klitenick (Questrom’18), Arjun Nandakumar (Questrom’18), Jessica Park (Questrom’19), Heaven Sealey (Questrom’18), Myles Ullman (Questrom’19), Mengze Yin (Questrom’18), and Jorge Alfonso Zablah (Questrom’19), aided by faculty advisors Ted Chadwick, Jonathan Hibbard, Barry Kadets, and Rakesh Pandey.