Lakeville South DECA members win Finish Line Challenge
Finish Line congratulates Joel Varghese and Brandon Sell from Lakeville South DECA in Lakeville, Minn., for winning this year’s Finish Line Challenge.
The team traveled to Indianapolis, Ind., on February 17-18, to present their project to a panel of Finish Line executives, vice presidents, and the Finish Line CEO. They competed against two other finalist teams, one from Herriman DECA from Herriman, Utah, and another from Amador Valley DECA from Pleasanton, Calif.
Varghese and Sell have won a travel stipend to attend DECA’s International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif., in April, courtesy of Finish Line, where they will be recognized for their accomplishment at the grand award session.
The team first thought about competing in the Finish Line Challenge in October 2012. Joel heard about the challenge and thought it would be a great way to get more involved in his DECA chapter.
“I knew Brandon was good at video editing and iMovie, so I asked him to be my partner,” Joel said when asked how the team got involved with the challenge. “This whole experience has been great because we’ve been able to become better friends through working together.”
When discussing the team’s strategy to getting started, Joel and Brandon said the very first thing they did was watch the video submissions from last year’s competition participants and winner.
“We looked at the really great videos and tried to figure out how to make ours similar as well as how to improve,” Brandon said about their strategy.
The team’s research was a lengthier process. Joel explained that, “We went to Finish Line stores in various malls and used our friends as secret shoppers. We also conducted online surveys using Google docs, interviewed Finish Line employees, researched into Finish Line’s social media as well as their competitors, and conducted focus groups.”
Social media also enabled Joel and Brandon to get a wider representation of participants in their research surveys.
“We reached out to @DECAProblems to retweet our survey link, so we had tons of people from around the country taking our survey which was really awesome,” Joel explained.
The guys teamed up on the majority of the work, but when it came to their strengths they were able to pull their own weight. “Brandon’s the iMovie guy, so he did a lot of the video editing and I’m the presenter guy,” Joel stated.
As far as looking back on their project and what they would do differently, Brandon had a few suggestions. “I would have liked to have done more customer satisfaction surveys and going out to do more in-person research,” he said.
Brandon does create one of their strategies to make it into the top three though, and that was thinking outside of the box. “Don’t be afraid to go for your idea,” Brandon suggests to future teams. “Thinking outside the box is what we did and you just have to go for it.”
Joel also offered some words of advice to any future Finish Line Challenge teams. “Put in a lot of efforts because if you really work hard at this challenge, good things will come out of it.” Brandon added that you should find friends, an advisor or a parent who will watch your presentation and give you concrete, critical feedback to help you perfect it.
What if a team is having trouble knowing where to start? Brandon suggests, “Go to the Finish Line store in person. We were able to come up with so many great ideas by just standing in the store and seeing the customers and employees for ourselves.”
The teammates both agreed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience saying, “How many 16 year old kids get to present to a billion dollar company? It’s all the things we learned about in school becoming a reality.”
“If you want to get more involved in DECA, do challenge like this,” Joel mentioned. “No chapter should leave any of these [challenges] out. It just like the 30-page paper but so much more interactive and you get more out of it.”
Soon the reality for Joel and Brandon will be traveling to ICDC in April, but for now they’re still basking in the glory of being the Finish Line Challenge winners.
To watch Joel and Brandon’s winning presentation, visit the DECA YouTube channel.
Follow Janelle Scudder on Twitter @jjscudderdeca.