Banner Brock had extra incentive to do well in a recent case competition aimed at selling footwear that has the potential to eradicate foot-borne diseases globally.

The sophomore economics major has witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that foot diseases have on shoeless children in Africa during mission trips he made to the continent. So, when he and roommate Nathan Guion were named winners of the 2017 Tiger Ties Solution Case Study, there was an added sense of accomplishment.

Tiger Ties, case study, Banner, Samaritan's Feet

Banner Brock

“It’s something Nathan and I are very passionate about. We’ve both been to Africa and experienced how widespread foot disease is due to lack of footwear,” said Banner of Chattanooga, Tenn. “We understand the severity of the problem and how the solution isn’t really that complicated.”

A Charlotte, N.C., based philanthropic organization, Samaritan’s Feet International, believes it has the answer to ending foot-borne diseases. Its affiliate, Barefoot Global, manufactures The Good Foot, a biodegradable foam sandal that is infused with anti-microbial material that resists and helps treat foot-borne diseases. Students were challenged to develop business and marketing plans to sell the sandals.

“Being shoeless is a real health problem and can result in death because of the diseases children contract,” Banner added. “And in some cultures, without shoes, children are not allowed entrance into schools and denied an education.”

The second annual Tiger Ties Solution Case Study is an offshoot of the College of Business’ popular Tiger Ties Mentorship Program that connects business students with alumni in business-related fields. This year’s competition attempted to solve a real-world business problem that had global health implications.

“The teams were charged with creating a marketing campaign and business plan for selling The Good Foot sandals to athletes, college students and environmentally conscious adults,” said Leah Hughes, the business school’s assistant director for career and professional development. “The goal was to sell 20,000 pairs of sandals in the first 12 months.”

Banner and Nathan conducted a demographic study of the product’s target audiences and determined an average price for the shoe among the groups would be $25. The shoe’s socially responsible qualities add to the product’s consumer attractiveness and marketability.

“Since its founding in 2003, Samaritan’s Feet and its partners have distributed millions of shoes to those in need in nearly 90 countries,” Banner said. “Beyond that, these shoes are environmentally friendly. They biodegrade much faster than traditional EVA foam shoes.”

The winning pair’s marketing strategy varied for each audience segment. For young athletes, Banner and Nathan recommended setting up tents to sell the sandals at youth sporting events. And for college students, they proposed a sales competition.

“We proposed targeting a small group of larger universities in the Southeast and establishing competitions among teams of students,” Banner said. “A cash prize, divided equally among team members, would incentivize the students to sell.”

Hughes said case competitions like Tiger Ties Solutions expose students to problem solving on real-world issues.

“A lot of companies who hire our students want them to think in real-world terms. Competitions like this show they can analyze information and come up with solutions. It’s also an exercise that develops soft skills and competencies that employers value,” she said.

Banner said winning the competition wasn’t the incentive, nor the real benefit of the outside-the-classroom learning experience.

“It was a great use of our time and is helping address a global issue. Not only were we able to apply concepts learned in the classroom, we were able to put them into practice on a pressing global issue. That’s gratifying, and a win-win for the students and for the goal of ending foot-borne diseases.”

Scott Woods, co-founder of the competition, was joined in judging the event by his wife, Amy, and student Alvaro Guzman. Alvaro and Sarah Barsaleau won last year’s inaugural competition. Scott Woods is a Tiger Ties mentor and managing director of Advocatus Consulting, Fort Mills, S.C.

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