Berry good business plan

Team Toppel 350
Photo: Courtesy John Toppel

It was a Thursday night in November in Los Angeles. Four SCU undergrad business students were there because they had a job to do: develop a business plan for Dole Foods on how to harvest, process, market, and distribute açai berries in juice blends. (For those not tuned in to the buzz on berries: Açai—pronounced ah-SIGH-ee—are lauded as an Amazonian superfruit, packing twice the antioxidant wallop of blueberries; look for them in a smoothie near you.) And by the way, the presentation was due Saturday morning.

It was all in the spirit of competition—in this case, the second annual International Business University Competition, sponsored by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and hosted at Loyola Marymount University. Seniors John Burke, Patrick Flanagan, Scott Kirk, and junior Rob Harding represented SCU, with Professor of Management John Toppel serving as faculty mentor. They faced off against a field of five other universities, including teams from the University of Southern California, Villanova, and the University of South Carolina. Top execs from FedEx, Toyota, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and others were on hand to answer questions.

After 48 sleepless hours of prep, the SCU team presented their plan, which reached from rain forest to supermarket shelf. They came away with second place, $3,000 in prize money, and a new appreciation for how to apply what they’ve learned in class. Plus, no doubt, a new affection for those purple berries.

—DP and SBS

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