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The Kellogg team bested competitors from the University of Chicago, Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Loyola and Tulane. “It was a phenomenal experience for everyone,” says team co-leader Joshua Wishnick ’12.

The Kellogg team bested competitors from the University of Chicago, Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Loyola and Tulane. “It was a phenomenal experience for everyone,” says team co-leader Joshua Wishnick ’12.

A 'Rare' opportunity

Kellogg students take first place in the New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week IDEAcorps MBA Challenge

By Sara Langen

4/13/2011 - When Hari Sripathi ’11 decided to spend spring break competing in the New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week IDEAcorps MBA Challenge, the lifelong vegetarian didn’t anticipate diving into the guts of the meat industry.

And yet, as part of the case competition, Sripathi and his Kellogg teammates were charged with expanding the business of Rare Cuts, a New Orleans gourmet meat shop founded by entrepreneur Henry Albert. Given his personal dietary habits, Sripathi approached the challenge with trepidation.

“Initially, it was hard,” he said. “I tried to convince the team to change the client. But when I saw the enthusiasm they had, I felt I really had to put self-interest aside. My choice was vindicated when I met the client himself, a really warm and friendly guy.

“Now, I am probably one of the few lifelong vegetarians who can tell a rib eye from a tenderloin and comment on how marbling affects taste.”

That choice turned out to be a winning one for Sripathi and the team, which took first place in the competition — one of the highlights of a week-long series of workshops and competitions sponsored by Idea Village, a New Orleans nonprofit that supports local entrepreneurs involved in the city’s redevelopment. The Kellogg students competed against teams from the University of Chicago, Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Loyola and Tulane in front of a panel of executive judges that included TPG founder Jim Coulter.

The intense week was no vacation, said Thane Gauthier ’05, team adviser and fellow of the Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice. The students met with Albert Sunday night, then spent Monday through Thursday working to develop a plan to expand his business, which they presented to him that evening. The final case competition was held Friday.

“He had a local store that was doing well — the people who go into his store love him,” Gauthier said. “But how do you take his personality and translate it into an Internet model? The team developed an online expansion strategy that focused on the South East, an area that is underserved for these types of companies.”

The entrepreneur loved the proposal so much, he began implementing the plan immediately and hired Sripathi’s co-team leader, Joshua Wishnick ’12, for a summer internship. Although the work was intense, having the opportunity to give back to New Orleans was a great reward, Wishnick said. Winning wasn’t bad, either.

“Did you see UConn win the National Championship? It was sort of like that,” he said. “It was complete jubilation, big hugs and smiles all around. It was a phenomenal experience for everyone.”

The team, which included Saloni Doshi ’12, John Flinn ’12, Keith Hennegan ’12, Jason Rubottom ’12 and Richard Walker ’12, won a trophy and a limo ride to a reception hosted by James Carville and Mary Matalin at their antebellum mansion. They’re also looking forward to a crawfish boil for themselves and friends on the Northwestern campus this spring sponsored by Idea Village.