March 2017 Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
When life gives you lemons, you…present to a team of celebrity judges? This is what the incoming cohort of the MBA Program at the Cameron School of Business was tasked with on August 20th. On Saturday, 37 of the 43 Cameron School of Business Professional MBA candidates participated in their program orientation at UNCW. This year’s orientation was unique, featuring celebrity judges Judy Girard, Co-founder of GLOW (Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington) and President Emeritus of Food Network, HGTV and Lifetime Network; Cynthia Ferich, TV Chef on WBTV News, Educator, and Author; Bo Perkins, Celebrity Chef and Founder of Addiction Hot Sauces; and Hoop Morgan, Founder and Chairman of the Forte Institute.
Before the orientation began, all students were required to complete the Forté Communication Assessment - a robust, highly accurate communication style report, used globally for over 30-years for personal development at all levels and sizes of organizations. It shares the "who" of an individual, increasing self-awareness, how they are currently adapting to their environment, and how they are most likely coming across to others. Based on this profile, it then gives the individual a communications strategy that will strengthen workplace communication and performance.
After careful analysis of the report results, Hoop Morgan, the founder of this validated tool, grouped all students into teams of six or seven. That afternoon, the candidates were given the opportunity to experience firsthand a mash up of Shark Tank and Cutthroat Kitchen dubbed "La Cocina del Sol Showdown.” Each team began with bidding against each other on supplies for their presentation including cutting boards, a tablecloth, glassware, and even a mystery product which ended up being simple syrup. Using their purchases, each company made their own lemonade and presented their pitch considering the audience, the product, and the curve balls presented to them during the bidding process. Although all companies were tasked with “selling” lemonade, each group had a unique background story and value proposition.
JC Skane, Executive Director of the Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, Inc. (WARM), was a member of the Showdown’s winning team. JC describes her main goal of the MBA program as, “to obtain business skills that will enhance the sustainability and effectiveness of the nonprofit I work for. Now more than ever, nonprofits are being asked to show return on donor investment, measure performance, and increase accountability... while keeping ‘overhead’ to a minimum. We at WARM are up for the challenge and I want to be as prepared as possible to serve our amazing homeowners, supporters, and staff.”
At the conclusion of the competition, Molly Nece, UNCW Talent Development Manager and creator and facilitator of La Cocina del Sol, sat down with Judy Girard and answered questions regarding her exciting business career. Many of the questions were answered as anecdotal stories, several of which left a significant impact on the audience. A student I spoke with conjured one story in particular, in which Judy recalled the moment she realized that she did not fit in a particular company’s culture, and ultimately decided to leave the business. Her message? Regardless of your position, you have to make sure that you’re comfortable with the values and philosophy of your employer and co-workers.
When asked to share her recommendation for other professionals who are considering pursing their master’s degree, JC Skane advised, “Make sure you are fully committed mentally, then remove things from your life that are optional so that you can make time for the work. Position yourself for success!”