UB Case Competition

By Xueying “Shelley” Chen (with Carolina Lion He and Shengyang “Shawn” Wu)

In April, Team Calorie Surplus participated in the University at Buffalo Case Competition, where each team was given a business case to solve. The assigned case – whether or not a Chinese-born entrepreneur, Jane, should enter the pearl market in Canada – required analysis and a presentation to a panel of judges. During the semi-final round of the competition, these presentations were twenty-minutes long, followed by a ten-minute Q&A session. The team, made up of Shengyang “Shawn” Wu, Xueying “Shelley” Chen, and Carolina Lion He, said it was an intellectually stimulating experience because every minute they were challenged to come up with solutions, supported by valid evidence.

Team Calorie Surplus during the University at Buffalo’s Case Competition.

We booked a bus to Buffalo and checked into the hotel. The first day was hosted at the Buffalo Club, a private club with a long history (we heard it was once connected to the White House when President Reagan was in the office). The welcome event was a great networking opportunity where we connected with professionals who work at Bank of America, Citibank, and Deloitte. We also spoke to MBA students who had ample work experience.

While we did not advance to the final competition, we learned plenty of lessons from people we were fortunate to meet at the competition. Below, we will tell you some key takeaways from our experiences and participation in this competition.

The team in Buffalo (from left to right): Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19, Carolina Lion He ’21, and Shengyang “Shawn” Wu ’21.

Networking in a Formal Business Setting

We built genuine relationships at the reception, where we connected with other participants as well as professionals (and later through LinkedIn). One of the lessons we learned from a Vice President in a large financial firm is to always follow up with someone on Linkedin. She told us of a student who would repeatedly message her on Linkedin until he asked – and received – a referral for a position.

Analyzing Business Problems and Searching for Solutions

Because this was our first experience of analyzing a business case, it was quite overwhelming for us to delve into the details at the beginning. Both the background of the case and the business question behind it were challenging for us. We read though the case over and over again, talked through our questions, and conducted market research to back up our conclusions, leading us to really grasp the right way of critically analyzing a business conundrum. At the end of the competition, we left Buffalo with more confidence and skills to solve problems with an analytical and fact-based mindset.

Initiating Conversations and Finding Common Ground

How do you start a conversation with others (professionals or participants) in a formal business reception? Ask them, “do you know K-pop?” and follow up with, “do you know BTS (a South-Korean boy band)?”

Just kidding! The takeaway from this is to not talk with the sole purpose of benefiting from others – they will notice and that will not be a positive experience for either one of you. For example, a graduate admissions person sat down at our table and started a conversation with us. He asked us to tell him about “trends,” because he likes to learn from younger people. I asked whether he meant any types of trends because when I think of trends, I mostly think of pop music. This exchange led us to an interesting conversation that touched on pop music, psychology, and university admissions. The one thing to keep in mind is to speak as your true self; do not try to talk about some economic theories just because you think it would make you look cooler or more intelligent. How you deliver your thoughts is often more important than the topic that you are talking about.

Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19 is a researcher, activist and writer of social entrepreneurship and a believer of impact-driven businesses. She thinks business is a vehicle to deliver profitable, sustainable and socially responsible returns. Shelley puts human-centered impact in the core of her daily business practice. Additionally, Shelley is an active member of the UR entrepreneurial community and she is a member of the Ain Team – a group of elite student ambassadors chosen to promote and increase the visibility of the department and the MS in TEAM program.