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Using everything from astute marketing and merchandising skills to good decision-making, four Nichols students taking the College’s freshman seminar in Business and Society rose as high as fourth place—and outdistanced—10,000 rivals in an international, online business competition.
The competition revolves around a business simulation game dubbed MikesBike, created by online developer Smartsims . As part of the curriculum for the freshman seminar, Professor Maryann Conrad had her students form groups to take on the game’s central challenge—establishing and running their own bicycle business, with an eye to increasing profits and the company’s share price.
The Business and Society students, organized into six groups, concentrated on the simulation for 30 minutes in each class during the second half of the term. Calling their virtual business Cylcology, and using effective business strategies on price points, advertising, budgeting, and long-range planning, the team of Mike Warrino, Samantha Gandolfo, Steven Bellin, and King Landesman worked their way up the international standings, eventually earning a place in the Smartsims “Hall of Fame.”
Along the way, the four freshmen say, they learned plenty about successful business practices. “It gives you an idea of what a business is like,” says Bellin.
Using a product mix of youth bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes, the Nichols squad started by undercutting the competition. While most rivals charged $400 for the youth bike, Gandolfo notes, her team set the price at $350. “There’s an instinct not to discount your bikes,” she says. “But you need to take risks, or you’ll end up in the middle of the team rankings.”
“The higher-end road bike was usually $750, but we charged $700,” Gandolfo continues, adding that eventually the Nichols group was able to raise the price to $1900 based on supply and demand. “At that point, no one else (among the competition) had that bike,” she explains.
By establishing the company as a well-known and respected provider of road bikes, Cycology distinguished its operation from lower-end competitors, adds Warrino. “I thought that running this business would be more about advertising,” he admits. “But I found out that reputation is key.”
“Based on your prices and your advertising, the simulation tells you how many bikes you’ve sold and how much your company stock has gone up,” points out Gandolfo. Over the course of the term, Cycology managed to raise the company’s stock price from about $15 to $250.
Another factor that can raise stock prices involves long-range planning. “Over the short term, you’re just trying to maximize sales,” Warrino explains. “But we also came up with a five-year plan. We wanted repeat customers.”
Professor Conrad (pictured with Team Cycology) says that the simulation proved a valuable as well as an engaging learning tool for all of her student teams. “It gave them real life experience in working as a team and executing the decisions they made,” she says.
For all of Cycology’s simulated success, Gandolfo says the outcome is still hard to believe. “It was very surprising to find out that we were fourth out of 10,000,” she says. “That’s a big deal.”