Mazda leaders wanted to know: How can we boost our accessory sales that go in-hand with customers purchasing a vehicle?
Like her five teammates, Shira Pirouzian knew little about the automobile industry. Not only did the team have to come up with potential solutions to this problem, but they also had to present their findings in front of Mazda’s representatives. The students had a budget of $50,000 and just two weeks to get the job done.
Case competitions are crucial learning experiences for students like Pirouzian at Binghamton University’s School of Management (SOM). They test problem-solving abilities and marketing prowess while also building valuable teamwork skills on a tight deadline. When it came time for Pirouzian and her teammates to make their pitch near the end of the fall 2023 semester, their hard work paid off: they placed second out of six presentations whittled from 44 initial SOM student groups.
For Pirouzian, a third-year student majoring in business administration with a concentration in management information systems who grew up on Long Island, this success proved symbolic of the philosophy that’s guided much of her journey so far at Binghamton: “You learn as you go.”
“I’ve always been a business person. I started out as the kid who was knocking on my neighbors’ doors to sell chocolate bars and things like that,” she said. “In high school, while scrolling through Instagram, I noticed a lot of resale pages and figured, why not try this? I started a business online reselling sneakers and streetwear, which honed my passion for pursuing business and entrepreneurship.”
Pirouzian began by following other social media accounts involved in reselling shoes to better understand how they handled pricing. Clients would bring shoes to sell, and often, factors like not having extra laces or selling without the shoebox might affect their resale value.
At first, Pirouzian felt she didn’t always know what she was doing. Sometimes, clients wouldn’t take her seriously. She lost money. She got scammed.
But that changed with experience. She learned the best ways to negotiate with sellers about pricing or how to make extra money by cleaning up used footwear herself to make them more appealing to buyers. She also gained insights into what shoes sold better than others and how to promote them using video.
Navigating those hurdles gave Pirouzian the confidence to meet the new challenges that awaited her at Binghamton, where she started out by exploring a new potential field as a psychology major.
When her interests shifted back toward economics and business, and her first attempt to transfer into SOM didn’t work out, she remained determined not to lose sight of her goals. With some extra work in the classroom, networking with SOM Career Services and involvement in business-related student clubs, she landed her spot.
That kind of adaptability proved especially useful in the Mazda case competition.
Pirouzian and her teammates formed a strategy by picturing themselves as customers seeking a rewarding luxury shopping experience. They presented a three-year implementation timeline that accounted for potential risks, options for circumventing them, and financial implications.
When they presented to Mazda, the team suggested ways of improving SEO to boost Mazda’s visibility in online searches and better restructure Mazda’s dealership website to highlight new accessories and launch new ones.
They also recommended providing complimentary customer services, including food and beverages and a shuttle service option to build customer loyalty and for Mazda to display accessories in a showroom to create more of a hands-on experience.
“It’s not just about reading the case and coming up with ideas; you have to do a lot of research for a case competition,” Pirouzian said. “Not only does it push your brain, but you gain so many valuable teamwork skills along the way.”
Pirouzian plans to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) before she leaves Binghamton and then pursue a consulting or real estate career. But she’s open to other possibilities.
“I hope to find a career that’s not just confined to an office setting,” she said. “I want to travel, meet new people and keep growing my skills because, to me, that’s the best way to ‘learn as you go.’”