Kellogg trio bound for Paris for L’Oreal challenge finals

Jacqueline Chmielnicki

Three graduate students from Kellogg Graduate School of Management will represent the United States in the last round of L’Oreal’s e-Strat Challenge after taking first place in the North American MBA division.

Mikio Kawahara, Tatsuhito Nakagawa and Daisuke Tsuruki will present a marketing business plan to senior L’Oreal employees and other executive officials in Paris on April 22 in competition with seven undergraduate teams and six other MBA student teams.

“We are very happy to be bringing this prize to Kellogg,” said Tsuruki, who will graduate in June. “It’s humbling to bring this back.”

The L’Oreal competition, an online business simulation, gives students from around the world the opportunity to experience managing a virtual cosmetic business called Prima. The challenge required each group to make the decisions any manager of an international business regularly would face.

“(The competitors) are challenged with similar challenges a real cosmetic company might face on a daily, monthly or yearly basis,” said Sam Mattingly, associate vice president of corporate communications for L’Oreal USA. “Challenges include problems with human resources, research and development or manufacturing.”

The Kellogg group members called themselves Chabozu and entered “just to enjoy and participate” in the competition, Tsuruki said. However, after the team ranked No. 1 in the second period of the competition, the business students started to dedicate more energy to the challenge.

“When we got first place, everything changed,” Tsuruki said. “We got more serious and spent all of our free time working on it. On the nights before judges made decisions, we stayed up until four or five in the morning.”

To prepare for the competition in Paris, the Kellogg students created a marketing plan for Prima, reviewing material they learned in their classes to complete the task.

“This is a confirmation for us that we’ve learned something valuable and can use it in the real world,” said Nakagawa, one of the three team members.

Chabozu is the first Kellogg team to win the nationals in the graduate category, beating participants who attend other business schools such as Harvard University, Yale University and University of Pennsylvania. Last year the Kellogg team won second place in the national division and therefore did not make it to the final round, losing to the Harvard team.

“(Ranking first place) shows the quality and high level of Kellogg studies and the school’s prominence,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly added that this win for the Kellogg students shows their “incredible amount of strength, determination, responsibility and intellectual ability.”

This year 1,000 teams competed in the challenge, including 138 teams from North America. Officials reviewed nearly 30,000 team applications to decide who would compete. The number of participants has increased since the competition began four years ago, Mattingly said.

Moreover, Mattingly said, students get a sense for the competitive nature of business.

“This is a win-win proposition for students and for L’Oreal,” Mattingly said. “Students have the opportunity to come in close contact with L’Oreal and get an insider’s view on the way the cosmetic business is run. They also get to translate book work into real-life situations.”