Nebraska Business students from around the world utilized cross-cultural skills in the inaugural Nebraska Export Challenge as they competed in teams to make business presentations based on exporting products abroad. Dr. Kalu Osiri, director of the international business program and associate professor of practice of management, envisioned the competition with a goal on getting students to interact with peers from other countries.
“A major component of the Export Challenge is asking students to form global teams which have representation from an international location,” said Osiri. “We worked with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to get a list of companies looking to export products internationally. Teams matched themselves with a company they wanted to work with that fit their interests. They developed a four-page plan and submitted those before the competition.”
Three teams advanced to the final round of competition from an original pool of 11 teams. The three countries the finalists targeted for exporting included Brazil, Canada and Rwanda. Michael Salerno, lead director of international banking at First National Bank, served as one of the judges for the final round, and was impressed with the diverse markets the teams chose.
“The majority of U.S. companies’ first choice to export is Canada because the challenges are easier to resolve,” said Salerno. “The other two finalists were moving into two very difficult markets in Rwanda and Brazil, with challenges from corruption to poverty to changing agricultural economies, so there’s a lot more complexity. You could tell the students were well prepared and understood the companies they represented.”
The judges emphasized the competition served to model that it takes a higher level of due diligence to generate revenue internationally. Thomas Peace, international sales representative at Preferred Popcorn out of Chapman, Nebraska, stressed the importance of educating young people to be globally-minded.
“Our company goes through the same process as these teams,” said Peace, “We have entities in three countries, and so this process of looking at the politics, finances, marketing and sales strategies is something businesses have to do every time they look at diversifying outside the U.S. We saw students in the Export Challenge doing something they’ll do many times again in the companies they work for during their careers.”
The first place team shared $6,000 and the second place team shared $4,000 in scholarship money to apply toward study abroad experiences during the coming year. Gloria Mwiseneza, a sophomore integrated science major from Kigali, Rwanda, worked on the first place team representing Dynamic Green Concepts out of Lubbock, Texas. Their project focused on exporting biostimulants to improve sustainable organic agriculture development in Rwanda.
“It’s a great honor for me because I am from Rwanda, and I believe this project will contribute to the development of my country,” said Mwiseneza, who plans to use her scholarship studying abroad in Panama. “We had two people from Rwanda on our team, and two from the U.S., so it’s was a collaborative effort. Each of us did research on different areas, and I looked at the details of our product and technological trends happening in Rwanda.”
David Petersen, a sophomore international business major from Lincoln, Nebraska, thrived working with international students. He worked on promotion and research of the Rwandan economy, and credited his Rwandan teammates for their unique insights.
“It was great working with students from Rwanda,” said Petersen. “They were able to utilize contacts with Rwandan farmers, which was a big part of our success. I have quite a few friends from Rwanda, so to be able to learn even more about their culture was an honor.”
Petersen said the team plans on sending their consulting report to Dynamic Green Concepts for review, so they can decide how they want to proceed. The second place team represented SunHeat International out of Grand Island, Nebraska, and their proposal involved exporting infrared heaters to Canada. Both teams were announced at the International Business Summit 30th Anniversary Celebration on April 12.
First Place Team ($6,000 Study Abroad Scholarship)
Second Place Team ($4,000 Study Abroad Scholarship)
Gloria Mwiseneza, sophomore integrated science major, Kigali, Rwanda
Jeffrey Owusu-Ansah, sophomore international business major, Lincoln, Nebraska
David Petersen, sophomore international business and marketing major, Lincoln, Nebraska
Olivier Tuyizere, sophomore integrated science major, Kigali, Rwanda
Joe Osbron, sophomore international business major, Valencia, California
Caleb Sneed, senior supply chain management major, Smithville, Missouri
Yuchao Song, junior international business and finance major, Zhaoqing, China
Linyi Zhang, junior international business and chemistry major, Shenzhen, China