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February 10, 2022

Nebraska Students Gain Experience Helping Family-Owned Business

Hauff Sports Sponsors 2021 Global Case Competition
Nebraska Students Gain Experience Helping Family-Owned Business
Students across the University of Nebraska–Lincoln teamed up to solve an interdisciplinary global business challenge during the 2021 Global Case Competition. The winning team includes Ashley Clegg, Eduardo Sicilia, Damien Niyonshuti, Jonathan Gerdes and Sushant Timalsina (not pictured). Also included are John Kalu Osiri, director of the International Business Program, associate professor of practice in management and Robert B. Daugherty Water For Food Institute Faculty Fellow (far left) and Mikki Sandin, international business and inclusion coordinator (far right).

Fourteen teams of Huskers from diverse backgrounds, countries and majors competed in the 2021 Global Case Competition hosted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln International Business Program. Students worked together to solve a global business challenge for Hauff Sports, a family-owned Midwest sporting equipment business, which awarded $10,000 to the top three teams.

Eduardo Sicilia and Steve Hauff.
Eduardo Sicilia and Steve Hauff worked together to launch a brand ambassador program for Hauff Sports.

“The virtual competition was an opportunity for students to work as a global team to solve a business challenge that cuts across multiple disciplines. Students were presented with a case study from Hauff Sports then tasked to research, develop and present their solutions to a panel of judges, which included members of the Hauff family,” said Mikki Sandin, assistant director of professional & life skills .

In business for nearly 90 years, Hauff Sports serves customers in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, as well as Missouri, North Dakota, Wyoming and Minnesota. The pandemic presented many challenges for the multigenerational family business, so for the competition, they asked students to recommend marketing, social media and expansion solutions consistent with their core mission for operations, customer relations and community service.

“The biggest takeaway from the competition was having multiple groups of people from the outside look at our business. They all said the same thing about our website and social media exposure,” said Jerry Hauff, vice president of Hauff Sports, who helped judge the final round of presentations with his father, Steve Hauff, president/treasurer of Hauff Sports.

The winning team included Ashley Clegg, senior Clifton Builders Management and pre-med major from Lincoln; Jonathan Gerdes, junior civil engineering major with minors in business and entrepreneurship from Lincoln; Damien Niyonshuti, junior integrated science major from Kigali, Rwanda; Eduardo Sicilia, sophomore management and marketing major from Cancún, Mexico; and Sushant Timalsina, ’21, agricultural economics major from Kavrepalanchok, Nepal.

“Steve and Jerry Hauff took this partnership with the students one step further by contracting with two members of the winning team to implement their solutions. Eddie and Ashley gathered information and collaborated on a new website and social media platforms,” Sandin said.

Sicilia also worked with Curt Hauff, who is secretary of Hauff Sports and Jerry’s brother, to develop a brand ambassador program. They developed a social media plan and found people who would support and help market the business.

Eduardo Sicilia and Jonathan Gerdes at the 2021 International Business Case Competition.
Eduardo Sicilia and Jonathan Gerdes presented with their team at the 2021 International Business Case Competition held at San Diego State University.

“The brand ambassador program helped us find some part-time sales staff who have contributed to the bottom line,” Jerry said. “Overall we felt it was good to have others see our business from a different angle. Curt and I are always working in the business and don't spend as much time working on the business. That is part of being a family-owned business.”

Sicilia pointed out how the competition provided the opportunity to forge a relationship with the Hauff family.

“I’m grateful for not only theoretically helping solve Hauff Sports’ problems, but also getting to be part of the actual implementation of the solution,” Sicilia said. “Working with a company with a long history like Hauff Sports was a great experience and it all started with the connection made during the competition.”

The winning team earned the opportunity to travel to San Diego State University in October 2021 to compete in the International Business Case Competition. Along with undergraduate business students from across the nation, the Nebraska students applied their knowledge and collaborated to solve an international business case.

“Given the opportunity to compete in my second-ever global case competition, I went in with the mindset of learning and assessing corporate executive challenges,” shared Gerdes. “I appreciated the opportunity to gain experience in a new environment.”

Sandin shared how experiential learning is a core value of the Nebraska International Business program and added that the annual Global Case Competition was an “exciting and challenging opportunity, championing diversity and inclusion” for students.

“We were able to assemble truly global teams with members from different backgrounds and disciplines, which supports the N2025 goals our university has set forth. We are grateful to our generous sponsor, Hauff Sports, for offering our students a real-word challenge and also hiring them as consultants,” said John Kalu Osiri, director of the International Business Program, associate professor of practice in management and Robert B. Daugherty Water For Food Institute Faculty Fellow. “Traveling to San Diego was an eye-opener, and our team was inspired by the commitment to preparation these competitions require.”