Brontos SuitUp to Help Under-Served Students Realize Their Potential

Amir Iliaifar

Amir Iliaifar

We’re treated to a lot of perks at Bronto: free snacks, a beautiful workspace and a regular cadence of fun, company-wide events. We even have several committees whose singular purpose is to help make Bronto a fun place to work by promoting our core values and bringing us all together. Pretty sweet, eh?

But one of the benefits this Bronto really loves, perhaps more than everything else, is the opportunity to volunteer my time during our quarterly Volunteer Weeks.

After volunteering my time at the Ronald McDonald House and the Durham Food Bank earlier this year, I joined about a dozen other Brontos for a visit to the Institute for the Development of Young Leaders (IDYL), a charter school located in our hometown of Durham, North Carolina. IDYL (Go Panthers!) is a tuition-free school that provides a project-based, child-centered educational environment for under-served children grades K-8.

The day was organized by SuitUp, a nonprofit that brings companies into the classroom. With SuitUp, students are typically tasked with solving real-world problems for well-known brands while volunteers set out to coach them.

For our volunteer day, students were split into teams and asked to compete against each other by designing a new product for Nike. At the end, each team would pitch to a panel of judges, and the team with the best idea would win a prize.

Not to brag, but my team came up with a particularly awesome idea. Called the “Nike Spectrum,” the shoe sported LED lighting and would let the wearer change its colors through a smartphone app – similar to the Philips HUE color-changing lamp. Other interesting ideas included self-tying shoes, a Nike home décor line and shoes with speakers built into them.

Up for the Challenge

The competition challenged the students to think critically about their product ideas. Not only did each team thoroughly analyze the Nike brand and identify an area of opportunity, but we (the coaches) made sure they also tackled some tough questions about their products, including:

  • What are your product’s unique selling factors?
  • What issues can threaten the product on the market?
  • Will there be any shifts in consumer behaviors or the market that can affect the product’s success?

From there, they voted on their top three ideas, which were then run through a SWOT analysis. Once the top ideas had been analyzed, the teams put it to a vote and selected a final product to move forward with.

Each team was then split into three divisions: strategy, marketing and visual design.

The strategy team had to determine several financial factors, such as what the product would cost to make, how to price it and why this price point was appropriate for its target market.

The marketing division had to come up with a name, slogan and social media strategy. Given the visual nature of the products, many of the teams chose Instagram as the primary channel for their marketing strategy.

The marketing team also had to figure out which celebrity would endorse the product. Thanks to the students, I now know who Migos are!

After that, it was time to create. Each team had to visualize and draw their designs, making sure to explain in detail how they incorporated each feature into their sketch.

Pitch Perfect

Finally, each team had to pitch their idea to a panel of judges who evaluated their product and pitch using three key criteria: delivery, content/organization, and enthusiasm/audience awareness.

Sadly, my team didn’t win, but that didn’t deter me – I was so proud of my team for their hard work and awesome ideas that it didn’t even matter.

Not only was my volunteer work with SuitUp a great team-building experience, but it was a fantastic way to get out and help our community. By increasing the students’ awareness of their own marketable skills, it really helped expose them to all the exciting possibilities that await them, especially if they continue to work hard.

Getting to do that in a fun and positive environment felt amazing, and I can honestly say I can’t wait to SuitUp again.


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