After weeks of preparing, and a win at a regional competition, Mountain View high seniors Jody Zhang and Elise Sugarman took first place in DemandTec's annual Retail Challenge finals. The competition gives high school seniors challenges that simulate real-life scenarios in marketing and merchandising.
The girls flew to New York, completing the final round of the competition in the NASDAQ building.
"Basically this challenge was over the course of hours," Sugarman said. "Every fifteen minutes we would set prices for five products we were controlling in a virtual retail environment."
Each fifteen minute increment represented one week, she said, for a total of 12 business weeks -- at the end of the cycle, whichever team with the highest profit would win.
"It was a little bumpy to begin with, so we didn't have a strategy per say," Zhang said. "One of the things we really learned was that despite making mistakes and having surprises thrown at us, we can always come back and just deal with the situation that we're given and make it better. That really helped us recover from our bumpy start."
The two students split a $10,000 grand prize, in addition to a $10,000 prize for their regional win, which was awarded to them at the closing bell ceremonies on Jan. 12. They beat out nearly 50 local students and six other finalist teams from around the country.
Zhang and Sugarman will use the scholarship money next year at college, though neither knows yet where they will be heading post graduation.