Friday, September 27, 2013

The Business of Bake Sales

It’s September again for MBA’s at RBS, and the signs are unmistakable. Fortune 100 companies are on campus looking for the best recruits. Ambitious first-year students in crisp business suits are practicing their elevator pitches. And MBAs wearing novelty chef hats are standing around a bunch of balloons selling cupcakes.

Yes, bake sales are as much a part of b-school tradition as sleep-deprivation, developing a disgust for accounting, and losing your nametag before a corporate presentation. But really, they’re a fun way to get involved at school while supporting a good cause. And, believe it or not, planning and activating a successful bake sale requires the MBA to utilize many of the most fundamental business concepts that we learn in school.

  •     For starters, each bake sale contributor must consider the classic “make or buy” decision. After doing a search for “items that can be baked using only a microwave,” many MBA’s make the strategic decision to outsource baking to a local vendor.
  •      Product innovation is critical to bake sale success (who wants last year’s cupcakes?). On Wednesday, we had a proprietary cupcake that featured icing *inside* the cupcake. This development temporarily replaced summer internships as the most buzz-worthy news on campus.
  •     Flyers, balloons, and colorful signs are the hallmarks of good bake sale promotion.  What about a cutting-edge social media strategy? The key is to keep posting on the MBA Facebook page so that the bake sale stays at the top of the news feed, well ahead of posts about upcoming exams and assignments.
  •     Know your consumer.  Perhaps the most essential guideline for any marketer to follow, as it facilitates proper market segmentation. Countless hours doing market research behind a table of sugary goods has resulted in an identification of the following key consumer profiles:

·       “The Sweet Tooth”: Most loyal and valuable consumer.  Represents only 2% of customers but 87% of after-tax profits.  After he purchases his first cupcake, hike up the price.
·       “The Guilty Conscience”: Consumer believes that purchasing a $1 baked good to benefit charity is an effective way to make up for a lifetime of sin. Play the guilt card.
·       “The Secret Admirer”: Consumer is typically an undergraduate male, purchasing for an uninterested female. She takes the cupcake and gives it to consumer’s best friend. Bake sale fail.
·       “The First-year MBA”: Consumer asks if the bake sale table has any internships to offer. At the end of the day, he sends the bake sale a letter, thanking it for the taking the time to talk and learn more about exciting bake sale opportunities.
·       “The Second-year MBA”: Consumer gives advice on how the bake sale could be improved based on what she did for her internship project. Then she asks for a consulting fee.  Finally, she asks if the bake sale has any full-time positions to offer.

Because bake sales require a mastery of these concepts, they may be just as important as case competitions, coursework, and group projects in terms of developing an MBA’s finely-tuned business skills.  But if that’s not reason enough to see the value, consider that each bake sale raises hundreds of dollars for charities such as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and the JDRF.

And, wearing a chef’s hat is a great way to network.

This post was so eloquently and graciously composed by Mark Boffa, MBA '14.  Mark Boffa is the President of Net Impact, Secretary of RAMS, and the official awkward-silence-breaker designee for the Class of 2014.  Mark, pictured above on the far left, is best known for his hair, which unfortunately remains covered by his chef hat for the majority of the fall semester. 

1 comment:

  1. hahaha!! Awesome write up Mark! We should start promoting Bake Sales in our clubs' bylaws. Great way to learn business and network! ;)