From Class Project to Business Opportunity

Feb. 11, 2020

Working on a group project? Take notes—Rachel Larsen ’20 BSBA (Management) and Cody Hutchison ’21 BSBA (Finance, Marketing and Entrepreneurship) recently took what started as a typical class assignment and transformed it into a successful business deal.

Each year, Eller students participate in a case competition in which they must present a product idea to a panel of judges, for the opportunity to potentially sell that product at the University of Arizona Bookstore. Larsen and Hutchison, along with Nate Charani ’20 BSBA (Finance), Sam Suffecool ’20 BSBA (MIS and Operations Management and Supervision) and Sara Wilson ’20 BSBA (Marketing) decided to present the idea of selling Wildflower phone cases. Wildflower cases was started in 2014 by Michelle Carlson, who was searching for fashionable iPhone cases for her two daughters. When she realized they were nearly impossible to find, she decided to design some herself with fabric and studs she had at home. The company has since transformed into a global brand with a diversified product offering.

“If you look around campus, every woman has these phone cases, especially in the Greek community,” says Larsen. “Phone cases in general are huge right now and are considered an accessory. So it was a no-brainer.”

Once Hutchison, Larsen and their teammates won the case competition, Wildflower Cases and the University of Arizona Bookstore urged them to continue with the project by selling the iPhone accessories in the Arizona Bookstore. After discussions and negotiations, 200 Wildflower Cases appeared on Arizona Bookstore shelves as a beta test. They sold out in three days. Obviously, they were re-ordered and have since generated roughly $12,000 in sales.

Since then, Hutchison and Larsen have been acting as college ambassadors for Wildflower Cases and are currently working towards stocking the iPhone accessories at other university bookstores across the country.

“The motivation we get through Eller and the ambition to be successful is what helped us with this competition,” says Hutchison. Being in such a competitive and supportive environment really contributed to our success. And before this project, we didn’t even know each other. Now we’re not only friends—we’re business partners.”