Executive MBA Global Project Brings Ilio Designs to Neiman Marcus
Jennifer Dalton, president at Vaughn Advisors LLC, gained real-world global marketing experience and a business client when she completed an international consulting project for her Executive MBA at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. As a result of her work, Turkish home product brand Ilio will make its debut in Neiman Marcus stores this fall.
A consulting team of six EMBA students analyzed Ilio’s growth strategy, discussed product development, and articulated a new, compelling position statement that informed Ilio’s branding. The team’s enthusiasm for championing the company expanded beyond their required classes and team meetings to proactively scheduling client meetings with stores in the United States that would consider featuring Ilio designs.
“Once we established our approach, defined the right fit, and identified a target segment, then we narrowed it down to specific stores,” Dalton explains. “When I talked to Neiman Marcus it was the perfect match. They are not only known for carrying luxury items that include glassware brands, but more important to our client is the fact that Neiman Marcus makes it a point in their buying strategy to discover new design talent.”
The students worked on the project from November 2011 through March 2012 while taking advanced classes, familiarizing themselves with Turkey’s culture and political environment, and continuing their full-time careers. In late March, during the EMBA program’s second signature Global Experience project, the team traveled to Istanbul to present their findings and provide recommendations to Ilio.
Ilio, or “sun” in Greek, is the home-product brand of internationally recognized Turkish design group Demirden Design. Ilio products have been on the market for less than three years and Demirden now wants to expand its market size. A key question was who to partner with in the luxury space.
While Prof. Sezer Ülkü and the Georgetown EMBA team studied the issues in an academic context, they also made customer survey analyzes, interviews, and contacts with the targeted customers in the U.S. market.
“All these research processes, including many Skype calls between us and Ilio, resulted in our presentation and proposal for them in Istanbul,” says Dalton. “These were a great experience for us, and at the end of the project, we had a very useful report with important outcomes and recommendations as well as the chance to work with one of our most targeted customers.”
The diversity and professional experience of the students in the EMBA program meant that Ilio received consulting services from experts in marketing, finance, operations, as well as entrepreneurs. The EMBA team included Luis Colomer, director of operations management at a Washington D.C.-based consultancy firm; Kathleen Wolff, founder and president of TouchDome LLC; Sam Tsuei, IT professional; Don Neff, vice president of financial operations, controller, and chief accounting officer at NII Holdings Inc; and Howard Wright, Chief of Strategic Communication at the U.S. Coast Guard.
“It was a truly exciting time for us,” says Colomer. “We travelled half-way across the world to share our experiences and implement all of the skills we had learned, and we accomplished this in the birthplace of international trade, the heart of the Silk Road, which was so rewarding.”
Through this experience, the students expanded their horizons and their skillsets.
“Each of Georgetown’s Global Experiences allowed me to do things I did not have the opportunity to do in my corporate career,” says Dalton, who started the program with a position in the banking industry. “I gained more entrepreneurial awareness, exposure to exceptional classmates, and access to an outstanding faculty. This overall experience prepared me to launch my own company.”
Vaughn Advisors continues to work with Ilio to expand their product offerings worldwide. They help companies discover, define, and differentiate their brand from research and analysis, value articulation, brand launch, and social media optimization.