The Author and her Hackathon Team,
who took home an Honourable Mention for their expert Q&A skills

During the Spring break, UCD Smurfit Business School organized an MBA Hackathon in partnership with the The Austral Education Group for all MBA students. The theme for the Hackathon was ‘Sustainability’, wherein we were asked to devise a strategy for a real-world issue faced by Chilean company Bonoboss Handmade Accessories. The 5-day event opened with a session on Sustainable Consumer Behavior by UCD Associate Professor Geertje Schuitema, followed by the Hackathon Challenge Presentation by the Founder of Bonoboss, Cristobal Silva

Bonoboss CEO Cristobal Silva

The entire MBA cohort is brimming with people from diverse professional backgrounds, wherein we have been solving various challenges at work in our own domains. Ever since our MBA journey began, we have been yearning to apply our newly acquired MBA skills to resolve work challenges that we may have missed or floundered earlier. This hackathon was the first taste of a real-life challenge since the start of our MBA journey. Concepts and frameworks such as Porter 5 forces, SWOT analysis, Marketing 4Ps, opportunity cost and asset allocation flashed right before us as soon as we heard the problem statement. Add to it the ring of sustainability and we had to get our most creative hats on. 

Bonoboss makes accessories out of recycled and reusable material, such as wooden sunglasses, optical frames, bags and watches. The brand also plants 1 tree per purchase. But when their customers’ preferences shifted from sustainability to style, Bonoboss found itself in rough waters. To understand more about the challenges, we were given 15 mins with the CEO. It was an informative session as we asked questions to better understand the core of the problem and where we could effectively contribute to a workable and measurable solution. 

Working in a group of 5 for a problem like this brought many interesting viewpoints to the fore. Someone in our group focused on the business side and drew analogy from a similar local player in his own country to get some ideas. Someone else talked about how other brands they had worked with promote their own sustainable products. 

Judge Kathy O’Reilly listens to the winning presentation

On the final day, it was fascinating to see how all the 4 teams had come up with myriad creative and thought-provoking solutions to Cristobal’s problem. One team went as far as creating a short video suggesting new ways of brand promotion. But the winning team stood out with their ingenious solution that centred around engaging with the customers on the issue of sustainability, employing the 80/20 rule, and cutting corners by focusing on domestic market before venturing into foreign waters – the three golden rules that we have learnt during our MBA sojourn till now.

By participating in the Hackathon, we learnt a great deal about running small businesses: how to make decisions when less market and research data is available, and how to think outside the box while keeping the frameworks that we have learnt in last 6 months as our guiding principles. Overall, it was a great experience and got us excited about the Capstone project that we will be doing in the next trimester, and we thank the MBA Programme Office for arranging this for us. 

Chhavi Negi, FTMBA Class of 2021