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April 28, 2003

La Salle University Business Students
Win Johnson & Johnson National Competition

A team of La Salle University business students won Johnson & Johnson's national case competition, in which contestants had to deal with a real-life problem the firm encountered recently.

Melissa Mazur, Kristen Overturf, Kayci O'Donnell, and Breanne Ward, won against nine other colleges from across the country. Mazur is a senior Marketing and English major; Overturf is a junior Accounting major, and O'Donnell and Ward are sophomore Accounting majors.

The competition was based on a presentation of a marketing/promotion strategy for a "fake" product called "Tolla" made by Johnson & Johnson, which was based on their Tylenol product. The competition was to determine whether the product should be introduced to one or two foreign countries, "Jennings" and "Columbus" (Japan and China respectively), and as either a pain-killer or an aid to respiratory problems.

The La Salle squad chose to market it only to "Jennings" and as a pain-killer.

"Yes, I definitely was nervous at the competition," said Ward. "We'd gone through the presentation enough. Our group was the last one to present; we had to watch all the other presentations, and that made us nervous."

When it was announced the La Salle team had won, "I thought I was going to cry," said Ward. "We were underdogs because this was the first year for us in the competition. I felt we did perform superbly, but in comparing our team to the others, it was a stretch hoping for second place."

The four students will split a $1,000 prize from Johnson & Johnson, while
La Salle's School of Business Administration received an additional $2,500.

Mazur said, "I didn't believe it when they told us we won. We did come in with lower expectations because it was our first year in competition. The University of Florida had won for two consecutive years." Mazur said the
La Salle team's presentation wasn't as "polished" as some of the more experienced teams, but "the judges weren't looking at presentations as much as our content and our ability to answer questions, to think on our feet."

The competition ended a semester-long stretch done on a volunteer basis. While the students received no academic credit for their efforts, they said they gained valuable experience.

In January, teams were formed at La Salle to compete for the right to possibly go to Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ.

Mazur, Overturf, O'Donnell, and Ward won the internal competition, which also used the "Tolla" and "Jennings" and "Columbus" question. The quartet made a 30-minute presentation, and it was judged the best by a La Salle faculty panel and two Johnson & Johnson representatives. But that was no guarantee they'd make it to the finals.

Susan Borkowski, a Professor of Accounting at La Salle who was the team's advisor, said the group made a strong impression on the Johnson & Johnson representatives, who invited them to participate in the finals.

Winning the internal competition took a great deal of time for preparation, say the students. While the team was not allowed to do original research, it had figures and information provided by Johnson & Johnson. The students had to work out financial questions, such as currency exchanges, and manufacturing and marketing costs.

"None of us anticipated how much work was involved," says Mazur. Before the final competition at the Johnson & Johnson headquarters, the group spent 15 hours during a weekend in a La Salle computer lab refining their presentation before traveling to New Brunswick.