During the 2016 fall semester, Whirlpool Corporation employees in southwest Michigan have been partnering with Lakeshore High School (Stevensville, Mich.) as their students worked in groups through a business case competition. The goal was to teach these students to utilize innovation tools and business processes to work through an actual Whirlpool Corporation challenge, while their groups were mentored on a weekly basis.

On December 16, the Top 10 teams will present their concepts to our employees. In addition, there will be an idea fair in the atrium lobby. Employees will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite concept/team and help mold some of these future leaders.

“In the competition, we asked Lakeshore Math & Science Center students to determine a solution that has consumer appeal, has a fit within our brands, has the possibility of fulfilling the product roadmap, has the most economic potential for the brand and a winning go-to-market strategy,” said Ellen Dutton, Laundry Category Manager and Product Marketing Manager. “We asked for new ideas by identifying consumer needs in the food waste prevention space, and this challenge gave the students a chance to partner with Whirlpool and learn how to create an entire business plan, which is an invaluable lesson for High School Students.”

Approximately 100 students began the competition on 20 different teams. The students conducted consumer research to determine the actual consumer need in the food waste area and then began to formulate their concepts. On November 14, the teams pitched off to determine the Top 10 teams that would advance in the challenge.

On November 29, the Top 10 teams received the opportunity to go to the Innovation Park at Notre Dame and be coached by local entrepreneurs. Many of students said that the feedback from the coaches was invaluable and gave them an inspiring opportunity to learn from local leaders.

“This challenge was done as a pilot with LHS, and our goal is to take a new challenge to multiple schools next year,” Dutton said. “We have a heavy focus on mentoring the students and it is a chance for Whirlpool to give back to the great community in which we live and work.”