A group of three students from Robinson Secondary School placed second in an international competition for DECA, a world-wide marketing association. Meredith Kozikowski, a junior from Fairfax, Kellyn Wolber, a senior from Fairfax Station, and Matt Krebs, a senior from Fairfax, presented their marketing plan for The Swim Shop in the Internet Marketing Business category.
Robinson Secondary, which boasts the largest DECA chapter in Virginia and the fourth largest chapter in the world, is involved in community service chapter projects working with homeless shelters, relationship abuse, and suicide prevention. The school sent 31 students to Atlanta for the competition as well as 14 students who did not compete.
"We had five groups make it to the top 10, and it was my first time having a student make the top 10," said Sarah Hinkhouse, Robinson’s DECA faculty advisor, Fashion Marketing teacher, and former Hayfield DECA member, as she proudly displayed the medals she still wears on her keychain. "That was my own personal thing, I was very excited."
Meredith, Kellyn, and Matt began working on The Swim Shop concept in their fall semester marketing classes, where they learned some of the marketing skills necessary for competition. Preparing for competition involves creating a 30-page manual, a marketing board, and a presentation for the chosen marketing idea to be presented before a panel of judges.
"This competition was all the students," said Hinkhouse. "We are just kind of there for them, but we don’t write their papers and we don’t make their boards.
Simulating the real-life marketing field, this gives students the chance to explore the elements of marketing as a future career. Kellyn, who will be attending Auburn University next fall as a freshman, said the competition really introduced her to marketing and helped her decide to declare marketing as a major.
Meredith and Kellyn described their experience in the competition as an underdog story.
"From the beginning we were the underdogs of Robinson DECA," said Meredith. It was surprising we even made it to Atlanta."
The first snag came when they presented the first prototype of The Swim Shop’s marketing-board to their class. The board, which they thought was presentable, was snapped in half by their teacher, Mrs. Hepner, who did not agree and told them to rework their idea.
"Thank you for that," Kellyn said as she and Meredith giggled over the fact that the new board, displaying script like handwriting scribbled over a summery picture of the backs of three girls running from the beach into the ocean, allowed them to place second internationally.
Another trip in the success of the team occurred when they presented The Swim Shop concept at the State Competition in Norfolk, Va. Hinkhouse explained at the awards ceremony, only five of the six teams that would advance to nationals were called. She said she just knew it had to be one of Robinson’s teams. A week later, they received an e-mail congratulating The Swim Shop on advancing to national and receiving one of the highest trophies.
Following the good news, Meredith, Kellyn, and Matt began to memorize and practice their presentation in between classes, SGA meetings, swim and dive team practices, and other extra-curricular activities.
Admitting they were most nervous for the presenting before the judges, they said it actually turned out to be the most fun aspect of the competition. Meredith cited their good group dynamic and ability to always have fun with the competition as giving their team a definite competitive edge. Still, they never expected to go so far with The Swim Shop concept.
"I knew they had a good project, but I hoped high and expected low," Hinkhouse said. "I hoped every day they would make that stage because for them, there’s no other feeling like that."
Meredith and Kellyn shared that when they heard their names called for second place, they experienced what they describe as the biggest shock of their lives. The team received the award in the Georgia Dome among a crowd of over 13,000 other competitors.
"We were at the top of the Georgia Dome for the awards ceremony. When we were called, we were sprinting down the steps of the Georgia Dome to the stage," Meredith said.
The team returned home to an airport reunion filled with balloons, flowers, and proud friends and family. They were recognized by the school, and all plan to continue their studies in marketing.
"Last year, I didn’t even really consider competing. This year, I started thinking about it, and now I’m really glad I did." Kellyn said. "I would encourage everyone to do it."