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Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Competition Case Study

March 12, 2019 Startup Ecosystem
BlueOcean-logo-ocean in background

The Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Corp. (BOSE) is a non-profit, student-run, national, and virtual high school pitch competition.  It has an affiliation with the authors of the books Blue Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean Shift.  The purpose of the organization is to help high school students learn more about entrepreneurship, ideation, strategy and how to pitch an idea.  Established in 2015, it has attracted thousands of students from around the world.  It is a unique program.

Ted Dacko is the executive director of the program.  As an Ann Arbor resident, Ted has served as an entrepreneurial CEO in six different companies and has been in the technology sector for 44 years.  He oversees the overall operation of the competition and helps the student executive committee with operations, marketing, recruiting, fundraising and selects the professional judges that judge the competition.  

Upon taking over the BOSE, Ted had several critical goals.  But the most essential goal was to triple the participation rate in the program year-over-year and make sure that students from all high schools across the US were represented.  Ted says: “This was going to be difficult.  As a not-for-profit, we had very limited funding and since this was student run, we didn’t have experienced people to handle the difficult task of recruiting.” 

Ted discovered Shopwindow though its relationship with helping colleges and universities recruit high school students to the marching, pep bands and concert bands.  Ted says: “When I discovered that product, I was impressed beyond words.  This was the most creative and effective way of recruiting participants that I had ever seen in my 45 years in the technology industry.  Creating visually attractive and personalized messaging using a combination of text messages, website messaging, and video was brilliant.”

So, Ted decided to implement Shopwindow for the BOSE organization.  Ted’s team consisted of high school students.  So, he was initially concerned about how the students would be able to learn and adapt both the technology and the art of messaging.  He quickly discovered that it was going to be very easy.  He adds: “The students instantly grasped the technology and are able to establish messaging that was compelling to the high school students that we wanted to attract into the completion.  I was blown away by how well we adopted the technology and how well recruitment went.”

The BOSE organization provided a flyer to each high school in the country with the value proposition for the school and the value proposition for the individual student.  There was a “hot word” that the student would text to a pre-arranged phone number.  From there, SW was customized to capture the right information using interactive text messaging from the student including name, school, city, state, year of graduation.  It generated customized content for the potential participant to help the student understand the value of the completion and guide them through the registration process.  The BOSE website provided educational and motivational content that drove actual submissions for the competition.  

Shopwindow also allows for user-generated content that can also be used for additional marketing purposes.  Ted says” “you start with some idea, turn it into content, use it to generate interest and traffic and before you know it, your users are generating content (like videos) that drive even more interest and conversions.  That is hard to beat.”

The results were stunning.  Year-over-year participation tripled with little effort on the part of the BOSE student committee members.  And, the students got a great lesson in utilizing technology to solve a marketing challenge.  Ted says: “This could not have gone better.  We offered one hour of training and these students took it from there.  If high school students can do value-added marketing, then professionals should be able to do it too.”

Ted goes on to say that this is an example of technology helping technology.  He believes that Shopwindow is a Blue Ocean concept.  Shopwindow is re-inventing the market for consumer facing organizations.  It breaks the value-cost trade-off by providing the most comprehensive way to attract and convert interest into actual customers and at a cost that is a fraction of what you would pay to weld together the many other products that you would need to accomplish what Shopwindow does. 

Ted adds: “Shopwindow can be used for all NFP organizations to help them recruit participants or donors or whatever they are trying to accomplish. He believes that there is tremendous value to all organizations that are consumer-facing and have need to create interest and convert that interest into actual users or buyers.   This is elegant, powerful but simple software that is uniquely packaged for helping to create demand and convert that demand into users.  I have never seen anything like this before.” Ted will definitely continue to utilize the power of Shopwindow into the future with BOSE.  He says: “This product fundamentally changed our entire competition.  We now cannot exist without it”.