Student Gains Industry Experience and Wins NRF Foundation Student Challenge
Design Student Emily Wilken was born and raised in Santa Clarita, California. While in junior high school, an art teacher encouraged Emily to pursue a creative career, which was how she discovered FIDM. “I took the Career Quiz, went in for a tour, met with an Admissions Advisor, and fell in love,” said Emily, who is expected to receive her BA in September. While in high school, she founded a FIDM Fashion Club and was accepted for early admission in the Textile Design program. Emily was most recently part of the winning team that took first place in the NRF Foundation Student Challenge. Acting as entrepreneurs, they created a set of modular sustainable furniture products for Target, “Home Planet x Target,” which they pitched to leaders from the retailer. We recently chatted with Emily, who, along with her teammates, received a $6,000 scholarship from the NRF Foundation.
How did it feel when you heard that your team won first place? Hearing that we won was one of the most surreal experiences of my life so far. I personally have never won a contest before, so it was especially gratifying to hear that all of my hard work had paid off. I was also over the moon that my two friends and teammates had also just won top in the nation and being able to share such a big win with two other very talented women was such a life changing experience.
What was the most rewarding part of this journey? I would have to say that the most rewarding part of the journey we took together was learning the different parts of the industry that I wouldn’t have learned about without working with [my teammates] Ellie and Etheline. Working with them on a project like this allowed all of us to learn from each other and expand our knowledge of the design industry and what it takes to create a brand and a product.
Did you divide the work up or work on everything together? Ellie, Etheline, and I worked very well together, but because each of us were in such different locations around the world, we had to delegate who would work on what in each section of the project. We met up twice a week to bounce ideas, share what each of us had done, and work on what to do to continue to improve and move forward on the project.
How did FIDM Instructors assist or help with your business plan/entry? Our FIDM Instructors, Sheryl Marcus and Tom Selinske, met with us once or twice a week to answer questions we had, shared articles they found that would help with our project, brought in other instructors to help with the statistics and logistics that needed to be refined, gave us the resources we needed to make our presentation as accurate as possible, made sure we had everything that the NRF foundation required us to have in our project, and most importantly made sure we had fun.
What lessons did you learn while participating in this challenge? While working on this project, I learned about sourcing, sustainability, public speaking, creating a successful business pitch deck, working with a team of creatives, marketing, working with a budget, researching statistics, costing, competitive analysis, branding, product development, delegation, and what it is like to work in the industry. Before I started this competition, I was so nervous to start working in the industry, but now that I know what to expect, I am no longer nervous, but I am now excited to advance in my career.
What are your ultimate career goals? I would like to work for Anthropologie or another interior design company as a Textile Designer for the home goods department.
How will the $6,000 award help you with your goals? I will be putting the $6,000 award toward my tuition here at FIDM. Being a woman raised by a teacher, getting a strong education has always been super important to me and my career goals. FIDM has provided that and more for me. Without my education and the NRF Foundation, my resume and job opportunities would not be as great as they are. Winning this competition has opened so many job opportunities for me when applying for internships.