Student Shares Her Experience Winning the NRF Foundation Student Challenge
Ellie Smith, who already has an A.A. in Merchandise Product Development and will receive an Advanced A.A. in International Manufacturing & Product Development this June, was born and raised in California’s Bay Area. After attending FIDM’s 3 Days of Fashion, Innovation & Design during her freshman year of high school, Ellie knew FIDM was the perfect fit for her. “I applied my junior year of high school," said Ellie. "FIDM was the only school I applied to because I was so certain it was where I wanted to attend.” Along with Etheline Ting and Emily Wilken, Ellie was the winner of the recent NRF Foundation Student Challenge. She and her teammates will each receive a $6,000 scholarship. 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 caught up with Ellie to learn more about the exciting experience.
How did it feel when you heard that your team won first place? When I heard that our team had won first place, I felt elated! We had put an incredible amount of time and effort into our project and it felt so wonderful and fulfilling to receive recognition.
What was the most rewarding part of this journey? Being able to show our project to high-ranking executives from Target and Nordstrom and having them tell us how much they liked our ideas, and being able receive feedback from such experienced professionals.
Did you divide the work up or work on everything together? Our group mostly divided up the work on this project. We come from diverse backgrounds and each of us had specific strengths that enabled us to specialize in different sections of the project. It was so much fun to work with a group where each member had so much enthusiasm and knowledge to bring to the project.
How did FIDM Instructors assist or help with your business plan/entry? We worked quite closely with FIDM instructors Tom Selinske and Sheryl Marcus to complete this project. We would check in with them on a weekly basis to receive feedback on our progress. They were a vital resource when we were completing this project and we honestly could not have done it without their extremely generous help! They are amazing and dedicated instructors!
What lessons did you learn while participating in this challenge? Participating in this challenge taught me so much. I think the most important lesson it taught me was how to work with a group where each member comes from a different academic background and has different knowledge and experiences from myself. I also learned a lot about how to implement a sustainable supply chain for a sustainable product.
How will the $6,000 award help you with your goals? The $6,000 award will help me pay for school, and possibly will aid me in attending grad school down the road.
What are your ultimate career goals? My ultimate career goal is to work for a company with sustainable initiatives. I would love to work in corporate sustainability to help create sustainable supply chain solutions.
Anything else you'd like to share? I absolutely loved doing this project! I learned so much from my teammates and instructors. It was so fun to create a real-world pitch deck, and it was especially fun, and challenging, to create a product that was not related to fashion or clothing. This challenge showed me that I can take my education and expand it into any industry I want, and that is honestly just really exciting!