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K-Lynn Ward stands outside

Finalist K-Lynn Ward Heads to New York for NRF Foundation Student Challenge

Congratulations to student K-Lynn Ward who is headed to New York City on January 16, to participate in the final round of the 2021-2022 NRF Foundation Student Challenge. She, along with teammates Tooba Athar and Haley Shannon, will pitch their presentation to a panel of judges at Retail's Big Show, and the top team will be named. 

On target to graduate this year with her Bachelor’s of Art in Creative Industry Studies, with an individual core concentration in Merchandising & Marketing, K-Lynn rose to the challenge as her team was tasked with acting as members of the Kohl’s product development team and had the opportunity to develop a new private label brand that embodies the meaning of diversity and promotes equity and inclusion through product assortment, marketing strategy, and pricing. 

This will be K-Lynn’s first time attending Retail's Big Show, where more than 55 companies will be displaying the latest tech in sustainability, e-commerce, supply chain logistics, in-store technology, AI, AR/VR, robotics and more in the Innovation Lab. This year, attendees will find drones and robots that deliver consumer goods, a virtual try-on mirror, livestream shopping solutions, 3D virtual stores, and the world's fastest self-checkout system, among many other innovations.

Born in Denver, CO, and raised in Los Angeles, K-Lynn attended Los Angeles Baptist High School (now defunct), and earned her Associates in Merchandise Product Development from FIDM.

We caught up with K-Lynn to learn more about her experience in the NRF Foundation Student Challenge.

How does it feel knowing that your team has made it to the final round? It has honestly been a little surreal. We have worked so hard to get to this point. There were so many times where I would feel overwhelmed or would feel like I couldn’t keep up, but I would get with my team and we would step back and just take it one step at a time. It feels very rewarding to get to this point. Feels like we took on this big challenge and accomplished it! 

What are you most looking forward to at Retail’s Big Show? I am absolutely looking forward to our final presentation the week of the show! The week itself, I am excited to attend the career fairs and hopefully interview, and get hired for a summer internship, or for a position following my graduation in June. I’m also looking forward to connecting and networking with other students from around the country.

Will this be your first time attending? Yes! This will be my first time attending the Big Show! And I am so excited to be around all of these amazing industry leaders. 

What has been the most rewarding part of this journey? One very rewarding part has just been the renewed faith in myself. It really empowers you to see a brand and vision come to life, like ‘Hey, I did that’! I think we all need that from time to time. The most rewarding aspect of this project has been the relationships that have formed from from the endless Zoom calls, text messages, and emails due to this project. I can honestly say that I see myself coming out of this with friends for life, including our mentors, FIDM Instructors Tom Selinske and Sheryl Marcus.

Did you divide the work up or work on everything together? For us it was a little bit of both, but very collaborative overall. For every step of the way we would come together to get a game plan, then delegate and divide the work, then usually come together to refine and put together. Every step of the way was touched by all of us at one point in time, down to the last comma. I was very fortunate to end up with my teammates Haley and Tooba, because whenever someone couldn’t finish a task, would have something come up, or just needed help, the response was always, “Do you want me to do that for you?” or “Don’t worry! I’ll take care of it.” I honestly could not have done this without them!

How did FIDM Instructors assist or help with your pitch presentation? It’s safe to say there would be no MODfit without the expert direction of our mentors, Tom Selinske and Sheryl Marcus. They guided us, sacrificed their time, and poured out so much guidance and wisdom over this process, that I am the wiser for it. They had an amazing way of empowering us to develop and dream, while sharing their wealth of knowledge. On top of that they are pretty great people, and I’m lucky to have gotten to know both of them! Mrs. Wallace was also a huge resource for us when we were looking at the production and function of our products. She is so kind and helpful, and is always asking if we need any help. She’s also basically a walking encyclopedia! And her expert direction led us to a pretty amazing collection. 

What lessons did you learn while participating in the NRF Foundation Student Challenge? I learned so much through this case study. I learned the value of hard work, the importance of communication, and the life changing value of teamwork. I learned that your most passionate idea, isn’t always the best idea, and to always look at things objectively. I learned how to apply market trends to current retail business and how to sort through financial information to make projections. And above all I learned how to research! 

Tell us some of the ways that the new private label brand your team created embodies the meaning of diversity and promotes equity and inclusion: MODfit is really the best of what diversity and inclusion is all about. Diversity is celebrating different voices, perspectives, and abilities, and inclusion is being intentional about including everyone, particularly those who have been overlooked in the market. MODfit was developed to expand assortment in a way that is viable, measurable and most importantly, impactful to those who it seeks to reach. I am so proud of this brand and the way it embraces diversity and inclusion in every aspect of the company.

How will the scholarship award help you? This scholarship will help support me in my last couple quarters at FIDM. Through this I’ll be able to focus on interning, studying and planning for my college exit, and my future career. I am so grateful to even be in the position the be talking about a potential scholarship.

What are your ultimate career goals? I would love to become a buyer. I love trend, and trend prediction, and applying that in a way that is profitable and measurable. I would also like to work for a company (or start my own), that has the same values as I do—ones that sound a lot like diversity and inclusion.

Categories:  Creative Industry Studies Merchandise Product Development Merchandising & Marketing Alumni Industry Partnerships Student