Niagara University students with representatives of the Clorox Company, including alumna Rachael Ruszkowski, ’17 (fifth from left).

Over two days in October, Niagara University students had the tremendous opportunity to participate in the Clorox Customer Analytics & Sales Case Study Competition on the NU campus, one of only five such events offered across the country. The competition is part of the company’s selection process for its 2020 Summer Internship program, a 10-week summer experience that runs from June through August.

As part of the competition, four teams of three students analyzed Clorox customer data and developed and proposed solutions for improving customer and financial performance through innovation. The opportunity gave participants valuable first-hand knowledge of working in the consumer packaged goods industry.

The rigorous two-day event included an introduction to sales analytics, given by alumna Rachael Ruszkowski, ’17. As an undergraduate at Niagara, Ruszkowski completed a summer internship at Clorox, which led to her current full-time position as a sales analyst for the company. For the next 13 hours, the students worked on their projects to prepare them for submission by the midnight deadline, taking time out for dinner and networking with the Clorox judges.

The next morning, the students presented their proposals. After careful consideration, the judges selected the team of Beth Moran, Emily Decker, and Dylan Zutell, who had been assigned Hidden Valley and one of its retailers, Meijer. The winning team came up with the idea of “Tailgate Dip,” a shelf-stable dip that could be served hot or cold.

“We decided on using in-store promotions such as end cap displays and throwing tailgate parties,” Decker, a senior from Amherst, N.Y., said. “These tailgates would have a giant ranch waterfall to attract attention and offer samples of our new product in cities where Meijer was located.”

“We came up with a few different assortments of the dip that were famous in the area that we were targeting,” added Zutell, a junior from Lewiston, N.Y. “For example, if it was Buffalo, then we would do a wing sauce-ranch dip. We (also) proposed partnering with the NFL in similar fashion to Bud Light. We would put the NFL label on the dip and people would associate the dip with pride for their team.”

The Clorox competition is just another example of the experiential learning opportunities that are the hallmark of a Niagara University education, preparing students for success in their chosen professions.

“I decided to enter the contest because I have always had an interest in new production innovation and I felt this was an amazing opportunity to get some hands-on experience,” said Moran, a senior from East Amherst, N.Y. “I also was really grateful to have the opportunity to work with a major company like Clorox, and was excited to learn more about innovation from their representatives.” 

Decker agreed. “As a student, it’s exciting to actually use what I learn in a classroom in a real-world setting. This experience also offered me networking opportunities with a major company and the opportunity for an amazing internship in one of the many cities nationwide Clorox is located in.” 

Zutell noted that the experience gave him an opportunity to hone crucial skills, such as public speaking, while showing him what it takes to work in the CPG industry and how to collaborate as part of a team. “Through this whole experience … I've gained a lot of confidence for the future,” he said.