Carnegie Mellon University
March 15, 2024

Tepper School MBA Team Reaches Semifinals in the John Lewis Case Competition

Sheila Davis
  • Associate Director of Media Relations
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A team of MBA students from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University reached the semifinals of the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition (JLCC) in February 2024. Initiated by Emory University's Goizueta Business School, the competition provides students nationwide with the opportunity to address and devise solutions for racial inequities and injustices within the corporate world.

“It gave me valuable insights, a platform to forge meaningful connections, and a renewed commitment towards advancing racial justice in business,” said Meenu Ramu, a student on the Tepper School’s team. 

The students named their team EquiTECHble, and they aimed to authentically engage Black consumers for Taco Bell. They centered their approach on creating the "Live Más Lounge," a concept designed to resonate with Black communities through cultural and culinary influences to enhance brand equity among this demographic. 

The team identified that Black consumers are pivotal trendsetters across various sectors, including business, music, entertainment, fashion, sports, government, and education, making them essential to any marketing strategy aspiring to widespread influence.

EquiTECHble's solution was multifaceted, focusing on building trust, enhancing customer experience, and strategically locating new Taco Bell outlets to be more accessible to Black consumers. The proposal included forging partnerships with Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, engaging with the community through sponsorships of local events, and establishing a consistent and respectful communication channel that acknowledges past missteps. 

The project emphasized the importance of offering healthy options and customizable meals to match the evolving preferences of Black consumers, who highly value quality and personalized options. The team aimed to increase Taco Bell's market share while fostering a deeper connection with Black communities by recognizing their significant influence on American culture and consumer behavior.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how the John Lewis Case Competition was more than just a case competition,” said Terrell Galloway, a member of the Tepper School’s team. “The organizers from Emory ensured students gained just as much as they poured into the competition by making it more of a mini-seminar or mini-conference with multiple days of learning and networking opportunities.”

Although the team from the Tepper School did not reach the finals, their project was lauded for its innovation and potential impact. 

A team from Rice University named "Prosperity Without Prejudice” took the top spot in this year’s competition. They shared their winnings with Operation Hope, an organization dedicated to financial literacy and empowerment.

Now in its fourth year, the JLCC encourages student teams to present innovative proposals that can significantly impact national and global companies with a focus on advancing racial justice and equity. To date, the competition has attracted participation from nearly 100 universities and contributed to 50 corporate racial justice action plans.

The full list of team members included Vinicius Santos Avelar, Terrell Galloway, Saimeenakshi (Meenu) Ramu, and Keerthanna Santhakumar – all part of the Tepper School’s MBA class of 2025.