Business & Economy

UWF MBA students earn first place for work with Pensacola business

A team of University of West Florida MBA students and alumni won first place at the Small Business Institute’s annual academic conference for their project “Hard Rock Hotel: a $270 Million Feasibility Study.”

(Pictured left to right) UWF faculty advisor Gerry Goldstein and UWF students Stacy Shrader and Morgan Jernigan

UWF students Stacy Shrader and Morgan Jernigan presented the project at the conference on Feb. 29 in New Orleans. UWF alumni Melissa Reid, Brielle Greene, Talisha Williams, and Cody Verhulst were co-authors for the project, which earned top honors in the “Project of the Year” category. The project was originally presented to Hard Rock Hotel executives who then executed the contract for this study to be developed. The team worked with South Palafox Group, a Pensacola-based business.

The team evaluated the project for potential points of failure. Through in-depth research of the existing market conditions, they projected revenues and expenses and analyzed the resulting data. The market analysis also included a review of the area’s demographics to assist in correctly targeting the desired market effectively. Additionally, the team researched marketing strategies and trends to provide the most efficient ways of spending time and money. Together they assessed that a key component in supporting the projected revenues was to properly direct marketing; attracting the target customer and thereby maximizing advertising dollars.

The group worked with faculty advisor, Gerry Goldstein, a 2015 UWF MBA graduate, who earned first place with his team in the category of Best Small Business Development Center Paper in 2016.

“High impact learning allows students to develop and apply critical thinking to actual business cases and present their findings to the executives of the business,” said Goldstein. “Students should consider their presentation as an opportunity to showcase their capabilities, directly to the business decision-makers. UWF currently has five MBA students working for a Fortune 300 company that has been directly involved with the Master Level Case Competition.”

The project was part of their Spring 2019 semester Live Case Analysis course.

“This course gave me a more external view on business problems,” Shrader said. “I was able to work through a real issue and use my MBA curriculum to create a viable solution. For me, the course served as a bridge for connecting what I’m learning in the classroom to a future career in the business world.”

The Florida SBDC at UWF provides tools, training, and resources to help entrepreneurs grow and succeed in every stage of business and all industry sectors. Located within the UWF College of Business, it is part of a statewide network of more than 40 centers involving universities, state colleges and dozens of local economic development organizations that serve the needs of Florida’s business community.

For more information about the College of Business, visit