SOM Undergrads Research Boston Food Truck Scene

October 11, 2016

Theresa Reinhard and Mary O'Rourke

Mary O'Rourke '17 and Theresa Reinhard '17 shared their case study research at the North American Case Research Association (NACRA) Annual Conference

Business Management majors at the School of Management, Mary O’Rourke ’17 and Theresa Reinhard ’17, were interested in the food truck scene around Boston. The market for food trucks has erupted in Boston since 2010 and they wanted to explore what was driving this. What began as intellectual curiosity evolved into the foundation of a case study exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship and public policy.

The Change Management Capstone, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Strategy courses offered at the School of Management were instrumental in conducting research, said both students. In addition to researching articles on the various components of public policy, such as the applications and informational resources needed to start a truck, Theresa and Mary interviewed three food truck owners. “I personally loved talking to all of the food truck owners – they were so passionate about their careers and getting to serve Bostonians their unique foods,” said Theresa.

They ultimately chose to focus their case study on Melissa Lynch, owner of the Roving Lunchbox, to examine a newer food truck company dealing with all of the issues of public policy that come with operating a food truck in Boston. SOM Professor and VP Program-Elect for the NACRA, Cynthia Ingols, advised the project and presented the students with the opportunity to attend the conference. Mary and Theresa would also like to thank Simmons Alum, Gretchen Fox, who provided them with the Fox Fellowships to attend the conference.

Image from the Roving Lunchbox

The focus of the NACRA Conference was to provide feedback to case study writers. The event was formatted as series of roundtable discussions where attendees could listen to case studies and provide feedback. Theresa pointed out that reading case studies in every SOM class was helpful. Getting to meet both novice and experienced case writers of all kinds and discussing their cases was the most exciting part of the trip for both students because there are so many different topics/issues that business case studies explore.

Mary and Theresa were the only undergraduates presenting research at the conference, while industry professors wrote the majority of cases discussed. When asked how they dealt with presentation jitters, Mary said, “I prefaced the conversation with the disclaimer that I was an undergraduate student. Ultimately, the professors found our  feedback useful as students, but also as early case-writers. That being said, I didn’t second-guess myself when stating my opinion,  I have had too many classes at Simmons to not use my voice!” 

In addition to walking the Las Vegas Strip, trying new restaurants, and stopping for Krispy Kreme Donuts, both Mary and Theresa have shared some of their biggest takeaways from their experience below: 

"My biggest takeaway is not to be afraid of revision; to be ok with talking your "baby' — this document that you've put so many hours into — and throwing huge chunks of it into the trash to revise, reframe, and find new balance. Writing this case has also given me one other huge takeaway — a full time position. Professor Ingols, the powerhouse and master connector that she is, introduced me to the person who got me a full-time position at Harvard Law School, where I work to support and publish their case studies. I never would have imagined this case would have such a big impact on my life. My advice to other students? Say yes to every opportunity you can," says Mary. 

"Writing a strong business case study that students will learn from is not easy. You really have to have a strong understanding of what you want the reader to take away, and what information you will (or won't) provide in order to meet the learning objectives. You ultimately need to be very knowledgeable about business. All classes combined at the SOM – everything from marketing to finance –  helped Mary and I to write a promising case study," says Theresa.