Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Business student awarded Neiman Marcus Group x Fashion Scholarship Fund


Olivia Porter, pictured third from the right, attended the Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) Gala this Spring.
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Olivia Porter began her first year at the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business in August 2020 as a marketing major. Being the child of two parents in the business world and living in Portland, Oregon, Porter was able to see first-hand the influence of big brands. “I saw the impact marketing has on people and the wide variety of areas you can touch being in business. So, I decided to major in marketing because you get to be exposed to everything in business.”

Her interest in marketing and passion for fashion and sustainability is what prompted her to participate in the Fashion Scholarship Fund. Olivia was introduced to Ali Mize, the Senior Director of ESG at Neiman Marcus, who encouraged her to participate in the Fashion Scholarship Fund Case Study Competition. “It’s kind of full circle. It was actually a Clemson alum who introduced me to [Mize]. I had a conversation with her when I was in Dallas last summer for an internship. When I told her about my interest in fashion and sustainability, she told me about the Fashion Scholarship Fund and its requirements. Then, I decided to apply.”

The Fashion Scholarship Fund is a national nonprofit that works with students across the nation by awarding $1.4 million in annual scholarships to students interested in the fashion industry. Each year, a prompt is released for students to complete where students choose a focus for a case study: design, merchandising, marketing analytics, or business strategy. Olivia competed in marketing analytics, creating an omnichannel marketing campaign for lululemon , a very popular athleisure company. Her inspiration to create something that would authentically further their ESG initiatives came from her summer job in Portland. “One of the best things I did was work retail; it allows you to get to know a consumer. You see trends and you learn little nuances of how a company could streamline its processes to better meet the needs of guests. Working at lululemon, I noticed the lack of awareness about its branded resale program, which inspired my ‘Like New Comes To You’ marketing campaign.”

When she initially sat down to start her case study at the end of August, Porter was overwhelmed with research and was anxious knowing other applicants had been working on their case studies since the Spring. She sought help from Michele Cauley, a professor in practice at the Powers College of Business. Porter said that Cauley gave her the best piece of advice when starting to draft her case study proposal: “She told me to start with the consumer. Ask ‘who’s your target market’? Once you have identified who they are, you can work backward.’ That was the best advice I could have gotten because it got the ball rolling for me.”

Olivia Porter’s case study focused on lululemon’s branded resale program, creating a marketing campaign to promote it.

Spending long nights at All-In Coffee Shop, at home and sometimes as a trade-off for social events, Porter was persistent that she would finish. “There were a lot of late nights, and I definitely made sacrifices in order to complete it without knowing that I would end up being a scholar. In the end, it was worth it.”

After her submission in the Fall, Porter finally received the news over Winter break announcing that she had been chosen as a recipient of the Fashion Scholarship Fund. By January, she learned that her scholarship had been elevated to “named scholar” through the Neiman Marcus Group.

“Being an NMG x FSF scholar has opened more opportunities than I could have imagined. I have received amazing mentorship and have been able to attend panels to hear from key industry leaders. The most impactful thing thus far has been my opportunity to go to New York and attend the FSF live Gala,” she explains. “It’s one thing to hear and read about ESG concerns within the Fashion Industry, and yet another to be surrounded by and learn from individuals and organizations that are actively working to make a difference. I left New York beyond inspired to keep pursuing this industry. Dedication pays dividends even when the people around you do not understand your what or why.”

After graduation this Spring, Porter plans on pursuing a career in merchandising. “I am passionate about products, understanding the consumer and how to make a business work. A career in merchandising will enable me to touch a little bit of everything. This goes hand-in-hand with my sustainability minor since understanding the intersection between people profit and planet is critical to brand longevity.”

Olivia’s advice for students wanting to enter the fashion industry or brand world is to network and be curious. “Acting like a sponge is the most important thing you can do if you want to go into business, especially if you want to be in fashion,” Porter explains. “It’s all about relationship building, going above and beyond what’s asked and ideally finding brands that resonate with you.”

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