Undergraduate Blog

Party Boat! An Integrated Core Presentation Influences Real-World Business Decision

What comes of the ideas that students present for Integrated Core corporate partners may not directly impact future decisions made by the companies, but sometimes, a seed is planted.

students in class with Margaritaville visitorsWhen McIntire students spend the fall semester of their third year at UVA working on their presentations for the Integrated Core (or “ICE” as it’s long been called), it’s a massive undertaking. As any Comm fourth-year or alum who has gone through the program can tell you, the presentations they give to corporate representatives take months to refine, demand long hours collaborating with teammates, and require them to fuse together a semester’s worth of knowledge and skills across multiple business areas.

The resulting presentations are often students’ first taste getting up in front of real-world businesspeople and sharing their consulting ideas professionally. What comes of those ideas may not directly impact any future decisions made by the company reps in attendance, but sometimes, a seed is planted.

That very well seems to have been the case when, in December 2019, a team of students presented to executives of then-Integrated Core sponsor Margaritaville the recommendation that they partner with a boat manufacturer to create and license the rights to a branded pontoon boat.

Cut to February 2022. Singer Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville announced a partnership with boat manufacturer and vehicle company Forest River, launching that very same type of “party boat.” Millionaire investor Warren Buffett (no relation to Jimmy), CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Forest River’s parent company, urged shareholders to join him in buying one in his annual letter.

“When Margaritaville met McIntire in the fall [of 2019] for our first ICE experience, we learned as much if not more from the students as we hope they learned from us,” Margaritaville CEO John Cohlan says. “Our project sought strategic advice and analysis from the students about positioning and launching our party boat. Feedback from the students was so intelligent, insightful, instructive and authentic that we decided to pursue it. We also had lots of fun!”

Andrew Bland (McIntire ’21), Senior Consultant in FTI Consulting’s Corporate Finance & Restructuring practice in Charlotte, NC, says he discovered Margaritaville’s product launch in the summer 2023 from a LinkedIn post made by one of his fellow Integrated Core team members, Shane Reed (McIntire ’21).

“He came across an article from BuffettNews.com dated April 30, 2022, and shared it to his network,” Bland recalls. “Shortly thereafter I received a few texts from former classmates congratulating me on the news.”

Bland’s teammate Tricia Bonner (McIntire ’21), a Senior Consultant with FTI Delta in New York, says the idea simply aligned well with their brand and made it a logical product gambit. “I always wondered if they would actually take any of the ideas the ICE teams presented, so it was interesting to see how much it resembled ours,” she says. “They agreed that it was fitting, given that Margaritaville’s brand is associated often with water, relaxation, etc. My group was happy with our presentation, so it was exciting to see the Margaritaville team buy into it.”

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