January 12, 2017, by Matthew Lumley

Life as a student on the Boots Module

By Jyothi Misiri, second year, BA English; Neelam Rajput, final year, BA English; Calum Smith, final year, BA Politics

With over 2,500 stores, Boots is the largest pharmacy, health and beauty chain in the UK. Here’s what happened when three Nottingham Advantage Award students we are asked to develop a brand-new sustainable product for them.

What were your expectations before you joined?

Jyothi: “I was nervous about the module – working with a renowned company, new people and mostly, in an area where I had no experience, was daunting.

However, the first session confirmed that most were feeling this apprehension – though it was quickly resolved and replaced with excitement and creativity.”

Neelam: “I was not quite sure what to expect. I went in expecting the module to be in a lecture/seminar format, but to my surprise we were encouraged to get involved and be creative right from the first workshop.”

Calum: “I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the module, but my hope was to gain some insight into the Retail/ FMCG sector to see if it would suit me. I’ve always been interested in a career in business, but as I study politics, I didn’t have too much knowledge about what it would actually involve. My goal was to test myself, increase my commercial awareness and find out how a big business like Boots operates.”

Boots Nottingham Advantage Award. Photos by Alex Wilkinson Photography and Videography, www.alexwilkinsonphotography.co.uk

What did you do?

Jyothi: “The Boots module mocked the real life experience of the brand, buying and marketing process that Boots undertake when introducing a new product. I learned about what makes a brand, how to negotiate financially with professionals and how to market a product successfully. It was fascinating watching a product materialise from a thought to a concept – which was finally delivered in a group presentation at the Boots Head Office.”

Neelam: “We were tasked to create a new product concept to fill a gap in the market.

The fact that we were allowed to use our creative initiatives from the offset allowed me to discover entrepreneurial skills I didn’t realise I had. It was definitely interesting to experience first-hand how my team went from being a group of strangers, to using great team working skills to come up with a well thought out product concept at the end of the four weeks.

My team were given the topic ‘male beauty’, and created a concept based around a cosmetic cream.. The product development stage was very exciting as we went from a mind-map of ideas in the first workshop, to a fully designed and well-thought out idea to present in front of actual Boots employees, including the Senior Brand Manager.

Although being an enjoyable module, there were definitely some nerve-racking moments. For example, in one of our workshops, we took part in marketing and buying negotiating activities with two Boots employees. Being put into the role of thinking that it was a real life scenario made it more realistic, and thus scary.

However, I am glad I had that experience because I have definitely enhanced my skills and become more confident. I practised giving presentations and learned how to negotiate for a business – skills that can be hard to master in the real world of work.”

Calum: “The module involved coming up with a brand new product concept and pitching it to senior Boots leaders. After creating our new brand and designing our new product, we took part in two negotiation simulations relating to two core commercial functions: buying and marketing. Once we had finalised our buying strategy and marketing campaign, we presented our idea at the Boots HQ.”

Boots Nottingham Advantage Award. Photos by Alex Wilkinson Photography and Videography, www.alexwilkinsonphotography.co.uk

Now you’ve completed the module, what are your final thoughts?

Jyothi: “The outcome of the module exceeded my expectations – at the beginning I wasn’t convinced I would even make it to the performance stage. The experience boosted my confidence, my ability to work in a team and opened up a new potential career path. It was great to be around extremely intelligent professionals, who were also very much in touch with us as students – who, by the end, felt like we were genuinely real, passionate ambassadors of their brand!

The module was absolutely fantastic. It was finally a way to apply all the skills that we desperately scribble on our CVs into something new and innovative. I was looking for something new, something challenging and something worthwhile – and the Boots Module did not disappoint. I would truly recommend.”

Neelam: “I believe I have not only enhanced, but also broadened my existing skill set to apply in the world of work. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Boots as a company and its three core commercial functions – buying, brand, and marketing, and how they are vital from start to finish when designing a new product concept – something I would not have considered before.

I definitely understand why it was awarded Module of the Year 2015 since I have not only learned a lot about businesses, and Boots as a business, but have also been able to grow as a person, especially in terms of confidence.

The experience as a whole has been enjoyable, and for someone who is not usually a fan of three hour workshops, there was never a week where I complained about having to attend one for this module. It also helped me decide what I want to do after graduation, and has led me to apply to Boots graduate schemes.”

Calum: “The module certainly exceeded my expectations. It has given me confidence to apply for graduate schemes in the sector, as I know I would be comfortable in a job involving activities like branding, buying, marketing, and negotiation. I now have something to talk about on my application forms, but more importantly, I am secure in the knowledge that I would enjoy, and be successful in this career sector. I’m very pleased I took part in the module and would recommend it to anyone interested in entering the commercial world after university. I found it incredibly interesting, gained some valuable skills, and met some great people. I’d like to say thank you to all those at Boots and at the Nottingham Advantage Award who organised it.”

In addition to running a module, Boots will also be sponsoring a prize this year. Applications open Monday 16 January. Find out more about how to apply for the Boots prize and other prizes here.

More module information can be found here.

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