Case writing win “kick-starts” new passion

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Bill Holmes had never written a case study before, nor had he thought of entering a case study writing challenge. Last year, he did both. And to his surprise, he won. 

“I had absolutely no expectations of winning,” says the School of Business associate professor, who submitted his first formal case, Motorcycle Offsetters, to the 2023 John Molson Business Ownership Case Writing Competition. “I entered it just to see what would happen,” he says.

In addition to taking home the $5,000 first place prize, the case study was published by Ivey Publishing as part of the Ivey-Concordia John Molson case collection, exposing it to business schools and students around the world.

“Cases allow students to analyze a real-world situation in a safe environment. It’s safe in that they’re coming up with potential solutions but not facing the risks involved in implementing them,” Holmes says. “So they can be wrong and learn from that.”

He saw this case as a way to help both his current students and a former one.

Andreas Gneist

Master of Global Management alum Andreas Gneist and his venture, Motorcycle Offsetters, inspired the case. Holmes was Gneist’s supervisor during his program and the two stayed in touch after Gneist graduated.

“Andreas started talking about his company, and it occurred to me, this would make a really good case because he’s bumping up against challenges and he’s looking for ways around them,” Holmes says.

Launched in 2020, Motorcycle Offsetters allows riders like Gneist to make riding more sustainable by purchasing carbon offsets

The trouble is, certain segments of Gneist’s potential customer base are divided about whether emissions from human activities, like driving, are causing climate change.

Some potential North American partners worry they’ll upset those who may not be open to discussions about climate change or the impact of their activities, Gneist says. In addition, some manufacturers are reluctant to admit that their products may have harmful effects on the environment.

That has left him with the big question: How do you market your business effectively without alienating segments of your customer base?

It’s a question Holmes’ students have been pondering too, after inviting Gneist to sit in on a class during a live case challenge. The experience not only gave Gneist new ideas, but also a way to stay connected to his alma mater.

“I enjoy staying connected to the academic world. There’s no doubt,” Gneist says.

As for Holmes, the experience has opened him up to new possibilities, too.

“Because of this, I’ve developed a fondness for writing cases,” he says with a laugh. I’m writing one right now and have another two lined up – all entrepreneurs with interesting stories to tell.


Read more about Andreas Gneist and his business in The long winding road: RRU graduate builds business for motorcyclists.