Mendoza School of Business

Five trades to social good

Published: May 21, 2015 / Author: Christine Cox

It was a homework assignment that went viral.

Trade a pair of decorative chopsticks that cost under a dollar and see what you come up with in five swaps.

And the Notre Dame Executive MBA candidates in Rev. Eric Zimmer’s Negotiations class achieved fantastic final trades that included:
• A riding lawnmower
• A suite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
• A kayak
• A dirt bike
• A guitar autographed by country music star Luke Bryan
• A baseball autographed by Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

Maria Bailey, Steve Carollo and Dustyn Arney

One group of students — Executive MBA Team 9 — took the assignment another step: They auctioned their final trades on Facebook to raise money for an ambulance service in Uganda. Their three-hour auction on May 5 raised $21,000, generated seven million Twitter impressions and may have created a permanent fundraising platform.

The members of Team 9 — Steve Carollo, Maria Bailey, Dustyn Arney, Ryan Cushing, Stephen Smith and Pat Meyer — hatched their charity auction plan early in their trading. They realized they could leverage the swapped items to benefit a project from another course they were enrolled in, International Immersion, which will take them to Uganda for a week in June.

International Immersion allows ND Executive MBA students to apply their knowledge in a global setting. Teams are matched with companies or organizations with a social cause and begin working with them closely in the months before the trip. Logistics are meticulously planned, and students are able to hit the ground running. Many students call the experience the most transformational of the program.


Team 9 will work with Pulse, a company that manufactures The Village Ambulance, a lightweight medical trailer that can be pulled by bicycles, motorcycles or by hand to serve people in rural communities. Each trailer saves an average of two lives per week, and 50 percent of all patients are expectant mothers. This is especially noteworthy in Uganda, where maternal mortality is high.  

Using the handle 5TradesAway, Team 9 created a website, Facebook page and Twitter hashtag. Bailey, an internationally known expert who specializes in marketing to mothers, reached out to her vast network.

And things took off.

“The project just grew and grew,” Bailey said. “Other people got enthused about trading — they wanted to try it for themselves. So we bought chopsticks and handed them out. In the end, 55 people traded chopsticks for items for our auction. Some were strangers who just heard about it on the Internet.”

Louis Vuitton, Martha’s Vineyard, Justin Pugh
By auction day, Team 9 had collected 56 items, including a four-night suite at a resort in Mexico, a vacation rental in Martha’s Vineyard, a Louis Vuitton purse, a Disney print from 1939 and an autographed football by New York Giants first-round 2013 draft pick Justin Pugh.

Bidding ran from 7 to 10 p.m. and 500 people participated. The Martha’s Vineyard rental went for $3,500. The Louis Vuitton purse brought $650.

In all, the auction raised $11,000 and a Notre Dame family who wants to remain anonymous matched $10,000. Others made donations without winning auction items.

“We were overwhelmed by the response,” Bailey said.

Not the end
The online auction was so successful that nonprofit groups have written to Bailey about future events. “They want be the beneficiary of the next auction,” she said. “I anticipate 5TradesAway continuing on.”

And Executive MBA candidates also supported Team 9’s efforts: One classmate donated the Luke Bryan guitar and others gave donations.

Additionally, several Executive MBA candidates donated their traded items or proceeds to an array of charities including Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity, Hannah’s House and others.

None of this surprises Bailey. “Many of us, if not all of us, chose the University of Notre Dame because of the shared values we have with the institution,” she said. “We believe that’s an aspect of an MBA program that you cannot get anywhere else and a lesson that is only taught at Notre Dame — taking your business talents and using them to do social good.”