Kennesaw State sales competition lands Coles graduate a career opportunity

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 9, 2023

Avani Shah has always had a competitive streak — but not with others.

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve struggled with profound dyslexia, which has presented me with constant challenges,” said Shah, a Kennesaw State graduating marketing major. “I consistently focused on outperforming my last effort and making progress. I learned early on the importance of playing to the best of my ability every time. That became my mindset, and it’s allowed me to be competitive in many ways.”

Shah’s competitive streak paid off as she entered college and got to work challenging herself.

The Milton, Ga. native helped launch the Honors Advisory Leadership Council, where she later served as president; interned at Fortune 500 companies; and participated in peer mentoring and various student organizations. 

Photo of Avani Shah
Avani Shah
Through all of her activities, Shah says that it was getting involved with the Coles College professional sales team that had the biggest impact on her future. 

“When I started competing with the sales team, it made me realize what I was capable of,” she said.

Shah placed within the top 5 in multiple sales and marketing competitions. But it was when she took first prize in TK Elevator’s fall 2022 elevator pitch competition that changed everything.

The competition challenged 24 students from the Coles College professional sales team to sell their personal brands to company executives at TKE as they took a 420-foot, 60-second ride to the top of the tallest building in Cobb County, Ga. on the company’s fastest Atlanta elevator.

Atlanta Branch Manager Adam Luckey said his team “threw everything we could at them from a stress standpoint.” It was Shah’s preparation, confidence and delivery that made her stand out, he said. Luckey also said TKE staff witnessed Shah’s performance during other sales competitions and were impressed by her professionalism and drive, as well as high praise from her professors. 

Shortly after she won the competition, the company offered her a job at their local branch in Atlanta. She begins her sales training program with TKE this summer as she continues working toward an MBA through KSU’s Double Owl program.

Brent McCulloch, associate director and partner liaison at KSU’s Center for Professional Selling, described Shah as a natural leader, contagiously positive and a student who aims to leave no peer behind.

“Avani is an amazing student who leaves every situation and everyone she meets somehow better. She is humble, kind, and authentic — qualities others gravitate toward consistently,” said McCulloch, who taught Shah in his professional sales courses and coached her on the sales team. “In addition to her enthusiasm and knowledge of business, she demonstrates a passion for learning and making a positive difference in the classroom, university, and community.”

The  KSU Journey Honors College student graduates magna cum laude during KSU’s May commencement ceremony and was named the Michael J. Coles College Outstanding Student for marketing for the 2022-23 school year.

– By Thomas Hartwell
Photos by Darnell Wilburn

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit