Weddings are big business. Joe Volpe, owner and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia-based Cescaphe Event Group, would like to make them even bigger. Cescaphe orchestrates more than 600 events annually at its venues, and Volpe thought a hotel dedicated exclusively to weddings would enable his company to oversee even more of the customer experience.
Volpe enlisted students in Lehigh’s Integrated Business and Engineering program (IBE) to explore its viability. Louis Battaglia ’15, Jose Botran ’15, Tyler Edwards ’15, Tina Lu ’15, Sto Mahoney ’15, Henry Smither ’15 and Caitlyn Tzou ’15 spent a year developing a plan for hotel Nuziale, the Italian name for wedding.
Offered jointly by the P. C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Business and Economics, IBE integrates courses in business and engineering with mathematics, science, English, humanities and foreign language. Its two-semester, six-credit capstone design course allows student teams to work with faculty mentors on the feasibility of new product concepts.
Vople says he felt the IBE program would be a terrific way "to bring life to the project through the eyes and imagination of motivated and exceptional students."
The IBE team received an education in both the wedding and hotel industries. After getting to know Cescaphe and its mission, team members gained a better sense of the market by meeting with hotel-management professionals and exploring existing wedding venues that offer overnight accommodations. Using Volpe’s interest in building from the ground-up, students developed a plan.
"This is where the diverse background of our team really helped us excel," says Battaglia. "The civil engineers were able to design the structure, the industrial engineers planned how people and resources would move throughout, and the finance students forecasted the financials for the life of the project."
In its final presentation, the team recommended that Cescaphe build a five-story luxury hotel on a pre-selected, 40,000-square-foot lot in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood. Its plan included 29 large standard rooms and generous, well-appointed event spaces. Students also provided a marketing strategy and planned the flow of events.
Volpe was pleased to see his idea transformed into a concrete plan.
With a location in Philadelphia in mind, he hoped to "give new life" to an abandoned waterfront property with a one-of-a-kind wedding and event destination for the region.
"We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into at first," says Mahoney. "Little did we know that we were going to have some of the most interesting and also challenging work of our college careers."