Journey to Impact:
How an idea became a movement to host and win the Hult Prize @ Rollins
The Journey Begins with“One-Rollins”
From idea to Impact. It is with great pleasure and pride that we (The Hult Prize@ Rollins Executive Team, Lauren Cooper, Sanyu Lubogo and Caitlin Pequignot) invited the entire Rollins community to participate, support and compete in the 2nd annual Hult Prize @ Rollins College. Our efforts this year were guided by Dr. Mary Conway Dato-on, Associate Professor and Faculty Director of the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Hub. Our goal for this year’s competition was to have various community social entrepreneurs and impact investors support, mentor and financially sponsor the Rollins winning team of social entrepreneurs to the Regional Finals.
It is my humble intention to share my Hult Prize entrepreneurial journey with the Rollins Community. My experience with the Hult Prize @ Rollins took me to excursions to the Middle East and Europe. Through a series of short articles I hope to inspire the Rollins student body to join the social entrepreneurship movement and participate in the Hult Prize@ Rollins College.
My story begins with meeting the current President of Rollins’ Net Impact, Lauren Cooper. This introduction in noteworthy because the lives of Crummer Graduate Business students and Rollins undergraduates rarely intersect. In our case, the common thread was a desire to make a positive impact in our community.
Lauren learned of ‘Hult Prize At’ event in September 2014 through her involvement with the Rollins student Chapter of Net Impact, a global organization formed to connect students and professionals with like-minded interests and passion for sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR), impact investing and social entrepreneurship. The Hult Prize is the world’s largest student entrepreneurship competition. College students (undergraduate and graduate), around the world compete to solve a pressing social issue faced by millions, by pitching a start-up enterprise. Lauren was inspired by the mere idea that students at Rollins College could have the opportunity to participate in this global competition by earning a spot at one of the five regional locations (Boston, Dubai, London, San Francisco and Shanghai) around the world. Her inspiration followed by hard work and a persistent promotion of the competition, resulted in Rollins hosting its first Hult Prize Challenge in November 2014.
It is rare that we get a chance to appreciate the art of persistence while it is actually taking place. It is a necessary character trait that we attribute to entrepreneurs or anyone who visibly overcome constant obstacles to accomplish an intended goal. Kudos to you Lauren for proactively insisting that the Hult Prize@ Rollins become part of the entrepreneurial fabric within the Rollins community.
Lauren’s continuous promotion emails were fixtures in Student Inboxes for about 2 months. The marketing campaign paid off, as I was intrigued by the possibility of not only competing but winning the $1Million prize and networking opportunity to accelerate a fitting start-up idea that my partner, Gerard Merrit, MBA ’05, and I were working on. However, we needed a third team member to comply with the competition rules. As a 2015 MBA candidate at the time, managing two professional service business, I was somewhat disconnected from campus life and auxiliary student activities. These commitments weighed heavily as Gerard and I decided next steps.
After meeting Lauren at a Net Impact information meeting, she endeavored to connect me with other participants to assure my participation. Although none of the potential teammates panned out, I was determined to compete. We only needed one more member to complete our team. During a breakthrough moment, I realized my wife Stephanie was also a Rollins student completing her Masters’ at the Holt School. Adding her brilliant mind to our team would not only make us rule compliant but her contribution would put us head and shoulders above the rest.
Then came competition day. The global challenge was Early Childhood Education in the designated “slums” around the world. Our Team, e-Magolution presented a comprehensive business model coupled with adaptable technology as a solution to the unmet need of quality early childhood education. Our educational concept is an innovative cost-effective method of providing high-quality early childhood education for the next 10 million children born in poverty to families of underserved communities around the world. We were awarded 1st place at the 2015 Hult Prize at Rollins and earned a trip to the Regional Finals in Dubai. It was then, we first learned of Lauren’s fierce determination and hard work to bring the Hult Prize@ Challenge to Rollins. As a zealous advocate by character and training, I decided to pick up the baton and advance the cause. I was determined to represent Rollins and compete on a global stage.
Upon realizing that the team’s travel to the Dubai would cost about the same as a semester’s tuition, our team had to reconsider the strategy to compete in this global competition. Using this seemingly minor setback as an entrepreneurial challenge; I convinced the team that we needed to raise money beyond our personal monetary contributions. Frankly, that worked for about two weeks, as there are certain stigmas that attach when you are asking people to invest in you and your vision. The team never wavered in our focus and passion; the Rollins community was very supportive.
As our team was made up of students from the Holt and Crummer, both schools agreed to partially support our participation in Hult Regional Finals. Shortly after forwarding a letter to the President’s office, the unthinkable happened. A faculty member (name undisclosed to protect the brave), took-up our cause and lobbied, then Interim President McAllaster to match the funds received from the Holt School and Crummer Graduate School of Business. To think, this all started with an inspired idea for Rollins students to compete in a global event.
Rollins certainly made a lasting impression, from the catalytic idea hosting the very first Hult Prize @ Rollins Challenge, to the audacious tenacity of the winning team to compete on a global stage literally on the other side of the world. Consequently, both Lauren and I were invited by the Hult Prize team to participate in the Hult Impact Retreat at the Ashridge Castle near London in Berkhamsted, United Kingdom. It was there, I met change makers such as Hitendra Patel of the Center for Innovation and Dr. Charles Kane, the founder of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). While our team did not win at the Regional Finals, our idea captured the interest of an incubator, the IXL Center for Innovation. The trip to Dubai and London were truly eye openers as to the magnitude of the Hult Prize@ Challenge and the global resources that are available to students with ideas to impact change in the world.
Come join the movement to change the world.
- P. Ridoré, Sr., J.D., MBA
Campus Director for Hult Prize @ Rollins
Rollins College – Crummer Graduate School of Business