Students participate in D.C. entrepreneurial challenge

Correction appended

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GW students teamed up with peers from seven other D.C. area universities this weekend at the StartUp Scramble Challenge, a three-day event in which college-aged entrepreneurs created business plans for sustainable ventures.

Plans that address such global social issues as poverty and underfunded education were awarded the $1,000 in seed funding, as well as support from Ashoka’s Youth Venture Program. Those teams that receive funding now have a chance to compete with student venture teams from across the country for $10,000 in funding.

“We want to help students realize their potential early in life so that they can become change agents in whatever they do in the future,” said Stephanie Potter of Youth Venture.

The challenge is co-facilitated by Ashoka’s Youth Venture, and its offshoot organization, Young Impact. The goal of both organizations is to give young change-makers the inspiration and funding to launch programs that correct community problems.

“We’re casting the net where we’re based,” Potter said. “We hope this will be a catalyst for action in our own community.”

The first night of the StartUp Scramble involves a pitch session in which all participating students have a chance to share their venture concepts in front of the crowd. Some plans are then thrown out or combined with other plans. Teams are created around the remaining venture concepts.

There were no restrictions on how teams were created. Students were encouraged to collaborate with people from outside of their respective universities.

“Try to step out of your little boxes and worldly concepts. Meet new people,” said Stephen Douglass, the chief Impact Officer of Young Impact, an organizer of the event.

A number of GW students pitched plans that survived the consolidation and voting process.

Sam Rioux, a junior, combined his plan of having students put money from selling their used textbooks towards funding schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods, with a plan to bring internet access to such schools.

Cristina Roman, a junior and president of the new student organization, GW Social Enterprise Forum, pitched her plan for “Butterfly Ventures,” a program in which unused funds from student organizations would be directed towards micro financing.

Plans submitted by other universities, such as Howard University, Georgetown University, and American University included a program to teach financial literacy to D.C.-area high school kids, a mentoring program to help kids get into the college of their choice, and a plan to improve communication between NGOs in various countries.

The GW Social Enterprise Forum was the only GW student organization at the event. All other participating GW students signed-up as individuals.

The GW Social Enterprise Forum was created as a way to “leverage the resources of the surrounding community to bring valuable knowledge about social enterprise onto GW’s campus,” Roman said.

“StartUp Scramble perfectly aligns with the objectives of the Forum,” Roman said. “We seek to offer students a comprehensive look at social enterprise, and planning social ventures is an ideal way to put the theoretical ideas we’ve learned into practice.”

The weekend was ultimately a chance for business-minded students in the D.C. area to network and learn.

“I think this such a unique experience,” said Andrea Ruiz, a GW sophomore. “It’s easy to be distracted, but this is a chance to hopefully look locally and solve problems in D.C.”

The article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

The article originally spelled Stephen Douglass’ first name as Stephan.

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