First-year students pitch business ideas that solve global problems
Malnutrition. Water-borne illness. Cardiovascular disease. These issues and more were top of mind this semester for a group of first-year International Business majors challenged by their professors – Associate Professor of Management Diya Das, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Management Elzotbek Rustambekov, Ph.D. – to develop a business that would address a global social problem.
The assignment was part of Global Foundations of Organizations and Business, a three-credit component of Bryant’s nationally recognized First-Year Gateway.
In Global Foundations of Organizations and Business, students develop skills in design thinking, rapid prototyping, leadership, and more.
On Nov. 2 – not even eight weeks into their collegiate careers – 10 student teams pitched their proposals to a panel of judges that included the director of strategic initiatives from software company Dassault Systemes and the former director of operation management for Swarovski.
The teams and their innovative solutions reflected extensive research and critical thinking about the scope of the problems they had identified, and the cultural mores and practices that would affect their business. In learning how to nurture their ideas into international businesses, they developed skills in design thinking, rapid prototyping, leadership, communication, negotiation and time management. They also grew in their understanding of the triple bottom line – the social, economic, and environmental dimensions their proposed businesses would have.
Each team had five minutes to make a pitch outlining the scope of the problem and how their business would address it. Judges peppered each team with pointed questions that probed the solidness of the team’s thinking, then gathered to determine the top two winners.
First place went to Hydroponics in Malawi. Modeled after a successful business in Kenya, the greenhouse company, working through the World Food Programme, would provide jobs and training in addition to addressing food insecurity in the drought-stricken country. Team members, all Class of 2020, are Colby Sturgis, Kelly Jacobsen, Liam Driscoll, Manvika Manoj Chouta and Daniel Ryde.
Second place went to HearTea, which would develop and sell a tea blend to address Russia’s epidemic of cardiovascular disease. The company would partner with an international medical alliance and would market its tea through Russian research centers. Team members, all Class of 2020, are Jay Mudda, Victor Rey, Paul Koretz, Jessica Hayward, and Theresa McGrory.