Hult Prize Reflections: Simon Team Developed Strategy to Combat Global Poverty

The following blog post was written by Mikayla Hart, 2016 MBA candidate

Attending the semi-finals of the Hult Prize was one of the best experiences I’ve had thus far in business school. The Hult Prize is a global social business plan competition that challenges students to develop sustainable social enterprises to address poverty alleviation, with a winning prize of $1 million in seed capital to help the entrepreneurs start their business. The competition had over 25,000 applicants this year and roughly 300 teams made it to the semi-finals. Our team (which included four 2nd-year MBAs from Simon Business School: myself, Andre Segovia, Mohammad Shaikh, and Greg Sheldon) attended the semi-final round in London March 11-12 where 60 teams competed and just one advanced.

Link to: https://youtu.be/_ORdM9EjJbs

Learn more about NIA Nest from Andre Segovia, Mikayla Hart, Mohammad Shaikh, Greg Sheldon in this video about the Hult Prize and experiential learning at Simon Business School.

Our team’s solution was called NIA Nest and addressed the issues of food insecurity and post-harvest food loss. Countless hours were put into the development of our business plan in preparation for our pitch in London. Our team meetings were usually scheduled after night class at 9 p.m., and we would work into the night to make sure our presentation would be ready for the semi-finals. We arrived in London a few days early and spent the majority of that time finalizing our pitch as well. The stakes were high and we wanted to be well-prepared. It was a tough couple of months but completely worth the effort for such a rewarding experience.

The day of the competition was a whirlwind experience with 60 teams competing, all giving six-minute presentations and sitting in to peer review others. Our team was scheduled as the last pitch of the day. At this point we had practiced our presentation so many times that we were confident we would deliver it well. My memory of our presentation is a blur as it all went by so fast. We stood on a stage facing the judges and other teams in the audience and presented our idea just as we had practiced, finishing the moment the six-minute buzzer went off. It was followed by a short Q&A and that was it. Months of preparation all leading up to those 10 minutes in front of the judges.

When it was over I felt nervous and relieved all at once. The results were announced and we did not win, however this did not detract at all from my experience. We spent the night getting to know all of our competitors, the other 59 teams that were comprised of students from all over the world. We heard their great ideas to help alleviate global poverty and talked about common interests in the social impact space. I left with a broadened network of many like-minded individuals with whom I’m sure I’ll keep in throughout my career. I believe this new network is the largest asset the Hult Prize provides, even better than the $1 million, and I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to become a part of it.

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