BSU students take on global business challenge

Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-07 00:50:21-05

A group of determined Boise State University MBA students is packing their bags and heading to Shanghai. The four entrepreneurs are competing for $1 million, hoping their business plan will change the world.

The challenge given for those competing for the Hult Prize - a global business competition for social entrepreneurs in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative - was to come up with a solution to one of the world’s most dire issues:  finding a way for people living in crowded urban places to double their income by 2022.

The group set their eyes on communities in Africa.

“We kept on seeing these women with huge basins of water carrying gallons and gallons of water on their head and realizing how inefficient that is,” MBA student Taylor Reed said. “It's not good for their productivity; it's not good for their health.”

The group then made a prototype, creating a cart to increase efficiency that's affordable and accessible to those working in third world countries. It can either be pulled by hand or towed by bike.

“If people could carry more, they'd have a greater opportunity to sell more, and therefore double their income,” MBA student Haley Schaefer said.

The students have created a business plan to pitch to the panel of judges, determining the ideal location to start wheeling out smart carts to be Sierra Leone.

“We feel that it's a prime location for having a pilot program because of their susceptibility to use carts and to use bikes and their progressive thinking,” MBA student Hannah Joy Coad said.

During their research and planning, the team took advantage of diverse cultures in Boise, reaching out to refugees in the Treasure Valley for input on social norms in other societies.

“We kind of shared with them our ideas and asked them, 'Is this a good idea? Is it a bad idea? Are we crazy? Is this viable?’” Reed said. “And the response we got was incredibly encouraging.”

The team of four comes from different educational backgrounds, using their experience in education, environmental health, biochemistry and international relations to create a model they think can change the world.

“If we only focus on profit-driven business and we don’t focus on those people living in crowded urban places, or those people who are at the bottom of the pyramid, we will not have the world we hope to have,” Connor Sheldon said. “So going into the future, this project I can see changing the world.”

The students leave for Shanghai Tuesday to compete against 50 other teams in front of a panel of judges.

If selected, the group will spend the summer in Boston working with experts and mentors, perfecting the idea to pitch in September to a global audience, social entrepreneurs and Bill Clinton.