This is a blog post about the Hult Prize, written by Sarah Vitorino, a student. The Hult Prize has become the world’s largest student competition, as well as the most prestigious award on the planet for the creation of new social enterprises.
I first found out about the Hult Prize through a lecturer at the university. As a part-time student I wasn’t sure if I would be able to compete, but after finding 2 other members for a team, Dan, Dani and I signed up together. The challenge set by the competition was to help 10 million refugees by 2022. With the help and support from the university, our team (which we named “Team Reach”) finally decided that we would build a fashion company in Colombia, in which factory seconds and discarded materials would be used to create our own fashion line, working with up and coming designers. Since 1985, over 4 million Colombians have been displaced by the armed conflict, both within the country and crossing the border into surrounding countries. This was our chance to make a difference.
After pitching to judges within Staffordshire University, we were put through to the continental finals in London. Before we went to London, we spent many hours perfecting our business plan with Tolu (our lecturer and mentor) and got support from other lecturers within the School of Business, Leadership and Economics. We were put in contact with experienced entrepreneurs who also gave us sound business advice and we also got to pitch to the university’s senior management team which included the Vice Chancellor. With the presentation and the pitch ready for London, the weekend of the finals quickly came around. Once in London, we were introduced to, and listened to speakers including Cesar Del Valle who were so passionate about the Hult Prize and everything it stands for that straight away it wasn’t just a competition. Yes, we wanted to win in London and go through to the next round, to eventually win, but that was secondary. What mattered was that we were stood in a room filled with students from across the world and we were all fighting for the same thing, to help refugees and to make the world a better place.
Eventually it came our time to pitch our idea. Before the competition, I would avoid public speaking at all costs. My heart was racing as we walked into the room, set up our boards and looked across the room at the judges and students. It felt like the longest pause as we stood there at the front, then Dan started to speak. Everything fell into place. We had run through this so many times we had it to near perfection. We believed in what we were saying. We could see the future in the idea. I don’t remember many details from the presentation other than my constant reminders to myself of ‘make eye contact’. We left the room relieved. It had gone as well as we could have hoped. The timing was perfect, we communicated all the information we had wanted to and the questions from the judges sounded promising. We were called back to answer a few more questions,,, further elaborations on wages, why we had chosen Colombia? We took them in our stride…
The winning team from London was a Canadian team wanting to connect refugees with locals to exchange skills. Nonetheless, our time in London was amazing. We heard ideas and pitches for things we would never have considered, we met people and made friends from all over the world, we took part in an experience that most people could only dream of. The memories of that weekend will always be with me; the atmosphere of the weekend will be something I could never forget and I became much more confident. I still get nervous at public speaking but I know now that I can do it. The biggest change in myself, however, is that I caught something that weekend. From the atmosphere, the passion of the speakers and the insights of our new friends, I want to change my life. I want my future to be about helping people and making a difference to the world because there are so many other people out there who have so much less than I do. I changed because I realised that I really can make that difference we set out to.
The Hult Prize is a fantastic event and I would advise all students to compete. It not only gives you practical skills, you get to interact with university students from around the world for a good cause. It is one of the best things that I have ever done and I am grateful for the opportunity. Go ahead and give it a try. You will not regret it.
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