Vanderbilt Business and the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures hosted the first round of the competition on campus; Team Farm to Market advanced to the regionals

The Hult Prize competition is a global event that brings entrepreneurial-minded students together to solve some of the world’s most pressing societal problems through for-profit business. Teams from all over the world advance through several rounds to compete for a $1 million seed funding grand prize. Each November, the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures hosts the first round of the competition on campus, and the winning team will advance to the regional competition (and hopefully the global finals).

The Hult@Vanderbilt competition took place earlier this month, and team Farm to Market was declared the winner. Below, Hult Prize Chair Sayrge Braccio (MBA’19) reflects on the overall event, while Jasmine Greer (MBA’2020) describes what it was like to win the first round.

Sayrge Braccio (MBA’19)

The Farm to Market team (middle) poses with the Hult@Vanderbilt judges

The Hult Prize is a social venture case competition that the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures looks forward to hosting every year. I’m particularly fond of the event because it was my first interaction with the TFC after arriving at Vanderbilt. It’s also incredible to look at the impact the Hult competition and the organization behind it have had in just ten short years.

This year, twelve interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students were asked to “develop an idea that provides meaningful employment for 10,000 youth over the next decade,” no easy task. The stakes were high, but the teams rose to the occasion.

The competition, which took place on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Wond’ry, featured teams from seven different Vanderbilt schools who each looked at the challenge through a different lens. The diversity of viewpoints ultimately helped to create a wide range of business plans — everything from a sustainable plastic recycling business in Nepal, to a mobile platform that pairs unemployed youth with a growing elderly population seeking attentive care and companionship. I had high expectations for the teams, but I had no idea they would be this thoughtful and innovative! It truly made for an exciting competition.

Thank you to all of the teams that participated and congratulations to our winner, Farm to Market. The Farm to Market team will move on to compete in the global regionals round in March of 2019, for a chance to win $1 million in startup capital. I’d also like to thank this year’s stellar lineup of judges who came from a diverse range of backgrounds: venture capital, technology, workforce development, social venture and education. We really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to be a part of the day and support our organization! I look forward to seeing the new ideas that the Hult competition generates, both at the regionals and beyond. —Sayrge Braccio

Jasmine Greer (MBA’2020)

Jasmine Greer presents during the final round

Participating in Hult@Vanderbilt was quite the journey, from hearing the list of team members I was paired with — Ayan Mukhopadhyay, Andrea Clark, Amogh Kulkarni, Ben Burkeen — to walking across the stage with the very same people after being announced the winners. Our idea of Farm to Market addressed the injustice of farmers not receiving sustainable profit as well as the high unemployment of youth in India. To solve these problems, we sought to create a technological platform for farmers to connect more directly with consumers. Through our Farm to Market concept, youth will be employed as managers of their own marketplace stalls, so the youth will be in direct communication with the end consumer. Not only will these young people obtain a transferable managerial and entrepreneurial skill set, but they also have opportunities to advance within the company structure as regional managers and decision maker administrators.

The day of the Hult competition, my team repeatedly practiced in the early morning. Then, at 2 p.m. the competition officially began with opening remarks, and my excitement jitters continued as our team was called to present in front of the judges for the first round. It was my first pitch and I had just enough nerves to get my energy and confidence up. All of our long hours paid off, and the presentation went smoothly.

When the finalists were announced and “Farm to Market” was called, my heart rate escalated as I realized we were going to the final round. With little time to make any adjustment, my team and I were immediately called on stage to do our pitch again, this time in front of a full panel of judges and a full audience. Thankfully, I remembered everything that I had learned in my communication course with Kimberly Pace, and our pitch and Q&A session went equally well.

After the judges deliberated, Sayrge then said “drumroll please” and announced Farm to Market as the winner of the whole competition. Along with the rest of my team, I am incredibly excited and grateful to advance to the regionals where we can make an impact and see our idea come to life. I have been honored to work with such a great team during the Hult competition: We have developed such close bonds while trying to solve this very real issue, and we look forward to our next steps together at regionals! —Jasmine Greer

To learn more about programming at the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, visit the TFC website.