About the Author: Aashna is a rising senior at Duke University. She is majoring in Economics and pursuing a certificate in Sustainable Engagement. Aashna grew up in New Delhi, India before she came out to Duke for her undergraduate studies. As a global citizen, she is passionate about sustainability, international development, and economic impact. She hopes to rehumanize economics and development through social entrepreneurship.
The Hult Prize, a global platform, is popularly referred to as the “benchmark program for social entrepreneurs” among college students. Each year, aspiring social entrepreneurs at Duke University get the chance to participate in Hult Prize @ Duke local competition, which is co-hosted by the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative as well as the undergraduate NET Impact Club at Duke University.
Hult Prize hopefuls are given a different challenge each year and they must create a social enterprise to address the challenge – better yet, solve the challenge. This year, teams were tasked with “harnessing the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people by 2025”. There’s a lot at stake with the final prize being $1 million USD to fund the winning social venture.
My personal journey with Hult Prize began 3 years ago as a participant trying to solve financial issues in urban crowded spaces. As a freshman, Hult Prize gave me an experience unparalleled to any classroom or extra-curricular experience. From a fresher in college trying to do new things, I would not be exaggerating when I say my vision of the world was transformed through my experience with Hult Prize. Among Hult Prize participants, judges and organizing committee I met a universe of world changers, international leaders, business developers, and visionaries. To me, the Hult Prize is about encouraging and empowering the most important resource every country has – its citizens – in order to change how we solve world challenges while earning a profit. The perfect business model in order to use the value of capital in shaping how we make decisions, distribute resources and do business to solve world challenges including education, hunger, poverty, refugee crisis or energy, and conservation.
A year later I found myself applying for Campus Director at Duke – I clearly got a taste of Hult Prize and wanted more. That’s the thing about Hult Prize, it captivates you from the second you join this global movement and leaves you wanting more. I wanted to be able to share my passion about social entrepreneurship and the Hult Prize so that no student at Duke graduates would go without participating or learning about how they can change the face of business and international development through this competition. Throughout my two years as a Campus Director, I have been able to host a plethora of workshops with professors, professionals and community members around Duke and Durham to train the brilliant minds of entrepreneurial blue devils. We foster an environment to tackle every challenge focused on a human-centered design and perfecting the pitch to communicate the solution and idea in a prime manner. This year Duke University’s OnCampus round winners – mPower – proceeded to bring home the trophy from the Mexico Regionals and will now spend the summer in the United Kingdom at the Accelerator in the Castle. The team of sophomores aims to fill India’s shortage of agricultural cold storage solutions by offering a modular product and distribution network that compensates farmers and simplifies the supply chain. Saheel Chodavadia, an Economics and Psychology major along with Sherry Feng, a Computer Science and Political Science major and Jason Wang, a Computer Science and Public Policy major, said they learned a lot at last year’s Hult Prize regional finals in Boston. This year, they added a fourth team member – Harshvardhan Sanghi, a Mechanical Engineering major who is also pursuing an Economics minor and the I&E Certificate.
“Hult Prize brings world leaders together under the same roof and helps us understand the true meaning of network. At the Regionals we got exposed to different perspectives, made friends from 17 other countries who were gathered to solve similar challenges and make an impact on the world”, said Chodavadia. “The Hult Prize Regionals gave me a different perspective towards career paths. Social entrepreneurship never felt a real pursuit to me until the regionals. It is not a fun exercise anymore, it feels so much more real. It made me reassess my priorities in life”, added Feng; “It showed us how much impact we can have without sacrificing great things”, Wang said. The team had to make hard choices and give up on their prior summer commitments and internships in order to fully emerge into this experience and their startup. “It really came down to decide between coding for hours for a tech giant versus changing the world and making a real impact”, Feng shared.
As someone rightly said, “The only thing more powerful than an idea is a team who can see through it” and Hult Prize fosters exactly this. Through the Hult Prize, we are bringing the best minds together to make a HULTimate difference.