Mobile Apps and Rainier Valley Dominate Eighth Annual SVPC Showcase
In the Eighth Annual Social Venture Plan Competition (SVPC) at Seattle Pacific University, over half of the presenting teams had projects that were either centered on a mobile software application or addressed needs in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood. However, when the dust settled, the top few projects were once again those that showcased innovative tangible products. The Showcase event, the finale of the annual SVPC, was held on the SPU campus Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
The top project was Sound Steps, chosen as the $3000 Herbert B. Jones Grand Prize winner by the combined votes of more than 75 judges representing the business, non-profit, academic and professional community. Kinetic, Inc. came in second, winning the $2000 Pioneer Award. Over 300 students, faculty, staff and guests voted for their favorite project of the afternoon and the Don Summers People’s Choice award of $500 was given to Stepping Stones.
Sound Steps’ mission is to help “amputees in developing nations ‘step’ out of poverty by providing them with the highest quality and most affordable lower limb prosthetics possible.” The prosthetic foot in question is made from used tires, which can be found in abundance in certain countries, including Sound Steps’ first proposed manufacturing site, South Africa. Thus, the project not only hopes to increase mobility (and thus opportunity) for amputees, but also to recycle a product and remove it from the waste stream – two social goods for the price of one. Sound Steps was a collaboration between senior Business majors Stephanie Harold and Matthew Broman, junior Business Major Gabriella Serventi, senior Mechanical Engineering major Hannah Judd and senior Engineering major Natalie Harold.
Kinetic, Inc. was the runner-up and winner of the Pioneer Prize presented by Pioneer Human Services. Kinetic, Inc.’s initial product offering is the Curilight, a combination LED light and UV water purifier powered by kinetic energy. Kinetic, Inc. plans to market the Curilight to outdoor enthusiasts through retailers such as REI and Cabela’s. Hoping to form as a for-benefit corporation (or B-corp), Kinetic, Inc. plans to use 75% of net income to donate Curilights to villages in need in Swaziland, Africa. The Kinetic, Inc. team was comprised of Accounting major Darci Curtin and Business majors Todd Carlson, Andrew Johnson and Elli Winslow, all from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.
In addition to the top two prizes, three honorable mention prizes of $1,000 each were awarded as well:
Cerca would sell high-quality hand-woven baby wraps made by Guatemalan women using traditional Mayan designs. By creating a path to larger markets for this product, the company would provide economic opportunity for indigenous women who are often marginalized today. Cerca was the work of junior Business major Claire Fredriks, senior Global Development Studies major Jeff Abbott, senior Business major Hayley DeKlotz and senior Sociology and Global Development double-majors Nathan Nelson and Megan Herndon.
GCA Lotus has developed a glove that, when worn by the user, can translate American Sign Language (ASL) into either text on a screen or audible words. The device would open up communication for those who are deaf, but could also be used as a study tool for those trying to learn ASL. The GCA Lotus project was developed by senior Electrical Engineering major Clarence Rieu, junior Accounting major Evan Eriksen, senior Applied Human Biology major Tori Speck, senior Physics Education major Briana Clarke, junior Interior Design major Alex Russell and freshman English major Alex Lee.
Sociphi is a mobile app designed to make it easier to find philanthropic organizations and opportunities that align with an individual’s passions and interests. The team’s desire is to increase giving and volunteering by making it easier to connect with the right causes. Sociphi was the work of Vy-Hoa Le, Kaili Hunsaker, Christian Bravo and Lauren Rogers, all students in SPU’s one year Master of Arts in Management – Social and Sustainable Management program.
New this year was a collaboration between SPU and Urban Impact, a faith-based non-profit in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood. Teams that presented projects focused on making a difference in the Rainier Valley were eligible for a separate $500 prize. The winner of this award was Blended Smoothies, a proposal for a smoothie shop that would complement Urban Impact’s existing Rainier Health and Fitness business. Blended Smoothies was the brain child of sophomore Business and Economics double major Chris Herron, junior Global Development Studies major Jessica Miller, junior Business major Sarai Aguirre, senior Global Development Studies major Rebekah Harper and senior Business major Becca Harryman.
For many years Dr. Don Summers provided leadership for the Social Venture Plan Competition until his unexpected illness and death in 2012. His widow, Linda Summers, along with several other of Don’s family members, friends and former students joined together to create an endowment in Don’s name, supporting the competition. In honor of this new endowment, the People’s Choice award was named the Don Summers People’s Choice Award.
The winner of the Don Summers People’s Choice Award was another Rainier Valley project, Stepping Stones. Stepping Stones proposal was for a non-profit employment agency that would provide skills development and expanded opportunities for people living on the margins in the Rainier Valley. Stepping Stones was the work of junior Business majors Christian Roy and Jeff Reintjes, junior Accounting major John Heffel and junior Business and Accounting double-major Addison Parker.
Blended Smoothies and Stepping Stones, along with two other Rainier Valley projects will compete in a follow-on event, Sharks at the Beach, on April 23. This “Shark Tank” style event will be hosted by Urban Impact at the Emerald City Commons at 7700 Rainier Ave S. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and the winner will receive an additional $1000 prize.
This is the eighth year of SPU’s Social Venture Plan Competition. 17 teams presented at the Showcase event, comprising approximately 80 students. Competitors hailed from SPU, Northwest Nazarene University, Seattle University and the University of Washington. In addition to the 75+ community Judges, over 300 students, faculty and staff voted in the People’s Choice balloting.
The Showcase Round was the final leg of the Social Venture Plan Competition. Earlier stages in the competition included a series of seminars on the basics of business planning, scoring of the teams’ written plans and coaching sessions with knowledgeable businesspeople, community leaders and other professionals about the student’s business ideas. In all, more than 150 community volunteers gave time as readers, instructors, coaches and judges.
Doug Deardorf, CEO of Denver-based NiSoft and an SPU alumnus, was a first time Judge at this year’s SVPC Showcase. Deardorf said “I really enjoyed participating in the event – I was most impressed by the students, their work and the SVPC program. Very cool indeed.”
Chuck Simchuk of Alaska Air Group, a long-time volunteer for the competition said “I want to congratulate Sound Steps. I had the privilege of reviewing their excellent business plan – they really have a viable idea and I hope they execute their plan.”
Financial sponsors of the Social Venture Plan Competition include the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, the Scott and Kathleen Cummins Family Foundation, Pioneer Human Services, Fischer Plumbing, Miir, Northwest Center and Skills, Inc. The competition is managed by the Center for Applied Learning in the School of Business and Economics.