2018 SVPC Recap

Solar Powered Devices and Farming Hot Topics at Twelfth Annual SVPC Showcase

On a rainy April day in Seattle, the aspiring entrepreneurs at the Twelfth Annual Social Venture Plan Competition (SVPC) at Seattle Pacific University were all about sunshine. Several of the top projects featured solar powered devices or involved improving the lives of farmers – or both! The Showcase event, the finale of the annual SVPC, was held on the SPU campus Thursday, April 12, 2018.


The top project was Itheno, chosen as the $5000 Herbert B. Jones Grand Prize winner by the combined votes of more than 80 judges representing the business, non-profit, academic and professional communities. The Solairo Project came in second, winning the $3000 runner-up award. Almost 400 students, faculty, staff and guests voted for their favorite project, and the Donald B. Summers People’s Choice award of $1000 was also given to The Solairo Project.

Farmers in Dakshin Dinajpur, India, commonly burn the rice stubble in their fields before planting the next crop. Itheno has developed a process that would take that unused rice stubble and, through a unique chemical process, turn this waste product into two usable outputs: bioethanol and fertilizer. Farmers would pay a subscription fee to have their rice stubble removed and get bioethanol for household and farm use in return. The fertilizer and excess fuel would be sold for profit. The Itheno team included junior Global Development Studies major Cheyenne Thornton, senior Global Development Studies major Kristina Brennan and senior Exercise Science and Global Development Studies double-major Naomi Miller.


The UN estimates that the average refugee today will find him or herself displaced for 17 years. However, refugee camps are designed to be temporary despite the fact that, for many, these are not just short-term shelters but actual homes. The Solairo Project has developed a low cost, solar-powered heating and cooling system for use in refugee camps. By selling this product to recreational campers and others in the US, the team believes they can subsidize the units abroad, selling them at a greatly reduced cost to relief organizations already in places such as the Za’Atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. The Solairo Project team was comprised of senior Economics and Global Development Studies major David McCordic, senior Business Administration major Jeffrey Peterson, and senior Engineering majors Garrett Berkey, Luke George, Natalie Holmstedt and Daniel Houser.

Three Honorable Mention prizes of $2,000 were also awarded:


Emerald City Cooperative would offer a commercial kitchen-cleaning service in an employee-owned business staffed by those who currently are experiencing or recently have experienced homelessness. Emerald City Cooperative was the work of Monique Etienne-Innes, Amy Villanueva, Chris Wells, and Edouard Stenger. All are Sustainable Management MBA students from the Presidio Graduate School.


Rebosar would offer financing and installation of solar-powered water pumps to farmers in Michoacán, Mexico, allowing them to grow crops during the dry season by tapping into the existing aquifer. The Rebosar team was comprised of senior Global Development Studies major Stephanie Murray and junior Global Development Studies major Alexia Estrada.


RoboSolutions wants to reduce the incidence of deadly accidents on road construction sites by introducing the FlaggerBot, a remotely controlled robotic traffic management solution. RoboSolutions was written and presented by sophomore Computer Science majors Trent Hashimoto, Elizabeth Myers and Chandler Stevens, junior Electrical Engineering major Brianna Christiansen and junior Business Administration major Ben George.


For the fifth year in a row, SPU partnered with Urban Impact, a faith-based non-profit in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood. Teams presenting projects focused on making a difference in the Rainier Valley were eligible for a separate $500 prize. The winner of this award was CHOMP.

CHOMP would operate a mobile food truck that would bring the flavors of various cuisines from the Rainier Valley to the University District in Seattle. CHOMP was developed by senior Global Development Studies major Bethanie Mazengia along with five students from the University of Washington: Environmental Science and Resource Management major Esaac Mazengia, Biology major Shah Yousuf, Electrical Engineering major Amulya Strethsa, Business Marketing major Abiel Zewolday and Business Accounting major Brooke McKinnon.

CHOMP will also participate in a follow-on event entitled Sharks at the Beach. This “Shark Tank”-style evening will be hosted by Urban Impact at Emerald City Bible Fellowship, 7728 Rainer Ave S on April 26, 2018. In addition to the SPU project, several Rainier Valley-based entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas in front of a panel of community experts and a live audience. The event begins at 6:00 p.m. and runs until approximately 8:30 p.m. with separate prizes to be awarded.

This is the twelfth year of SPU’s Social Venture Plan Competition. Eighteen teams presented at the Showcase event, comprising approximately 70 students. In addition to SPU projects, two teams from the Presidio Graduate School competed and several teams were made up of both SPU and University of Washington students. In addition to the more than 80 community judges, nearly 400 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 plan writing, scoring of teams’ written business plans, and coaching sessions with knowledgeable businesspeople, non-profit executives and others about the student’s venture proposals. In all, more than 150 community volunteers gave time as readers, instructors, coaches and judges.

Becki Johnson, a retired banking executive and long-time SVPC volunteer reader noted, “I am so impressed with the Social Venture work and with the students. It is such a special program and, while the projects themselves are very different . . . they all have their unique enthusiasm and passion. [It is] such a joy and peace . . . knowing that our future world is in good hands.”

First time Showcase Judge Christian Burnham of Pioneer Human Services, commented: “This was so cool! Great competition, great students and a great future! I fully enjoyed participating.”

Financial sponsors of the SVPC include the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, the Scott and Kathleen Cummins Family Foundation, Pioneer Human Services, Fischer Plumbing, Bellmont Cabinets, MiiR, Northwest Center, and Skills, Inc. The competition is managed by the Center for Applied Learning (CAL) in the School of Business, Government, and Economics (SBGE) at SPU.