2023 SVPC Recap

The 2023 Social Venture Plan Competition showcase event

Sea, Sky, and Land(fill)

Seattle Pacific University held its 17th annual Social Venture Plan Competition (SVPC) Showcase on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Student teams developed solutions to a wide variety of social problems, from restoring failing coral reefs, to reducing electronic waste in landfills, to collecting freshwater from thin air. Yes, these innovative ideas spanned sea, sky, and land. The Showcase event, the finale of the annual SVPC, occurred in Upper Gwinn Commons on the SPU campus.

Nemo Institute

The top project was Nemo Institute, chosen as the $5,000 Herbert B. Jones Grand Prize winner by the combined votes of over 60 judges representing the business, nonprofit, academic, and professional communities. Water Harvesters came in second, winning a $3,000 runner-up award.  Over the course of the day, several hundred students, faculty, staff, and community members visited the Showcase and voted for their favorite project, and the Donald B. Summers People’s Choice award of $1,000 also went to Nemo Institute.

One in eight people globally rely on coral reefs for their livelihood, and yet 90% of coral reefs may die within the next century. Team Nemo Institute proposed a site-based project in the Bahamas that would work toward coral reef restoration using 3D printing, ecotourism, and education for college students through study abroad trips. Their multi-pronged approach included a variety of income sources and could be extended to other coral ecosystems over time. The Nemo Institute team included senior Business Administration majors Austin Freeman and Justin Freeman; junior Ecology and Global Development Studies double major Elizabeth Horton; junior Business Administration major Hannah Miller; and junior Accounting and Business Administration double major Maddie Wright.

Water Harvesters seeks to address the global lack of clean water, starting with low-income regions in the country of India. Devices called Fog Harps can collect water from the moisture in the air, producing up to nine liters of water per day in areas with high humidity, but no access to clean groundwater. Water Harvesters consisted of senior Thomas Morton, double majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Appropriate and Sustainable Engineering; senior Abhi Kancherla, a Cellular and Molecular Biology major; Thien Vo, a senior Business Administration major; Amie Kujabi, a senior Global Development Studies major; and juniors Ebby Buchta and Handrae Henthorn, both Electrical Engineering majors.

Water Harvesters

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

CAT friendly

With catalytic converter theft on the rise, team CAT Friendly developed an affordable and effective anti-theft system. Their business would also create job opportunities for former inmates and victims of domestic abuse, thus promoting social responsibility and environmental sustainability at the same time. CAT Friendly was the work of senior Computer Engineering major Minh Le, Senior Business Administration major Thuy Tien Nguyen, senior Accounting and Business Administration double major Tien Nguyen, junior Interior Design major Man Nhi Le, and junior Electrical Engineering major Nguyen Tang.

Every second, a thousand laptops are thrown into landfills around the world, making electronic waste quite literally a growing problem. Guardian Ecycling would help small and mid-sized businesses safely dispose of their e-waste and provide public certification of these companies’ commitments to sustainable and ethical e-waste procedures for a small fee. Guardian Ecycling was comprised of junior Global Development Studies major Micah Witherow, junior Business Administration major Josiah Yuen, and first-year Business Administration major Roland Zou.

Guardian Ecycling

Nomi notes that the World Health Organization has named stress the “health epidemic of the 21st century.” Their solution? An interactive, robotic pet that helps its user create a better relationship with stress in an engaging and accessible way through the use of biofeedback. The Nomi business plan was written and presented by André Stone, an MS in Entrepreneurship graduate student; Camille Hougardy, a PhD candidate in Naturopathic Medicine; Trischa Schramm, a Master of Communication Leadership graduate student; Ava Lim, a junior Human Centered Design major; and Kalina Luong, a junior Visual Communication Design major. All are from the University of Washington, except Hougardy, who studies at Bastyr University.

This is the 17th year of SPU’s Social Venture Plan Competition. Eleven teams pitched their ideas at the Showcase event, comprising approximately 50 students. In the first round of the competition, 18 written business plans, representing nearly 100 students from five different schools, were reviewed and scored by community partners.

The Showcase Round was the finale of the Social Venture Plan Competition. In addition to the review of written business plans, earlier stages in the competition included a series of seminars on the basics of business plan writing as well as coaching sessions with knowledgeable businesspeople, nonprofit executives, and others. In all, over 110 community volunteers gave time as readers, instructors, coaches, and judges.

Retired social enterprise executive and long-time volunteer Sandy Gibb, who served as a reader, said “I am so glad that others agreed that the Nemo Institute was an excellent proposal. I'm truly sorry I wasn't there to see [them pitch] first-hand.”

Heidi Webster, a local businesswoman and volunteer judge for the Showcase did see the live pitches and commented, “I enjoyed judging — the students and businesses were amazing! I will look forward to next year.”

Financial sponsors of the SVPC include the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, the Scott and Kathleen Cummins Family Foundation, Tschetter Group, Northwest Center, Bellmont Cabinets, Eastlake Real Estate Partner, Highland Private Wealth Management, Pioneer Human Services, and Skills Inc. The competition is organized by the Center for Applied Learning (CAL) in the School of Business, Government, and Economics (SBGE) at SPU.

Photos by John Godek