The Enactus club at Hood College traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete in its first regional competition March 29, where it presented what they have named the Backet, a cross-functional piece of apparel for homeless people that combines a backpack and a winter jacket.
Enactus is a student club committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world. The 16-member Hood group was named a regional champion and earned the rookie of the year award. They will present their project at the national competition May 15-17 in St. Louis, Mo.
“It is an extreme accomplishment for a first-year presenting team to advance to the national competition,” remarked Merry Tucker, regional program manager for Enactus.
The Backet originated when Hood Enactus member and Backet project manager Haroon Pasha went on a pilgrimage during which he experienced homelessness. He said it inspired him to take action and develop a product to help and empower the homeless community through Enactus. Pasha is a senior majoring in business administration with a concentration in information systems and a minor in economics.
“I never could have expected to be a part of something as dynamic as the Backet project,” said Pasha. “I just had an idea that I felt very passionate about, and I knew it had to be made a reality. The credit goes to the entire team, and how well we were able to work together and be flexible with our schedules.”
The Backet is intended to combat the two most pressing needs of homeless people—the need to keep ownership of and proximity to their belongings and the need to adapt to varying weather conditions—according to David Gurzick, Ph.D., assistant professor of management at Hood who is a Sam Walton fellow, a designation Enactus gives to faculty coordinators. The Hood team has been evolving the prototype through design teams incorporating experts in apparel manufacturing, community action efforts, business entrepreneurship and homelessness.
Pasha was on the six-member presentation team with Connor Asman, Ana Filipovic and Nigol Keurkunian, Kyle Shields and Alex Smith.
“I knew the presentation would go flawlessly,” said Asman. “Not because it was not difficult—it was, we had a live product demonstration and two videos plus an intense script to memorize. But because I knew I had the absolute best presenters at Hood on my team representing the most passionate team I’ve ever seen.”
As a result of the presentation, Asman also got a paid summer internship working with Sam’s Club where he will focus on how to improve current operations.
The other members of the Backet project were Suvana Batajoo, Joe Hutchins, Destani Jameson, Scott Johnson, Sam Kebede, Gray Kline, Jonathan Knehans, Rowela Silvestre, Ivana Soce and Nathan Temple.
“It has been an exciting time this year working with the Hood Enactus team and watching them grow and develop as entrepreneurs,” said Gurzick. “The students have matured in their thinking, developed in their resourcefulness and taken ownership of this project and its outcomes. They are enterprising and have surpassed every expectation that I had for the depth of student commitment to a project.”
Organizations outside the College assisted the project as well. The Religious Coalition for Human Needs, the Alan P. Linton Jr. Emergency Shelter, 2nd Street and Hope and the Frederick Community Action Agency are nonprofits that helped the team. Also, Tracy McGuirk ’82, a Hood alumna and owner of Tracy Lin Creations in Frederick, was the tailor for the project and helped the Enactus group create the Backet.
Phase 1 of the Backet project—the research and development phase—is coming to its completion. Phase 2 will consist of testing and fundraising and is scheduled to begin this summer with the help of Hood and the project’s community partners.
“The Backet has come so far in just a few months, and I am very excited to see what lies ahead for the Backet project in the near future,” said Pasha.
Enactus is a global organization of student, academic and business leaders that draws its name from the words “entrepreneurial,” “action” and “us.” It is an international nonprofit dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action, creating a better world for everyone.
“The Enactus model is one of social entrepreneurship—identifying real-world problems and then taking action to develop sustainable means of resolution,” said Gurzick. “In a very short time, the Hood College team has taken this model to heart and set the stage for some very big expectations.”
To donate to the Backet project, visit https://secure.hood.edu/online_payments/TeamBacket.aspx.