A team of Hood College student entrepreneurs who want to help the community has won a national award for its work creating a piece of clothing designed to help homeless people.
Hood’s Enactus club presented its Backet project at the Enactus national exposition May 15-17 in St. Louis, Mo. Of the 600-plus Enactus teams nationwide able to compete at the regional level and the 140 that advanced to the national stage, the Hood team placed third in its six-school league. Their performance, which placed them among the top 10 percent of all competing schools, earned them $750 and a trophy.
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.
Hood’s team has 17 members, 11 of whom attended the national exposition. These included newly graduated seniors Connor Asman, Ana Filipovic, Scott Johnson, Haroon Pasha and Ivana Soce. Rowela Silvestre, a Hood Master of Business Administration student, also attended along with underclassmen Enactus 2016-17 President Joe Hutchins, Nigol Keurkunian, Gray Kline, Kyle Shields and Alexandra Smith. The group was led by David Gurzick, Ph.D., assistant professor of management and Sam Walton Fellow, a designation Enactus gives to faculty advisers. Several of those students landed interviews with companies including Hershey, RiteAid, Ferrero and Synchrony Financial.
Pasha oversaw the Enactus team through first phase of the project, which was research and development. He will continue working with the team throughout the summer to carry out the current phase, acquiring donations and creating employment opportunities through production of the Backet. This phase has already begun as the group has acquired $10,000 for the production of 50 Backets. The money was secured through a $5,000 Volpe Scholar award, a $4,000 contribution from trustee Robert Hooper and a $1,000 prize from Walmart from the regional competition. The group competed for and won a Volpe Scholar award due in part to their demonstrated passion for the Backet product and for the benefit it will provide for the underserved population in the Frederick community and beyond. They presented a committed plan that embodies the College’s mission—to prepare students for lives of leadership, service and responsibility.
Hooper learned about the project when they presented it at his Rotary club meeting and felt compelled to help fund the team.
“I was so impressed with the fact that they could combine a social need with an entrepreneurial spirit and make business out of it—that’s a pretty great combination,” said Hooper. “That’s what spurred me on.”
The Backet is a cross-functional piece of apparel that combines a backpack and a winter jacket that is designed to assist the homeless population. Gurzick said it is intended to combat the two most pressing needs of homeless people—the need to keep ownership and proximity over their belongings and the need to adapt to varying weather conditions.
Along with the Backet design, the Hood team debuted an innovative work program designed to employ homeless people to create the product and acquire job skills.
“Presenting at Enactus nationals was an incredible experience,” said Asman, the group’s presentation director. “All of the late nights rewriting the script and coaching presenters really paid off when we got to show the judges what our small team from Hood College made to help the Frederick community.”
The presentation team included Asman, Filipovic, Keurkunian and Pasha. Hutchins wore the Backet in the live demo at nationals, and Shields did the same at regionals. Smith took care of the technical work with help from Hood students Bonnie Monnier and Sean Murphy.
“Our students crafted their presentation based on their review of award-winning presentations of year’s past, and it resulted in one of the most polished efforts of the exposition,” said Gurzick. “They called our league and then up popped the Hood shield. It took me a few moments to catch my breath before heading with the group up to the stage.”
Almost a year of preparation culminated in recognition at the national level.
“We were heading home with an award and prize money for our efforts,” said Pasha, the Backet project manager. “Most importantly we were proud to represent Hood College in the best possible way at an elite competition.”
The group began its trip to St. Louis just hours after Hood’s Commencement ceremonies May 14.
“Traveling to St. Louis was an emotional journey, as I recollected the whole experience and how each team member had come on to the project,” said Pasha. “I kept feeling increasingly thankful to all the people involved. The passion that each team member had shown to further this project is something very special. At the end of the day, we are professionals trying to excel in our lives, but this project has brought us together for common good, to serve the people in our community.”
The Backet originated when 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.
After the summer Nathan Temple will be taking over as project manager, Rodrigo Romo will be the new business and financial director, Shields will be the new development team leader, Silvestre will continue on the project as a research analyst and Smith will be advancing into the role of director of media and communications.
“This experience has helped me understand that when someone is passionate and consistent with something, the sky is the limit,” said Pasha. “The most inspiring aspect of the project was to see how a dream can turn into reality. … I have realized that ideas are great, but action is the most important thing. The team that I worked with was a blessing, and if I were to be privileged to work with a team of the same caliber in my life, I know that it would be something really special.”
Organizations outside the College assisted the project. 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, Hood alumna Tracy McGuirk ’82, owner of Tracy Lin Creations, was the seamstress for the project and helped the Enactus group create the Backet.
In the photo:
Front row from left: Alex Smith, Rowela Silvestre, Ana Filipovic, Connor Asman, Scott Johnson, David Gurzick
Back row from left: Ivana Soce, Nigol Keurkunian, Gray Kline, Kyle Shields, Joe Hutchins, Haroon Pasha
To read about the Hood Enactus club’s trip to the regional competition, click here.
View the Enactus presentation below: