The journey to HULT Prize started with forming a group of MBA 2017 students who had rarely spoken with each other in class but ended up being teammates, then friends, and most importantly, enterprise collaborators. We all came from different fields, carrying a mix of experiences in finance, economics, marketing, organizational development, project management, and humanitarian affairs. Despite that, we found common ground in our passion to serve others.
Apart from the corporate and technical backgrounds, we banked on our first-hand experiences in organizing charity and socio-civic initiatives in our respective countries (accommodating orphans, cancer patients, and elderly). Moreover, other members of the team were involved with refugees and the underprivileged in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, and other parts of Europe and Asia. Our collective involvement in social initiatives enabled us to design, test, and deliver an impact-centered—as well as market and profit-driven—solution with ease.
With our powers combined, we tried our luck and submitted our initial entry in November 2016 to the 2017 HULT Prize Competition themed “Refugees – The Reawakening of Human Potential”. This year’s theme focused on restoring the rights and dignity of people and societies who were forced into motion due to social injustices, politics, economic pressures, climate change, and war.
It took two months before we received the news that we qualified for the Regional Finals where only about 150 teams were chosen among more than 10,000 entries worldwide. From then, the research, team meetings, and consultations with our social enterprise partners and mentors went on full swing. After about a month of preparations, we flew to Dubai in March. Despite being in the middle of a jam-packed and tough second term, the team was motivated to participate in the competition. We had to juggle our individual obligations, Learning Team responsibilities, personal priorities, with the HULT social enterprise commitment, which in itself was tedious and daunting.
With the guidance from our mentor, Prof. Noel Cortez, as well as the partnerships we made with Great Women ASEAN and other NGO’s in Central Asia, we were able to give birth to “Beyond The Craft”. Our concept design focused on providing refugees the skills to generate income—especially given the particular challenges they face on a day to day basis. Instead of doling out and “providing them the fish”, we put together a business which would teach the refugees “how to fish” to start anew in their host countries and be financially independent. We aimed to recognize the skills and talents of the refugees, unleash their potential, and ultimately restore their dignity through the work of their hands.
The enterprise would provide them the avenue to express the richness of their culture and experiences, and convey their emotions and motivations through creation of handicrafts. This serves as both earning and learning opportunities for the refugees, which we hope could sustain their living in the host country and equip them with transferrable skills wherever they are in the world.
By taking part in HULT Prize, we learnt business ideas and possibilities that were nowhere near conventional and yet were necessary to make a difference as businesses nowadays rely heavily on innovations. The competition provided us network, resources, and knowledge that cannot be easily picked up from the books. It has showed us the importance of having a solid plan and being able to execute it with all the key players on board. It is one thing to read the books and analyze cases. It takes a lot to apply these skills.
Our team was encouraged to embrace change, help others unleash their full potential, and strive for excellence. This allowed our team to iron out the wrinkles that come with putting together a diverse team and creating a project that aligns with everyone’s goals.
We may not have advanced to the global finals; but the team will always be grateful for the longest 10 minutes of our lives where we presented to the big wigs of social entrepreneurship and expressed our passion to serve regardless of profits. Each of us may not work behind the name “Beyond The Craft” in the future, but certainly we will carry it with us.
The AIM HULT Prize 2017 Team was composed of students from Master in Business Administration 2017 – Jean Butera, Iskander Mobekov, Earl Pagatpat, and Hazell Mae Roxas
Words by Hazell Mae Roxas