REUSE, a student organization that seeks to reduce waste on campus by repurposing items, won the Spring 2023 Rocket Pitch competition, earning $1,750 that will go toward starting a pop-up shop in Red Square.
Georgetown Entrepreneurship, an initiative aimed at financially supporting students pursuing business ventures, hosted the Feb. 2 competition, which is held every semester.
The event featured 43 groups showcasing a variety of innovative ideas from selling compostable kitchen scraps to a handheld de-icer spray for personal safety in frigid temperatures. The judging panel comprised Georgetown graduates, many of whom have gone on to start their own businesses or serve on executive boards.
Groups competed to win a total of $4,500 in prize money, split across multiple groups. Georgetown REUSE, presented by co-founders Rita Alan (SFS ’24) and Stephane Granato (SFS ’24), received the $1,500 top prize and the $250 People’s Choice Award for their pitch to centralize the recycling of clothing and home goods on campus.
Raashed Hall, a fellow in the fifth cohort of Georgetown’s Pivot Program, which provides formerly incarcerated individuals with professional development, earned second place for the Fit-Nest workout device he made from resources that were available while he was incarcerated. Rash-tions, a water-efficient protein ball designed to combat food insecurity in the Middle East and North Africa region, won The Eisenberg Prize for First-Generation Student Entrepreneurs. Alone No More, a platform designed to destigmatize and make mental health treatment more affordable, took home the Entrepreneurship for the Common Good Prize.
Alan and CEO of REUSE Brooke Hodge (SFS ’24) noticed an abundance of lightly-used lifestyle goods being thrown out at the end of each semester and wanted to create a way for students to easily donate and purchase second-hand items at affordable prices.
Hodge said she drew from her own experiences as a student for inspiration.
“Dorm items and clothing are so inaccessible in the Georgetown area, they’re expensive and you have to travel far distances or pay shipping to get them to your door,” Hodge said in an interview with The Hoya. “We saw an opportunity to repurpose these things and give them another life.”
The team proposed a circular model that would cut down on waste associated with furnishing dorms and buying clothing.
“In the circular model, people are able to take their goods they bought that they don’t necessarily use anymore and they’re able to donate them,” Alan told The Hoya. “Then other people can buy them, so the circular aspect means it’s not going straight in the trash, other people are able to use them, and then expand the life of that object, therefore diverting waste.”
The competition was a valuable opportunity for Georgetown REUSE to showcase their vision for purchasing sustainable goods as a college student, REUSE head of fundraising Molly Austin (SFS ’25) said.
“We also hoped to use the platform to spread the message of Georgetown REUSE and bring attention to the need to change our habits of consumption on Georgetown’s campus,” Austin said.
Founding members of Georgetown REUSE sought initial financial support from the Green Commons Award, a grant offered by the newly founded Earth Commons Institute. The prize money from the Rocket Pitch Competition will be an important catalyst for achieving their long-term goals, according to Granato.
Granato said the organization plans to use the funds to cover operational and legal costs associated with launching its presence on campus. They plan to file a 501(c)(3) application to become a nonprofit and purchase insurance to set up a booth at the GU Farmers’ Market.
“There are many financial barriers to forming a new nonprofit organization,” Granato said. “Going forward, REUSE’s goal is to use the funds and momentum from Rocket Pitch to launch our first popup sale sometime this Spring.”
Hodge said any remaining funds will go toward logistical costs for running their organization.
“Once we cover these legal and insurance fees, we will use the money for supplies for our sales including clothing racks and donation boxes,” Hodge told The Hoya. “As an organization that prioritizes sustainability and circularity, we aim to purchase all of our goods second-hand if it is feasible. Long term, we are aiming to become financially self-sustaining and will use our sales to fund our operations and (eventually) pay employees.”
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