Georgetown students and alumni are now able to submit their business plans through the university for the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student competition and startup platform for social good, and will be able to skip past an applicant pool of 10,000 and go straight to regional competitions by competing through the university.

Six finalists worldwide will be chosen from the regional competitions, with one eventually winning the coveted prize.
This year’s competition will focus on addressing issues in education.

“[The proposals] have to address the problem of early childhood education while including a mechanism to be self-sustainable,” Hult Prize campus director Erin Leonard (SFS ’16) said.

Leonard added that she was motivated to bring the Hult Prize to Georgetown because she noticed a lack of social entrepreneurship on campus despite the growth of broader entrepreneurship ventures.

“I think there’s a lack of social entrepreneurship specifically, and I think there’s a lot of talent at Georgetown that would be interested in the social entrepreneurship route rather than traditional entrepreneurship route, so I wanted to create a place where students can explore that a little more,” she said.

Currently, there are 10 Georgetown teams involved in the competition, with each team consisting of three to five people.

One of the team captains, Sohayle Sizar (COL ’14), said he was inspired to get involved in the Hult Prize after eight years of working in education.

“I’m on the train of going after my vision and making my dream come true so part of that is providing education for students, so part of the Hult Prize is allowing my dream to be a reality,” he said.

Sizar said that his team’s business plan focuses on the emotional growth of children.

“Many people focus on the academic growth of a child, which is very important, but focusing on the emotional growth of the child is also very critical to the development of the child,” he said. “So we’re focused on the emotional well-being …  of children and providing a mechanism that can increase the emotional health of a child.”

Apple Li (MSB ’15), another team captain, said that while her team has not yet developed an idea, she’s competing in this year’s Hult Prize because of the theme of her interest in a class on early childhood education she is taking as a psychology minor.

“I learned in class is that early childhood education has a huge impact on a person’s future life in terms of IQ development, future social and economic status, so it’s definitely very important area that there aren’t many resources that are devoted to that right now in many countries,” Li said.

Georgetown will host an Innovation Lab to help applicants this Saturday. Leonard said the lab will include lectures from professors who are experts in early childhood education, global development and human-centered design thinking. After the lecture, applicants will split into teams to start brainstorming and developing their team’s idea.

Leonard said the Innovation Lab is useful for applicants moving forward in the competition.

“We’ll have guided questions and activities and workshops to help them through this whole process so they come away with a really good idea of direction for the next month before the competition,” she said.

She added that the Innovation Lab is open to all interested participants and to students who do not plan on competing.

“It’s still a great way to learn a lot more about early childhood education and the links that business could have in that field,” she said.

Li said she hopes the Innovation Lab will help her team come up with a self-sustainable business model.

“Our biggest challenge is to be self-sustainable, because we invest in the children age zero to five, it’ll be hard to find a source of income,” she said. “So we’re going to get advice on this through that. We also want a better understanding on what early education entails.”

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