It started as just another competition, just another attempt to get an opportunity to travel to a new country, get some fame, some prize, another point in resume, but I never knew what this ultimately will turn into- into a milestone in my life giving a new direction to my career. Sitting in the flight on my way back to home, I cannot wait to reach there, to talk to my fellow team mates, to plan, strategize, and take our business idea to a next level. I had a passion for entrepreneurship at some corner of my heart, but today if I feel a zillion units of energy flowing through me, anxiously waiting to start my business, this is the result of one event- Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition.
GSEC is not just another business plan competition you attend, present your idea, and win or loose. It was about inspiring the budding entrepreneur. To be honest, I took this as an opportunity to see United States. But it has perhaps completely transformed my career plans.
Right after getting invitation, we were assigned a mentor to refine our business plan. Our mentor, Craig Bruya, is the one responsible for bringing our business plan to the shape it is today. From merely a technical idea with couple of paragraphs to fill the various section of a typical business plan, if now it is a proposal which presents a serious business case, it’s because of the frequent feedbacks we received through mails/ Skype calls, etc from Craig.
In Seattle, we were assigned accommodation in a homestay family close to the University. Our house was in the shore of water, with houseboats all around. Our homestay family, Nate & Reena are wonderful people. Not only we got a home to live, Nate coached me and helped me improve my presentation.
On the 1st day of GSEC we got to meet all the teams. With participation of students from MIT, UW, Florida Int’l University, NTU to teams from developing nations like Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, India, and of course Bangladesh, GSEC presented a true diversity. All these teams are college students, with an idea, and a passion to do business, a business that contributes to society. Some of them were at concept stage (like ours), some had already made some prototype/pilot project, and there were also some, in just their college years, who are running their business for last few years. This is what inspired me the most. Being fortunate to be in IIT with access to much more resources, there is no reason why I shall stay behind.
The Trade Show & the Rotary Lunch were the occasions when we got to meet the who’s who from industry & corporate leaders. Though my team didn’t win a prize, everyone who passed by our poster mentioned that we have a terrific product with tremendous business opportunity, and no matter what, we must not stop with this competition. Many of them exchanged with me the contacts, and asked to get in touch with a possibility of future association.
This was not all, to make our stay in Seattle a memorable experience, Deb (the event manager) had also assigned us student ambassadors. The campus tour with Kelly and Team LifeChair, the Sushi dinner with Nate & Reena, the encouragement by Suzanna before every presentation or prize announcement, the Mexican dinner with Kelly, Daniel, Joyce and Team Vendi, the sailing with Nate were some of the many beautiful moments I will always cherish. The competition formally lasted with the celebration dinner at Grand Hyatt. Giving one minute elevator pitch to everyone was again another awesome feeling. And then it was time to bid farewell to other teams. We hugged each other, wished each other a great future with their social enterprise, and promised to stay in touch. It was great to see other teams winning the prizes, but I found our learning in this entire journey much more valuable than any monetary prize, and to me, each and every time is a Winner!
(I wish to thank each & everyone involved in making GSEC happen to me. Thanks a ton to Deb (GSEC Program Manager) for patiently responding to my every query, Craig for helping us refines our b-plan, our homestay family Nate & Reena for giving us a wonderful place to live, and Suzanna, Kelly, Daniel, Joyce and all the student ambassadors for being so awesome. Thank you GSEC!)