On March 11, 2021, Southwestern Adventist University had the privilege of hosting community members, employees and students at Wharton Auditorium for LaunchU - a collaborative event between SWAU Enactus and CoLab. At this event, eight student finalists set out to impress esteemed business leaders who served as judges by pitching their own entrepreneurial ideas in hopes of winning funds to support their startups.
In past years, SWAU Enactus has hosted career focused programs including BrandU and EmpowerU that encourage students to get more involved in the community as well as promote student’s growth as individuals in their career paths. This year’s co-host, CoLab, is a non-profit focused on helping to bring ideas to life by facilitating regular workshops, pitch events and one-on-one coaching sessions to help entrepreneurs to chart a course for success. SWAU's partnership with their LaunchU collegiate program gave students the opportunity to develop a business plan, pitch their ideas and gain feedback from professionals to grow in their entrepreneurial experience.
The judge’s panel for SWAU’s LaunchU event included: Gregory Alvarado - Advertising Consultant for Spectrum Reach, Kimberly Howard - Founder of Prospera Panama, Wayne Powell - CEO of Civitas Senior Living and Nathan Draughn - expert in business strategy development. Detailed business plans ranging from clothing to gaming and even preaching were shared by eight finalists. In the end, only three pitches could be chosen to receive a cash prize to invest in their dream business proposal.
The third-place prize of $2,000 was awarded to SWAU junior, Karen Hernandez who pitched her business Kerency’s Closet, an online thrift business that resells clothes and gives back to the community. With her awarded funds she plans to grow and expand her business, as well as give back to the community.
Junior education major Yu Hu, and 2019 alumni, Matthew Hanson were awarded the second-place prize of $3,000 for their pitch of Yu Café, an on-campus café that will serve teas, lattes, and provide possible work opportunities for students. They plan to use these funds to get the supplies needed to start up the café and get it running.
Braxton Molina, junior business major, was awarded the grand prize of $5,000 for his startup Ripple Gear, a series of gaming products starting with a portable case that is easily transportable for on-the-go gaming. Molina’s goal is to change the playing world for mobile gamers, intensifying the quality of gaming for active gamers around the world. He plans to use the generous funds to expand and grow his business.
As the competition came to a close, Southwestern Adventist University’s president, Dr. Ken Shaw, joined the proud finalists on stage and shared words of wisdom and encouragement with the blossoming entrepreneurs. “This is what Southwestern Adventist University is all about,” Shaw said, “it’s about creating new ideas!” LaunchU is one of the many ways that SWAU Enactus inspires students to pursue entrepreneurship. In the upcoming school year, Enactus plans to better prepare students to create and meet their goals for future careers and entrepreneurial endeavors. To learn more about the impact LaunchU and Enactus have on campus and community life, visit https://swau.edu/enactus.