Stellar results for Schulich students in Pitch for Change competition

A group calling themselves "Team DrinKup" – made up of undergraduate students from York’s Schulich School of Business – set loose their ingenuity and passion for entrepreneurship at the Pitch for Change business plan competition, part of Harvard University’s Social Enterprise Conference Feb. 27 and 28, and placed in the top three in the world.

Above: From left, Bonnie Lau, Sarah Katyal, Adam Camenzuli, Afzal Habib, Sameer Gulamani and Nathan Jenkins

The team went head-to-head against teams made up primarily of MBA students from some of the top schools in the United States and around the world. Schulich’s Team DrinKup placed third, behind MBA teams from Harvard, in first place, and Stanford University in second place, in the Pitch for Change business plan competition jointly hosted by Harvard Business School and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Team members Bonnie Lau, Afzal Habib, Adam Camenzuli, Sameer Gulamani, Nathan Jenkins and Sarah Katyal out pitched many more experienced teams in the competition, which saw teams from business schools pitch their business proposals for new products to a panel of judges. Team DrinKup was assisted by two Schulich exchange students, Ashley Hartwell from the University of Manchester and Greg Horsfall from Lancaster University. Also “pitching” in to provide Team DrinKup with strategic advice and guidance were Schulich doctoral student Kevin McKague and social enterprise instructor John Baker. 

“The Schulich team demonstrated an entrepreneurial zeal combined with practical business know-how and a social conscience, and excelled in the area of presentation skills to place among the world’s top three at the Harvard competition,” said Schulich Dean Dezsö Horváth. "I am not in the least surprised to learn that our undergraduate students could achieve this level of success."

In order to make it to the top three in the world, the Schulich team defeated approximately 90 other teams that took part in the competition, including multiple teams from Harvard as well as teams from other top-ranked business schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and the Johnson School at Cornell University. The first round of the competition was based solely on written proposals. The second round took place during the Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard and involved the semifinalist teams making a 60-second “elevator pitch” to a panel of judges comprised of representatives from prominent social enterprise organizations as well as academics with expertise in social enterprise. The third and final round of the competition provided the finalists with two minutes to present their business proposals to the panel of judges and to a live audience. Teams were judged based on the following criteria: innovation, potential impact, viability, financial sustainability and presentation.

In finishing third, the Schulich team won $2,000 and one hour of free consulting from Root Cause, a Boston-based research and consulting firm specializing in social impact startups. Schulich also captured the Audience Choice Award, given to the team selected by the live conference audience of approximately 850 conference attendees as their favourite Pitch for Change team. As winners of the Audience Choice Award, the Schulich team won an additional $500 prize.

The Schulich team’s business plan revolved around the creation of a “micro-franchise” social enterprise known as DrinKup, which enables local entrepreneurs to rent filtration units and sell clean drinking water to the local community.