Eleven teams of student entrepreneurs from across the University of Minnesota have been selected winners of the 2014 Acara Challenge, the U of M’s annual impact venture plan competition. The selected teams will have the opportunity and resources to further develop their innovative business solutions for environmental and social challenges.
Two international teams and one domestic team are Gold Level winners and will receive $1,000 toward pilot expenses. Silver Level honorees will receive $750 and Bronze Level recipients get $500. All winning teams also receive individual scholarships to the Acara Spring Institute in St. Paul or Summer Institute in Bangalore, India. Select ventures are invited to receive up to $5,000 in additional venture funding to pilot their idea.
The Acara Challenge, which began in 2009, spurs start-ups with creative, sustainable solutions that can have an impact in the real world. Photos from the event are on Acara’s Facebook page.
Sabujawalla - International
This venture will employ waste pickers to collect and sort waste from Indian households, then sell plastic and organic material to scrap dealers and recycling plants. The team includes students from the College of Continuing Education, College of Design, College of Science and Engineering, and Carlson School of Management.
Skivvies - International
For every pair of underwear sold domestically, Skivvies will donate a pair to a young girl in Haiti as a way to help girls discretely manage their periods, allowing them to regularly attend school. The team includes students from the Carlson School of Management, College of Continuing Education and College of Education and Human Development.
Mighty Axe Hops - Domestic
This Minnesota business is dedicated to producing locally grown specialty hops for local brewers. The team includes students from the College of Continuing Education and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
Tech Share - International
The start-up will teach rural Ugandan students how to use computers through a mobile computer laboratory with the help of computer engineering students and staff from Mbarara University in western Uganda. The team includes students from the College of Science and Engineering.
Women for Water - International
The organization recruits women from low-income families in Bangalore, India, to give their friends and families educational presentations and promote and sell water treatment technologies. The team includes students from the College of Science and Engineering, College of Design, Carlson School of Management and the School of Public Health.
College Credit - Domestic
This venture will partner with colleges and universities to deliver engaging online financial literacy courses to students, encouraging them to make decisions while still in college that will improve their financial situation. The team includes students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Help Desk - International
The organization makes beautiful furniture using sustainably sourced East African hardwoods, with profits going to make classroom improvements in underequipped Ugandan schools. The team includes students from the College of Design.
SunFarms - International
The venture will establish small centers in rural communities to purchase and dry local fruits and vegetables, thereby decreasing food spoilage and increasing farmer profits in rural India. The team includes students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, College of Science and Engineering, and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
Veterans Capital Partners - Domestic
This start-up creates networking and capital resources to help veteran entrepreneurs. The team includes students from the Carlson School of Management.
Sustainability Solutions - International
Sustainability Solutions is developing a region-specific, stochastic water management model to address the risks posed by the water-energy interdependence in Shandong, China. The team includes students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
BDW Biotechnologies - Domestic
This organization will institute a process for genetically engineering probiotic bacteria to produce antimicrobial peptides in response to a change in the local environment, such as an infection. The team includes students from the College of Science and Engineering and the Law School.
Two minute pitch | Ten minute presentation
In addition to the above 2014 Acara Challenge ventures, Acara continues to engage with and support past Acara participants as well, many of which were represented at the poster session.
MyRain works with local farmers and retailers to identify challenges with small plot farming. We then search the world for great products and work to distribute in underserved markets through our dealer network in southern India. With the mission of enabling sustainable economic development for small plot farmers, MyRain continues to expand its dealer network and product offerings every day!
NutriCycle will seize the opportunity presented by India’s growing composting and urban agriculture movements, bringing these efforts and their associated benefits to Bhubaneswar. Partnering with the Aradhana apartments during their pilot phase, Nutricycle will demonstrate the ability of community composting to improve the existing waste management system, while empowering their clients to become more self-reliant, helping them grow their own fresh, healthy vegetables. Team from University of Minnesota and Xavier Institute of Management (XIMB), Bhubaneswar, India.
Perk Health is a MN company that provides services for employee wellness for mid-sized companies, to help them manage burgeoning health care costs. Their service include a personalized virtual personal trainer.
Pragati Palms works with artisans in rural India to bring you sustainable, ethically sourced products such as palm leaf business cards, biodegradable palm kitchenware and other palm leaf products.
TurtleKing Workshop designs, builds and sells Minnesota-made longboards. In addition to providing an envrionmentally friendly means of local transportation, TurtleKing will be based in the neighborhood adjoining the University of Minnesota and incorporate a work-training program for local youths into their business structure.
TwinFin produces year-round, premium fish and greens for the local foods market in the Twin Cities. Selling primarily to high-end restaurants TwinFin uses proven aquaponics technology to grow mercury-free fish indoors right in our customer’s backyard.