Three USD students have had their sights set on more than just online classes this month. Payton Ryz, Ashlynn Atwood and Brigit Blote participated in the global Hult Prize competition.
After winning the university round on Dec. 7, the three moved onto the Regional Summit in Boston March 12-14 and won first place among some of the nation’s most prestigious schools.
The Hult Prize is an opportunity for students to come up with innovative and impactful business ideas that align with the United Nations Sustainability goals.
Each year, the specific goal for the business is different. This year, the challenge was to create a sustainable business that positively impacts the Earth.
Brigit Blote, sophomore medical biology major, started putting the team together in the fall. She said when she heard about the prompt for the competition, deciding who to work with was easy.
“When we were looking to expand the team, Payton Ryz came to mind immediately,” Blote said. “Payton has a passion for protecting the earth, motivating others to be their best selves and has an energy about her that is contagious.
The USD Hult Prize team — calling themselves “Threads of Green” — came up with the business Forget Me Not, which is a mobile app that pulls data from online thrift stores.
Payton Ryz, sophomore medical biology major, said the goal behind the app was to make second-hand shopping easy and affordable. After winning the school round in December, there was four months to prepare for the regional competition in Boston.
“My team then started brainstorming ways for our current ideas to affect more lives in the fashion industry, how we wanted to start researching and learning more about the Thrifting Market and how we could pitch our ideas in a more emotionally compelling way,” Ryz said in an email interview with The Volante.
To prepare for the summit in Boston, Rayz and Atoowd worked with app developers, did research and gathered data on people’s thrifting interests.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit was moved online at the last minute, so the three submitted a video to be judged by a panel.
“Because the event was virtual, we didn’t get the same networking experience as previous years where all the teams competing get the chance to meet others or see others’ business pitches,” Ryz said.
Although Rayz and the others didn’t get the same experience with an online presentation, Rayz said she was still extremely proud of how they did.
From here, Threads of Green will move onto the final accelerator round of the competition, which is set to be hosted in London. The winning team from each regional competition will have the opportunity to compete for a one million dollar prize to start up their business idea.
Dr. Gregort Bertsch, the faculty advisor for Threads of Green, said he’s impressed with these three students and looks forward to what’s next.
“I think competitions like Hult provide a lot of valuable experience,” Bertsch said in an email interview with The Volante. “Not only do students get a chance to innovate, but they’re challenged to create comprehensive and realistic business concepts.”
Ryz first learned about the Hult Prize competition last year in her sustainability class and said she’s honored to represent USD.
“I always thought it was such an incredible opportunity and way to make an impact on the Earth environmentally and socially,” Ryz said. “We are very thankful for the opportunity to advance to the finals out of all the teams across North America.”
In the future, Bertsch said he encourages any USD student who may be interested in competing in the Hult Prize competitions to take a chance.
“I highly recommend the experience to students who are interested,” Bertsch said. “It’s an incredible chance to compete on a national level, do good and build a fantastic resume.”