After nonstop hard work for three months, BYU-Hawaii’s Enactus team earned the title of National Champion and took home $10,000 in prize money at the Enactus United States National Exposition on May 22 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Leading up to the competition, one of the challenges that proved trying for both the students and advisors on the team was time. Enactus advisors Jason Earl and PJ Rogers shared their frustrations of trying to prepare the team for finals while balancing student life.
Earl said, “I really didn’t think we were gonna win it until the Q&A. Our students were so ready to answer the questions … [the judges] can ask some pretty tough questions, and our students just nailed them.”
“It was amazing,” Earl said, thinking back to the team’s victory. “You’ve got Elvin standing there, tears coming down his cheeks, and the first thing he tells me when it’s all done, he pulls out his phone, and he’s like, ‘Brother Earl, the farmers are watching us on Facebook right now.’ To see why they were doing it and who they were trying to help, it was amazing.”
Rogers defined Enactus as an opportunity for students to showcase their social entrepreneurship projects in a way that makes people really excited about them. Enactus is a combination of words that stands for entrepreneurial action in all of us.
Regarding the win, Rogers said, “We started three months ago … and right at the end, they came together and made it happen. … I did support and help them along the way, but I will not carry them. I made them do most all the work. That was what was most gorgeous about it, because they earned it.”
To Elvin Laceda, founder of RiceUp, the winning moment for BYUH Enactus was when they won in the semi-finals. He said, “Because we won in semi-finals, all these strong teams didn’t make it. All those in the final four were new teams.”
Included in the final four was Utah Valley University in second place, and its enactus team is comprised of all returned missionaries, the same as BYUH. Earl reflected on the two top winning teams being made up of students who have all served missions and understand the gospel. He said, “[In Enactus], we don’t talk about the gospel. We don’t talk about the mission of the Savior, but the truth is, they’re living it. People see it and it works.”
Laceda and teammate Joseph Duano explained the difference between BYUH’s team and other teams is other teams do projects primarily for the competition.
But they said BYUH’s team does their project every day to give back and serve. Earl said, “I think you kind of get a sense of how gracious people are when they win, and they really sense something different with our students. They’re there for the right reason. There’s the spirit of love and aloha.”
Duano added, “I think one thing that helps us as we get on stage is when we really think what we’re doing for the farmers. It’s not about us doing well on stage, but it’s about conveying the right message. The farmers’ message. The message of Christ. The testimony we’re trying to bear. All of a sudden it’s not a competition, but an opportunity to bear our testimony.” Laceda added, “It’s honoring the farmers. As we share their story, we honor it.”
For farmers in the Philippines, RiceUp started as an idea for an app in 2016. Now it is a bigger system created to connect farmers with consumers so they can have an equal playing ground with the middleman and directly profit off of their crops. Duano clarified that RiceUp is a social enterprise and agricultural ecosystem. He said, “It’s meant to create harmony in the agricultural industry to where people can be free to profit and do well as long as they work hard.”
Additionally, BYUH’s Enactus team stood out to one of the judges with the love the team had for each other. During their mic check, BYUH’s team introduced and complimented one another, and Laceda and Duano concurred that love is what helps the team stay unified.
Laceda said, “I think it helped us during our travels to the Philippines. Maybe we loved each other before, but it grew as we’ve worked together.”
With BYUH’s Enactus program, the RiceUp team was able to travel to the Philippines from April 20 to May 1, 2018. During this trip they astonished Entrepreneur in Residence Elder Corey Blake. Elder Blake informed Earl that the RiceUp team’s help and care for the people was the closest thing he had seen to David O. McKay’s prophecy being fulfilled, bringing light and hope.
From their trip, they were able to experience the boost they needed. RiceUp currently has a farm school where teachers, with the involvement of the government, educate farmers. They plan on expanding to five more villages by the end of August 2018, taking on about 50 new farmers to add to the 26 who are getting ready to graduate from farm school.
“Before they can really become their own agripreneurs, they have to be set free from where they are,” Duano said. “We believe that the financial skills, knowledge, business, and entrepreneurship is what will set them free, so that with or without RiceUp they can be on their own, and they won’t ever have to be cheated by people.”
Duano also explained Enactus at BYUH is different because they are striving to achieve what the school is trying to do: to become men and women of genuine gold. Duano, Laceda, Earl, and Rogers all said they hope Enactus will expand and grow at BYUH.
Duano said people think they can’t do it, but there are mentors and resources available to drive forward BYUH’s motto, “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.”
BYUH’s Enactus team will represent the United States and compete in the Enactus World Cup in October against 35 other countries. To learn more about the ongoing Enactus project, RiceUp on their Facebook page: RiceUp Filipino Farmers (facebook.com/RiceApp)