DISCLAIMER: The following article was written by two participants who won 3rd place in the Digital category and was uploaded by a participant who won 2nd place in the Community category. Writing this article did not influence the judges' decisions as these names were kept confidential until after winners were announced.
Competitors and judges of Empower Your Dreams shared their stories and told future entrepreneurs to create a network of motivated people and work on ideas they are passionate about.
Trevor Hanson, a supply manager for Tesla and one of the judges for Empower Your Dreams, explained, “I went to school here at BYUH, and while I was here, I created a hefty load of small businesses that helped me through school. I like how we have a unique demographic of students. It’s very cool to see robust business plans coming from people from third-world countries.”
Chenoa Farnsworth, managing partner of Blue Startups and another judge, said, “The quality was better than I expected. I’ve done a lot of judging in a lot of business plan competitions, so that was nice and a surprise. I always like to learn new things that are happening right here on my own island that I may not be connected to so that was an eye-opener.
“It was just a very rewarding experience. Everyone was appreciative of my time and my effort to be here. It’s always rewarding when you feel like you hopefully made a difference in someone’s trajectory.”
Battsengel Chagdgaa, a Mongolian senior double majoring in accounting and hospitality and tourism management, placed first in the global category with her soap company Gilgerem. She entered the competition after years of letting it pass by and watching Empower Your Dreams. “After I watched it, I had lots of new ideas written down,” she said. “I was planning on competing every semester, and then I ended up saying, ‘Oh next semester, next semester,’ so it’s my first and last chance I had.”
Nathan Neely, the first-place contestant for social and a senior studying supply chain management from California, decided after a variety of other endeavors to start his company called Rubi (Rubi Life LLC). Rubi is a company designed to provide expecting mothers in third-world countries with a healthier way to monitor their unborn children.
Neely’s advice for students comes from before Rubi with his previous ideas. “I started going here in 2010. I entered in every competition, and I never made the finals even though I probably spent more time than I should have on this. It was just a great feeling for me to finally have something that could win this competition that I failed at over years and years.”
He said an amazing business idea may come to you, but it’s okay to be second best at something as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
Chagdgaa said, “First of all, [our] business is for real. We are really trying to expand it and I just want to see the success of it. I just want to do whatever I can. The company is the Gilgerem Organic Soapery. We have three main products with Mongolian traditional ingredients. It may sound strange to some people, but Mongolians know the traditional benefits of it.”
Randi Lee, a local contestant who won first in the community category, owns Self-Love Apparel, a business with a mission to empower women. Lee created her clothing line intending to incorporate quotes of self-love. She explained, “My whole life has been leading up to this point because growing up and struggling with my weight, I just always struggled to love and accept myself, and it wasn’t until I started power lifting in 2014 that I finally started to value my body for what it could do versus what it looked like.
“Once I found that, I had this immense sense of joy and fulfillment that I hadn’t had in my whole life. When we’re searching for things on the outside, we’re never truly happy. We have to find it inside, so that’s how I came up with the idea.”
Samuel Mangakahia, a junior from Australia majoring in graphic design, won first place in the digital category with his business Hamiora. Selling hand-crafted ukuleles, rings and phone cases, Mangakahia said he’s grateful for what he’s learned from the competition. “It allowed me to carefully describe what I’m trying to sell. It’s given me the opportunity to pitch my idea to people who know business and have a lot of experience with investing in them.”
Tyler Johnson, a senior from Arizona majoring in business finance, competed with his food truck known as Ty’s Beach Bus and took third place in the global category. “I learned a lot about myself and about what I want to do in consideration to my business.” He said he also learned “how to pitch [and] how to make a business plan on paper. It gave me a little extra cash that will go straight back into the business.” Johnson said he is excited for more customers during the summer months and plans to put his money into growing his business. “I have so many dreams for this business,” Lee similarly expressed. “I want to turn it into more than just a clothing company—more of a community. My dream is to have women empowerment events like self-love events where people come together and feel empowered, learn how to love and give massive love to people around the world.”
Each participant is assigned one of the business professors to help mentor them as they plan and prepare the execution of their business.
Mangakahia commented on his mentors, “I value their time and the things that they teach us as far as business and how to continue to follow your dreams.” He said his mentors were very impactful towards the progress of his business and dreams.
Hanson said the best way to build a business is to find something that fuels your passion.
He explained, “It keeps you going. It allows you to do the big things in life that help you feel proud. Your passion can be fueled by many things. You think about the people who are most motivated in this world, and it’s like if you think about the single mom who works two jobs. She works harder than anybody else in the world. But why? It’s because of love. She just loves somebody and it fuels her passion.”
“I had two or three hours of sleep the last couple of days, but it was a great experience. It was one of my dreams, and I’m glad one of my dreams came true with a great result.”
Hanson said, “We shouldn’t let the size of our school correlate with the size of our dreams or our confidence to move forward. … Paint in your mind the person you want to become and then do those things that person would do every single day and it will build your confidence.” He said at some point “you’ll look back at the day and think, ‘Man, I’m the person that I’d hope to be today. That’s awesome, and I feel good about it.’”
Hanson added, “[BYUH students] can compete with the Princetons and the Provos of this world. They can compete with the ivy leagues, absolutely. I just want to know that that’s real. We can get jobs at Google, Tesla and Apple. We can start projects, we can get amazing partnerships and funding for our businesses and customers. It’s not something just big fancy schools have happen for them.”
Farnsworth added, “I was impressed, especially because a lot of these companies were real companies and not idea companies, and that’s great to see such entrepreneurial spirit.”