Empower Your Dreams winners share inspiration behind their buseinss

Written by: 
Malia Diaz

International Winner: Ride Along

BYU-Hawaii French student Aloha Martin and her boyfriend Ralph Holding said they have been thinking about “Ride Along” for a long time. Their company is similar to Uber but will be centered around the BYUH campus, said Holding.

Holding, a business management sophomore from California, said they are probably going to start as a website and then move towards an app-based business. “Ride Along will have an online scheduler where drivers will log the times they are available and where they’re going. There will also a separate page for passengers to be matched with drivers going to the same location. Payments will be digital through PayPal or Venmo.”

Martin, a freshman studying business management, said, “Creating an app isn’t easy, so first we want to create a fan base. Then we can introduce the app and show people how to use it.” Holding said they are in the process of talking to multiple website developers and trying to pick the best partner. “The plan is to try to get the website up and running before next semester. Our goal is to automate it, but to start out, we will probably be doing manual transactions… look out for Ride Along,” he announced.

Winning the international category was exciting and motivating, said Holding. “Sometimes you have all these business ideas and people think they’re great ideas, but they don’t work out like you imagined. So we’re just happy the judges loved it. It gives us more motivation because these high-ranking business owners believe in us.”

Martin and Holding said they have enjoyed working on their idea as a couple. “It’s good because we are always together so we are always thinking and talking about it. I also trust him… and I think he trusts me,” Martin said as she laughed. “Yeah I do,” Holding replied.

Martin continued, “It gives us more unity and a great experience, because we know each other on a personal level. It makes it easy in a business point of view to know what strengths to use and at what time. It’s fun too that this was just a low-key conversation that grew bigger and bigger.”

She smiled and said, “I think we complete each other very well.” Holding added, “I’m not super creative, so it’s good to have someone who has great ideas. My job is to take the idea and figure out how to make it happen. Her ideas are great to build off of,” he said.

Domestic Winner: Heztia, LLC

Ajri McArthur, a local resident, partnered with Alysha Gurr, a social work junior from Canada, to introduce a new healthy food brand to the market. McArthur, a college graduate in architecture and interior design, and Gurr won the competition with their pilot product the buckwheat sand dollar, similar to naan or a tortilla made of flatbread.

Gurr explained, “We want to share good food with other people, and we want to show others that healthy food can taste really good, but there’s limited options out there. There is no product on the market that offers what we offer.”

McArthur described their product as all-natural, real, flavorful and vegan. “Buckwheat is not wheat or a grain. It’s actually a fruit seed. It’s a totally new flavor option. It has no wheat, gluten, sugar, or dairy,” she explained.

The ‘sand dollars’ currently come in two sizes: little shaka and big shaka. “The little ones are perfect for sandwiches, burgers, mini tacos, and toast to top with your favorite topping. The big ones are great for wraps, individual pizzas, burritos, quesadillas, and tacos,” said Gurr. “You can turn them into a dessert too. They’re basically a replacement for bread.”

During the pitch competition, they offered samples of their up-and-coming product, a squash spice soup. “Right now we just have one flavor, but we will soon debut three new flavors: garlic, cinnamon raisin, and tomato herb. We have plans to develop ‘the sandbox fund,’ where portions of each sale will go towards local hunger initiatives,” said McArthur.

Their products are available in local farmers markets. They will also be selling their products at events like the North Shore Ocean Fest at Turtle Bay and Maiden Hawaii Expo this summer. McArthur added, “We want to expand, get the word out there, and have people try our goodness.”

Winning the domestic category was a good way for HEZTIA to feel validated and receive feedback, said McArthur. “It was definitely exciting… and we loved the feedback from the two judges from New York who said they could see HEZTIA going big there in New York.”

McArthur continued, “We’ve definitely been thinking about our next big step... The funds from this competition will help us pay off our investments and ‘get out of the red.’ We’re looking for more strategies to hit more market clientele and experimenting with new products. Mala, one of the judges, gave us the best advice [when] she said, ‘Have 200 conversations.’ We plan to start conversing with lots of business owners, friends, and family…and maybe they will be willing to share their journey with us,” said McArthur.

Social Winner: RiceUp

Elvin Jerome Laceda, a biology junior minoring in international entrepreneurship from the Philippines, is the founder and CEO behind RiceUp, an organization that helps Filipino farmers use social enterprise to better profit from their resources.

He said RiceUp facilitates three basic programs:

1. Improving income of farmers through financial management trainings and self-reliant workshops

2. Promoting integrated family farming to enrich their livelihood

3. Digitalized training for them to accelerate their progress and access to the markets

The non-profit organization is currently working with 50 farmers in two farming villages and has microloan institutions in the Philippines. Their work has helped increase farmer income from $71 a month to $250 a month and lower loan interest rates from 15 percent to 3 percent for their farmers, according to Laceda.

Laceda explained he hopes the program will accelerate the work of Filipino farmers and provide more income opportunities for them. This allows them to send their children to school. One of RiceUp’s members, Princess Donato, a biology senior from the Philippines, said, “This project is definitely to empower the Filipino farmers. It’s building their confidence and helping them get what they deserve.”

RiceUp says the $5,000 prize money will help their work progress and reach more communities.

Laceda said the team is planning to launch a mobile app in the Philippines in July that will enable farmers to sell their produce in the local market and participate in a food basket subscription. “It’s a subscription in which local consumers can purchase and have the basket of produce at their doorstep to access affordable produce in a timely manner,” he explained

“We are also promoting an anti-food waste so farmers decrease their waste of food for them to create organic fertilizers and be able to help the environment in that way. All of the projects that we are doing are actually a part of the United Nations Sustainable Development. Our two focuses are to end poverty and ensure sustainable production and consumption,” he continued.

“I am especially grateful to the team we have. This is a strong, united, and capable team,” said Laceda. Donato added, “When we won, it was such a great experience. I know that we didn’t just do this by ourselves. The farmers were with us the whole time. My favorite part was when they were actually with us when we won… on Facebook live.”


The winner for the community category was Nature's Pure Edge, a pet shampoo company by Josh Ribaldi.

Date Published: 
Friday, June 9, 2017
Last Edited: 
Friday, June 9, 2017

NOTE: This story's online publishing was delayed because it was featured in the June 2017 print issue.