From getting plastic out of the ocean, opening a barbershop and selling affordable goat milk products in the Philippines to fight poverty, BYU–Hawaii students are committed to serving others around the world.
Ali Barney, one of the second-place winners in the Math & Sciences category of the Empower Your Dreams Competition and part of the team Poly Plastic Fuel, a business that started to clear the oceans of plastic, said, “We envision taking our project to Kiribati, not so that we can earn money and get rich, but so that we can help solve [this] problem. We want to help make their lives better.” She said they want to share their technology with the world.
According to Spencer Taggart, an entrepreneurship professor in the Faculty of Business & Government, starting a business is one of the biggest leaps of faith. “It requires faith to take action. The greatest action comes because of faith – faith to move forward, to take a step, to turn the key, to open the door, to make that payment, to design that product, to open that website, to enter a competition. So, I'd like to thank you for showing your faith today.”
He commended the participants for their impressive work. “I'm so proud, and I know Heavenly Father is too. He is grateful for your work and your courage and your faith,” he said to the competition participants.
Princess Stephanie Donato Astle, one of the four judges of the competition, said, “This competition is just a small portion of the bigger picture.” She said the real winners are the people who continue to develop their business and urged all competition participants to continue following their passions and learning from their mentors.
On April 1, 2021, the final round of the Empower Your Dreams competition was held via Zoom. Taggart said the original 157 participants was whittled down to 12 finalists. On behalf of the Willes Center for International Entrepreneurship, he congratulated the 12 teams. “No matter what, every one of these finalists are going to walk away with a minimum of $1,000,” he said.
There were four categories: Young Entrepreneurship, Arts & Humanities, Professional Studies and Math & Sciences. The first place in each category was awarded $5,000, second place $3,000 and third place $1,000. During the Zoom event, Taggart said he hopes the students use the cash award to change their life by investing in their future.
Young Entrepreneurship Category
Stacy Huston, one of the four judges, announced the three winners for the Young Entrepreneurship Category during the online event.
1st place: Create or Complain by Tate and Tanner Smith
The Smith brothers, Tanner and Tate, created a T-shirt company called Create or Complain. Tanner Smith said the business was inspired by their family values.
He said, “We believe in any situation, you have two options: to create or to complain. We believe it's more powerful to choose to create.”
The goal of their business is to inspire people to live by this motto, Tanner Smith explained. When the customer puts on their shirt every morning, they are not only getting dressed, but they are putting on a new way of life. “[It’s] a commitment to create,” he added.
Tate Smith said the competition taught him to stay calm in stressful situations. Tanner Smith said he learned the value of practice because they benefitted from thinking about what questions they may be asked during the Q&A portion of the competition.
2nd place: Artzalli by Chloe Christiansen
Christiansen, a 12-year-old girl who has been to 48 countries on six continents, said traveling inspired her business. “My travels have taught me that I live a privileged life. Many times, I've seen kids on the streets selling beautifully handmade crafts to tourists just to help their families survive.” She said her Filipino friend Ray personalizes digital art of customers with the Savior. Camilla, another friend of hers, crafts beautiful Christmas ornaments in Norway.
“People around the world want art like this, especially when it supports a good cause. But connecting young artists to potential buyers is a challenge,” she shared. Christiansen said she is creating a specialty website where kids can connect to potential buyers to help solve this problem.
“Although this online marketplace has explosive potential, the bigger idea is to teach kids business principles, [such as] how to empower their own dreams to create, share, inspire and thrive, instead of just simply to survive,” she stated.
3rd place: SN3AKERZ by Nathaniel Aiu
“People don't have time to spend all day on the internet trying to find sold-out shoes. So, what I do is I find the shoes that are in demand and resell them at the going rate, which is usually double what I bought it for,” Aiu said. This enables him to make a profit.
His service provides his clients with the happiness of finding what they need. “My job is to research social media icons to find out when the next pipe drops,” he commented.
According to him, it's not always a guarantee they will hit on each shoe. “That's the beauty of this industry. The scarcity of each product drives up the demand, increasing the payout for each shoe,” he explained.
Arts & Humanities Category
Astle announced the winners for the Arts & Humanities Category during the Zoom event.
“With this category, all the contestants were very talented [and] passionate in what they're doing,” Astle commented. Because the four judges were so inspired by the presentations, she said it was difficult for them to choose winners.
1st place: HI Fade Barber by Ka’imi Horito
Horito first moved to the North Shore during high school. He said he soon noticed the lack of local barbershops and said people were driving all the way to Kaneohe or Haleiwa just to get a haircut.
He said he dreamed of opening up his own barbershop. Upon saving enough money, he said he eventually opened up a two-man barbershop run in a tiny shack in Hauula. Eight months later, in April 2020, he said he got a lease in the Laie shopping center.
“Unfortunately, when COVID hit that really impacted us, [and] that was definitely an obstacle to overcome for me,” he said.
Running his shop as a full-time student has been a challenge, he admitted, but what helps him is knowing his business serves others. “As much as the community supports us, I feel like we are supporting the community one individual at a time, and that's something really special.”
2nd place: Wood Crafts by Tania Delinila and Karizza Llanera
“We are a team of aspiring entrepreneurs, committed to use our creativity to make personalized gift items. Our sole purpose of teaming up was to put to good use our set of skills,” Delinila said.
Towards the end of November 2020, she said they started their small business selling Christmas wood sliced ornaments. “After hitting our breakeven point at six weeks with a profit margin of 80 percent, we knew that selling laser engraved materials has a lot of potential. We wanted to capitalize on that.” She described their business as “timeless.”
Llanera said they are currently expanding their business by selling wedding invitations and favors, using an e-commerce Shopify store and collaborating with other businesses.
3rd place: Sempi Co. by Ally Pack, Cameron Cameron and Tanner Fernandez
“Here at Sempi Co., we truly believe happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ. But for many of our Spanish-speaking families, it's nearly impossible to find Spanish [Church-themed] home decor that is modern in design,” Pack said.
“So, that's where I came in,” Pack continued. “I knew I had the passion and the skills to make their dreams reality. … I'm the lead marketer and designer here at Sempi Co. I oversee all our paid advertising campaigns on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.”
Fernandez, chief officer of operations at Sempi Co., said, “I have five years of experience working interior design for a local studio here in Orem, Utah, where I'm located. For the last year, I've managed all the e-commerce sales and production for that studio.” He also can speak Spanish because he served a mission in Spain. These tools have helped him assist his teammates in expanding Sempi Co, he said.
Cameron, CFO of Sempi Co., said, “I'm currently majoring in finance and I've articulated financial plans for multiple small businesses. This has really allowed me to maximize our profit margins by reducing costs effectively.”
Professional Studies Category
Judge Nancy Hill announced the winners for the Professional Studies Category during the Zoom event.
1st place: Home Help by Eli Clark
Clark said it is a struggle for homeowners in the Philippines to hire skilled plumbers and construction workers. Many of them are overpriced, don’t finish the work in a timely manner or are not readily accessible, he said. Home Help is a website for Filipino companies and builders to find reputable builders.
Clark said taking advantage of the online market helped him the most. When the pandemic happened, the Philippines adapted by moving businesses online, he explained. “Almost overnight, internet-based industries [grew] tremendously because of their increased demand.”
Quoting the International Trade Association, he said, “The need for social distancing has pushed the caste-centric and face-to-face shopping culture towards a more digital one, and this is expected to continue.” Because of this, he said his online listing service has a high potential for success.
2nd place: The Space Saving Water System by Franz Kuutti
Kuutti said growing up in Florida taught him the importance of being prepared for natural disasters, such as hurricanes. “The National Hurricane Center says whenever hurricanes come, every family of four needs at least 20 gallons of water storage. But stores run out fast,” he said.
People who live in Florida try to combat the water shortage by storing jugs in their garage. “The problem is it takes up a lot of space, he explained. His product is a five-gallon jug that has a removable top section. “It's made in different sizes … so that they can all be stacked, screwed together and fit inside of each other,” he said.
3rd place: Prosperity Pastures by Jordan Richards
Prosperity Pastures aims to produce and sell affordable goat milk and goat milk products in the Philippines, Richards explained. He served a mission in the Philippines and came to love the people there. The main issue in the country is poverty, he said.
In order to fight poverty, he said Prosperity Pastures “hopes to provide job opportunities in the community … and help promote better nutrition for the [Filipino] children.”
Math & Sciences Category
Lindsay Hadley, one of the four judges of the competition, announced the winners for the Math & Sciences Category during the event.
1st place: North Shore Adventure Van by Hazel Johnston and Bailey Bird
Bird said Oahu received around 10.5 million guests during 2019. However, last year, only 1.5 million visitors made it to the island, Johnston explained.
“Because of the Coronavirus, people were scared of airports, hotels and using rideshares and rental cars,” Bird commented.
Johnston explained, “So, we tried to create a solution to this problem by converting a van” into a hotel and rental care in one, allowing Oahu’s visitors to not only come and go as they please but also to reduce their expenses by half.
2nd place: Poly Plastic Fuel by Sterling Kerr and Ali Barney
According to the United Nations, 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, said Project Manager Sterling Kerr.
Barney, whose position is public relations, said this problem seems obvious even on Laie beaches where recycling efforts are made. She urged listeners to consider how serious the problem is in other countries where recycling is difficult.
Kerr said they felt they have found a solution for the plastic problem using a process called “pyrolysis.”
Leslie Harper, manager of the BYUH Sustainability Center, said, “Pyrolysis is the process of taking plastic or any material and heating it in a container that has no oxygen.” Through this process, the plastic resumes its original form because certain components are removed, he explained. Kerr said they are focusing particularly on removing diesel fuel so the plastic can be used again.
3rd place: Nasty Pizza by Sarah and Emilio Valenciano
Emilio Valenciano highlighted the problem of technology stealing away time with loved ones. “Statistics say an average American family spends only about 37 minutes of quality time together per day. In comparison, we spent over 180 minutes on our phones scrolling through social media.” He said one way to spend more time with loved ones is by playing a game together.
“The Nasty Pizza is a card game full of [pizza cards]. The main objective is to avoid getting a nasty pizza card. Each nasty pizza card corresponds to a punishment that everyone agrees on at the beginning of the game.” These punishments could range from doing 10 pushups to smelling every player's feet, he added.
See the winners' videos and more on the event on the BYUH Willes Center for International Entrepreneurship website.