Shannon Mills has been involved with GSEC since its inception in 2005. She shared her experiences as a competitor on a multi-disciplinary team, mentor and judge with us in a recent interview.
GSEC: How did you get involved with the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC)?
SM: My Evans School faculty mentor suggested it as a great opportunity and a Hubert Humphrey Fellow had an idea and approached me to work on it with him. I found the overall project challenging, fun and extremely rewarding, so I stayed involved in subsequent years.
GSEC: What was it like to compete in GSEC that first year?
SM: We found another person at the Evans school, an undergrad from the Business School, and a graduate student from the Communications department. We all brought a different perspective and expertise to the business plan that contributed to a very cohesive whole. I was greatly rewarded by working in a team and defending/presenting our plan to a group of judges that were not gentle. Our team placed second.
GSEC: What did you enjoy about being a judge?
SM: As I Judge I always focused on the social return investment analysis done by the teams and making sure a real effort was put into that component. I would dig deep into the assumptions that teams were making to see if they were believable. For me, judging is rewarding and fun but not as rewarding as being a mentor.
GSEC: What made mentoring so rewarding for you?
SM: For two years I was a mentor, which provided an opportunity to have real impact on a team’s plan as well as their presentation. The second year I worked as a co-mentor and we spent time going back/forth with the team especially focusing on their financials and really pushing them on all their assumptions throughout the plans. We were able to give them our experience with product development and clinical trials to help their plan be more realistic in the time frame and components that would need to be completed. Then the opportunity to work with your team during their week in Seattle is a fantastic experience. Our team went from doing a horrible presentation to one that was very polished and informative – and, they won the competition! Both teams were from overseas which made communication back/forth challenging but we did use Skype. It wasn’t as much until they were in Seattle that we were able to give the most help.
GSEC: As someone who has touched nearly every part of this competition and clearly feels so passionate about it and about social entrepreneurship, what would you say to a student who was considering applying? Or to a professional who was thinking of judging or mentoring?
SM: Do it. Any involvement is positive. The plans are becoming better and better every year and the students all have such passion that it is contagious.
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