Opportunity Knocks

by Katharine Reece MFA '12

Sometimes second place is best.

Or at least Jackie Assar ’14 and Garin Kessler ’14 think so. This spring, their team placed second out of hundreds in RISE Pakistan, an international competition in which students design a social entrepreneurial project to help with flood-relief efforts in Pakistan. The winning project will be implemented by the Human Development Foundation (HDF).

Assar and Kessler’s idea is a fair-trade crafts business called VOWS, or Village Opportunity Workshop. “We’ll start with one village, build a workshop for locals who are already creating products such as pottery and rugs, and take those products and sell them in the United States,” says Assar.

At the final competition in Chicago, the students participated in various challenges, such as designing marketing plans, speculating about the desires of consumers in China, and giving a one-minute elevator pitch about their project to a roomful of Pakistanis. (Assar delivered the winning pitch.)

What’s so great about second place? The students retain control of their idea, instead of handing off the implementation to another group. “Second means our project is both outstandingly competitive and still our own,” says Kessler.

Assar and Kessler are working with the executive director of the HDF and other contacts from the competition to make VOWS a reality. They are entrepreneurs, after all, and second place won’t stop them.