Members of Rutgers Enactus with Professor Erich Toncre (far left) and Eugene Gentile, advisors to the team.

Students prove their ability to make social change

The Rutgers chapter of Enactus won the organization's regional competition in March after detailing several of the projects it has undertaken to empower people through entrepreneurial action.

Members of Rutgers Enactus will head to Kansas City next month to compete against nearly 40 student teams from across the country for the chance to represent the U.S. in the Enactus World Cup.

In March, the Rutgers team won first place in a regional competition against 36 other Enactus chapters after detailing its work to help grow Popcorn for the People, which is run by the nonprofit Let’s Work for Good to provide autistic adults with jobs.

The teams are judged on how effectively they used entrepreneurial action to empower people to improve their livelihoods in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way.

Rutgers Enactus partnered with Popcorn for the People in 2016 and helped the company to secure a $20,000 grant and a contract with Rutgers University Athletics, which resulted in $65,000 in sales in 2017.

Those are numbers the judges considered when they measured how the Rutgers chapter has enabled progress, according to Kimberlie Chao, the chapter’s vice president and a Rutgers Honors College student studying marketing and business analytics and information technology.

“Enactus students have a mind for business and heart for the world, that’s what we like to say. We’re passionate about making change, but not just any change, sustainable change that empowers people to help themselves and others.” - Kimberlie Chao, vice president of Rutgers Enactus.

As part of the competition, members of Rutgers Enactus also distributed an annual report showcasing their work with Youth Empowerment Services, a New Brunswick non-profit, Vets4Warriors, and the startup, Keep it REAL.

“Enactus students have a mind for business and heart for the world, that’s what we like to say,” Chao said. “We’re passionate about making change, but not just any change, sustainable change, that empowers people to help themselves and others.”

Going to the final stage of the Enactus competitions isn’t new for Rutgers. And neither is winning.

Eugene Gentile, an advisor who is also one of the Enactus organization’s Sam Walton Fellows, said the chapter has won second place in the nationals for the past two years.

“I’m very proud of our Enactus team,” he said. “Each of their projects have positively impacted the community and the enterprises that are charged with social change.”

“Popcorn for the people benefits people with autism by providing a place for them where they can earn a living, and since the business model is profit based,” Gentile said, “the organization will be self-sustaining and replicable, thereby helping many more across the country and perhaps the world.”

Erich Toncre, an assistant professor of professional practice in marketing at Rutgers Business School, also helped to prepare the team for the regional competition.

Pranjal Singh, a Rutgers Business School freshman, was one of the students who presented at the regionals, detailing the chapter's work with Popcorn for the People. Not only is the prospect of winning exciting, Singh said, but he's also looking forward to meeting other Enactus members from across the country.

Singh, who is studying finance and business analytics and information technology, said when he arrived on campus he checked out a number of student organizations. Enactus attracted him immediately. "I was astounded at the work they were doing," he said. "The culture of the club just really stood out."

Rutgers Enactus was formed in 2014 as a student organization at Rutgers Business School, but its membership has expanded to include students from across Rutgers University who have an interest in social entrepreneurship.

The final competition will be held May 20-22.

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