Tenacious teams get results — especially when obstacles become motivators, said the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Enactus team, fresh off a second-place finish in the USA Enactus Exposition.
“It was one of the most incredible things in the world,” said Ali Brandolino, vice president of projects and incoming president of UMKC Enactus, which focuses on building entrepreneurship through teamwork and competition.
“Last year I felt like we had to chase the impossible,” added Salem Habte, current Enactus president and graduating UMKC senior, who in 2019 helped lead the team to a fourth in the nation victory in the contest.
Click here to read more about Brandolino, UMKC’s 2019 student entrepreneur of the year.
Motivated to go big, the UMKC Enactus team spent the past 12 months refining their projects — which include such efforts as FeedKC and Generation Green — and preparing for an even stronger national showing alongside their peers.
Then hit the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately moved the national gathering of U.S. Enactus teams online.
“In person, it’s a different feeling because you’re kind of antsy, you’re with your crew — you’re with the people you’ve worked hard with all year long,” Brandolino said of previous experiences at the national competition versus the online showing.
“Ultimately, it was [still] chills, every time they called UMKC Enactus and when they called us for second place it was one of the most incredible feelings that I have ever felt,” she said.
Click here to watch highlights from the 2020 U.S. Enactus National Exposition.
Continuing its upward momentum, the only place left for the Kansas City group? First place.
And they’re eager to secure the national title in 2021, added Emily Testerman, vice president of operations.
“We have a little bit more time to get some new leaders in there, which has probably been the best part about this whole [socially distant] experience. We have a lot of young members really taking this opportunity to get involved and join the Zoom calls and join the meetings,” she said.
“I think there’s been a lot of growing in leadership skills in our organization, which makes us feel really good going into next year. We’re going to have some strong leaders who will be able to carry the momentum.”
In addition to the second-place finish, UMKC Enactus team members Peter Trinh, Kyla McAuliffe, Tony Jordan, Nicole Dover, and Lindsey Temaat received platinum service leadership awards.
Members Kelly Nguyen, Sydney Steehn, Caitlin Easter, Hannia Zavala, Brian Bartenslager, Marineth Ordinal, Hannah Case, and Riddhi Sharma earned service leadership awards.
Reaching national milestones two years in a row and setting the precedent for future UMKC Enactus teams has been particularly impactful for graduating Habte.
“It’s been life changing for me. I’ve been in this organization for four years and every year you say, ‘It’s never going to get better than this,’ I can’t believe we’re at the stage where we’re at. We’re helping so many different sectors at once,” she said in reflection of her Enactus experience.
“Something I’ve said a lot in the last month is that we have three viable business models as our main project — which we haven’t been able to say before. And it stands to [show] the unique innovation that this team has [created, but it just builds over time.”
Innovative projects like the Enactus-run FeedKC project — which tackles hunger and food waste by providing an online marketplace where licensed kitchens can offload surplus inventory — have shown particular community impact during the pandemic, Habte added.
“We think that’s a really cool solution that’s empowered everybody. … I think [Enactus] teaches you about the power of time and how much can get done if you just trust the people around you,” she said.
“It teaches you how to be patient with others in a way that other organizations in school just do not. It teaches you how to show up for your community and take responsibility for your actions — and those are lessons that I’ll carry with me forever more.”
Click here to read more about FeedKC, which made a successful run at funding during the 2019 Pure Pitch Rally.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.