First-Year Student Claims Top Prize in Fowler Business Concept Challenge

When anxiety, happiness, and a sense of accomplishment happen simultaneously, what does that feel like? Well, when the winner of the second Fowler Business Concept Challenge (FBCC) was revealed Friday, all of the above emotions expressed were in perfect Harmony.

FBCC2020-Virtual

“I am so shocked, eternally grateful, I was feeling so many emotions when I won,” said 18-year-old first-year University of San Diego student Harmony Prado. “I saw my competitors and … oh my gosh, I’m the youngest competitor. But I knew I had a strong community supporting me, an amazing mentor and everyone believed in me, so I believed in myself. But I still can’t believe I won first place!”

Believe it.

Prado, whose idea, Harmony’s Room, is a digital safe space/mental health and well-being platform offering emotional support services for youth, earned the top scholarship prize of $15,000 from a pool of $45,000 generously provided by Ron and Alexis Fowler.

Carl Dumesle ’21, an MBA student and the FBCC’s 2019 top winner, had a different idea and finished second, earning $7,500 for Anapryze. Brianna Jackson ‘21 was third overall with $5,000 for Proxy Hairware, and Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering student Carlos Hernandez ’23 gained $3,500 for his idea, Pedals. Two $1,000 audience choice awards went to Dumesle and Bella Manning ’22 for Wilo & Mae. Twelve semifinalists each received $1,000.

The USD School of Business’ Innovation and Entrepreneurship Catalyzer put on a wonderful virtual event, but the day really belonged to Prado, who was rewarded for her work ethic. Harmony’s Room is a concept she first thought about at age 15 after struggling with her own mental health issues.

Mental health awareness has grown considerably as a societal issue affecting people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. Add in the complete lifestyle shift due to COVID-19 since March and that’s another layer for those who feel stress, depression, anxiety and other emotions.

But being a teen yourself and wanting to help others so they might not have to endure as much or the same pain as you? Prado is wise beyond her years.

“This is my purpose in life. I’m extremely dedicated and determined,” she said.

She edged out three other FBCC finalists when they gave final full pitches with several top industry executive leaders present online Friday morning. Prado was one of 16 semifinalists to give a full pitch to other judges last Tuesday.

Prado may only be a few months in as a Torero, but she considered USD her top college destination since at least her junior year of high school. The entrepreneurial community, resources and the atmosphere has been to Prado’s liking. She enjoyed weekly training sessions for the FBCC, but when she became a semifinalist, weekly consultations strengthened her idea and networking capabilities and she’s interested in learning about other on-campus resources.

"I love entrepreneurship at USD. It’s extremely vibrant and that really stood out to me when I was 16. Now, at 18, and even though it’s online, I still feel the warmth and embrace of the entrepreneurial spirit here. It’s really unlike any other community. I think what sets USD apart is its strong community. It uplifts so many voices, especially with social impact. I think that’s extremely huge, extremely important. I’m so grateful to be connected in this space."

Her other strong connection comes through a familiar source.

“My family is my rock,” she said. She has three siblings, but gives special emphasis to an older sister, Charity, as “her biggest role model, my mentor and the one who introduced me to social entrepreneurship. She coached me. It’s a supportive sisterhood. She showed me how to find where passion meets purpose and that’s how I started Harmony’s Room.”

She beta launched her website — www.Harmonysroom.org — earlier this summer. Prado expects a mobile app to be developed by the end of 2020. She already has a partnership with San Diego Unified School District to begin an implementation model.

While she works on ways to reach teen girls, winning the FBCC is a positive step forward for her confidence — and just as likely for other young entrepreneurs watching her succeed.

“Winning this competition really validates my determination,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you have a passion and you’re rooted in that passion, you can go out and accomplish anything.”

New Idea, Bigger Impact for Dumesle 

Haiti’s Carl Dumesle was rewarded with two scholarship prize amounts totaling $8,500 during Friday’s Fowler Business Concept Challenge. In 2019, he and fellow MBA student, Bria d’Amours, won the top FBCC prize of $15,000 for their idea called HUGS (Housing for Undergraduate and Graduate Students).

A new idea for the 2020 competition didn’t net him the top prize, but Dumesle’s entrepreneurship credentials have expanded with Anapryze. His new idea brings the words analytics and enterprise together, but the main goal is to serve a much larger international demographic. He wants to be the go-to credit data provider service to support all international entrants into the U.S.

“We believe people should not be penalized for starting life in a new country. We are a fintech company that assesses immigrants’ credit worthiness without the need for a U.S. Social Security Number or a pre-existing credit score,” Dumesle said.

Was Anapryze an idea that came from HUGS? Dumesle said it was the other way around. Anapryze tackles the core problem that’s bigger than just struggling to find housing as an international student. The lack of a Social Security Number or a credit score affects all who come to the United States. He looks forward to building up both HUGS and Anapryze.

HUGS is still viable. Dumesle and d’Amours worked on the business model after this past summer’s Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge. They will be one of the many companies involved in a Torero Ventures Lab Demo Day on Nov. 3 from 7-9 p.m. via Zoom.

FBCC Notes

Friday’s virtual event, shown on the Accelevents platform, offered comments from USD President James T. Harris, DEd, USD School of Business Dean Timothy Keane, PhD, Catalyzer Director Priya Kannan, PhD and Catalyzer Strategic Advisor Amit Kakkad, PhD. Another strong aspect of the FBCC program was a panel discussion that had top leaders from San Diego Gas & Electric (CEO Caroline Winn), Sony (President/COO Mike Fasulo), Petco (CEO Ron Coughlin) and USD Board of Trustees member Susan Mallory speak on how their organizations and affiliations leveraged entrepreneurial thinking during these challenging times with COVID-19 protocols and pivoting. Many of the panel members also sat in on the FBCC finalists’ pitches on Friday morning. “I’m thrilled. Our students made us so proud,” Kannan said. Each of the panelists said were impressed with the student presenters, ideas and the event. … Following the award announcements, the Catalyzer opened the platform up to one-on-one networking opportunities. ... The 12 remaining semifinalists and their idea names: Eden Zakay ’21, School of Law, Clauset; Omar Araiza ’22, School of Business, Discover Good; Robert Gavauglio ’21, School of Business, Doki – Own Your Health; Amanda Larson ’21, Kroc School of Peace Studies, LYFlaunch; George Laning ’22, School of Business, Morning Restart; Jennifer Walters ’23, School of Business, My Fitness Witness; Jack Bonnes ’22, School of Business, Redi Go; Caleb Moser ’24, School of Law, Southwest Autonomous Traveler; Vanessa Ybarra ’21, School of Leadership and Education Sciences, The Ability Bus; Bella Manning ’22, School of Business, Wilo & Mae; Jennifer Almada '21, College of Arts and Sciences, ThreeBidz; Taylor Brown ’22, Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering/Raquel Kennedy ’22, School of Business, You Go Curl.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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