by Christen Palange '17, Business
Standing outside of that conference room in Virginia, I can’t help but realize how much has changed in a year, yet so little.
This is my second time presenting at the regional Enactus competition. The first time I presented, our team was able to place. Since that first presentation just about one year ago from today, I have grown tremendously.
As a naturally-shy person, I rarely spoke up in class. Seeing a class presentation on a course syllabus would ruin my whole semester. So when I signed up for Enactus my junior year, it was with the understanding that I would not have to present at the competition. But last year, when it came time to pick speakers, temporary insanity came over me and I volunteered. This was met with hesitation from the whole team who knew me well enough to know my fear of public speaking. But with confidence in the fact that I needed to do this, I was chosen as a speaker.
Since then, classroom presentations are something to be a little nervous about, but ultimately not something I worry about. This year, when it came time to pick speakers, there was not even a question, it was just assumed I would be speaking. These are the things that have changed. However, as I stand outside of the conference room, I am acutely aware of how nervous I am. A class presentation may be one thing, but the roomful of judges in the Enactus competition will always make my heart race.
Our league was extremely difficult this year. Looking over the seven-team league pairing made my heart sink even before we boarded our plane. Don’t get me wrong, our team was prepared. We had practiced for months and our projects were concrete. We worked nonstop throughout the school year on our projects and had produced results. Our team had received two grants, one from Sam’s Club for our work last year, and one from Walmart for our workforce development program this year.
This year, we worked with a startup, Knuckleheads Apparel, run by a veteran. Our team helped produce fifty beanies and fifty t-shirts while creating and implementing a strategic marketing tool that acts as a content planner, allowing the owner to post at a consistent rate throughout the week. Further, the team contributed to an increase of 46 percent new followers per week by updating social media platforms. Our involvement helped contribute over $1,000 in revenue for the company.
We partnered with another veteran in his vision for Project Lift or Die, a fitness and apparel supplement company, primarily in need of marketing help. Our team worked with the owner to develop an online presence and we even implemented the company’s first Facebook advertising campaign. The exposure and analytics provided by Facebook enabled Project Lift or Die to reach more than 30,000 people in the first campaign. In addition, the team implemented a Google Ad Words campaign, enabling the company to reach 31,000 people and drive another 1,100 to the website since its launch in December. The team also worked to establish new suppliers which reduced the costs of the entire operation. Our involvement contributed to $5,000 in revenue for the company.
We also worked with two immigrant women who own Oasys Salon in Manchester, N.H. We donated a computer and taught the owners how to use scheduling and accounting software that automatically tells the client how much money they should save. With this software, they are hoping to become more financially stable and move to a larger location in Manchester within a year.
Our team also received a grant from Walmart for our work with the Dover Adult Learning Center, helping immigrant women to secure employment. We coached these women one-on-one about resume building and interviewing. One woman was able to secure a job while the other three are still in the interviewing process. With the grant funding, this project will continue into next year.
These projects seemed great to us, but we certainly have a bias. We dedicated over 800 hours this year between the ten of us. We felt more connected to our work here than some people do to their full time jobs. These projects were our commitment for the past eight months and we were so excited to talk about them. When we got to the judges, we gushed. We couldn’t help it. We talked about our work for 15 minutes, then the judges asked us follow-up questions to learn more. Before I knew it, we were told our time was up and we left the room.
On our way out, other teams, Walmart representatives, and our advisor told us that we had done a great job. But we couldn’t feel comfortable just yet. We may have done well, but we were up against other teams that had been working just as hard as us.
When we got to the awards ceremony, we were excited and, of course, nervous. There was nothing left to do but wait. They finally announced our league, and started naming off the schools advancing. The first schools were called, and we knew there was only one more spot left in the National Competition, and our school had yet to be named. There was a pause for the previous team to cheer, and I looked at our advisor.
We both knew there was only one spot left, and a tight competition. The pause was probably 10 seconds, but I swear it felt like 3 minutes. Finally they called the last school, “And… the University of New Hampshire at Manchester!” The relief in that moment is incomparable to anything I have ever felt.
That trophy is now more prominent on our personal social media than anything else all year. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This doesn’t just represent our success with our projects. For many of us it represents so much more. It symbolizes our growth as public speakers and business professionals. For me, it signifies the confidence I have developed in my ability to speak up and my growth as a leader. I am so thankful for the opportunities Enactus has presented me, and I am proud to represent UNH Manchester with my Enactus team in the National Exposition in Kansas City on May 21-23.
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