For the first time since its establishment over 40 years ago, Enactus JBU qualified for the Enactus World Cup, an international competition for students across the globe investing in entrepreneurial action to improve the lives of people everywhere.
Enactus JBU presented on two of the six current projects for Enactus: the Guatemala Water Project and Shredify.
The Guatemala Water Project partners with Compassion International and Healing Waters International to implement water purification systems in various communities in Guatemala, while Shredify is a document destruction service in Siloam Springs operated by the Siloam Springs Development Center, a center which provides employment for adults with disabilities.
The Enactus JBU team presented only once as they did not qualify to compete in the semifinals.
Kai Tagomi, co-advisor for Enactus, couldn’t be prouder of the manner in which the team responded to their loss.
“The team handled it amazingly,” Tagomi said. “They still felt it, but they handled it with poise and class in such a manner that was noticeable.”
Both Tagomi and Cecilee Russell, Enactus co-advisor, received compliments on the Enactus team’s response to the loss.
“I think the thing that I was most proud of them for was their response to not moving on the semifinals,” Russell said. “They could have easily looked disappointed on a global stage that they didn’t make it on, but they responded with a lot of grace.”
While the loss was difficult for Humberto Smith, senior project manager for Enactus, he views it as an overall positive outcome.
“Competition is not the main focus for Enatcus JBU. We try to focus on the projects and the lives that we are impacting and then take time to get all those results and synthesize all the work that has been created in one year to put in a presentation to be able to present to the [world], what we have accomplished in one year,” Smith said.
For a small, Midwestern Christian university, qualifying for the World Cup required winning two domestic competitions as well as an exorbitant amount of time and dedicated work.
Prior to the World Cup, the Enactus JBU team easily qualified for regionals, then went on to win first place at Enactus Nationals out of approximately 150 teams, setting the team on the road to compete for the World Cup.
Bearing the title of national champions was both shocking and exciting for the members of the team.
“We have been waiting for this moment for 40 years and we finally made it,” Russell said, referring back to winning Nationals in May.
After the initial celebration and excitement, Russell’s first thought was of the enormous amount of work that lay ahead of them.
“With any cool thing in life, there’s work to go along with it,” Russell said.
The Enactus team, consisting of students Cooper Richardson, Humberto Smith, Nate Wertjes, Luke Powers, Ale Figoni, Connor Luther, Myriah Yam and Andrew Brott, left for London on Sept. 24. After initial trouble with a cancelled flight, the team split up, but eventually all made it safely to London.
The festivities for the World Cup began the next day, commencing with a culture fair representing the 36 countries participating in the competition. The convention room was a mass of bright colorful flags, chattering voices, cultural dances, and music. Bedecked in red, white, and blue garland, the America booth drew quite a crowd. The JBU team sported bandanas, boots and cowboy hats as they handed snapped Polaroids of people with their faces in a Statue of Liberty cut out and distributed bandanas.
“That was one of my favorite parts of the trip, that you could talk to people from Zimbabwe, Puerto Rico, Germany, Netherlands,” Smith said. “The feel wasn’t competition, the feel was ‘Hey, we are all a family, we are all Enactus.’”
The following day started the first round of presentations. The team met in an empty conference room and rehearsed several times. Afterwards, they, along with Joe Walenciak, dean of the Soderquist College of Business, and President Chip and Carey Pollard, huddled in the hallway outside the presentation room and prayed.
“We prayed over the team, thanked God for all the work our project managers have put in over the past three years, setting up the foundation. They are the reason we are here,” said Connor Luther, senior marketing major. “That was a cool experience, to be bold about our faith and that we are trusting in God through all of it.”
“We’ve come so far and we knew that even if we get second or third place or whatever, even if we don’t make it to the semi-finals, we’re still here and we’re representing JBU and this is our first time here and we’ve got to make it our best,” said Ale Figoni, a senior business administration major and one of the presenters.
After prayer, the team strode confidently into the room and presented. According to Luther, who sat in the back of the room live-streaming the event, it was the best presentation the speaking team had given in their months of practice.
“It was really good,” said Figoni. “I think we did really well, which is why I think we expected to go to the next round because we were so sure, so confident.”
Later that day, when semifinalists were announced, JBU was not called. Initially shocked and stung by the defeat, the team took some time to recover from the loss.
Luther described the moments after as heartbreaking.
“It was a humbling experience for us and I think a lot of good conversations came out of it that wouldn’t have come out if we have moved on to the next round,” Luther said.
Later, the nine students sat together to discuss their loss.
“That night we bonded as a team as we’ve never done before,” Smith said. “We stayed up till 3 in the morning just hanging around, doing goofy stuff and reflecting on the day and how much we have improved or changed since the beginning.”
The team found the JBU communities’ support at the send-off and watch party to be reassuring and comforting.
“The community support we had was incredible,” Russell said. “The amount of people rallying around us was so helpful and just made us want to compete more and do better.”
Even though the team did not win, Enactus JBU said they are ready for the next competition season that is beginning soon.
“In a couple of months, we start over again,” Smith said, smiling.
Tagomi and Russell are amazed with the diligence and determination of their team to work and serve underserved communities.
“I’ve got to work with a lot of great business teams, athletic teams, academic teams, and the way [the Enactus team] can put aside their differences and challenge each other and push to always be better is something I’m really proud of,” Tagomi said.
“I’m thankful for the commitment they had to this and despite the four-hour practices and the ten hours a week of going over the script we had, none of them complained. They were critical thinkers the whole way through, they supported each other, they laughed all the way through, and they really became a family,” Russell said. “I’m proud of their commitment and the way they represented the United States.”