Enactus makes Southern history, places third in a national competition

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Southern’s Enactus team placed third in this year’s Enactus United States National Exposition World Cup Qualifier Competition. This was the first time Southern’s team made it into the semifinals, or top 16, of the annual competition. So, the team actually broke three records by also making it into the final four and then placing third, according to senior accounting major and Enactus President Ashley Blake.

According to business professor and Enactus sponsor Michelle Doucoumes, Enactus United States has over 400 teams at various colleges across the country. Blake said this year, 45 teams participated in the World Cup Qualifier Competition.

Senior business administration major and Enactus Vice President Sabrina Alward said participating Enactus teams presented their projects and accomplishments from the past year via video to numerous C-suite executives from large corporations such Walmart and Pepsi. The executives then scored the teams based on their entrepreneurial leadership, innovation, use of business principles and sustainable positive impact. Alward said for the past three years, Southern’s Enactus team got second place in the first round of the competition.

“2021 is the first year that we not only got to semi-finals, but to the final four,” Blake said. 

“We can now technically kind of say that [Southern] has one of the top four Enactus teams in the country,” Alward said. “So, very, very big stuff.”

Alward, who coordinated the team’s competition effort, said she began preparing last December. In previous years, participating Enactus teams presented live. But, due to COVID-19, they created video presentations for the last two competitions. Although this meant that this year’s presenters did not have to memorize a script, the preparation process took more organizing and planning, according to Alward. She said she had to plan far enough ahead to give the video editor, junior finance major and Enactus Vice President of Marketing Derek Schroer, and his team enough time to construct a quality video. Blake said she first believed their team could progress further than Southern’s team had ever done when she saw the completed presentation.

“When we saw the final product, I was like, ‘Yeah, I think we’re going to do it,’” Blake said. 

The teams submitted their video presentation, annual report, team bio and a few other informational videos to the judges on April 4. 

Blake said she, Alward, Doucoumes and a few other Enactus members were in the Enactus office on the third floor of Brock Hall when they found out they made it into the semifinals on April 12 and when they found out they made it into the final four on April 14.

“We just all screamed and got really excited,” said Blake, describing the team’s reaction to making it into the semifinals. “It was a really fun moment.”

When the team made it into the final four, the reaction was even more emotional.

“There were more people this time,” Blake said. “I think we just attracted a crowd of business students who happened to be in the hallway because we were freaking out. … I was crying.”

According to Blake, Doucoumes also won an Enactus United States award this year called the Sam Walton Fellow Award for her leadership on Southern’s team. Blake said no Southern Enactus sponsor has ever received that award, and Doucoumes will be recognized on Enactus United States’ website.

When asked what made this year’s Enactus team different, Blake, Alward and Doucoumes all mentioned the early work their leadership team put into forming their team and projects. According to Blake, the leadership team was created at the beginning of last May. And, for the first time ever, they hired a business intern over the summer. They also selected all their project managers during that time.

“When school started, we were ready to go,” Blake said. “We had all our leadership. We knew what projects we were doing because we had met multiple times, and I think that’s why we did so well.”

Alward and Doucoumes agree that this leadership team’s early efforts helped them succeed in this year’s competition, but both also give credit to former Enactus leaders.

“As much as I want to gloat and stuff like that, they have all equally put in so much work,” Alward said. “They gave us such a strong foundation to stand on.”

“Really, we’re building off of the successes of past years,” Doucoumes said.

 Blake, Alward and Doucoumes also said that Southern staying open amid the COVID-19 pandemic could have given their team an upper hand over some other teams.

Blake said the greatest thing she learned from this experience was that Southern’s Enactus team needs students in majors other than business to succeed even though Enactus is a club run through the School of Business. 

“Don’t feel like you need to be a business major to join,” Blake said. “Business is the mission, but we need all of the talents combined to be able to do that.”

Doucoumes said she is extremely proud of this year’s team, and she believes future teams can achieve the same level of success.

“I think this breaks a level we’ve been at for a while,” Doucoumes said. “And, now that we know we can break that barrier, I think we can do it again.”

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