July 31, 2020
Four Moore School students win UofSC COVID-19 Ideas Challenge and earn money to begin their entrepreneurial business ideas.
In an effort to keep them engaged while away from campus, the University of South Carolina’s McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise challenged students to submit concepts for a business that would address an issue related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Partnering with the Faber Center at the Moore School and South Carolina Research Authority, the McNair Institute encouraged students to create a business model and draft a budget to develop a business proposal for the challenge. The concepts were evaluated by a panel of judges that consisted of UofSC alumni and successful entrepreneurs.
Of the 42 idea entries, nine students’ concepts were selected by the judges to receive $1,000 each in seed money to begin developing their projects. Four of the chosen ideas came from Moore School students whose proposals feature a mobile meal service; hospital-specific supply chain channels; a gaming platform focused on science education; and a digital space where wellness professionals can provide health-conscious lifestyle advice.
International business and management student Morgan McGovern, along with a team of peers, submitted a proposal for a supply channel that can verify the validity and quality of face coverings. She said that she realized early in the COVID-19 pandemic that individuals and the personal protective equipment industry were facing problems with no solutions; she said she wanted to be a part of the resolution.
“MediChain is a channel that uses block-chain technology to verify the validity of masks produced worldwide,” McGovern said. “Hospitals would buy into the channel and could quickly verify the quality of the masks. This idea came from the extreme shortage of masks and the difficulty of knowing what the quality of the product was — especially when ordering masks from different countries with different health standards.”
Hoping this supply channel will connect countries that have resources with those that need them, McGovern plans to gather additional funding for MediChain and to begin building an online platform for the channel. She is also beginning to network and connect with hospitals and producers that would benefit from using MediChain.
Hayden Shipley, an undergraduate finance major, came up with his idea, A Good Day For A Good Meal, while he was listening to the radio. He heard a news story about the long lines at food banks in major cities; the next news story detailed the financial hardships restaurants have been facing amidst the nearly nationwide stay-at-home orders.
“Millions of people are out of work and hungry, and restaurants are operating at historically low capacities,” Shipley said. “To me, it was as simple as supply and demand; people need to be fed, and restaurants need to feed. I remembered reading an article years ago that was about a ‘pay what you can’ restaurant that was operating in North Carolina. Then the idea hit me to create a mobile platform that can turn every restaurant into a pay what you can restaurant to support everyone in the community.”
Shipley’s idea became a digital platform that would partner with local restaurants and allow users to pay what they can afford for a high-quality meal. He plans to use the $1,000 in competition prize money to register A Good Day For A Good Meal as an LLC and set up the digital space for the platform.
As he prepares to start reaching out to local restaurants to form partnerships, Shipley said he hopes to create a service where people can pay a restaurant’s suggested price, less than that price or more than the suggestion to foster a meal-time environment where “everyone receives the same quality, service and respect no matter how much they pay.”
Also utilizing a digital platform for his business idea, Moore School International MBA student Joey Smith submitted a proposal for an online game called PlayGround. Smith worked with a group of his peers who were all enrolled in an international entrepreneurship course in spring 2020; their professor, Elisa Alvarez-Garrido, gave her students the option to continue working on their assigned semester-long project or to develop ideas for the McNair Institute’s COVID-19 Ideas Challenge. Aware of the distance-learning issues that many K-5 students were facing while schools were closed because of the pandemic, Smith said that the team quickly decided to “address the needs of this crisis through an educational lens.”
"PlayGround is an educational gaming platform that will focus on science curriculum while building teamwork and collaboration when students are socially isolated,” Smith said. “The program will give students a unique way to engage with their peers and studies, allow teachers to track progress and provide families with ease of mind that their child's social needs are being met creatively.”
Smith and his teammates are now networking with game developers to begin creating the interface for PlayGround. They also hope to use the seed money they won to register the company; once it is registered, PlayGround can begin seeking further grants.
Understanding another issue with the pandemic is staying healthy, Chandler Kellogg, an international business Chinese enterprise (IBCE) and management undergraduate student, also received recognition for his submission. Kellogg, who is also pursuing a concentration in entrepreneurship and business analytics, is a digital marketing manager for digitalLM and said that he found his “calling” with the company.
A lifestyle medicine, corporate wellness and population health organization, digitalLM is a full-service agency that helps lifestyle medicine providers and other wellness professionals gain a strong online presence so they can help people achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Kellogg is working specifically to make evidence-based health content available for individuals through a “curated video site,” which is the concept he submitted to the Ideas Challenge.
He hopes to use the money he won from the challenge to make these videos more easily accessible, through the use of “filters, tags, search and SEO (search engine optimization) so that individuals looking to improve their health don’t have to deal with misinformation and other noise online.”
“We are impressed with the students’ initiative, creativity and unique vantage points on how they can address challenges during this time of crisis and transition,” said Dirk Brown, faculty director of the McNair Institute, in the university’s announcement. “We’re looking forward to supporting and tracking their progress. Further, we are committed to bringing together resources of the university, our strong alumni network and entrepreneurial and innovation community to support these students’ projects.”