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Grace Kavata: Strathmore Campus Director for the Hult Prize

Grace Kavata is a 4th year student at Strathmore University pursuing Bachelor of Commerce with a double major in Finance and Accounting. She also undertakes ACCA in the University. We caught up with her to recount her experience as the University’s campus director for the Hult Prize that took place in the University last year.

Tell us about the Hult Prize

The Hult Prize is an annual, year-long competition that crowd-sources ideas from college students after challenging them to solve a pressing social issue around topics such as food security, water access, energy, and education. The Prize is a partnership between Hult International Business School and the United Nations Foundation. The former US President Bill Clinton selects the challenge topic and announces the winner each September.

How did you land the position at the Hult Prize?

Last year, my friends who school at the Africa Nazarene University were in Dubai. I learnt that they had flown to Dubai for the Hult Prize Dubai Regionals. When they came back to Nairobi, they told me about Hult Prize and all that it entailed. I got interested in the challenge and I applied for the position of a campus director; a campus director helps in coordinating the Hult Prize in the respective universities.

After the application, I was phoned by a representative from the Hult Prize and he interviewed me to gauge if I was ready to be the campus director in the University. We went through a series of questions but I remember when he wanted to know why I thought I was fit for the role, I said, “Just do it.” It took a while before I secured the role.

How was the experience being the campus director?

As the campus director, I had to look for judges who would help in listening to the business ideas that the students had and assess them on the basis of the impact in solving youth unemployment. I took it upon myself to look for judges bearing in mind that I had no money to pay them because it was supposed to be voluntary. Some people turned down my request but I eventually got 16 judges including the renowned TV presenter Betty Kyalo. We gave the judges a token of appreciation at the end of the challenge.

I got a great deal of support from the Strathmore Business School (SBS) and Dorcas Otieno, a lecturer at SBS. I was amazed by the great work that the participants put into structuring their business ideas in 3 weeks; it showed how determined they were.

What lessons did you pick along the way?

I learnt that perseverance can take one a long way. I developed a thick skin even when many people turned down my requests when I looked for the judges. I took up the challenge as it was.

There is need for one to have social etiquette. It helps in creating and maintaining good relations with people as a form of networking. During the challenge, I had a team of volunteers who helped set things in order, these are people that enabled me to learn to control my emotions even whenever things went the wrong way and accept the reality that there were other ways to rectify them. I have also made a few friends in the Hult Prize.

In order for one to be a great leader, one has to run with a task or project at hand. I had a team that joined hands to ensure that the initiative was a success but sometimes I had to come in handy as well. I also learnt that one does not need to win the 1 million USD in order to succeed in implementing a business idea.

What impact has the Hult Prize had on society?

In last year’s round of the Hult Prize whose challenge seeks to address the issue of youth unemployment, several teams participated and we luckily got three teams from Strathmore University that made it to the top six teams in the Nairobi (Jenga Youth and Global Kijiji) and Abuja Regionals (Team Panvour) respectively although they could not proceed to the next level_ accelerator, which is an incubation stage where the participants meet professionals from the related areas of coverage in the challenge.

I realized that “Money is the last thing needed to start a business.” Whenever I meet some of the participants and I enquire about the progress, I challenge them to stick to their ideas and take them to another level; they should not have stopped when they did not get 1million USD after the challenge.

Why do you pursue BCOM?

I have always wanted to become a journalist. When I cleared my high school education, I was not sure whether to undertake finance or journalism. Later on, I thought to myself that I could do financial journalism.

What would you do to maintain the Hult Prize in SU?

Since I am about to clear my course work, I would really like to mentor those who would apply for this post (campus director).

What advice would you give students?

Opportunities are always there and the students should be on the lookout for them. In this year’s Hult Prize, I would encourage more students to participate in the challenge as I will surely share this year’s theme with them once it is out.


The article was compiled by Odhiambo Obonyo


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