Innovator Article

GoodKoz Wins $10,000 in Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge
MBA Students’ Start-up Blends Commerce, Communities and Causes

Image of GoodKoz Wins $10,000 in Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge Image of GoodKoz Wins $10,000 in Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge

By Alex Russell

Think Kickstarter meets Etsy meets Kiva.org, all in the name of good.

That’s the innovative idea behind GoodKoz, an e-commerce site to help nonprofits raise funds, being built by MBA students Dylan Fiesel and Allen Alday.

Fiesel and Alday’s passion for GoodKoz carried them to the finals of the 2012 Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge in April at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. There they presented their business plan to C-level Walmart executives, its suppliers and top business and sustainability leaders, who awarded GoodKoz second place and $10,000.

The Walmart challenge, now in its fourth year, provides a forum for students nationwide to get valuable feedback on their ideas for a sustainable product or business solution and make them a reality.

“GoodKoz.com is on a mission to connect people with the causes they care about,” said Fiesel, who described the site as “a social marketplace for good, fostering sustainable communities by supporting local nonprofits through commerce.” Visitors will be able to buy unique products and experiences, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting a nonprofit of their choice.

“Allan and Dylan’s passion clearly came through,” said competition judge Greg Trimble, senior director of global energy development & reporting at Walmart. “I’m sure it won’t be long until we all are able to follow and fund our favorite nonprofits through GoodKoz.com.”

Fiesel and Alday developed their concept last summer. In addition to its success in the Walmart challenge, the team reached the semifinals in the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Challenge.

Alumnus Ben Finkelor MBA 04, and Nicole Starsinic and Wil Agatstein of the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, mentored Fiesel and Alday. “They helped us formulate the best way to communicate our vision and our innovation,” said Fiesel.

This is the second year in a row a UC Davis MBA team placed in the top three in the Walmart competition. Last year EcoCatalytics, a new venture with technology to improve fuel cell efficiency, won third place. The team included UC Davis MBA students, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, and an electrochemistry post-doctoral researcher and Business Development Fellow.

At this year’s West Coast regional finals at Gallagher Hall, GoodKoz beat teams from Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and the Presidio Graduate School of San Francisco. In Bentonville they went head-to-head with seven other regional winners—narrowed from 50 entrants.

The grand prize and $20,000 was awarded to students from the University of Missouri for Enzime, which deploys enzymes to clean polluted soils by breaking down toxic substances and heavy metals.

This summer, Fiesel is interning for a company in exchange for help developing a world-class front end for GoodKoz’s website. He and Alday hope to start hiring their own interns to launch a beta version of the website.

“Local nonprofits are the backbone of our communities,” said Fiesel. “We’re excited to help improve their visibility, community engagement and fundraising.”

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