Spotlight Story

GoodKoz Wins First Prize in Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge
UC Davis MBA Team in Bentonville to Pitch Start-up Idea to Help Non-Profits Fundraise Online

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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 non-profits raise funds, being built by first-year MBA students Dylan Fiesel and Allen Alday.

Fiesel’s 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 the first prize (second place) and $10,000.

The Walmart Better Living Business Plan 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,” says Fiesel, describing 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 helping raise funds for a non-profit cause they choose.

Fiesel and Alday developed the idea for GoodKoz last summer. In addition to the first place win in the Walmart challenge, the team recently reached the semifinals in the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Challenge.

UC Davis MBA alumnus Ben Finkelor ‘04, and Nicole Starsinic and Wil Agatstein of the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, mentored Fiesel and Alday as they prepared for the challenge.

“They helped us formulate the best way to communicate our vision and our innovation,” said Fiesel.

“Allen’s 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.”

This is the second year in a row a UC Davis MBA team placed in the top three in the Walmart competition. Last year, MBA students Tomas Sudnius and John-Paul Farsight, with Anthony Santamaria, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, and Daniel Misicak, an electrochemistry post-doctoral researcher and a Business Development Fellow, won third place for EcoCatalytics, a new venture with technology to improve fuel cell efficiency.

Like last year, UC Davis also hosted the Walmart competition’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 to earn the trip to Bentonville. There they went head-to-head with seven other regional winners—narrowed from 50 total entrants—to win second place overall.

At the finals in Bentonville, the grand prize and $20,000 was awarded to students from the University of Missouri for Enzime, a project that deploys enzymes to clean polluted soils by breaking down toxic substances and heavy metals.

“Overall it was great to see what other projects these teams worked on that would all have a social impact,” said Alday.

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

“We are most excited about bringing GoodKoz to market and begin supporting our communities,” said Fiesel. “Local nonprofits are the backbone of our communities. We’re excited to help improve their visibility, community engagement and fundraising.”
 

 

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