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Student's Social Enterprise Wins InNOLEvation Challenge

International affairs major Hannah King traveled to Guatemala the last week in February 2017 to continue work on the project that earned her enterprise one of two first place awards in the Florida State University entrepreneurship competition, InNOLEvation.

On March 3, 3017, the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship announced the winners of the annual competition that provides students from all majors and all levels with the opportunity to gain valuable insight and experience in innovation and entrepreneurship and a chance to win prize money to support their ventures. Mayan Traditions, founded by King, took first place in the division for social entrepreneurship.

Mayan Traditions seeks to preserve the Mayan artisan culture through ethical partnerships with textile weavers and merchants in Guatemala. Through the sale of textile products, the organization aims to open up markets, stimulating the economy and providing sustainable incomes for partner merchants.

Profits from the sale of goods are reinvested through a not-for-profit organization called Mayan Families, 90 percent run by indigenous Mayans. The organization offers several social programs, including one that helps artisan women learn to manage finances, save, and budget. Currently, the organization is also supporting education and business development in the Guatemalan department and city of Huehuetenango.

"Hannah has taken full advantage of the evolving FSU social entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem through classroom learning, research, an internship, and co-curricular opportunities,” said Bruce Manciagli, entrepreneur-in-residence at the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and instructor of several courses that inspired Hannah to create her own venture. “She has developed an innovative, impactful, and scalable approach to the empowerment of indigenous artisans and the preservation of their culture through a sustainable social enterprise."

King’s interest in the Mayan culture and in helping those in need dates back to her childhood. Her Greek-American father met her Guatemalan mother in the early 1990s, and they soon settled there to run a home for neglected and abandoned children. Hannah was born in Guatemala and spent her early years there, often visiting the local artisan markets.

”When you go to these markets, you don’t just buy a product and leave, you learn about the products and the artisans, their story, the process of making the products, the importance of the goods themselves,” she said. “Growing up in this culture led me to understand the value of this tradition.”

King decided to do something about the threats to the continued existence of this culture and the revenue losses suffered by artisans thanks to fluctuations in the tourist market and the demand for mass-produced goods by corporations.

She enlisted the help of her Guatemalan cousin, Carolina Garcia, who runs all ground operations in the country. The team also includes David Olusola, a recent FSU graduate in economics who provides financial oversight to ensure the venture’s effectiveness and sustainability.

“Winning this competition means a hope and a future for my people,” King said. “It means that I can continue to pursue my dreams, to innovate more, and to grow more as a student, individual, and now business owner.”

King plans to use the $11,000 prize money to scale and grow Mayan Traditions. She has plans to partner with local businesses and retail stores to carry the products and eventually expand throughout the U.S.

Several days after receiving the award, King found out that Mayan Traditions has been accepted to compete in April 2017 at the Values and Ventures Competition sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Center of the Neely School of Business at Texas Christian University. The annual competition is for undergraduate students around the world to pitch plans for businesses, products, or services that make a profit while also benefiting the environment, the community, or a specific population.

Crediting her experience in Manciagli’s entrepreneurship courses as “enriching and eye opening,” King now plans to expand her academic focus and double major within the college in both international affairs and interdisciplinary social sciences with a concentration in social entrepreneurship and innovation.

Mayan Traditions was one of three social enterprises among the seven finalists in the InNOLEvation competition. Entrants in the challenge are offered workshops facilitated by FSU entrepreneurs-in-residence. Student entrepreneurs are judged on the basis of how well they have identified potential problems and solutions for their proposed venture, built effective teams, tested their business assumptions in the field, and adapted their plans based on lessons learned in the testing.

For more about the competition, click here.

For more about Mayan Traditions, click here.