Over 100 community members, including representatives from the three local higher education institutions, the Chamber of Commerce, the City Council and the Washington Department of Commerce, attended the Global Entrepreneurship Week ceremony on Nov. 19, where Whitman students John Lee '16, Cody Burchfield '16 and Fernando Medina Corey '14 walked away with first prize in the Pain in the Glass contest.
Pain in the Glass - a collaboration between Whitman College, Walla Walla University, Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce - was one of several events marking the community's involvement in Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide celebration of entrepreneurial innovation, startups and small businesses, and creative entrepreneurism. The contest asked budding entrepreneurs to propose a solution to the communitywide issue of glass waste.
"All of us have interest in entrepreneurship, and this was an excellent opportunity to try our hand at something we haven't done yet," Medina Corey said. "I know that is what appeals to me most about entrepreneurship itself: Always being able to learn and work on new things."
Along with other entrants from Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla University School of Business, Lee, Burchfield and Medina Corey submitted a business proposal including a written document and a video pitch (which can be seen above) describing their solution for excess glass waste that is not recycled by the city of Walla Walla.
The trio proposed that glass be collected, crushed, tumbled and turned into Walla Walla Sea Glass. They proposed that both the wine tourism industry and the artisan community were two potential target groups for the end product.
Lee explained that the initial idea of what to do with unrecycled glass came quickly, but that "the hard part was figuring out how to come up with a viable business proposal by the contest deadline."
Both Lee and Medina Corey exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. "When I was in 7th Grade, I sold recycled envelopes door-to-door and donated the profits to charitable causes and organizations. I called that endeavor Recycle for Research," Lee said. He has also exhibited and sold photography, and has been working on starting a charitable social network during his time at Whitman.
Medina Corey founded a tutoring business in Walla Walla in summer 2012, and hopes to create another business in the education sector when he graduates.
The three students were awarded a $500 prize, while an additional $1,000 was provided by Whitman alumnus Rob Freelen '00, a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank, the largest US bank currently funding startup and entrepreneurial enterprises.
The trio is currently considering passing on their proposal to the City of Walla Walla for further development. "After all," Lee said. "I genuinely feel like it might be the best solution to solving the Walla Walla glass problem."