College of Business > News & Events > Coleman Entrepreneurship Center Partners with Sunshine Enterprises for Virtual Hackathon Challenge

Coleman Entrepreneurship Center Partners with Sunshine Enterprises for Virtual Hackathon Challenge

The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center (CEC) recently teamed up with community partner Sunshine Enterprises to deliver the bi-annual Hackathon Challenge, a virtual competition that challenges students to solve real-world problems for startups.

During the winter quarter event, 13 DePaul students were split into teams to come up with a marketing strategy for local business Danie’s Detox Drinks, founded by Danie Marshall, a graduate of Sunshine Enterprises’ Community Business Academy. The academy is a 12-week course that offers hands-on training in business planning and management.

CEC Executive Director Bruce Leech says the partnership with Sunshine Enterprises, which serves as a hub for entrepreneurs in Chicago’s under-resourced neighborhoods, reflects the CEC’s mission to “do good and do well” and empower students, alumni and community members start a business that makes a difference.

“The partnership between the CEC and Sunshine Enterprises helped Danie develop her business and marketing programs further so she can do good for her customers by leveraging her passion for healthy juices,” Leech says. “In turn, her passion will ultimately do well for all her stakeholders including customers, employees and the local community.”

DePaul MBA student Claoe Louis
DePaul MBA student Claoe Louis (BUS ’07) participated in the winning team Pearfection.

The CEC Hackathon Challenge consists of three rounds. During the first round, each student entrant conducts a competitive analysis of the business. A panel of judges – consisting of mentors from Sunshine Enterprises, CEC staff and local business professionals – then selected five student winners, who each received a $300 scholarship award. In the second round, students split into five teams and worked with a mentor to help solve the startup’s challenge. On March 2, each team pitched their business strategy to Marshall as well as an audience of more than 75 people.

In round three, the winning student team continued working with Marshall for an additional two weeks to help implement their idea for her business. Each student was given an extra $700 for their time.

DePaul MBA student Claoe Louis (BUS ’07), who was a part of the winning team Pearfection, says participating in the Hackathon provided an opportunity to put his MBA training to use. Louis enrolled in Kellstadt with 12 years of experience in technology and working with customers, and says his goal is to open his own business one day.

“Participating in the Hackathon helped to move me one step closer to my goal because it gave me practice solving small business problems,” he says. “It also gave me an inside perspective on some of the hurdles small businesses face early on.”

In the final round, his winning team worked with mentor Eric Gastevich II (MBA ’12), who serves as a mentor for the CEC Mentorship Program. The team ultimately suggested that the business focus on increasing scale and growth in the B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-customer) areas.

“It was important for our team to lay out a strategic plan to help Danie navigate that path in the most efficient way possible,” Louis says. “It was also important to make the plan simple to implement. The suggestions made by our team were ultimately designed to stimulate steady growth, allowing the business to fully utilize current capacity and to use that momentum as a vehicle to drive growth into new markets.”

Danie Marshall, founder of Danie’s Detox Drinks, is a graduate of Sunshine Enterprises’ Community Business Academy.

Marshall found out about the opportunity to be the focus of the CEC Hackathon through her involvement with Sunshine Enterprises. In 2017, Marshall founded her business following a doctor’s visit where she was told she was at risk of diabetes and needed to lose weight.

“Being a speech-language pathologist, a health care professional with experience in the medical setting and being the daughter of two diabetic parents, I knew that diabetes would adversely impact every major body system.”

To lose weight, she began juicing her fruits and vegetables. She ended up losing 60 pounds. Although she still continues to work as a speech-language pathologist, she hopes to retire and invest her time and energy fully into her business.

“My experience with the Hackathon was outstanding,” Marshall says. “The participants were excited which really helped build energy and enthusiasm. The students were insightful, resourceful, and wonderful to work with.”

The next Hackathon Challenge takes place on June 14. Applications open on May 12. Click here to fill out this form to receive more information and be notified when applications open.

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