Joshua Shefner, a Milwaukee college student, has won the Wisconsin Qualifying rounds of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards
, and will advance to the U.S. National Competition.
Shefner is the founder of Blue Mangoes, a social enterprise that helps rural fruit farmers reduce loss by helping them build dehydration systems to produce and export dried fruit.
He competed with four other college students to demonstrate his entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to balance his schoolwork with running a business. Shefner described the risks he has taken to continue growing the business, including challenging school policies. And he told the stories of the impact of his work on smallholders in remote communities worldwide that have been able to gain additional value from their crops.
The local GSEA competition was hosted by the Wisconsin chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee on Nov. 14. The national competition will be held in Denver on Jan. 10 and 11. About 1,700 student entrepreneurs from 55 countries participated in the competition this year.
"It was an incredible and new experience to pitch not only my startup, but myself,” Shefner said. “I had the opportunity to share the impetus and history behind Blue Mangoes, and why we care so much about dried fruit. The format GSEA had for our pitch made this possible."
"Joshua is a dynamic presenter; captivating the audience,” said Ajay Goel, spokesman for EO Wisconsin and a judge in the contest. “It's rare to come across an idea that both serves Third World communities and can be a profitable business in the U.S. He is a calculated risk taker, which is the mark of a good entrepreneur. This is a bold idea he's brought to life. He's courageous."