SU Student Ideates a Solution that Connects Community Resources to the Needs of Students with Autism at the 2021 Jones Idea Challenge

March 11, 2021

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, undergraduate students participating in the Jones Idea Challenge pitched their ‘intra-preneurial’ ideas to 60 people in attendance including 16 student-led teams, 8 company judges, students, coaches, and community members. Funded by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, the Jones Idea Challenge program challenges undergraduate entrepreneurial-driven students to solve real company problems. Student teams work with a team business coach and compete for $5,000 in cash prizes. By the end of the program, the Jones Idea Challenge produces innovative student solutions for business problems. 

Congratulations to Alejandro Ramirez (Team AR) for taking home the grand prize this year for his idea presented to The Madrone School! 

The Madrone School is a private, nonprofit that provides therapeutic and educational services to children with autism. Their challenge was to understand the feasibility of purchasing an existing building or to rent a larger building so that they can have all the staff and children at one location with room to grow. Team AR designed a solution that connected the resources of the community to the needs of the students with autism. The solution also recognizes how closely-knit the community is and opens the door for corporate sponsorship of impactful initiatives. The Madrone School, Lindsey McGrew (MBA’17), winner of 2016 Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition, and the 2017 Jones Progress Awards 

Here is a bit more about the solution and the program experience in Alejandro’s own words: 

Q1) What made you decide that you wanted to participate in the Jones Idea Challenge? 

  • I’ve always enjoyed being proactive and getting involved by keeping myself busy through side projects and competitions. Having competed in the Jones Idea Challenge last year, I knew that the experience was a great fit for what I was looking for, and I wanted to make the most out of my final year at SeattleU. 

Q2) In one to two sentences, tell us about your solution. 

  • As the Madrone School was looking to expand its operations in order to support more students, the corporate footprint in offices and leased space is being reimagined due to the pandemic. By building upon the preexisting mutually beneficial relationship that the Madrone School has with its local community members, there is the potential for the overlap in the community to incentivize collaboration through corporate sponsorship. 

Q3) Out of all the problems and companies, what drew you to The Madrone School? 

  • The Madrone School’s position as a Non-Profit that serves an unmet need in the community was something that caught my attention, especially given its proven work with their students and families. Being able to support that mission was appealing to me, and I knew it would have an impact beyond the current generation of students if we were successful. 

Q4) This year’s theme was “Innovation for Impact.” In what ways can innovation help solve corporate issues? 

  • I believe that being innovation oriented is beneficial for organizations to effectively reevaluate what they are trying to accomplish through their actions. Furthermore, I believe that in doing so, individuals can think beyond the scope of the challenges they face, setting themselves up for success. 

Q5) What were some of your biggest challenges in this program? How did you overcome them? 

  • One of the biggest challenges I faced was the time constraint of the competition. Coming in I was well aware that pursuing an idea on the scale of corporate sponsorship would be very difficult to accomplish given how slow-moving corporate decisions can be. Instead, I decided to set more realistic expectations for what I could accomplish over the course of a few weeks, and those smaller goals would support the process of working towards a larger one over the long term. 

Q6) What were the most rewarding aspects of the challenge? 

  • Being able to reflect on having achieved something, even if it was relatively small compared to the end goal, was rewarding for me. Furthermore, being able to recognize that this would change the lives of many people if successfully implemented drove my desire to succeed. 

Q7) How did you work with your team coach? 

  • My team coach (Tim Sipiora) was a valuable resource and I attribute a lot of my success to their support. Having someone to bounce ideas off was a great help during the planning process, and he was a great audience member during pitch practice. 

Team AR’s corporate reverse pitch can be viewed here.