Blog: SU Students Tackle the Problem of Food Waste at the SJIM-Albers Business Plan Competition

SU Students Tackle the Problem of Food Waste at the SJIM-Albers Business Plan Competition

Maria Blocker founder of the app Prod-Use proposes an innovative solution to the problem of food waste
February 25, 2020

On Friday, February 21, students from the three Finalist Teams in the Albers-SJIM Virtual Business Plan Competition gathered at 9pm on campus to watch a live feed of the Competition Finals.

Now in its third year, the SJIM International Virtual Business Plan Competition gives Seattle University students the opportunity to collaborate with students from St. Joseph's Institute of Management (SJIM) in Bangalore, India, to create a business solution for a pressing social problem. Teams made of mixed students from SJIM and Albers School of Business and Economics tackled the problem of food waste.

While the Albers students watched via skype call on Friday, their teammates pitched their business plans to a panel of judges in India - where it was 10:30am on Saturday. After the pitches, the Judge posed questions to each of the teams, who then quickly connected via WhatsApp for ten minutes to formulate an answer. After responding to the question the winner was announced.

Congratulations to Maria Blocker and her team for taking home the grand prize this year! Maria is a PMBA student at the Albers School of Business and Economics.

Maria and her team’s business idea is an app called Prod-Use. Prod-Use helps consumers reduce food waste by allowing them to catalog and track the food they have bought. The app then sends notifications of food that is about to expire and suggests recipes based upon what users already have in their fridge and pantry.

Here is a bit more about Prod-Use and the international experience in Maria’s own words:

What made you decide that you wanted to participate in the SJIM-Albers Business Plan Competition?

The SJIM-Albers Business Plan Competition was my first business plan competition! I wanted to enter for new experiences and challenges.

Tell us about your business.

Our business centers on an app that helps consumers reduce food waste by cataloging and tracking the users' purchased food. We also wanted to have a feature that would send users recipes based upon the food they have. Eventually, we also saw the potential for our company to partner with grocery stores. Groceries stores could promote items they have on sale to our users. Our mission is to empower the everyday consumer to be a better global citizen by reducing their food waste. Our app will help consumers shop smarter and be aware of their food consumption habits. We envision every Prod-Use user will not only change how they shop but will become a more conscious consumer.

What were some of your biggest challenges in this competition? How did you overcome them?

The biggest challenges were coming up with a product or service to solve the food waste problem but, at the same time, be financially stable. The time zone differences were also difficult. I have never collaborated with an international team before, so this was a new challenge for me. To overcome these challenges, we constantly had to communicate our ideas and be open to receiving feedback.

What were the most rewarding aspects of the competition?

I enjoyed working with other students to come up with a solution that was not only going to help people but a solution we were all passionate about. Once we nailed the app idea, the other parts of the business started to flow together because we genuinely all were excited and invested in our solution.

What advice would you give to a student who wants to enter the SJIM-Albers Business Plan Competition in the future?

I would say get creative, communicate with your team (I cannot stress with enough), and seize the opportunity to collaborate.

Learn more about the 2019 winners and the Albers-SJIM Virtual Competition in general by visiting Albers Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center website.