Since 2010, Laureate Education organizes the annual James McGuire Business Plan Competition to support Laureate students and graduates who are pursuing entrepreneurial ventures. In 2018, 14 graduate teams and 16 undergraduate teams from across the Laureate network submitted applications to a global selection committee for rigorous review and assessment. The top two teams in each category then pitched their ventures to a group of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, including Mr. James McGuire, a former member of Laureate’s Board of Directors, education innovator, and entrepreneur.
The 2018 winning teams come from Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), Peru, and Pearl Academy, India, in the undergraduate and graduate categories, respectively.
Undergraduate Category Winner - Kambista
In many countries with a dollarized economy, people or small businesses that want to exchange currency have only two options to do so: using financial institutions at expensive rates or using independent currency exchangers on the street, which can be very dangerous. Daniel Bonifaz, an undergraduate student at UPC pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the Communications and Corporate Image program, and his business partner, Paulo Valdiviezo, saw this as a business opportunity. In 2016, they founded Kambista, the first currency exchange system in Peru that allows users to exchange money online in a secure way and at a fair rate.
Through the Kambista app or online platform, users can easily exchange US dollars into Peruvian Soles, or vice versa, from the comfort and safety of their own home. With close to 20,000 users already exchanging nearly USD $80,000,000 in Peru alone, the team has lofty goals to continue to scale their product to other countries in Latin America and around the world. “Our vision is to see Kambista recognized as a leading, global financial technology company,” Paulo explains. “We want become a unicorn – a start-up company valued at over $1B!”
While the co-founders have built a strong team with a wealth of experience, their education has been a key element to their success. “My education in communications has been key to helping me understand the pain-points and needs of our customers,” says Daniel. “It has been very important to connect with our clients and build trust. At Kambista, our most valuable asset is the trust that our clients have in us.”
Graduate Category Winner – Paiwand
After graduating with a degree in commerce, Ashita Singal decided to pursue a career in the fashion industry and eventually decided to do a postgraduate degree in fashion design from Pearl Academy in New Delhi, India. During her experience at Pearl, along with her internship at a leading design house in India, she started noticing the great amount of textile waste coming from design houses, as well as the exploitation of the workers in the industry.
Wanting to make a difference, she began envisioning a company that could turn all that textile waste into a usable product; specifically, into fabric and garments, reducing waste and positively impacting her community. In March 2018, Paiwand was born. Today, Paiwand is a fashion company that upcycles textile waste and turns it into fabrics and clothing. It buys textile waste from designers, fashion brands, and artisans. The waste is then cleaned and treated, cut into strips, and hand-woven carefully by weavers in India.
In starting Paiwand, Ashita not only had the desire to turn waste into new product, but her vision included a company that was also focused on community impact by paying higher wages and training its workers to create a high-quality product, all while pushing a gender equality agenda.
“Paiwand has all three ingredients for success: the concern, the concept, and the business plan,” said Wajahat Rather, faculty member at Pearl Academy and Ashita’s mentor.
While Ashita and her team have accomplished a lot, she is grateful to receive the McGuire award and recognition. “This award is recognition of the efforts that I have put into this project and a confirmation that I am working in the right direction,” she said. “Professionally, it means I can connect with more people, touch more lives and create positive change in the society on a bigger scale. From the time I entered Pearl I wanted to work on a social cause. I received offers to work with several companies and design houses, but somewhere I always envisioned myself as a social entrepreneur who would like to take an initiative to work for the betterment of society through a business venture.”