Events & Media

Eco-E Project Advances to Regionals of Walmart Challenge
SunShares wins Bren Net Impact New Venture Competition, advances for a chance to win $20,000

January 31, 2013

Eco-Entrepreneurship project SunShares prevailed in the second annual Bren Net Impact New Venture Competition on Jan. 18 and will advance to a regional competition of the Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge, to be held Feb. 15 at the Bren School.

The competition brought together four Bren MESM student groups to present their Eco-E projects and field questions from professional entrepreneurs Gay Browne, Michael Crooke, and Jacqueline Burge. Audience members voted, selecting Sunshares over BabyLove, Smarty Pants, and E-Fishent Foods.

"We're excited to have been chosen; we went up against really good competition," said SunShares member Caroline Cochran. "We appreciate the Bren community's support and are excited about the opportunity to move forward and do our best to represent Bren well."

Cochran, along with fellow group members James Brady, Ryan Del Rosario, Linda Kwong and Ari Michelson, all second-year master's students, seek to match individual community investors with independent grocery stores to facilitate financing for solar installations. The business model is complex because it involves two customers — a grocery store that is interested in solar power and an investor—whereas traditional business models only address the needs of one customer.

"They've done a great job of making complicated financial structures easily understood by any audience," Eco-E Advisor Emily Cotter said. "Every time they have presented in the past six months or so, I've said to them, 'This is your best presentation yet.'"

Bren will host the regional competition in February, when seven teams, primarily from business schools in the southwestern U.S., will compete before a judging panel of four Walmart executives for the right to advance to the semifinal round at the Walmart Home Offices in Bentonville, Arkansas. The environmental background of SunShares will be an advantage, Cotter said.

"Because sustainability is the focus of this competition, they definitely have a leg up," Cotter said. "I think SunShares has a really strong chance of advancing."

This is the third year that Bren is sending a team to the regionals. Most recently, Forget Me Not Sourcing advanced to the semifinals after winning last year’s southwestern regional competition.