They’re not always talked about, but competitions are a fantastic way to increase your employability and build your network. There are new ones running every year for different organisations and they allow students and graduates alike to work of their skills, win some awesome prizes, and make a name for themselves in the process!
Recently, a couple of UTS teams took part in the Million $ Challenge - a 10 week competition, where teams are tasked with creating a start-up business with the goal of raising money for the Big Brothers Big Sisters charity. And through a lot of hard work and dedication, one of our teams won! They were going up against a number of corporate and graduate teams, but through a tonne of perseverance and teamwork, they managed to win the coveted Million $ Challenge trophy!
We had a chat with Stephanie Rago, Jody Wang, and Divesh Bidhuri, who were on the winning team who created ‘Treat yo’self’, about the challenges and the triumphs they faced throughout the competition process.
Hey guys! So to start with, what are you all studying at UTS?
Stephanie: I am studying a combined degree – a Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Social and Political Science) and a Bachelor of International Studies (Spanish/Latin America).
Jody: I’m studying a Bachelor of Business, Majoring in Marketing.
Divesh: A Master of Professional Accounting.
That’s a pretty diverse range of study – how did your team come together?
Divesh: We actually didn’t choose our team, we were put together by UTS:Careers. But I will say it was one of my best teamwork experiences.
Stephanie: Yes, UTS:Careers selected and sorted us into teams – we met on the first day of the challenge!
Jody: It was random! Success includes a little bit of luck too, so it seems.
The Million $ Challenge requires you to create a start-up business. What was your idea?
Divesh: We had a few ideas to start with: an obstacle course, a pamper day at university (hair, nail services, etc.), a charity concert, a market stall, and adopting a plant.
Stephanie: We decided to hold events for young people to have fun, treat themselves and give back to the community. Taking into consideration our capabilities and time constraints, we successfully ran two market stalls at Glebe markets, and a Charity Gig at the Valve Bar across from UTS.
Jody: Yeah, we felt creating a start-up in 8 weeks was a bit of a stretch – so we ended up doing a series of fundraising activities like a funky jazz charity gig, and holding pre-loved market stalls.
That sounds like a lot of work! What were some of the main challenges you came across?
Jody: Being so excited about plans, only for them to fall through was difficult. Don’t expect things to go perfectly your way! Be agile and resilient.
Stephanie: Another big challenge was finding time when we were all free to meet up and get things moving. Being students, we are all balancing 101 things across life, work, and study. Throughout the Challenge though, we made sure to persevere and keep motivated, and to be considerate of others. There was a lot of compromising, but we eventually made it through successfully.
Well you guys managed to get through it all and win in the end – congrats! What were some of your favourite memories from working as part of the Million $ Challenge?
Jody: Those few ‘yes’s that made the struggles and uncompromising optimism worth it! It only takes one person to believe in the purpose and vision to get it kickstarted.
Divesh: There were so many great memories. I quite enjoyed hosting the market stalls. It was a new experience for me, and way out of my comfort zone. Lucky for me, we had Stephanie – ‘The Market Stall Veteran’.
Stephanie: I think the memory that stands out the most, is of the Charity Gig. Not only did we manage to get 3 awesome bands there to play for us (for free) but we also had a massive crowd there supporting us, the bands, and most importantly, Big Brothers Big Sisters. It was such an awesome night, and it really showed that all of our efforts and stress were appreciated, and worth it!
What’s the most valuable thing you learnt from taking part in the Challenge?
Divesh: Being persistent. Our journey throughout the 10 weeks was a rollercoaster, with so many ups and downs, but we stuck in there. We would lift each other’s spirits when someone felt down. In the end, it all paid off.
Jody: Persist. Acknowledge the reality of the situation, but let the optimism keep pushing you through.
Stephanie: The most valuable thing I learnt from the Million $ Challenge was that no matter how hard things get, if you stick to your guns and your motivations, everything will work out. Perseverance is an essential tool for any type of challenge. It is super important for an outcome that is not only seen as successful, but one that you’re happy with and proud of.
Alright guys, so finally – what’s your one piece of advice to your fellow students?
Jody: Be curious. Enter everything you do with curiosity. You can’t be passionate about everything, so be curious and open to learning instead. It creates a better connection with other people, but also opens so many doors.
Stephanie: My number one piece of advice for UTS students would be to take advantage of all the opportunities that UTS offers. Try and challenge yourself, put yourself outside of your comfort zone, and get involved. You’ll be amazed at just how much you grow as a person, learn about others and the world, and develop your skills and abilities.
If you’re interested in giving the Million $ Challenge a shot, applications are open now! This is a fantastic opportunity to enhance your soft skills, and build your professional profile, all for a great cause. Applications close July 23rd, so apply today!
(This interview has been edited for clarity and consistency).