One more example of the opportunities UNH students can be afforded came recently when two Paul College juniors traveled to China to participate in a youth forum on entrepreneurialism.
Kathryn Aiken and Molly Benz, both business administration majors at the Paul College of Business and Economics were among 50 Americans paired with 50 Chinese delegates for the inaugural U.S.-China Youth Forum on Entrepreneurship and Innovation held in Shenzhen, China, Dec. 5-8.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the All-Youth China Federation, the conference consisted of seminars, breakout groups and discussions on such topics as business trends, building partnerships and how to secure funding. Ian Grant, director of UNH’s Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter), suggested Aiken and Benz apply after learning about the forum through his ongoing relationship with Arizona State University, cosponsors of the event.
“International business is an inherent part of our future,” says Aiken, a Manchester resident. “My generation has grown up in an era where, through the internet, everything is global. So, it is our responsibility to be ready to take on a global perspective.”
A member of the student-run Rines Angel Fund, Aiken placed second in UNH’s Holloway Competition in her freshman year and won third place in the 2016 Social Venture Innovation Challenge for Project PLAY, a nonprofit she launched to make sports equipment available to underprivileged children.
“I do a lot of work in the New Hampshire entrepreneurial ecosystem and credit the ECenter and the Rines fund for helping me get involved,” Aiken says.
Benz, of Hollis, New Hampshire, is the founder of GnarWalz, a repurposed clothing company that has Benz customizing used items into unique wardrobe pieces.
“The most beneficial part of the conference was meeting all of the different people,” Benz says of the China forum. “I was able to share my story and my company with other innovators and get advice from them on what to do and how to grow my brand. Everyone was full of so much support, and it was inspiring to hear their stories of how they started from the ground up.”
Speakers at the forum included Airbnb co-founder Nate Blecharczyk and U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, as well as Chinese officials and other successful entrepreneurs who talked about growth, global partnerships and investment opportunities.
"By going to China, I am reminded of the expanse of potential to partner with other markets,” Aikens says. “In a global economy connected by technology, we are able to partner with the best talent regardless of their geographic location in the world. I think that provides huge potential for efficiency and quality of work in the future.”