Intuit Helps Aspiring Young Entrepreneurs Make an Impact through Social Innovation

Happy college students and their teacher using computer in classroom

Intuit led its second Social Innovation Challenge in the fall of 2022, from October 3 - November 15. More than 2,000 students participated, inspired by the prompt, “How might we help underrepresented aspiring entrepreneurs access resources to help them start their business?”

The charter is a particularly critical one, as emerging leaders in underrepresented groups face unique obstacles on their path to success. For example, raising funds to start a business is particularly challenging: only 2.3% of all venture capital dollars were received by all-woman companies in 2020, and just 1.2% of the $147 billion raised for startups in the first half of 2021 went to Black founders. What’s more, 90% of Latinx entrepreneurs struggle to access the funds and support they need to launch and grow their businesses.

Intuit's Corporate Responsibility team created the Social Innovation Challenge initiative to help aspiring entrepreneurs in these underrepresented groups build the confidence to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact in the communities we serve. The Challenges engage students from nonprofit partners and school districts to leverage design thinking to develop innovative solutions that help increase access to entrepreneurship and small business ownership for underrepresented groups.

“We wanted to create a program that would not only teach important life and business lessons but allow students to immediately apply the concepts,” said Nico Valencia, Social Innovation Challenge leader at Intuit. “Participating in the challenge prepares students for the workforce and by helping them develop durable skills for critical thinking and creative problem-solving, and the resources and support they need to succeed in the business world.”

“I’m interested in pursuing a career in business, and I feel I acquired many skills that will form a foundation for that journey.”

JiaLi Dong, Edward Murrow High School, Brooklyn, NY

A Unique Opportunity for Emerging Entrepreneurs

The challenge was designed with students’ needs in mind. As they collaborate on new ideas to benefit the community, teams learn real-world skills used by innovative founders and companies. They add new skills to their resume and college applications, while creating solutions to problems that matter to them. Additionally, they have the opportunity to test their ideas and skills as they compete with like-minded individuals from across the country.

“When students participate in the Social Innovation Challenge, they’re taken seriously, and they like that they’re getting real-world experience,” said Pat Hambright, an instructor at AACT’s Business Academy in Washoe, NV. “They also liked that they were competing with people not only at their peer level, but above it. These are juniors and seniors who are seriously thinking about their next steps. The Challenge takes them out of the classroom and into the world

Intuit’s 6-week innovation challenge experience was open to high school students across the country. Student teams from high schools and educational organizations across the U.S. and Canada build innovative solutions to societal challenges using Design for Delight, Intuit’s design thinking methodology and curricula. 

“The creative process for coming up with our idea helped us cultivate analytical thinking, which is something we can use in any aspect of life.”

Nikki Shaw, Herrick’s High School, Long Island, NY

What’s Design for Delight? It’s a series of three principles that represent how innovation happens at Intuit:

  • Deep Customer Empathy fosters shared understanding, insights and motivation to improve the lives of our customers. We gain empathy by observing people where and when they are experiencing pains or problems.
  • Going Broad to Go Narrow means we focus our energy on what is most important, going “broad” by using our creativity to explore a variety of potential solutions, and going“narrow” by focusing on bold solutions most likely to delight our customers.
  • Rapid Experiments with Customers help us to quickly learn what works and what does not, saving valuable time and resources when making our next decision.

While students weren’t required to complete the Design for Delight course, most did, and learned useful tactics and approaches! Many also learned a lot by watching our customer empathy videos.

“The course gave us a structure for creating a solution and opened our eyes to a new way to approach solving a problem. For example, empathizing with the customer is so important, because it enables you to identify their needs and wants, and it’s the first step in creating a solution that the customer is looking for.”

Sophia Xia, Jerricho High School, Long Island, NY

Winners Gained More than Scholarship Funds

The competition encompassed two rounds: Regional and Final. While hundreds of teams competed in the Regional Round, only 30 teams progressed to the Final Round. These teams were able to partner with mentors from Intuit’s design team who helped guide the students as they took their projects to the finish line. The first, second and third place winners received funds for higher education scholarships.

And while the potential to win generous scholarships provided incentive, students gained far more than monetary prizes. Here’s what some participants had to say:

“The biggest skill we developed is communication. Spending so much time together, there will inevitably be conflicts, and I feel that’s the most valuable thing about the challenge. I also enjoyed getting to know everyone and building our own personal relationships.”

Ana Cruz, AACT, Reno, NV

“Working with a mentor from Intuit who is so experienced is such a unique opportunity,” Kristy said. “And being able to see the impact our project may have on underrepresented communities is such an amazing thing to see.”

Kristy Garcia, Sayreville War Memorial High, Parlin, New Jersey