Social Innovation team profile

Group photo of team Enlighteners

Team Enlighteners story

When Elysia Oh, Megan Luu, Xiao Qi Lee and Maheswari Bajji created Enlighteners for Intuit’s inaugural Social Innovation Challenge, they were tasked with finding a way to support minority entrepreneurs and small business owners. Upon discovering that only 23.8% of women entrepreneurs receive funding compared to 33.9% of men , they took it upon themselves to change things. 

“After researching the problems causing the disparity in funding, my team and I chose to improve the number of women in business by creating a place where women can come together to learn about business basics, secure funding, and meet potential teammates,” Maheswari said. Interviewing aspiring female entrepreneurs and harnessing customer-driven innovation, a concept they learned during the challenge, the team came up with their durable competitive advantage: they would offer both the educational and social aspects of business to an often overlooked audience – women entrepreneurs. As a result Enlighten was born.

The team wanted to create a platform that created value for both novice and established entrepreneurs. The website comprises three parts: an entrepreneurship education section, a membership page to meet other teammates, and a forum to connect and ask for or give funding. To measure the efficacy of their online business course, users took a pre-test, averaging a score of 63%. After taking the course, learners’ scores improved substantially, reaching an average score of 93% –a 47% increase.

Group photo of team Enlighteners in a library

“My team was always very disciplined and open to feedback, said Juan Alzate, Intuit Senior Product Designer and volunteer mentor for the team. “I think that was the key to their success. — Week after week they amazed us with their website, learning plans, research results and so much more.” 

The hard work and integration of Intuit’s design ethos eventually won the Enlighteners a first-place prize: each student received $5,000 and an iPad Pro. However, that isn’t all they took home.

Students in a classroom in front of computers

Maheswari said she learned how a business is created from scratch, as well as how to adapt in the face of obstacles. Using customer empathy and other Intuit Design for Delight techniques, she learned to better meet the needs of customers and acquired skills that will be applicable in any setting. “With guidance from my mentors, and inworking with my teammates and pitching the website to interested users, I gained insight into working in a real-world setting, she said.”

In Fall of 2022, Maheswari will head to UCLA to study Computer Science and Engineering. She has aspirations of becoming the CEO of a tech company, improving the lives of others through innovation, just as she and her team have already done with the Enlighten website. One thing’s for sure: the Social Innovation Challenge has given her a head start.