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Four Teams of IE Students Win First Utopica Challenge

Teams of IE Students Win First Utopica Challenge | IE Business School

The winning students will travel to Colombia in May as part of the project that helps improve the lives of the women who grow coffee beans in Cauca.

IE Business School, El Corte Ingles’ experience travel agency Utópica and Supracafé selected the winners of the first Utópica Challenge: 2020 Café del Cauca after IE students presented innovative projects to improve the standard of living for the local community in the Colombian region where premium ecological coffee company Supracafé operates.

Teams of IE Students Win First Utopica Challenge | IE Business School

The four teams—composed of 18 students in total– stood out from the 19 teams that competed in the challenge (88 students) thanks to their creative business and marketing plans that optimize income for the women who grow the ecological coffee beans in Cauca, Colombia, the Association of Women Caficultoras of Cauca (AMUCC).

“It is very satisfying to see the high level of commitment with reality and the needs of the women in Cauca that the challenge stirred among the Business School’s students,” said IE Business School Professor Maria Lopez-Escorial, who will guide the students as they further develop their plans in Madrid and later in Colombia.

The winning teams, which are evenly divided between the International MBA and Master in Management programs, presented solutions that satisfied the challenges core requirements and were deemed outstanding by the five-member jury, formed by representatives of IE, Utópica and Supracafé.

“This has been an incredible and unique opportunity to work in the Utópica Challenge. I learned so much about the coffee industry, especially about the bottom of the pyramid,” explained IMBA student Tim Ridley of Los Cafeteros team. “The obstacles the AMUCC women face forced our team to think creatively about innovative and sustainable measures.”

The winning projects were:

  • Experiencia Tinto: for its impeccable research, holistic proposal and excellent development of the byproducts of coffee to generate additional revenue for the women.
  • Colombia Dreamers: for its creative and concrete marketing and communication plan designed to sell the differentiating value of the AMUCC women’s coffee.
  • Cauca 360: for its totally disruptive proposal of a product completely distinct from coffee with a high potential for development and the generation of income for the women, being included as partners.
  • Los Cafeteros: for its proposal based on experiencial tourism, as well as its model to improve AMUCC coffee sales.

Due to the impressive array of proposals, organizers decided to expand the winners from 15 to 18 students, so that all winners could travel to Colombia May 23rd to co-create their projects with the women in Cauca.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the level of depth of the proposals,” said Utópica General Manager Javier Urrutia. “I’m only sorry we can’t continue to work with some of them.

Teams of IE Students Win First Utopica Challenge | IE Business School

The real protagonists in the first year of the Utópica Challenge are indigenous women in the Cauca region of Colombia, the majority of whom are widows from the armed conflict in the area. They produce coffee in a purely artisanal way on small farms, with the sole intention of maintaining their families.

López-Escorial explained only 4% of the average $2.50 cup of coffee goes to the women working the coffee bean and that there are ways to increase their revenue and at the same time work towards sustainability and zero waste.

“Only 5% of the coffee biomass is actually used to make coffee. This leaves plenty of options for creating other business models that use the left over material to generate income for the women,” López-Escorial said.

The winning students applauded the Utópica Challenge as a unique experience that satisfies the need for the corporate world to innovate solutions for local communities.

“We can have an impact that is going to change the standard of living of the AMUCC women in the long term.”

Teams of IE Students Win First Utopica Challenge | IE Business School

“We can have an impact that is going to change the standard of living of the AMUCC women in the long term,” said IMBA student Sydnealine Strasser. “Normally, one doesn’t have the possibility to help a society like the one in the Cauca region and that also changes as we think about our coffee consumption, sustainability and the environment.”

The Utópica Challenge Project has been created by Utópica Travel in partnership with IE Business School and Supracafe, with the support of Iberia, El Corte Ingles, ICEX and Procolombia and Seguros El Corte Inglús.