Enter, Learn, Be Inspired...Words of Wisdom from a Challenge Prize Entrant

By McCalley Cunningham
Introduction by Shelly Brenckman, Marketing Coordinator and Startup Aggieland Co-founder

McCalley Cunningham, a 19-year-old freshman Animal Sciences major, is a standout student from our “Dormcubator” on campus and was accepted as a freshman to our student business accelerator, Startup Aggieland. Just one month into her first semester as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University, we needed a “pitch person” to fly for a week to Orlando and represent our student program in competition at the Collegiate  Entrepreneurs Organization. With 48 hours’ notice, we had to prepare McCalley to pitch against upperclassmen at various universities across the nation and get her to Florida. McCalley also entered the Food Challenge Prize. She competed on Valentine’s Day 2015 with much older competitors and held her own. Two months later, she earned a $5,000 investment – top prize in our pitch competition called Shark Frenzy – from Norton Rose Fulbright for her same concept, “Go Fresh!” “Mac” was awarded the “Rising Star” award in September 2015 by the Shop.org Conference. Mac has done all of this while also working for us since her second semester of freshman year as a Teaching Assistant with two courses and while managing her agricultural pursuits (one of these being a part of the 2014-2015 National Texas A&M Wool Judging Team).  We are very impressed by McCalley’s determination and proud of her strong work ethic.

The Food+City Challenge has been a major contribution to my success as an entrepreneur. I entered college with one goal -- to make a difference. I didn’t know how or when that was going to happen. One day, my adviser for Startup Aggieland, informed students in our Startup Living Learning Community about an upcoming competition called “The Food Lab Challenge.”  I decided to apply with my business idea, “Go Fresh!” Products.  Startup Aggieland is at Texas A&M University and is a student business accelerator.

Out of 120 entries in this Food Challenge inaugural national competition, I was chosen among the 20 finalists. After weeks of mentoring through the UT Food Lab, now called Food + City, I was able to interact with extraordinary entrepreneurs inspired to make innovations in the food industry. Everybody who participated in the Food Lab Challenge had a different idea, but was there for the same reason. I was inspired by each of the teams as well as the mentors.

Ever since then, I have been working on “Go Fresh!” as a student client company of Startup Aggieland, realizing that I can make an impact in people’s lives as a young entrepreneur.  Our world is expected to have nine billion people by the year 2050. That’s a lot of people to feed!!  Instead of producing more food, “Go Fresh!” wants to help people waste less beginning with a focus on produce.  I am working towards helping consumers and restaurant owners with the challenge of keeping their fruits and vegetables fresher, longer.

I could not have made it this far without the Food Lab Challenge Prize and the encouragement of Food+City Publisher and Editor, Dr. Robyn Metcalfe.  The competition prepared me for the development of my business. I discovered my target customer, how I would sell my product and how I would reach my customer. This event opened so many doors and helped me grow as a person. Thank you, Food+City Challenge Prize for helping me realize how to make a positive influence in the world!