Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards Spotlight

Insights from Roxana's experience judging the 2023 Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA) in Cape Town, South Africa.

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This spring, Digital Additive’s President, Roxana Shershin, had the privilege to serve as a judge and mentor at the 2023 Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA) held in Cape Town, South Africa. The event serves as an international platform to showcase the best student entrepreneurs from every corner of the world and offers them the mentorship and support to help them grow.

We had the opportunity to chat with Roxana about her time at the event, revealing her insights into the future of entrepreneurship and the lessons she learned from her experience.

Could you tell us about your role at the Entrepreneurship Organization and how you ended up on the GSEA panel?

“I joined the Atlanta chapter of the Entrepreneurship Organization at a time where the possibilities for Digital Additive had reached a plateau in my mind. I joined EO to help open up the aperture by which I could see what DA could be. I was approached to join the board in 2019, specifically around the GSEA program.

Education is in my DNA; my parents are both university professors, my sister is a teacher, and I love teaching and facilitating. To me, helping people learn brings me the greatest joy, so this was a position I could really be excited about.

The GSEA program is not about a business pitch. While you do need to have a business, the business portion only accounts for thirty percent of the judging criteria. Seventy percent is about the students as entrepreneurs themselves. Whether it’s a big business idea or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s about what drives the entrepreneur to bring forth their contribution to society.”

What is the age range of the participants that you judged?

“By definition, you have to be under 30 to compete. You must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in college, and you cannot have taken more than one year of break in between your studies. For the most part, participants run anywhere between 19 and 25 – typically Juniors or Seniors in college and a few participants in grad school.”

How would you describe this year’s batch of young entrepreneurs? Were there any common traits that stood out to you, or anything that you were looking for in the winning entrepreneur?

“After meeting all these student entrepreneurs, there is no one defining trait. There is no single commonality. If there is a commonality, it’s having the fire in your belly of believing in yourself. Your ‘why’ is what really helps the student entrepreneurs stand out. My group judged nine semifinalists. We had a doctor, a scientist, a kid who grew up in an under-resourced area of Indonesian, and a girl from the farms of Columbia. Different people with different stories and backgrounds, but they all had this fire. They’re driven to bring their ideas to life.”

As a mentor, part of your role was to share your insight with the participants. Was there anything that you ended up learning from them, or any lessons that they taught you?

“A lesson that I am reminded of every time is this idea of failing forward… Folks talk about it, and, you know, failure is really hard for me personally. The most successful folks are the ones who have embraced their past failures. They look at their failures almost like they had to fail. Some of them will say ‘I had to have gone through this to be here.’”

Given your perspective as a judge and entrepreneur yourself, how do you anticipate entrepreneurship evolving based on what you saw at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

“The trend that I have seen most is really just a perspective of looking at building businesses to better society. There are a lot of social impact components: seeking out opportunities to uphold betterment and giving voices to those who may not have voices. That’s something we’re starting to see more and more of. A lot of entrepreneurs are looking to create those opportunities.”

Do you have any advice for young people considering entrepreneurship or future GSEA competitions?

“If I were to offer advice, it would be around helping them find advisors and support systems that complement them as an entrepreneurs — people with different strengths. Counting on advisors and senior leadership teams that bring to bear different perspectives and different strengths really catapults businesses and opportunities.”

At Digital Additive, we’re proud of our leadership and their steps to encourage people — both within the office and across the world — in their career trajectory. Want to know more about Digital Additive and our culture of growth and support? Find out more now.

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