Making her Historically Black College proud, Spelman senior Inglish Hills has won the grand prize at BearWay Capital’s HBCU (Historically Black College and University) New Venture Challenge for her recycling system startup Save Cycle.

Created by five graduates from Morgan State University, the challenge launched on Aug. 1 to address the inequities in funding between HBCUs and Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), AfroNews reports. The top 21 HBCUs around the nation were given a platform to share their business concepts covering 11 industrial sectors along with four rounds to make their case for the grand prize of $25,000.

Hills was one of three finalists competing until the announcement of the winner on Nov. 20.

Save Cycle

According to AfroNews, the inception of Hills’ startup began in 2019 when her group of friends was struggling to find recycling bins to properly dispose of their waste. During their quest, Hills noticed a homeless man collecting recyclable items to obtain cash. The Spelman senior realized acquiring money by recycling items should be more accessible.

“It hit me, why aren’t people recycling, and I realized as I had the recyclables in my hand and trash in the other, it’s not convenient,” said Hills, according to AfroNews. “It’s easy for me to throw it all away in the trash can, but I can make money the same way this man is making money.” 

Now Inglish Hills has created a business that offers waste management at a lower price in the commercial market and businesses can have their recyclable items picked up at a lower rate. Her model also encourages businesses to utilize the Save Cycle app where they can schedule their recyclable items to be picked up or they can rent dumpsters. Users can also use the application to search for deposit boxes to scrap their recyclables. When users scan the QR code on the deposit box, they can be awarded cash instantly.

Hills Takes Home Grand Prize

It’s to no surprise, Hills was a standout and took home the grand prize for her 30-minute presentation. 

“This was my first time pitching ever. I’ve never done a pitch competition before, but this idea of Save Cycle was a very raw idea before I started,” said Hills, according to AfroNews. “Three months later, to have a whole business plan and business model, it’s amazing to see how the idea has just grown over this short span of time.” 

Imposter syndrome almost stifled her chances in the competition. However, Hills would receive backing through mentors provided by BearWay Capital and from students at Spelman College’s Innovation Lab, affirming the senior belonged in the competition.

“When I graduated high school, I did not start college right away because I never thought I was smart enough to go to college,” said Hills, according to AfroNews. “Now, here I am at the number one HBCU with pre-seed funding to start my business [and I’m] on my way to law school. This competition has really just solidified my collegiate journey.” 

Inglish Hills plans to use the $25,0000 seed funding to obtain a patent and pilot Save Cycle in Atlanta.