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New York , NY (Online)

July 28 - September 30, 2020

Social Impact Series


Emerging from the Pandemic: Recovery & Reinvention for Asian and Other Small Businesses


This challenge is also published at Ascend’s Convention Website


“Can we build transformative and sustainable business models for Asian and other small businesses to succeed in post-pandemic recovery?”

Small businesses have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. This competition will gather participants from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and challenge them to conceptualize innovative solutions to help these businesses bounce back.


For example, in 2020, up to 50% of Asian restaurants across the United States have permanently closed, compared to 30% of all restaurants. With some states reopening, many are only allowing up to 25% occupancy – not nearly enough to financially sustain these restaurants through the business recovery phase of reopening. Other Asian-owned retail and small businesses have had similar experiences. To responsively care for our communities, we need to create new models for these businesses.

We are looking for transformative solutions that introduce new business models. We ask that participants identify public and private interventions that will most effectively encourage the recovery and reinvention of these businesses by the end of 2021. We are also asking you to amplify the voices of small business leaders by diving deeply into their issues.


Research and design a new business model for a restaurant, retail or other small business. To enter the competition, at least one team member must be an Ascend member.


Submissions must include:
– 6-8 page business plan (omit appendix in total page count)
– 8-10 slide presentation

– 2 minute video pitch

Submissions are due by Sunday, August 23, 2020 at 11:59 PM ET for preliminary evaluation and will be showcased at the Semi-Final Round on August 26, 2020 during which four or five finalists will be selected. Finalists will receive further training and time to hone their business models and develop a prototype for demonstration.

Download Submission Guidelines PDF

Download Submissions Guidelines MS Word Document


Finalist teams will compete for the Grand Prize by presenting their demos at the Final Round on September 30, 2020. Teams are encouraged to consult their Ascend-paired mentor and Feed Your Hospital restaurant partners (or other small business contacts) along the way. Teams will also receive guidance through webinars and workshops offered in upcoming weeks.


Post-convention, Ascend plans to host a follow-on Hackathon focused on bringing prototypes from this Impact Challenge to life. Participants will be allowed to use open source as well as commercial tools, in addition to their own proprietary solutions, to develop creative and efficient technology to implement their business model ideas. Details on this event are forthcoming, however, teams are encouraged to involve UI/UX and coding/developer specialists in their teams from the beginning!



Application, Relevance, Potential for Impact
How realistic is the application of this solution? How relevant is the solution to current small businesses? How impactful could this solution be?

How original is this solution? Does it set itself apart from other solutions through innovative or non-traditional methods? Does it demonstrate outside-the-box thinking?

What is the potential for scalability? How costly would this solution be to bring to scale?

Multigenerational Inclusion
To what degree does the solution consider people of various generations as both business owners and customers? What degree of effort went into building a solution that could be used by, and benefit people of various generations?


Teams shall be composed of a minimum of two (2) and no more than five (5) members.
Team members may be from any industry or background, and can be located anywhere in North America. Team members must stay consistent throughout the Challenge – no alternates or substitutions are allowed.
Teams formed without an Ascend member can request to be paired with an interested Ascend student member.
Winning teams must have at least one Ascend member (student or professional). Membership can be addressed upon winning an award.



Grand Prize: $8000
Crowdsource Prize: $1000 WINNER: Team Anti-Social-Social Club
Multigenerational Inclusion Prize: $1000 WINNER: Team WIN / Sky Kitchen


Monday, July 13– Registration Opens
Thursday, July 30– Webinar 1: Info Session & Customer Discovery
Friday, August 7– Webinar 2: Small Business Pitfalls
Tuesday, August 18– Webinar 3: Pitch Workshop
Sunday, August 23– Initial Submissions Due by 11:59 PM EST
Wednesday, August 26– Semi-Final Round
Tuesday, September 1– Prototyping Webinar
Tuesday, September 30 – Final Round