UNC Social Entreprenuership Competition
Students Selected to Represent UNC-Chapel Hill in State-Wide Social Entrepreneurship Competition
UNC-Chapel Hill has just selected two social ventures led by undergraduate students to represent the university at a state-wide social entrepreneurship competition organized by the UNC General Administration.
Held for the first time in 2012, this statewide conference drew 31 student teams from 17 campuses across the UNC system. The social innovation teams had identified community problems and pitched a business-oriented approach to solving them. Last year, over 500 people from across the state gathered at the conference, which was keynoted by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mohammad Yunus. UNC teams MedScheme and Sanitation Creations made it to the final rounds of the competition.
Organizers of the 2013 conference, to be held February 28 at NC A&T University in Greensboro, are expecting hundreds to attend to hear social enterprise proposals from student teams across the state. An anticipated draw this year will be the talk by conference keynote speaker Tom Szaky, one of the world’s foremost leaders in eco-capitalism and named one of the top 30 social entrepreneurs by Forbes Magazine.
This year, to select the two finalist teams who will represent UNC-Chapel Hill in the state-wide competition, the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship partnered with the Campus Y and UNC Social Innovation Initiative to organize a weekend bootcamp for undergraduate students who wished to propose an innovative solution to a community need in North Carolina.
During the bootcamp, pre-selected participants went through intense hands-on work to develop their venture and put their models for social change through rigorous scrutiny, receiving expert feedback from coaches and judges along the way.
The two-day workshop kicked off with each of the ventures pitching to a panel of judges who evaluated strong points and areas for improvement and provided initial feedback. The next day, teams participated in exercises to test assumptions, and were introduced to a recent case study of an intervention aimed to combat childhood hunger in Orange County. Michelle Bolas, the Program Manager in the Chancellor’s Office for Innovation and Entrepreneurship who led the workshop, helped participants think through their assumptions, articulate their value propositions, and determine how they could go about measuring their impact and developing program interventions from what they learn along the way. Participants then had a chance to dig deeper and apply these lessons to their own ventures through a series of helpful exercises.
Social entrepreneurship teams were encouraged to come to the bootcamp with an open-mind and be ready to put their models under scrutiny. MBA Students were paired up with each team, serving as coaches throughout the duration of the bootcamp, offering guidance and business planning support to the teams as they worked to refine their models of social change.
After incorporating feedback from judges and coaches, the teams presented their refined business models during the final round of pitches. Pamela Santos, Managing Director of Consulting Services at the Kenan Institute, was one of judges for the event. As she listened to each of the final presentations, Santos conveyed that she found the improvements in the teams over the course of 24 hours impressive. After the bootcamp, each of the teams submitted business plans to the judges who then reviewed the submissions and selected the two finalists to represent UNC-Chapel Hill at the conference on Feb. 28. The two finalists are Healthy Girls Save the World and Seal the Seasons Produce.
Led by a team of undergraduate students and recent alumni, Healthy Girls Save the World is providing preventive health education for girls in North Carolina to address child obesity and related chronic diseases. The state of North Carolina is faced with a childhood obesity epidemic, more alarming than the national average, and this team of undergraduate students at UNC has developed programming to help girls establish healthy habits at a young age and lower their risk for becoming overweight.
Led by Patrick Mateer, an undergraduate student who later joined forces with an interdisciplinary team made up of graduate students and staff, Seal the Seasons Produce proposes to solve the environmental issue of food waste while increasing food access for lower income individuals. Over the summer Patrick led a food habits survey of lower income individuals in Chapel Hill and found that over 80% of individuals said a barrier to eating healthier was transportation and money. Seal the Seasons Produce aims to close both of these barriers.
Patrick expressed that the bootcamp offered him an opportunity to receive very helpful feedback from coaches and judges who had business expertise. “The MBA coaches were extremely helpful for turning feedback into realized changes for my venture.”
The panel of judges:
- - Alec Guettel, Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the CUBE, UNC’s Social Innovation Hub at the Campus Y
- - Judith Cone, Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- - Michelle Bolas, Program Manager, Chancellor’s Office for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- - Carol Hee, Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Kenan-Flagler Business School
- - Dr. James Johnson Jr., Director, Urban Investment Strategies Center, Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship
- - Pamela Santos, Managing Director, Consulting Services at the Kenan Institute
- - Richard Harrill, Director of the Campus Y
- - Charles Merritt, Professor of the Practice and Richards Donohoe Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Department of Economics
Both Healthy Girls Save the World and Seal the Seasons Produce will now go on to compete with other student teams from across the state. Winners will receive seed capital along with state-wide exposure, access to press, expert feedback, and valuable networks.
A team of interdisciplinary graduate students were also selected to compete in the graduate track of the state-wide social entrepreneurship competition. The team, made up of two MBA students, a computer science PhD Student, and a master’s student in City and Regional Planning, will work with a selected local non-profit organization called Teaming for Technology, which aims to bridge the digital divide by refurbishing computers for non-profits and schools in the area.
The team of graduate students will work over the next few months to support the non-profit with needs it has identified and help create a new revenue-generating product or service that supports the nonprofit’s core mission.
Story by Mathilde Verdier, UNC Social Innovation Program Manager