Our student innovators and entrepreneurs are shaking up the world ...

The Innovate Carolina Dreamers-Who-Do Award is meant to expand the minds and real-world experiences of our student entrepreneurs. With the plethora of opportunities students are exposed to through the award, they are creating waves of positive change within their communities. Positive change: the movement that inspires you and your neighbor to do great, feel great and be great.

If you’re a UNC-Chapel Hill student with an innovative idea and you are looking for a chance to put it into action, Innovate Carolina invites you to apply for the award. It’s an opportunity to receive funding to pursue your idea as part of a project that helps to solve a problem or enhance innovation and entrepreneurship on campus, in a local community or on a global scale. Funding can be used for proof-of-concept work to develop ideas, engage in customer discovery, or research the market or potential strategic partners. Funding cannot be used for product or technology development or to fund an existing venture.

Johnathan Robertson has been the donor and driving force responsible for launching the Dreamers-Who-Do award program. Future projects will be made possible through the generous financial support of donors like Robertson.


● Applications for fall 2020 open Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Applications for fall 2020 close Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Please check back in the future for other dates related to the award.

For more information, please visit 1789 for office hours with Kimi Yingling on Wednesdays from 2 to 5. p.m.


Due to the high volume of interest, we will no longer accept applications on a rolling basis.  Applications for summer funding requests will open in April 2020. We will follow all University policies regarding travel and large gatherings due to COVID-19 when considering your award. Please be aware of the most recent campus updates regarding the Coronavirus before submitting your request for funding.

Send any questions or comments to Sheryl Waddell at sheryl.waddell@unc.edu.


For our innovative dreamers, every dollar goes a long way toward creating entrepreneurial learning experiences that allow them to make a human, social and economic impact. Find out how you can make a gift to support student innovators and entrepreneurs as they turn their ideas into realities.

What you need to know

Sometimes the only thing standing between an aspiration and an actual solution is the right opportunity. Many solutions to economic and social challenges are sparked by an opportunity to learn from an expert, a chance to venture to a new place or an ability to access resources that previously seemed unattainable. If you’re a UNC-Chapel Hill student with an innovative idea and you are looking for a chance to put it into action, Innovate Carolina invites you to apply for the Dreamers-Who-Do Award.

Dreamers-Who-Do awards provide financial support for student projects, programs and guest speakers that help Carolina students learn what it means to be innovators and entrepreneurs and gives them opportunities to put those insights into practice. These activities may involve programs or events based on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus as well as initiatives that involve travel to competitions, conferences and events that help students develop an innovative mindset and skillset. Dreamers Who Do sponsorship does include expectations on the recipients’ end. If you are awarded money, you may be asked to include the Innovate Carolina logo at your event, share what you learned at your conference or attend an event the donor who makes Dreamers Who Do possible. Expectations will be made when your application is processed. Do not accept funding if you cannot complete the expectations included in your award letter.

The Dreamers-Who-Do Award helps students at UNC-Chapel Hill develop entrepreneurial skills and explore innovative interests. Whether your goal is to start a business, create an invention, develop your own change-making club or find new ways to share art, music and culture, the award can help support you on this journey. We are looking for students and student organizations who have a passion for an idea that helps solve a problem or enhances innovation on campus, in a local community or on a global scale. Average awards range from $100 to $1,000 and frequently cover things such as travel, hotel accommodations, conference registration fees, speaker fees and meeting or event costs for innovative or entrepreneurial student organizations. Funding can also be used for proof-of-concept work to develop ideas, engage in customer discovery, or research the market or potential strategic partners. Funding cannot be used for product or technology development or to fund an existing venture.

Complete the Dreamers-Who-Do application as soon as you are aware of your need for funding, but no sooner than four months prior to the opportunity. If you are planning a major event and seeking funding more than four months ahead of time, please email Kimi.Yingling@unc.edu.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis but will be processed one semester at a time (do not submit a request for spring semester funding during the fall semester). Applications are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis. You should expect to hear back about your application within ten business days of submission.

Please include as much detail as possible, including specifically what your request would cover (registration ticket, flight, supplies, etc.) and how you will fund the remaining portion of cost if Dreamers-WhoDo money is not awarded in full. It may be helpful to attach supporting documentation to your application, such as a proposed budget, communication with a confirmed speaker, screenshots of flights/hotel costs, invitation to a pitch event, etc.  Be sure to email any additional items to Sheryl.Waddell@unc.edu

If necessary, submit one request for your overall needs during a semester and separate requests for each workshop, event or conference travel opportunity.  If seeking financial support for overall semester needs, please submit an itemized budget. Explain how funds will be spent and how that furthers the club’s innovative or entrepreneurial mission.  If you are seeking money for an event, please provide as much detail as possible for each request. For instance, please confirm speakers and speaker fees and secure the venue for meetings before submitting the application. Previously approved requests will be considered before approving new requests, so please prioritize your semester needs.

During the academic year, information sessions are held at the 1789 co-working space, which is located at 173 E. Franklin Street. Check back in the future for the dates of information sessions during the 2019-20 academic year.

Stories from our dreamers

DFA believes that all students have the ability to use design to find innovative solutions in their communities. Discover how UNC students use the power of design thinking to tackle significant issues.

Seeing how entrepreneurship works in other cultures can expand your own horizons. Learn what UNC students uncovered by visiting a series of European entrepreneurial hubs and how it’s helping them realize their innovative potential.

Visually impaired students deserve to live their dreams too, especially when they are interested in learning about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. Learn how 3D-printing is making a difference.

Preventing further armed conflict and civil war in Colombia starts by working with former rebels to establish rural microenterprises. See what the founder of Emprendiemiento en Paz (Entrepreneurship in Peace) does to help the cause.

Makerspaces at UNC encourage creativity and entrepreneurship; these students work with a master puppet maker in the spaces to create bigger-than-life puppets for an entertaining show.

From Silicon Valley to North Carolina, our students are learning the keys to transforming economic development and innovation. Find out what lessons they brought back from the West Coast to Chapel Hill and the local region.

Entrepreneurial students from UNC, NC Central, NC State and Duke gather to promote growth and development in the Triangle — the nation’s leading entrepreneurship hub. Learn how they’re working together.

TedxUNC is an annual event that allows Carolina students to network, connect and share. Find out how the TedxUNC team uses this forum for ideas and inspiration to champion innovation across campus and beyond. 

Student Perspective

“When I realized that the world is much bigger than my experience, it changed how I lived my daily life and what I cared about. Seeing and experiencing the beauty and culture of Prague is an experience I can take back to help change the way people [at home] view the world. It can contribute to living a better lifestyle as a citizen of the world and not just of my local area.

  • Dezbee McDaniel (BA ’17), former Dreamers-Who-Do Award recipient