At the Social Entrepreneurship Summit, profits and people go hand in hand.
The third annual summit, hosted by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) at the Fox School of Business, is focused on supporting entrepreneurship initiatives that make a positive impact on both Temple University and the Philadelphia region. The summit gives students a space to present new innovative ideas for cash prizes and to network with faculty, staff and professionals in the business community.
On Nov. 20, several contestants with their own social entrepreneurship projects went head to head in a competition, pitching their ideas to a panel of judges. Six graduate and seven undergraduate finalists from across the university demonstrated how their ideas could change the world—and make money.
“There have been a couple of companies that started here and went on to get funding. It’s really incredible; this is a great place for startups,” says Steven Reichert, a junior entrepreneurship student attending the event for the second year in a row.
Natasha Graves, MBA ’18, won this year’s Grand Prize with her idea “VacayAbility.” She describes it as “a user-generated review site where people with disabilities can review places like accommodations and hospitality-based businesses like hotels and restaurants based on accessibility and mobility.”
“I travel a lot and I have a disability. I have chronic illnesses and every time I travel it’s hard to find places that are accessible,” Graves explains. “Recently, I was going to Scottsdale, Ariz. When you google top ten things to do there, it’s [mostly] hiking, and obviously, I can’t hike. So I wanted to make a platform to find things for people even if they have various disabilities.”
Graves also came in second place in the upper track of this year’s Innovative Idea Competition. Her focus on inclusivity in innovation is an excellent example of the Fox School’s commitment to foster an inclusive community, as one of the four main pillars in the school’s Strategic Plan 2025.
This year, Erik Oberholtzer, a Temple alumnus and co-founder of the company Tender Greens, came to advise the young entrepreneurship students as the keynote speaker.
Oberholtzer’s mission in Tender Greens is to provide broad access to good food, specifically to those in low-income communities. After working as a chef and obtaining his culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University, his passion for the culinary arts is what drew him to launch the company.
His advice? “Start with an inner passion and calling. Then, connect that to something in the world that needs your passion,” Oberholtzer says. “If you build skills, tools and techniques around that passion, then you can find products and services that create positive outcomes.” He goes on to say, “When you innovate a solution to a problem that nobody else is solving, you can monetize. You can add value and make money. In this case, money sponsors good deeds. Money scales positive impact.”
Graves and all the students in this year’s Social Entrepreneurship Summit are an inspiration for the future of double- or triple-bottom-line companies. By competing, they are innovating a better world.
Learn more about the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.