Public Health Nonprofit wins top funding at Social Venture Challenge
Gordon College student Damilola Junaid '14 and her teammate Eni Ayeni (a student at the University of Delaware) have received a $5,000 grant to fund their venture ARISE (Actively Raising Interest in Sexual Epidemics)—the top prize-winner in the Social Venture Challenge sponsored by Gordon's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. The finalists in the competition "pitched" their proposals in a celebratory final round before judges on Wednesday evening, April 23.The goal of Damilola and Eni's non-profit organization is to raise awareness in Nigeria, especially in schools, about infectious diseases and promote ways in which they can be prevented, by leveraging existing relationships with Nigerian celebrities.The Social Venture Challenge is similar to business plan competitions that many campuses offer, but it was intentionally designed to fit student motives and the Gordon ethos. Some teams also included alumni, and teammates from beyond the Gordon community.The team of Chris Blatchley '14, Alex Gordon '14, M. Ryan Groff '06, Brian Pearson '13 and Jason Cassell received $3,000 to help further their venture, Wake Up World— an alarm clock app for wireless phones that sends micropayments to charities every time a subscriber hits the snooze button.Third place, and a $2,000 prize, went to Global Children’s Vision, which provides resources to enable healthy communication between "left behind" children in rural China and their parents working in urban areas. This non-profit, which plans to open its first resource center this summer, is led by students Becca Berman'14 and Cheng Qian '14.The April competition was the culmination of Gordon's first Social Venture Challenge. “Nothing like this had ever been done at Gordon College before so we had no idea how the students would respond,” said Carter Crockett, director of the new Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “We were thrilled when nearly 100 students comprising 32 teams from 20 different academic majors entered the contest. The top eight teams that made the final round all created ventures that could make a difference, turning their creativity toward the common good.”The choices of institutional structures selected by students illustrate various methods for making an impact: three businesses, two non-profit organizations, and three hybrid ventures.“This event showcased some of the unique aspects of a liberal arts education,” Dr. Crockett said. “The students focused on issues from around the world, demonstrating the breadth of perspectives and issues concerning our students. External judges rated students high for their passion, illustrating the depth of convictions that motivated each team to elevate their contribution in practical ways.”Five other student teams also presented their social venture business plans at the Social Venture Challenge finals. The creative ideas that brought those teams to the finals were “Cool Cow Ice Cream,” a proposed nonprofit venture for Rwanda; “The Center for Lifelong Education,” a proposed continuing education program linked to Gordon College; “The Worble,” a for-profit business plan for a skateboard company; “Handy Hi Tech,” a employee sanitization product; and “Sankofa Designs,” a fashion project from Ethiopia.The evening began with a reception in the Ken Olsen Science Center on the Gordon campus, attended by local entrepreneurs as well as Gordon students and faculty. Food was served on tables with glass bowls filled with light bulbs and jaw breakers. An even bigger light bulb was fixed on the wall—the logo for the competition.