Tag: social entrepreneurship

The below post originally appeared on Net Impact’s CampusGroups page

Upon first steps into the 2017 Net Impact Conference, I was quickly reminded that the community of leaders who infuse social purpose in each business decision is vast and global.

Student chapter leaders from Ecuador spoke about how their partnership with Ferrero Rocher empowered female entrepreneurs to build small businesses and boost local economies. Tech leaders from Silicon Valley stressed the importance of capturing the next industrial revolution of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality for social initiatives. Governing municipalities shared strategies on industry cross-pollination to curb harmful effects of climate change.

Whatever the tailored interest of corporate citizenship or social responsibility, a session was available, inviting a massive exchange of innovative ideas.

The Career Expo further highlighted the surprising participation of diverse stakeholders. Samsung and Monsanto were recruiting for tech and food sustainability pioneers. Pyxera Global and Accenture were seeking social impact-minded consultants. Other exhibitors included the Environmental Defense Fund, Kiva, National Park Service, Shell Corporation, Education Pioneers, Brown-Forman, and more.

Snapping selfies with the Coke Polar Bear!

The weekend was also filled with fun festivities. The conference kick-off was held at the World of Coke, where we mingled with students from over 300 Net Impact chapters and snapped selfies with the Coke Polar Bear. Intermittent ice cream socials kept our fatigue at bay, all while closing the amazing event at a fresh produce market downtown. I went to bed Saturday night with sore feet because I danced the final evening away. I woke up the next morning with an email invitation to pre-register for next year’s Net Impact 2018 event, and I nearly submitted a deposit. If that doesn’t tell you how wonderful the conference was, I don’t know what will.

In closing, I’d like to leave some food for thought for those who didn’t attend Net Impact 2017:

Often times, corporate citizenship or social responsibility is perceived as a pet project delegated to a separate back corner department within a massive corporation. For our fellow Olin colleagues interested in a traditional business venture (Venture Capital, Investment Banking, Strategy Consulting, Brand Management, etc), I implore you to dive more critically into understanding how social purpose can be infused within each action or decision you make as a future executive. Not only are there performance metrics to report for good PR, but there are also evidence-based payoffs for the communities you intentionally consider as partners.

Increasingly, corporations are recognizing the importance of this philosophy, and we shouldn’t be behind as Olin MBAs. Additionally, there are career options beyond Corporate Social Responsibility with salaries to support a decent way of living. Impact Investing, Supply Chain Sustainability, and Social Impact Consulting are growing industries—and ones to consider when choosing your path moving forward.

Guest blogger: Danny (Yea) Lee, MBA/MSW, General Manager, Net Impact


The below post and podcast was republished with permission from PluggedIN, an automated talent recruitment and matchmaking platform specifically focused on startup companies. PluggedIN was founded by Colleen Liebig, who serves as an Industry Career Specialist & Advisor at Olin, with specialization in entrepreneurship.

“When we look to hire people, we look to see that we can get along as a team. We say that they need to pass the barbecue and beer test. Would we want to sit down and have a barbecue and a beer with this person?”
—Jaye Connolly-LaBelle, CEO, RippleNami

Imagine the last time you needed something. Whether it is the nearest grocery store or best-rated dry cleaner in the area, a quick Google search would provide an accessible answer and even a map to take you to your destination. While these benefits of a connected society are often taken for granted in developed nations, people in many parts of the world do not have access to these resources. From 6-hour searches for suitable drinking water to nonexistent information about the nearest primary school, unconnected people in developing nations struggle to get the basic information relevant to them.

Out of this need arose RippleNami. Although the startup is less than two years old, RippleNami has set out to provide unconnected people with simple mapping technologies to better visualize the resources or situations relevant to them. Working with NGOs, logistics providers, aid organizations, and governments in several developing countries, the company has already begun to realize its mission and establish a global presence.

We had the opportunity to learn about RippleNami’s unique work during a podcast episode with CEO Jaye Connolly La-Belle. During our conversation, Jaye shared a host of insights into how she became involved in the project, manages a global team, and helps work towards RippleNami’s mission on a daily basis. Some highlights of our discussion include:

  • How Jaye transitioned from her career in finance and accounting to connect with RippleNami’s founder and help operationalize the idea
  • Why she embraces a globally distributed team and how she hires the right employees in developing nations
  • What leadership strategies are key to running a start-up and why successful entrepreneurs must be able to handle all aspects of the business
  • How RippleNami is building its simplified mapping technology and where the startup sees itself in the future
  • Why Jaye felt St. Louis was the right startup ecosystem to grow RippleNami, and how the company is participating in two accelerator programs (Capital Innovators and Prosper Women Entrepreneurs).

Award-winning startup co-founded by Andrew Glantz, BSBA’17, FoodShare has a new name: GiftAMeal. Here’s the reason why as explained by the founders on their website:

“We are excited to announce that we are re-branding FoodShare as GiftAMeal.  Over the last few months, FoodShare has grown tremendously.  This growth begs one major question: what’s next?  As our team discussed the future of FoodShare, we realized that we wanted to further embrace our buy-one-give-one model.  Under this guiding vision, we have decided to rebrand as GiftAMeal to more effectively communicate our mission to our users, restaurants, and community.  We look forward to growing GiftAMeal into the future and continuing to make a dent in our nation’s hunger problem.”

Read more WashU Fuse.


I believe creating access to opportunity is the best way to affect lasting and self-directed change.

After living and working in Bushoga, a rural village deep within Rwanda, I was inspired by the power of business. Business, I believed, could be harnessed as a tool to tackle social problems, namely malnutrition, lack of economic opportunity and social inequality. Bread, therefore became my medium for opportunity creation and good business. In 2013, I started The Women’s Bakery, a social enterprise that equips East African women with irrevocable business education and vocational skills. In essence, we train women to build, manage and sustain their own bakeries which sell affordable, highly nutritious breads.

Guest Blogger: Markey Culver, MBA'17, founder and president of The Women's Bakery, a for-profit/non-profit hybrid startup

Guest Blogger: Markey Culver, MBA’17, founder and president of The Women’s Bakery, a for-profit/non-profit hybrid startup

So that’s what we do: we teach women how to make and sell healthy breads and collectively manage their own profitable businesses.

Today, we have two independently operating bakeries in Tanzania and we’ve just launched a third bakery in Kigali, Rwanda. For a snapshot of our impact, one of our bakeries creates 3 – 10 jobs for otherwise unemployed women who care for an average of four children each. After working at a bakery for a few months, women have the opportunity to double their average monthly incomes. Just imagine what you could do if you doubled your income.

People have asked me, “why don’t you just build the bakeries for the women since they’re so poor, or give away your nutritious bread for free?” Simply put, giving away goods for free disrupts micro-economies. It takes away opportunities for job creation and business evolution.  But, teaching populations how to produce and sell goods that are in demand? That creates access to opportunity.

Vocational training creates access to opportunity because it imparts an irrevocable skill – a skill that can never be taken away. A skill that fosters capacity building. And a skill that affords a woman her shot at a self-directed life. That’s real empowerment. And that’s exactly what we do at The Women’s Bakery.

This semester, I have had the incredible experience of serving on the Center for Experiential Learning Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect). The CELect program pairs graduate students with St. Louis based startups. Over the course of the semester, student teams complete consulting projects designed to help young companies achieve specific business outcomes.

T-Rex Lammert bldg

Coworking space at T-Rex. Photo courtesy of John Warren, Jones Lang LaSalle.

CELect classes are held at T-Rex, a technology incubator and coworking space located in downtown St. Louis. The modern workplace stations at T-Rex are complete with dinosaur-themed murals, glass-paneled conference rooms, and individual phone booths. The juxtaposition of the building’s historic architecture and its creative, fun-loving interior make T-Rex the ideal entrepreneurship classroom. Located close to a MetroLink train station, it is very convenient for students to travel back and forth from campus.

Our first CELect class was a full day of instruction, co-taught by Cliff Holekamp, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Director of the Entrepreneurship Platform, and Bart Hamilton, Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship. Together, the professors gave an overview of the St. Louis entrepreneurial landscape and provided tips for how to be an effective startup consultant. Throughout the day, Olin alumni stopped by to share the personal reasons why they chose an entrepreneurial career over the traditional corporate path.

ProsperAfter our first class, we were divided into teams and set loose to get started on our projects! My team’s consulting project is for Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator, a new player in the St. Louis venture capital scene. Founded in 2014, Prosper Accelerator makes twelve $50,000 equity investments each year in women-led technology, life sciences, and CPG startup companies. The businesses selected to receive capital participate in a three month program designed to help female entrepreneurs scale their companies and receive additional venture investment.

Throughout the semester, we have had the opportunity to meet with Prosper executives, interview the entrepreneurs running Prosper’s portfolio companies, and get an inside look at how the accelerator operates. It has been very rewarding to work with an organization dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs, especially since I have future entrepreneurial plans of my own. Our team is excited for what the rest of the project will bring, and believe that we can make a lasting impact on the future of the accelerator!

Pictured above, Prosper CELect team from left to right: Fabiola Paz, MBA’16; Elise Miller, MBA’16;  Alicia Harris JD’16; and John Hamlett, JD’16.