SVC Contestants Turn Challenges into Opportunities
After three months of preparation, mentoring and collaboration, five teams of student entrepreneurs finally competed for $10,000 during the sixth annual Social Venture Challenge (SVC) on April 11.
This year’s theme was “Beyond the Box,” which pressed students to view challenges as opportunities for growth and new perspectives. “The purpose of SVC is to encourage students to do something practical about what they’re passionate about,” says Stephanie Antonucci ’16, assistant director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “You show up and build what you want to see in the world.”
Each group was judged based on the problem at hand and the solution being offered including its viability and sustainability as well as the teamwork and presentation. The teams spent hundreds of hours perfecting their startups, and “it really shows in the quality of their work,” said Lisa Buettner, interim director of CEL. To learn about each of the competing teams and the inspiration behind their startups, read The Bell’s finalist spotlight.
The first-place prize of $5,000 was awarded to ShuDong, an online peer mentorship program for Chinese students, created by Jasmine Ye ’19 and Caleb Britton ’21. The startup plans to launch their website and begin mentor training almost immediately to pursue the goal of assisting international students struggling with mental illness through forming relationships.
Second place went to Rimo, a bralette company founded by Carita DeTellis ’19, Danielle Maneval ’20 and Elizabeth Koh ’20. The startup will partner with an Indian clothing brand that takes women out of the sex trade and provides them with stable jobs. Their $3,000 prize will be used to begin production and to market the product on social media.
CreateBox won the third-place prize of $2,000. Founded by Nick Cannella ’20 and Luke Pollack ’20, the startup will provide consulting and editing tips to YouTube creators and invest their new funding in creative equipment and marketing.
“The quality of the all pitches were so impressive,” said SVC judge Tommy Doyle, senior vice president of EBSCO Information Services. “Everyone was well-prepared, and it was very easy for us to digest the problems teams were trying to solve.”
Before the winners were announced, Buettner gave three awards to notable entrepreneurs from within the College community. Andrew York ’19 was named the Ken Olsen Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Buettner described York as passionate about using business as a means of ministry and building “pockets of community across campus” with his ventures.
Alexander Lowry, executive director of Gordon’s Master of Science in Financial Analysis program, was awarded Innovator of the Year in honor of his work launching the program and acting as an “intrapreneur” on campus. Joshua Sturgeon ’07, cofounder of EmberTribe and City Gate Language Services, won Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year for his work founding multiple businesses and giving back to the community as a Techstars mentor.
This year’s SVC judges included Doyle; Chris Hoeman ’88, CEO and co-founder of ICON eXchange; Chris Mann, founder and partner of Mann, Urrutia, Nelson CPAs; Kaitlyn Trabucco ’07, senior product director of Twitter and founder of Educents; and John Brice ’01, chief strategy and development of Lapin International and co-founder of Entrepreneurial Performance Labs.
“The students here are brilliant, courageous and values-driven,” said Doyle. “They inspire me and give me faith that business can be a force for good.”