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University Initiative Ventures

Students and Recent Graduates Involved in Social Enterprise

We work with a number of ventures that involve students and recent graduates, whether we help them get started, or attract them to the area to help them grow. We are all about getting more of these types of ventures off the ground. We also work with social ventures that want to incorporate students and recent grads through internships and recruitment.

Ventures founded and led by students and recent graduates
HMSolution
Beat the Streets
TextUp
Increment
Capital Good Fund
EbenGroup
Truepreneurs
Sports Symposium
Market Shares
Rumi Spice
Bug Banquet
Tink Knit
Healthy Roots
Moving Mountains
Second Life
Do Your Dance
WhatsGood
Nepal Yoga Project
PVD Lady Project

Ventures involving students and recent graduates
Riverzedge Arts
Providence Granola Project
Shri Yoga
The Steel Yard

 


 

Ventures founded and led by students and recent graduates

HMSolution 
HMSolution seeks to make safe drinking water more widely available by implementing the world’s most cost effective water treatment system for the removal of arsenic and other contaminants. Arsenic contamination affects over 200 million people across seventy countries and can cause cancer, diabetes, and developmental delays in children. Margaret Lengerich developed the product while working on her masters in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Brown University. Her sister Constanza soon joined the company and helps with market research and development. This Chilean sister duo is experiencing success in New England as they recently won the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, they have a letter of interest from the Environmental Protection Agency, and have interested customers. HMSolution hopes to provide New England and the world with safe drinking water. Website

Beat the Streets
Beat the Streets starts scholastic wrestling teams in order to inspire urban youth and provide them with the resources they need in an after-school setting. In Providence, and across the nation, middle school sports are being cut. Sports programs are a cost effective tool to improve student engagement, behavior, and academic success. Billy Watterson, the Executive Director and Founder, started Beat the Streets while attending Brown University. He is a former Social Innovation Fellow at Brown, achieved 501 c3 certification last august, and received an Embark Fellowship this Spring that covers his salary for a year.  Billy grew up wrestling and realized the skills and determination it gave him could do the same and create a positive change for struggling Providence youth.  Through coaches, mentors, and tutors, kids are given the individual help and attention they need to succeed in the classroom and on the mat. Website

TextUp
TextUp seeks to improve the access homeless and near-homeless people have to social services through a web app and an automated texting hotline. The web app allows social service agencies to post detailed information about the services they are providing, while their clients are able to receive alert texts with the given information. An estimated 50,000 clients of social service agencies have text enabled cell phones in Rhode Island and could benefit from a service that allows them to connect with service agencies and foster a provider-client relationship. TextUp was started by a group of students from both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design who hope to “reduce the uncertainty surrounding the basic needs of shelter food and health of our poorest neighbors so that they can start to think about pathways to financial and emotional stability.” Website

Increment 
Increment develops playthings to inspire independence and exploration for kids of all abilities. There are 2.8 million special needs kids in the United States and 89% of them have siblings, so they spend a large amount of time with kids who do not have disabilities. Toys for special needs children, however, often come with a stigma of being for kids only with disabilities. Increment hopes to make the toy industry more inclusive through their product the O Rings. This product is a full body sensory toy including four rings that are all a different color, texture, density and filling. Increment was started by Cynthia Poon and Maeve Jopson who are both Industrial designers from the Rhode Island School of Design. They hope to make the toy industry more accessible, social, and creative with plans to design two more toys and create an open community play space for children of all abilities to enjoy. Website

Capital Good Fund
Capital Good Fund seeks to provide equitable financial services to underserved families to help create pathways out of poverty. One in seven Americans live in poverty and struggle to overcome the widening wealth inequality gap in America.  Through Capital Good Fund’s financial and health coaching, they create a yearlong relationship with clients while providing an action plan for personal finances. Small loan options are also available and accompanied by educational workshops to provide the necessary funds and skills needed to break out of the poverty cycle. The company started as a student led initiative by Andy Posner in 2008 while he was taking a social entrepreneurship class at Brown University. Inspired by Dr. Muhammad Yunus’s own dream and path in microfinance, Capital Good Fund hopes to ultimately eradicate poverty. Today the company is one of the fastest-growing microfinance institutions in the United States. Website

EbenGroup 
EbenGroup makes canvas urban rucksacks with a social purpose. For each rucksack sold, a bag filled with school supplies is donated to a child who lacks the resources to attend school. The school supplies are purchased in the beneficiary’s country and ten percent of all profit goes to educational programs. Emily Whitson started the company while studying Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. After a trip to Ethiopia serving disadvantaged youth without the proper resources for an education, she became inspired to create a product that could positively impact those children. EbenGroup seeks to generate a movement in order to change a child’s life through education. Read more about EbenGroup’s Student Focus Group hereWebsite

Truepreneurs 
Truepreneurs is a high school entrepreneurship program that allows students to choose local non-profits and raise money for them by designing and selling apparel. The program strives to bring students and communities together while positively impacting the student’s school. By utilizing a “60-30-10” model, 60% of profits go to the non-profit the student chose, 30% goes to the students high school, and 10% goes back to the Truepreneur program. Students are able to learn about what it means to be an entrepreneur through teaching videos and a curriculum catered to interactive exercises and a real world approach.  Brandon Monti created Tru Monti and the Trupreneurs program while attending Johnson and Wales University. With a community based approach to raise money for non-profits, schools, and education, Truepreneurs is motivating students to become true social entrepreneurs. Website

Sports Symposium 
The Sports Symposium is a non-profit organization that promotes the development of young leaders through sports business education. They hold two annual student-run conferences, the Ivy Sports Symposium and the Global Sports Symposium, that allow the sports industry’s leaders and executives to connect with students and peers. These conference settings with knowledgeable speakers seek to support the sharing of information while inspiring new ideas to tackle sport’s greatest challenges.  The symposiums started in 2006 by Chris Chaney while he was attending Princeton University. The Sports Symposium’s have since evolved and now encompass the Sports Symposium-SportsPro 10 NEXT awards and a Fellowship Program. The 10 NEXT awards are given to change makers 30 years or younger who will continue to shape sports business in the future. The Fellowship Program gives college students an opportunity to plan and implement the symposiums. The Sport Symposiums are one of the industry’s premier events. Website

Market Shares 
The Brown Market Shares Program is a student-run and campus based food distribution program allowing regional producers to connect with the Brown Community.  The program strives to promote regional farm security, provide equitable access to sustainably-produced food, and foster on-campus engagement and activism. Customers buy a share that connects them with five to ten local sustainable farms and their available produce in the fall, spring, and summer. Weekly Market Days allow shareholders to pick up their produce, their informative newsletter on the current weeks share, and interact with fellow shareholders and volunteers.  The program has been able to fill 22,050 bags of groceries, 6,618 of them at a discounted price, earning $532,140 which 91% of is invested into the local food economy. The program has also written a book outlining their program and impact entitled “Running The Brown Market Shares Program.” Website

Rumi Spice 
Rumi Spice is a team of military veterans who source sustainably farmed saffron to the United States from rural Afghan farmers. The company reinvests profits into the agriculture and manufacturing infrastructure of Afghanistan to promote peace and prosperity.  Saffron is an alternative to poppy and opium spice which is a main source of income for the Taliban. Rumi Spice seeks to create a higher demand for saffron by opening a global market to afghan farmers which will help to increase their income and suppress an income source for the Taliban. Rumi Spice strives to promote a premium quality product with a transparent supply chain.  Kimberly Jung, Co-Founder and CEO, was a US Army Engineer Officer who led a platoon in Wardak and Ghanzi Provinces. Fellow Co-Founder and President Keith Alaniz is a US Army veteran who worked in Afghanistan for three years and is fluent in Afghan Farsi. Their staff of veterans hope to “cultivate peace in Afghanistan, one farmer at a time.” Website

Bug Banquet
The Bug Banquet seeks to create an experience and environment that allows people to enjoy insects as food. This project hopes to confront people’s fear of insects by utilizing both a culinary and aesthetic approach while further exploring entomophagy. Insects serve as a sustainable, and economically feasible, alternative protein rich food. In 80% of the world insects have been culturally rooted, however, in many places there is a cultural bias and discomfort. The Bug Banquet was started by Chloe Bulpin, a Rhode Island School of Design Student, after she completed an independent study of entomophagy. Alex Gandarillas and Matt Kominsky, both culinary students from Johnson and Wales University, joined the project and Bug Banquet was born. The team of three strives to alleviate the stress on earth’s limited resources by illustrating the benefits and tastiness of insects. Website

Tink Knit 
Tink Knit is a student-run social venture at Brown University that teaches single mothers how to knit hats as a way out of poverty. The hats are sold at the Brown Bookstore for $29.99 and $15 goes back to the mother knitter, while the rest is reinvested into the program to provide knitting workshops and other events.  For some mothers who are single or homeless, Tink Knit serves as their only income and their only way out of poverty. The venture has increased their participant’s income by 30% on average.  One of the keys to Tink Knit’s success is that the knitting can be done at home, so mothers are able to earn a living without compromising time spent with their children. Tink Knit was started in 2014 by the Brown Enactus Team which hopes to help every single mother in their program “transit from poverty to a stable situation, with permanent housing and a job to support their kids.” Website

Healthy Roots
Healthy Roots is a toy company that creates positive and diverse products to empower young black girls. They strive to tackle internalized racism and colorism by making young black girls feel beautiful and strong through their dolls and story books. Their dolls include: an African American, a Haitian, a Nigerian, and a bi-racial Pacific Islander/Afro Brazilian. Storybooks provide instructions for young girls to style their dolls hair just like their own.  Healthy Roots was started by Rhode Island School of Design student Yelitsa Jean-Charles after an art project gave her the opportunity to redesign the fairy tale princess Rapunzel. Joined by fellow students from RISD and Brown University, Anisa Holmes, Nitashia Johnson, and Ingrid Wilson, Healthy Roots will launch their dolls and storybooks Kickstarter on August 15th, 2015. Together they hope to “inspire the next generation of young black girls to be empowered and confident.” Website

Moving Mountains
Moving Mountains utilizes a multicultural approach to environmental education to help students make real life connections with what they learn in the classroom. In American public schools there is a lack of environmental education being implemented in the curriculum. Students are also spending half as much time outdoors as they did twenty years ago and 8-18 year olds are spending an average of 53 hours a week using entertainment media. The program works with urban schools to create a variety of school year and summer programs that help to reinforce environmental education and confidence in students. A variety of options are provided ranging from weekly outings like hikes or overnight camps, to workshops, and a summer camp.  Through a series of surveys completed by participants 88% agree that they care more about solving environmental problems and 62% feel more confident as a leader. Moving Mountains was started by Jared Rothenberg, Ivy Sokol and Lovinia Reynolds, all students from Brown University. Together they envision a world where every urban student feels empowered in their environment. Website

Second Life
Second Life is a non-profit student run upcycling program at the Rhode Island School of Design. They collect usable art supplies and raw materials and redistribute them back into the community. Customers can bring their art supplies to the store at 204 Westminster in Providence and can actually trade their supplies for other materials as well as donate and shop. Second Life strives to build a community around sharing while having less waste go to landfills. Their initiative creates jobs and saves artists money.  With a permanent location, and some coveted donations going through their store, second life is creating an art market that everyone and anyone can have access to. Website

Do Your Dance
Do Your Dance began as a movement for people to discover their passion, pursue it, and then share their story in order to inspire others. With that movement still in mind, the initiative has become more focused on bridging the gap between venues and artists in order to support young artists and help venues attract more customers. DYD is currently working with local bars, coffee shops, and restaurants to increase their customer traffic by selecting artists that best suit the venue. This approach strives to raise artist’s income and revenue for small businesses. DYD realizes that more people want to simultaneously enjoy their social time out and achieve a social good. By building up the local art and music community, DYD is able to provide people with an experience and an environment that fosters local artist’s development.  Phil Terry started DYD in Ohio when he began writing and recording his own hip hop music. Lindsey Lerner joined Terry after they met in Chile while studying abroad. DYD is about “making music, changing the world, and showing people that anything is possible.” Website

WhatsGood 
WhatsGood is a product of Crave Food Services INC that utilizes innovative technology to increase efficiency within the food service industry. WhatsGood connects chefs with local and sustainable food purveyors. Through their app and web based design, chefs are able to purchase goods, confirm purchases, track deliveries, and organize orders in one place from local food sources. WhatsGood seeks to solve the problem that a large amount of the great food sources in Rhode Island are being shipped elsewhere and that local restaurants often struggle to find the time to search for the quantity of local goods they need.  Matt Tortora, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, created WhatsGood after working at the restaurant Jamestown Fish and seeing the problem first hand.  William Ribeiro Araujo is the Co-Founder and graduate of the Business School at the University of Sao Paulo. Heliovaldo Araujo is the Chef and Chief of Restaurant Relations for WhatsGood and currently the Sous chef at Jamestown Fish.  WhatsGood hopes to level the playing field by providing restaurants with a seamless and personal service for sourcing local goods. Website

Nepal Yoga Project
Nepal Yoga Project seeks to make mental wellness programming accessible to people no matter their income, background, or culture.  Lauren Fiske has thirteen years of experience as a practitioner of yoga,  is now a certified instructor, and has spent the last year immersed in Pawtuckets Shri Studios mission based yoga practices.  Lauren is going to Nepal to start a yoga program with a curriculum that focuses on support, honor, respect, and inspiration. She has teamed up with Learning Realm International to teach students grades 5-8 in a twelve week program sponsored by Shri Service Corps. Educators and the community will also benefit from classes geared towards learning and healing. Following the earthquake, yoga practices are needed more than ever to help people find peace of mind while connecting with others. Yoga classes and services range from $250-$3,000 in Nepal while many incomes are just $700 a year. As a graduate from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Global Public Health, Lauren strives to make yoga programs sustainable and accessible in the Nepal schools one pose at a time. Website

PVD Lady Project  
The Providence Lady Project is a non-profit organization that connects, inspires, and showcases women doing amazing things through memberships, events, and community engagement. The project started in 2011 by Julie Sygiel, graduate from Brown University, and Sierra Barter, graduate of Johnson and Wales University. They decided to create a fabulous club for women in The Creative Capital in order to network and connect with like minded ladies. Every gathering benefits an organization that benefits or is run by women. Recent beneficiaries include Girl Scouts of RI, Sojourner House, Girls on the Run RI, and YWCA of Northern RI.  Monthly events also feature three local women from different backgrounds, industries and career levels to share their stories.  PVD Lady Project has been named “Biggest Cheerleaders” in the 2012 Superlative Issue of Providence Monthly and “Best Niche Networking Event” in 2012 by Rhode Island Monthly. Website

Ventures involving students and recent graduates

Riverzedge Arts
Riverzedge Arts serves underserved youth in Woonsocket, RI by developing alternative pathways to success and playing a role in the city’s growth and prosperity. The non-profit’s original initiative was an after school arts and entrepreneurship program. The program has progressed to five studio programs and a mobile studio that employs students who produce a variety of products and services. By starting with Woonsocket teens and building creativity, leadership, and creating a desirable community, the organization hopes to find alternative pathways to academic success. To increase high school graduates, Riverzedge Arts offers extended learning opportunities where students are able to gain high school credits. The organization is also strongly committed to transforming the city of Woonsocket itself through placemaking and economic initiatives. Riverzedge has been nationally recognized for its creative youth development and continually strives “to transform lives and places through art, design, and creative problem solving.” Learn about Tess Feigenbaum, a RISD student who now runs a program at Riverzedge Arts, here. Website

Providence Granola Project 
Providence Granola Project, created by Beautiful Day RI, makes artisan granola by hiring recently-arrived refugees. This non-profit seeks to help vulnerable populations within the community, while producing a delicious product. Beautiful Day views jobs as a way to build confidence, improve mental health, and open doors to integration. By involving the community as they buy the products and volunteer, they are able to foster meaningful relationships with refugees. Between fifty and eighty thousand refugees are resettled annually in the United States and their employment rates have fallen from 54% to 40% from 2006 to 2009.  Beautiful Day believes that mobilizing Rhode Island’s refugee population can extend to helping the lagging growth and high unemployment the state already faces and then can be applied nationally. Keith Cooper, a refugee educator with an interest for gourmet food, and Geoff Gordon, an MBA student, created Beautiful Day and the Providence Granola project in 2008. Today the Providence Granola Project has worked with thirty one employees representing eleven nationalities and seventeen ethnicities. Learn more about our Venture Spotlight on Providence Granola Project here. Website

Shri Yoga
Shri Yoga’s mission is to illuminate downtown Pawtucket with positivity, by making yoga affordable and accessible for everyone. “Shri” is Sanskrit for “life affirming energy” or “that which diffuses light” which parallels their mission through yoga. They strive to build a healthy, balanced, and compassionate community which includes adults and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities, veterans, children in hospitals or shelters, and incarcerated youth and adults. The S-H-R-I curriculum includes movement based yoga, community building, mindfulness, and character education. Their classes help to reduce stress and build strength both physically and emotionally while empowering downtown Pawtucket. Alison Bologna is the founder of Shri and has been locally and nationally recognized for her urban revitalization yoga platform.  She recently received her second master’s degree in literature from Harvard University. Shri has impacted over 5,000 students and 2,500 of them have received free classes through Shri’s non-profit arm. In a yoga session for incarcerated male students between 15-18 years old, 75% felt less stressed and 88% felt more confident.  Shri Yoga hopes to continually serve the most at risk populations in Southern New England in order to build more compassionate communities. Website

The Steel Yard 
The Steel Yard acts as a catalyst in the revitalization of the industrial valley district of Providence. They offer arts and technical training programs to increase opportunities for cultural and artistic expression, career-orientated training, and small business incubation. Their iron site along the Woonasquatucket River has a 10,000  square foot industrial shop with services ranging from ceramics to blacksmithing.  The Steel Yard’s program is designed for community members, students, working artists, tradespeople, art educators, and entrepreneurs.  Nick Bauta and Clay Rockefeller purchased the Providence Steel and Iron complex in 2001 with the belief that the space could  have a greater social purpose. In the summer of 2014 a University of Rhode Island Business School student created a business plan for one of their programs and continued as an intern to implement a new social venture. The Steel Yard has served as a great convener for local students and artists through a creative and community driven approach. Website

 

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