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Sep 13, 2016

Forum Highlights Entrepreneurs Committed To Social Change

Sponsored Content provided by Heather McWhorter - Director, UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This Insights was contributed by Nikki Kroushl, CIE's Social Media and Content Manager. Kroushl is a creative writing and communication studies major at UNC Wilmington and copy editor of the student-run creative magazine, Atlantis. In addition to her position with CIE, Kroshl is also media coordinator at Wilmington Wine & Design.

What is social entrepreneurship?

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship describes it as an endeavor that “achieves large scale, systemic and sustainable social change through a new invention, a different approach, a more rigorous application of known technologies or strategies, or a combination of these.”

Basically, it’s entrepreneurship for the greater good.

David Morrison - a UNC-Wilmington Master of Public Administration students and Nonprofit Advisor in Residence at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) - describes social entrepreneurship similarly, as “a cross between the business for-profit sector and nonprofits,” where entrepreneurs and innovators work together for positive social change.

Morrison began working at the CIE as an intern and graduate student assistant in January and now works one-on-one with people trying to grow or start nonprofit organizations.

But last fall - when NC State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues partnered with BB&T to bring the Discovery Forum to Wilmington - he had a different job.

Morrison worked with Special Pedals, Inc., a company founded in 2015 by UNCW student Leah Sherrill. Special Pedals is a nonprofit bike shop that teaches adults with disabilities how to repair bikes, providing them with employment in the process.

“Bike repair…can be broken into steps,” Morrison explained. “It’s very easy to take the process, shrink it down and make it user-friendly for someone to learn…It gives the employees an opportunity to save some money while learning a life skill that can turn into a full-time position.”

Morrison said he was brought on "basically as a trial run consult" and help Special Pedals prepare for last year’s Discovery Forum. The forum is a chance for 10 social entrepreneurs to pitch businesses or business ideas that have the capacity for social change to an audience.

The three favorite teams then attend a leadership and business training retreat in the spring at NC State, where they have the chance to win $10,000 in funding. Special Pedals was invited to the leadership conference and came in as runner-up. 

“We had a month from the time that [Leah] came in until we pitched, which, for someone who’s never done this before, can be somewhat intimidating,” Morrison said. “It was an overall win for us.”

Now, the Discovery Forum returns to Wilmington to find the next big idea to enact social change. It isn’t just for nonprofits; for-profit businesses with a socially conscious mission can participate, as well.

The 2016 Discovery Forum - once again sponsored by NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues and BB&T - will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29 at CIE.

To pitch an idea, submit an online application by Friday, Sept. 16. To find out more information or sign up to attend the pitch for free, visit the Discovery Forum website, and visit Special Pedals' site to find out more about the company and its incredible story.

Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.

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