Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

CIE News


What is Social Entrepreneurship? Discovery Forum, Special Pedals, and the Greater Good

By Nikki Kroushl on September 2, 2016

Social Entrepreneurship Discovery Forum

Kyle Maples/UNCW

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 is a UNCW MPA student and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Nonprofit Advisor in Residence, and he describes social entrepreneurship similarly—as “a cross between the business for-profit sector and nonprofits,” as entrepreneurs and innovators who work for positive social change.

Morrison began working at the CIE as an intern and grad student assistant in January and now works one-on-one with people trying to grow or start nonprofit organizations. But last September, as NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues partnered with BB&T to bring the Discovery Forum to Wilmington, NC, he had a different job.

“I worked with Special Pedals,” Morrison said, speaking of Special Pedals, Inc., a company started by UNCW student Leah Sherrill in 2015. It 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.”

“I was brought on to Special Pedals in the fall [of 2015], basically as a trial run to consult,” Morrison continued. He described how he helped Sherrill and Special Pedals to prepare for the 2015 Discovery Forum.

The Discovery Forum is a chance for ten social entrepreneurs to pitch their business or business ideas with capacity for social change to an audience. The three favorite teams are brought to a leadership and business training retreat at NCSU in the spring, where they then have the chance to compete for $10,000 of funding.

“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 explained. “It was an overall win for us.” Special Pedals was invited to the leadership conference and became the runner-up for the $10,000 prize.

Social Entrepreneurship Discovery Forum

Kyle Maples/UNCW

Now, the Discovery Forum returns to Wilmington to find the next big idea to enact social change. But it’s not just nonprofit businesses that can participate in social entrepreneurship.

“[There is] a for-profit opportunity to create a socially conscious mission and business model,” Morrison said. “So Discovery Forum, although we’re looking for nonprofits, is not limited those.”

The 2016 Discovery Forum, once again sponsored by NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues and BB&T, will take place on Thursday, September 29th, at 5:30 p.m. at the CIE. To pitch an idea, submit an online application by September 16th. To find out more information or sign up to be in the audience (for free), visit the Discovery Forum website. And to find out more about Special Pedals and its incredible story, check out the Special Pedals, Inc website.

Discovery Forum