Student Teams Compete in UNC System Social Entrepreneurship Conference and Competition

Friday, February 19, 2016

Three UNCW student teams competed in a UNC system competition designed to address pressing social problems through innovative solutions.

The UNC System Social Entrepreneurship Conference and Competition, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co., asked teams from each UNC campus to assess unmet needs in their local communities, and then work collaboratively to develop new or improved ways of addressing those needs.

Forty-six teams – 27 undergraduate, 15 graduate, and four competing in a special financial literacy category – pitched their business ideas to a panel during the annual competition held Feb. 16 at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

Although all three UNCW teams had a strong showing in the competition, only one – Special Pedals, Inc. – made it to the finals. The team placed first runner-up in the graduate division.  

Special Pedals Inc. is a developing business that will provide adults with disabilities the opportunity for equal pay, hours and job skills training. Through a Special Pedals bike shop, adults with disabilities will be able to provide convenient, timely bike repair services to UNCW students, including pickup and drop off services. Special Pedals is also receiving support from the Office of Innovation and Commercialization’s (OIC) IGNITE program, which provides office space, access to Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) resources, and a small operating budget to further develop their growing business.

Team members are Leah Sherrill, a senior majoring in special education, and David Morrison, who is pursuing a Master of Public Administration. Jess Boersma, director of ETEAL and an associate professor of World Languages and Cultures, served as the team’s faculty mentor.

This is the best result for UNCW at the competition,” said Boersma. “All three teams were great ambassadors of UNCW and our innovative spirit. Students benefit greatly as this forum forces them to think critically to solve difficult problems under very ‘real world’ constraints of budgets and politics, for example.”

Other UNCW teams were:

Lythouse Labs
Team Members: Ashley Cribb, senior, business administration major
Faculty Mentor: Heidi Winslow, School of Nursing, and Justine Reel, associate dean of research and innovation, College of Health and Human Services

Lythouse Labs is developing a mobile app designed to help diabetes patients manage their disease. This app will help diabetics quickly find and organize nutritional information about the products in their local grocery stories, allowing them to meet their dietary needs without having to painstakingly examine each and every nutritional label.

Team Members: Ashley Simmons, junior, English major; Samantha Santana, senior, English major; and David Glas, senior, psychology major
Faculty Mentor: Anirban Ray, assistant professor, Department of English

CertainT is a mobile app that will provide tools for victims to tag the locations of campus crime or call for help with a single touch. CertainT is not only for an instant report-and-redress capability but also a way to preserve victim confidentiality.

In addition to the CIE, the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC), Academic Affairs and ETEAL provided support to UNCW teams in developing their social entrepreneurship projects. The conference is the largest event UNC General Administration organizes each year and the only state-wide competition focused on social entrepreneurship.

“This competition highlights the realization that we are faced with a number of very difficult problems in society—poverty, violence, health issues—that continue to plague us in spite of repeated conventional attempts to solve them,” Boersma said. “In addition, traditional funding sources such as philanthropy or state or national grants and funding have been shrinking in many areas.  Social Entrepreneurship looks at innovative solutions that are based on sustainable, self-generating models of financial support that maximize social impact.”

-- Venita Jenkins