Students Showcase Innovative Business Ideas in Social Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition

While the economic landscape seems to be changing daily, the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well at the Gatton College of Business and Economics. On April 27, a group of students in the Social Enterprise Scholars Honors Pathway participated in a dynamic online pitch competition. The students worked to develop business ideas that have a positive impact on real world issues.

The competition was judged by a diverse group of local industry leaders: Laura Halligan of the University of Kentucky Office of Technology and Commercialization; Timothy Johnson, President and CEO of the United Way of the Bluegrass; Yajaira Aich West, Vice President, Client and Community Relations Director at PNC; and Tari Young, Engineering Manager at Lexmark. 

“The event was a great success, and we are fortunate that our Honors Pathway students were able to participate in spite of all the turmoil,” said Gatton’s Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Jennifer Siebenthaler. “The pitch event also qualified students for the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge this summer and gave them excellent practice in the virtual format, which is how the event will happen.”

The teams’ business ideas included: 

Bluegrass Biogas (Parker Humphrey, Angela Kingsbury, Nathan Morris): A company that takes food waste from the University of Kentucky and processes it into biogas that can then be used as energy to power the campus. 

LocalLink (Khari Gardner, Michael Hunter, Ja’mya Spencer and Malone Simpson): An app that pairs consumers with local start-ups and small businesses.

Locked or Not (Sam McCauley): An app that allows residents to check the status of their deadbolt lock.

Partnership of Applied Learning for Students or PALS (Sophia Didier, Abhi Gogi, Grant Pride, Emilee Stepoulos): A progressive service-learning experience for high school students to provide companionship to nursing home residents.

PhilUp (Kendall DuLaney, Sydney King, Rohan Munnolimath, and Kyle Richards): An app that allows users to easily incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives.

The teams competed for prizes consisting of seed money to fund their business ideas. First place ($3,000) was awarded to Bluegrass Biogas; second place ($1,500) was awarded to PhilUp; and third place ($500) was awarded to LocalLink.  

The purpose of the Social Entrepreneurship Scholars program is to help students gain the business expertise they need to become agents of change within a variety of communities. Through their work in this competition, these students have proven that they have embraced the idea that business isn't always about the bottom line - but can be used as a way to help those in need. 

The program was in part the idea of Nate Morris, Founder and CEO of Rubicon, Gatton Dean’s Advisory Board member, and founder of the Nate Morris Fellowship

“Establishment of a social entrepreneurship program is a game-changer for the Gatton College, said Morris. “Being able to show students the power of business and its ability to change the world for good will shape the next generation of entrepreneurs.”