Social entrepreneurs use their business minds for the greater good by founding startups that address current issues and develop creative solutions for problems in the world. The Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship recognizes men and women who head startups with novel ideas to improve their communities and the world. These social innovators have successfully disrupted the status quo and are striving to better society through things like education, nutrition, medicine, conservation, and more.
Impressive Semi-Finalists for the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship
CEO & Founder of Springboard Collaborative
After observing how long it took some of his students to catch back up to the same reading level they had before going on summer break, Alejandro Gac-Artigas turned his attention to the achievement gap between low-income students and their middle-income counterparts. He found that much of this gap was created over the summer breaks.
To combat this issue, Gac-Artigas founded Springboard Collaborative, an organization which educates teachers and parents on ways they can help use time spent outside of class to improve students’ learning.
Co-Founder of LuminAID
Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta co-founded LuminAID when the two were graduate design students. After seeing the destruction of the Haiti earthquake, they realized the need for portable, rechargeable lighting in the aftermaths of disasters. Their goal was to increase safety and provide comfort in these situations.
While their design was initially crowd-funded on IndieGoGo, Stork and Sreshta appeared on Season Six of the ABC television show Shark Tank, where Mark Cuban invested in the product. Now, LuminAID is sold to hikers, travelers, and others. For every light purchased, another is given to a family in need.
Founder and CEO of The Bee Corp
Ellie Symes began beekeeping in college and created the first student run beehives at Indiana University. She eventually founded a beekeeping club at the university, and realized that one of the ways to combat the declining bee population was through technology and data.
Symes first pitched the idea for The Bee Corp at Indiana, winning funding from the university. The Bee Corp is an agriculture technology company that connects farmers, beekeepers, and others through data.
Founder and Executive Director of Educate!
Eric Glustrom is the founder and executive director of Educate! an organization that aims to reduce youth unemployment in Africa. Approximately 50% of the African population is under 18 years of age, and upon leaving school students are often left without jobs.
Educate! provides practical training and curriculum in schools in Uganda and Rwanda. It focuses on the skills needed for entrepreneurship and business development, such as planning, research, and marketing.
CEO of The Lucky Iron Fish Project
Gavin Armstrong is the founder and CEO of The Lucky Iron Fish Project, which aims to decrease iron deficiency across the globe. Iron deficiency causes health problems such as anemia, and impacts around 2 billion people worldwide. By boiling the Iron Fish in water, families (both in developed countries and underdeveloped ones) can add iron to their daily meals.
The Lucky Iron Fish Project operates on a buy-one give-one basis. Every fish purchased leads to one being given to a family in need.
Founder of TalkingPoints
As a Korean immigrant, Heejae Lim noticed that there was a disconnect between school systems and students’ non-English speaking parents. While English-speaking parents could be very involved in their children’s education, non-English speakers had a more difficult time becoming involved. She founded TalkingPoints to make a better connection between teachers and parents.
TalkingPoints provides software which translates messages between teachers and parents. This way, both parties can send and receive messages in their native language and take active roles in students’ learning.
Founder and CEO of Uptrust
Concerned about prison reform in America, Jacob Sills founded Uptrust to increase court attendance. By sending text message reminders to defendants and connecting them with necessary social services, Uptrust helps reduce Failure-To-Appears, saves courts money, and reduces nights spent in jail by defendants.
Prior to founding Uptrust, Sills worked in private equity and investment banking. He believes that technology can make the justice system more empathetic and efficient.
Co-Founder and CEO of Kinnos
Jason Kang, Katherine Jin, and Kevin Tyan joined together for Colombia’s Ebola Design Challenge. They designed a prototype of Highlight, and founded Kinnos in order to better protect healthcare workers from disease outbreak and infection.
A decontamination product, Highlight changes color so that medical professionals can tell when something has been properly cleaned, or if it needs more contact time.
Dr. Jin Lee
Child Psychologist and Co-Founder of BabyNoggin
Dr. Jin Lee is the co-founder (along with her husband) of Babynoggin. A clinically trained child psychologist, Lee gathered information on baby growth and development onto an app platform, allowing parents to track their child’s growth and health. The app also helps parents screen for developmental issues.
Before founding BabyNoggin, Lee founded two other startups, and worked for America’s 4th largest health insurance company and its 3rd largest nonprofit hospital system.
Co-Founder and Director of SIRUM
Kiah Williams (with Adam Kircher and George Wang) co-founded SIRUM in order to get medicine to those who cannot afford it. SIRUM redistributes unopened, unexpired medicine that would otherwise be destroyed by manufacturers or pharmacies. SIRUM then works to match partner donor organizations with those in need of the medications.
SIRUM’s work has helped over 150,000 individuals who could not afford necessary medicine without them. Prior to founding SIRUM, Williams worked for public health programs with the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.
Co-Founder & CEO of MoringaConnect
Born in Ghana, Kwami Williams immigrated to the United States as a child. While working on his degree in Aerospace Engineering, he returned to visit Ghana on a service trip. Stuck by the poverty he saw, Williams turned his engineering skills to creating solutions.
Williams co-founded MoringaConnect with Emily Cunningham. The company processes moringa grown by local farmers in Ghana and helps connect them to the global market.
Founder & CEO of Kuli Kuli Foods
A former Peace Corps volunteer, Lisa Curtis found that moringa leaves added nutrition to her diet and energy to her day. Curtis founded Kuli Kuli Foods in order to encourage the sale and use of moringa in the United States and to allow women in West Africa to earn a livelihood by harvesting and selling the plant.
Kuli Kuli Foods makes a number of different healthy products, from energy bars to teas. It is now sold in stores across the United States, and Curtis is working to plant moringa trees in Haiti as well, to help farmers there.
Co-Founder & Executive Director of mRelief
Rose Afriyie is co-founder and Executive Director of mRelief, a non-profit that helps low income families figure out if they qualify for food stamps and government assistance. While many food stamp applications are well over 20 pages long, mRelief offers a quick (10 question) online survey to apply.
Before mRelief, Afriyie was a marketing associate at Google and interned in the Domestic Policy Council of the White House during the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Other Entrepreneurs & Social Innovators Doing Inspirational Work
- Rachael Chong, Founder & CEO of Catchafire
- Shiza Shahid, Co-Founder of The Malala Fund & Founder of NOW Ventures
- Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code
- Chetna Gala Sinha, Founder of First Women Cooperative Bank
- Frederick Hutson, Founder & CEO of Pigeonly
- Kimbal Musk, Venture Capitalist, Environmentalist, and Co-Founder of The Kitchen Community
- Nicole Yeary, Founder & CEO of Ms.Tech
- Alexandre Mars, Founder & CEO of Epic
- Marilyn Tam, Founder & Executive Director of Us Foundation
- Jessica O. Matthews, Founder & CEO of Uncharted Play Inc.
- Grace Jun, Designer & Executive Director of Open Style Lab
- Justin Dillon, Founder of Made In A Free World
- Bill Drayton, Founder & CEO of Ashoka
- Rachel Brathen, YogaGirl; Social Media Influencer
- Antionette Carroll, Founder & CEO of Creative Reaction Lab
- Nick Wobbrock, Co-Founder of Blue Forest Conservation
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