1. Go To Class: This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’ll quickly learn that some…
Normally, speakers would fear a room filled with unreasonable people.
That was not the case Friday, April 10, when nearly a dozen practitioners of social entrepreneurship spoke at the third annual Social Impact Summit hosted by NIU CAUSE (Collegiate Organization of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs). More than 250 people turned out to hear their stories of how individuals can use their business acumen to make the world a better place.
“That’s really our goal, we hope that everyone leaves knowing that we all have the ability to make an impact, whether it is in our own communities or globally,” said Ilsa Chaudhri, a 20-year-old finance major at NIU who coordinated the committee that put the event together.
Since January, she and other members of CAUSE have been securing speakers, lining up sponsors, soliciting entries for the Pitch With a CAUSE contest and taking care of the dozens of other details that go into hosting a major conference.
It is a lot of work, but well worth it, said CAUSE president Rob Weiller, a senior majoring in management. “It’s a chance to share something we are passionate about,”
The day-long event, held at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center featured speakers, panel discussions and a competition for some venture capital.
Stacy Ratner, founder and CEO of Open Books, talked about her three start-up companies, all of which contribute to efforts to increase literacy. Later, 24-year-old Elly Rohrer told students about her not-for-profit, Human Connections, in Mexico, which uses educational tours, seminars and internships to bring together international travelers and local entrepreneurs to benefit the local economy.
The day also featured two panel discussions. The first, one focused on youth awareness (and included NIU alumnus John Heybach who has created a college prep school for students from the West Side of Chicago), while the other featured executives from companies like KPMG and McDonald’s discussion social responsibility on a corporate scale.
Attendees – a group that included NIU students, high school students from around the region, as well as students from other universities – also heard a presentation on how NIU CAUSE has partnered with the NIU chapter of Engineers Without Borders to strengthen its efforts to build and distribute water purification filters in Mexico.
The day closed with the Pitch With a Cause competition, where five teams competed for a portion of $3,000 in venture capital funding to help launch their companies, all of which are designed to have a positive social or environmental impact. The competition drew more than 25 applications, and the finalists included a group from Barrington High School, a team from Hungry, as well as teams from Northwestern, DePaul and Marquette.
The top prize of $1,500 went to went to the Pawch team from Northwestern University trying to launch a business that will sell reusable lunch bags to cut down on pollution from fast market food restaurants. The plan includes donations to environmental organizations by participating restaurants each time a customer uses one of the bags. The second place prize of $1,000 went to the team from Barrington High School, which has created SaveDaWorld an app to measure the impact of individual recycling efforts, while the EarlyVention team took home $500 to help launch a business selling specialized teaching tools for the families of children with autism.