Event explores social entrepreneurship — a business approach that emphasizes using profits to implement solutions to social, cultural and environmental issues.
Two Sarasota college students founded a conference to open up a conversation about a new way to conduct business — making a profit while changing the world.
Daniel Schell, 20, and Emiliano Espinosa, 23, launched the inaugural Social Entrepreneurship Conference (SECON) at New College of Florida. Over a dozen business leaders spoke about social entrepreneurship — a business approach that emphasizes using profits to implement solutions to social, cultural and environmental issues.
“Instead of just being a profitable business where all you care about is the profit, we want to start creating a new conversation, at least here in Sarasota, where we can make profits, but we are an impact-driven business,” Schell said. “A lot of people think that if you make an impact, you’re not going to make profit, and that’s completely wrong.”
The conference’s keynote speaker was a local entrepreneur, Joy Randels, who is the founder and CEO of New Market Partners, a tech company accelerator.
“To say that you are for-profit and for good are not exclusive,” Randels said. “Businesses need to make money and there’s no reason you can’t use that money to make a difference.”
In a contest similar to the ABC reality TV show “Shark Tank,” students from New College, Ringling College of Art and Design, USF Sarasota-Manatee and Pine View School presented business ideas to a panel of investment judges. The first-place winner was New College student Jesus Olive, 21, who is creating a mobile app called Better Today — a self improvement tool to help people better their personal lives and achieve goals. He won $3,000 to grow his business and expects the app to be available for the public by June.
The audience voted the people’s choice award for Bear Mancinni, 15. He hopes to create a mobile app called Warrior Ed, which will crowdsource information on a map for people with disabilities to better navigate areas. In his presentation, he explained that he has cerebral palsy, and wants to help other people with disabilities.
“Anytime you can engage our youth in solving community-based problems, you see amazing results,” said Rita Ferrandino, one of the investment judges. “Investing in our students is the future of our community.”
The New College students began planning the conference about a year ago, and became teary eyed on stage at the end of the event, reflecting on the time and work they committed to the project.
“This event is just the beginning of that conversation,” Espinosa said. “At the end of the day, value still has to exchange hands. But instead of it just it being about value, it’s about impact. You have a problem, you provide a free market solution to it. That allows giving people the option to choose instead of forcing them to do it.”
Schell and Espinosa plan to hold another conference in September 2020.