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Finding Solutions For Systemic Inequality And Helping The Next Generation Of Social Entrepreneurs

September 18, 2020

When asked to picture an entrepreneur, you’ll most likely conjure an image of a founder of one of the technology companies from Silicon Valley creating breakthrough products and paradigm shifts. But entrepreneurship covers more than just corporate and new venture creation. The lesser-known brother of the three entrepreneurship concentrations covers developing better communities and lives through what is called social entrepreneurship.

With the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others that have faced injustice, we need more entrepreneurs to focus on social issues to help us collectively reach new and better solutions for these endemic problems. A great social entrepreneur thinks outside the box and works to overcome or solve problems that communities around the world are facing. Social entrepreneurs tend to display qualities such as thoughtfulness, kindness, passion, open-mindedness, and determination to not only make their mark on the world but an impact of positive value.

As the long-standing global issues of injustice have come to the forefront of today’s discussions, so have questions on how to be an ally in the movement against anti-black racism. Social entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity at this crossroad to work together and help solve a long list of race and civil rights issues, inclusive of:

  • Police brutality

  • Investment inequality 

  • Labor gaps

  • Gentrification 

  • Health advocacy 

The above are just some of the many issues we face across the nation. Students from the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship and other budding innovators will be some of the pioneers who put their minds together to address and solve these injustices through their entrepreneurial pursuits. 

It has become clear that our society needs a change. A change that’s built around inclusive economic growth, access to basics like healthcare, healthful food, education, and principles of social justice and sustainable development. While companies around the world are pivoting their business models to work to reach these goals - among many others - social entrepreneurs will be the driving force in making a long-lasting impact. Entrepreneurs and change-makers like those of the Black Lives Matter movement and Go Green are just a few who are making a big impact at the moment.

Social entrepreneurship is exemplified through these Drexel entrepreneurs and businesses making a positive impact for underrepresented communities now:

  • Sheetal Bahirat & Zuri Masud, Founders of Hidden Gems Beverage Company/Reveal

Bahirat and Musad are two female culinary scientists on a mission to reduce food waste through finding creative solutions to uncommon problems. Their aim is to create a business that is sustainable, socially responsible, and environmentally safe. Their patent-pending upcycling process extracts the nutrients inside the avocado seed and makes them compostable in the end - ensuring the seeds get to contribute to the economy and to the ecosystem!

  • Gaurang Bham, Founder of Phoodie
    Bham is the founder of Phoodie, a smart food ordering platform set up to help local restaurants increase sales throughout the day using AI technology. Phoodie aims to help bring the highest rate of return to restaurants without charging high fees for using their services, this is especially important during these uncertain times.

While these are just a few entrepreneurs building their businesses with the focus on helping their community, small businesses, and the environment, there are local examples that can be found everywhere around Philly. 

A local example of a social entrepreneur who has gone above and beyond to not only make an impact on his community but involves that community in the creation of the change is Arnett Woodall. Arnett is the owner of West Phillie Produce, a store located in a food desert where there is little to no access to healthy food options. Over the past 11 years, Arnett’s store has become the model for all underserved communities across the country. Not only does he provide affordable access to healthy foods, but also provides a safe space in the community for children to learn and join local groups. He also organizes street clean-ups and brings his community together through events. Arnett is a social entrepreneur at heart. While his store is small, he sets a great example for the community, involving the next generation, mentoring social entrepreneurs, and setting an example for people across the country looking for a model of how to incite change. 

With more entrepreneurs like the ones above, we can start to chip away at the inequalities in our country and businesses. Education is a big step in getting there. Courses at The Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship pushes students toward the path of solving many of these problems. Their courses include Women And Minority Entrepreneurship, as well as Social Entrepreneurship. These courses set out to help entrepreneurs identify ways to uplift and support their communities while they develop their own ventures and try and solve a multitude of problems within our society. By helping both women and minority entrepreneurs, we are amplifying a voice to a previously underrepresented community while providing new opportunities for people who genuinely understand the acute issues of race, lack of diversity, and other national issues plaguing our society. Our programs create new opportunities and initiatives including: 

  • Creating new funding structures representing “friends and family” investments for low-income and new or young entrepreneurs. 

  • Establishing formal ways to connect prominent entrepreneurs of color with emerging entrepreneurs of color and begin a conversation through mentorship. 

  • Developing a system to help navigate technical assistance services around growth and developing businesses.

  • Identifying and supporting existing companies with growth opportunities.

While change is hard, continuing to push conversations, educating the next generation of social entrepreneurs, and connecting communities to mentors and quality resources, we will begin to see the change our nation vitally needs. As Roger Lee, Program Manager and Adjunct Professor at the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship says, "Social entrepreneurs have the power to change people's hearts, minds, and actions. It is important for social entrepreneurs to unapologetically use their power to make the world a much more diverse, inclusive, and equitable place. As a social entrepreneur, I am organizing and moderating the Close School's new entrepreneurship diversity panel discussions (featuring black, LGBTQA, and women entrepreneurs) and directing and teaching our annual Altomari Entrepreneurship Summer Camp for Girls. These programs give diverse entrepreneurs a platform to connect with students and audiences in a meaningful way. I am proud to play a major role in our school's diversity programming." Giving everyone the voice that they deserve will positively impact the next generation of socially-minded entrepreneurs and push our society in the right direction - one social entrepreneur at a time.