A way to increase honeybee populations and the need to make wheelchairs more comfortable for caregivers as well as chair occupants were the top-idea winners in this year’s Social Venture Innovation Challenge, whose finals were held Dec. 5.
More than $27,000 in cash prizes and in-kind services totaling more than $40,000 were shared among the six winning teams. Provost Nancy Targett lauded the number of entries in this fifth annual competition for “setting records in a whole lot of different ways,” referencing the 96 teams and nearly 300 individuals who came up with unique business-oriented solutions to pressing social problems.
“We couldn’t have been more thrilled with both the quantity and quality of this year’s entries,” says Fiona Wilson, executive director of the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise. “An exciting first this year was that all five UNH Durham colleges were represented on finalist teams in the student track. This was a powerful signal that students from across many different majors are not just passionate about a wide range of social and environmental challenges, but are also excited about putting their varied passions, knowledge and skills into action with ideas for entrepreneurial ventures.”
Second-place student winner Geno Miller '18, a business administration/entrepreneurial studies major with a minor in psychology, won $2,000 for Schtudy, a mentoring and adaptive e-learning STEM prep platform to help students succeed.Honey Do, a plan to increase honey production around the country, won first place in the student challenge category. Andrew DeMeo, '18, an environmental conservation and sustainability major, has launched the beekeeping business that, for a one-time fee, installs and maintains hives on customers’ properties. In addition to a $5,000 cash prize, DeMeo received business membership opportunities valued at $575.
Freshman music education major Julianna Good won third place with Crescendo Inclusive Curriculums, a nonprofit teacher education resource that will integrate more students with special needs into fine arts classrooms.
Community track winners included, in first place, IdeaShare, from the team of Sharon Parker of Dover, New Hampshire, and Glenn Shwaery ’94 of North Hampton, New Hampshire, for their idea to redesign reclining manual wheelchairs to make them more user friendly. They received a cash prize of $10,000 along with other business benefits. All top-three community track winners received legal services from Pierce Atwood, a New Hampshire law firm.
Second place in the community track went to HealthyKart Community Inc., a nutritional dietary analysis software platform targeting obesity, created by teammates Kevin Cahill of Weare, New Hampshire, Matthew Lehmann of Rochester, New Hampshire, Kevin Martin of Hopkinton, New Hampshire, and Sarah Trautman of Boston, Massachusetts. They won $5,000 and a 12-month flex membership at Alpha Loft’s co-working space..
IRIS, launched by Emilia Giordano and Justin Troiano, a master’s student in political science, both of Eliot, Maine, won third place in the community track. The mobile app aims to empower students who have learning disabilities to communicate their academic needs and feelings to their support network.
Alumna Clara Miller ‘72 director and president of the Heron Foundation, was named the Social Innovation & Enterprise Social Innovator of the Year.
Learn more about the winning teams here.