Two teams of NCSSM students took home top prizes at the UNC Social Entrepreneurship Conference.
Three student teams from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics presented business plans at the UNC Social Entrepreneurship Conference this week. Despite tough competition, two teams took home top prizes in the Business Plan Competition, including cash prizes and support to grow their business ideas.
The competition, held each year as part of the conference, challenges student teams to create a plan for a sustainable new venture that achieves a social business objective important to the state of North Carolina. This year, two NCSSM teams competed in the undergraduate category as the only two high school teams among a field of 27 university teams. NCSSM’s third team competed in this year’s special category, Financial Literacy, against teams from NC State, UNC Charlotte, and UNC Pembroke.
“All of our teams did a fantastic job,” says Brock Winslow, vice chancellor for institutional advancement at NCSSM and advisor to the three teams. “They were smooth, composed, convincing, and charming. Each conveyed the potential for unique social impact as well as financial sustainability.”
NCSSM juniors Aneesh Agarwal, Nikhil Milind, Joshua Dong, and Kevin Zhou took home the top prize in the Financial Literacy category. The team’s idea, SonoRelief, involves a smartphone app designed to reduce stress by through specific music selection, customizing stress relief for greater effectiveness. The team earned a cash prize as well as recognition among the venture funding community to pursue their business aspirations.
A second team of NCSSM students took first place out of the largest field of competition, the undergraduate category. The PACT team, which stands for “Planning and Caring Together,” is made up of Fransisco Coch ’16, Benjamin Fawcett ’16, Deanyone Su ’16, and Nevin Wetherill ’17. PACT seeks to address the disparity in communication and understanding between doctors and patients during healthcare interactions by providing a communications platform and interface. The team also earned a cash prize and recognition among entrepreneurs and business leaders present.
The CropShop team, made up of NCSSM juniors Ishaan Rao, Michelle Roh, and Amruthansh Sriperumbudur, also competed in the undergraduate category. Their business plan focuses on “Fresh Food for a Fresh Life.” The CropShop is a mobile farmer’s market, bringing fresh produce to customers at densely populated locations such as workplaces and universities via food truck, allowing for greater profit for farmers and a more nutritious diet for the consumer.
Mona Amin ’14 and Shraddha Rathod ‘14, the 2014 winners of the UNC SEC competition, attended the 2016 event. Their business concept, FreshSpire, focuses on an app that makes fresh foods more accessible and affordable, thereby improving human health and reducing landfill waste. Amin and Rathod shared the growth of their company since winning the competition in 2014. The FreshSpire team (also including Hannah Sloan ’14, Gabrielle Beaudry ’14, and Jennifer Wu ’14) has received recognition in local and national media, been invited to present at other conferences and events, and has raised more than $100,000 in funding.
Winslow thanks the NCSSM alumni, staff, and parents who advised and coached the students in preparation for the event: LaTasha Best-Gaddy (a consultant with North Carolina’s Small Business and Technology Development Center), Tom Clayton (NCSSM’s director of academic programs), Chuck Horrell ’97, Michael Martine ’87, Brian Morin ’85, Kirk Nelson (an NCSSM Online parent), Caroline Jennings Saul ’05, Chris Saunders ’03, and Chris Shella ’88.
“The event [was] a great opportunity for students to gain exposure and connect with entrepreneurs and business leaders,” says Winslow.