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Students plan new ventures with local and global benefit

Areas of Study , Entrepreneurship , Entrepreneurship Society , Stories Student Organizations & Clubs | May 15, 2012 |

Members of the Compass Fellowship’s inaugural class with their mentors.

by Daniel Keyes (GSB ’12)

As more and more consumers demand that companies better align their practices with the interests of society, established businesses have had to make corporate social responsibility a greater priority. But a look at the entrepreneurial community reveals that there is a whole other side to this process: Entrepreneurs are seeking to develop a new breed of business that intertwines shareholder interests and society’s interests from the get-go.

Gabelli students who are interested in socially focused startups can — as of this year — get guidance from an international organization called the Compass Fellowship. Students launched their own chapter several months ago.

Fordham’s chapter provides a select group of Gabelli fellows, all members of the Class of 2015, with the knowledge and connections they need to start a socially responsible business. Senior mentors deliver weekly “modules,” or lessons, producing an effect much like a startup accelerator. Varied guest speakers guide the fellows in creating business plans. While there is certainly an emphasis on the business perspective, the fellowship’s real focus is creating vehicles for positive social change.

Jackson Lindauer (GSB ’15), for example, developed a business plan to sell an unusual college spring-break experience: an all-inclusive community-service trip. Operations-wise, Jackson’s business would function like a traditional travel company, but every trip it sells would have a service component. He hopes to launch UServe with packages to Guatemala City and eventually expand worldwide.

Andrew Pierson (GSB ’15) and Christopher McCloskey (GSB ’15) came up with the idea for CitySwap Bookshop, which tweaks the online-college-textbook-swap template to incorporate monetary and book donations to underprivileged New York City public school students. They aim to alleviate the rising cost of university textbooks while aiding an underfunded local school system.

The cover design for a product in student Adriana Krasniansky’s line of globally inspired stationery.

Speaking with some of these students reveals their passion for the fellowship. “We became so invested in each other’s businesses,” said Adriana Krasniansky (GSB ’15), who is co-founding bread & salt, a company selling stationery that celebrates various global cultures. “Compass provided a real sense of interconnectedness that I don’t think exists in the classroom or in the work world,” she added.

The Compass Fellowship’s parent organization soon will roll out “Compass Connect,” an online platform where Compass fellows and alumni can network and share experiences. This will further enhance the support offered to these young entrepreneurs. “Compass is a lot like the Breakfast Club,” Andrew Pierson remarked. “The fellows share a common interest in social business and, as a result, develop great friendships with one another and those in other Compass chapters.”

This new program is growing in popularity — students are already lining up for the 15 spots available for the 2012-2013 school year. The 11 fellows in this past year’s class hope to open up shop soon, so keep an eye out for their businesses!

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