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Emily Raleigh wins one of 3 national entrepreneur grants

Areas of Study , Entrepreneurship Students | Apr 18, 2013 |

The Gabelli School’s own Emily Raleigh (GSB ’16) won a social entrepreneurship grant last weekend from the Kenneth Cole Foundation, joining two peers from Stanford University and Georgetown University.

The grant totals $5,000, but its value is much greater. It also includes a scholarship to spend the summer in Silicon Valley at Draper University for Social Entrepreneurs, legal and design assistance for each winner’s social-entrepreneurship venture, and in-person meetings with Kenneth Cole himself.

How did Emily attract the attention of a renowned businessman who is committed to social justice?

She is the founder of the Smart Girls Group, an online and offline network designed to “unite the next generation of superstar women.” It includes a monthly digital magazine, a daily-newspaper-style blog, on-campus chapters at universities around the country, and its own internship program.

At its core is the principle of sisterhood, and Emily’s target audience ranges from middle school all the way through college.

What makes it social entrepreneurship? Smart Girls Group aims to improve the lives of everyone connected with the organization, directly and indirectly.

“We are connecting girls in a way never accomplished before and on multiple platforms, which is cool,” Emily said. “If we accomplish connecting the future female leaders of the world and we create a strong sisterhood, we can make the next generation of women feel more powerful. In turn, they can own that power and make positive changes in the world.”

For the past year, Emily has been working on her venture through Fordham’s branch of the Compass Fellowship, the Kenneth Cole Foundation-sponsored program that enables college freshmen to workshop a business idea with peers and mentors.

“I never thought I would get an opportunity like this as a freshman,” she said. “Compass Fellowship truly has changed both the Smart Girls Group and myself. I applied thinking that it was a shot in the dark, but I knew if we got it, it would be huge for my Smart Girl sisters and me. Never did I think I would get the chance to spend the summer in California or be given $5,000!”

The road to Emily’s win began with a three-part proposal: a budget sheet for Smart Girls Group, a plan of how she would use the grant, and a video describing the business. She learned in early April that she had been chosen as a finalist, and she found out she won at the Compass Fellowship’s Shift Conference last Saturday.

Compass has turned out to be a launching pad for Emily in a way that she never imagined.

“I have learned that The Smart Girls Group is truly something that I can turn into my career,” she said. “That has been my dream since the early days of Smart Girls Group, but something I felt was a very small possibility. Compass has taught me that if I put in the time and it is truly my passion, I can pursue this. That definitely came full circle this past weekend.”

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