Mohammed Ashour, a social entrepreneur, is tackling the problem of global food insecurity by harvesting insects — a high-protein source of food that has a limited impact on the environment.
Ashour, along with six other social entrepreneurs, discussed his business model at the ninth annual Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship Summit, hosted by a team of Ohio State students at the Mershon Auditorium on Saturday.
The goal was to share the stories of successful social entrepreneurs, while also encouraging students and community members to take action, start their own organizations and support the ideas of others, said Erin Halleran, the director of the event and a third-year in finance.
“I look around and I know that every single person in this room cares about doing good and having an impact in a sustainable, positive, really intelligent way,” Halleran said. “You just don’t get that anywhere else, and the meaning that comes through that is invaluable.”
Throughout the day, business owners and entrepreneurs from around the world shared their stories, ideas and visions for the future, addressing problems ranging from food insecurity to fair trade and empowering youth.
“If poverty is an economic issue, then economic development has got to be considered as a primary solution to address poverty,” said Robert Caldwell, a local civic leader, in the opening remarks. “And I celebrate the APTE summit because it advocates and inspires solutions that are rooted in economic development.”
While the speakers shared their stories about starting new organizations and how they became successful, the summit also supported up-and-coming entrepreneurs by hosting a business competition, allowing them to pitch their ideas to the audience to compete for funding.
Four groups of OSU students competed, pitching various ideas including a microfinance program to provide loans to people living below the poverty line as well as a system to recover and repurpose the nutrients from human waste.
Bust a Move, the winner of the competition, received $500 to advance its business, allowing the founders to continue developing their idea of designing a more durable and affordable sports bra for young girls.
Their design aims to encourage girls to stay involved in sports throughout their adolescence, members of Bust of Move said, and this involvement ultimately allows girls to be more successful in their careers, since sports teach a strong work ethic and the importance of teamwork.
Although they didn’t compete for funding, many members of the audience were also social entrepreneurs looking to network and learn from the ideas of others.
Nick Hirsch, for example, is part of a growing organization called Coffee Crafters Academy, a for-profit business that runs coffee shops inside local prisons, teaching inmates tangible coffee-making skills, but also focusing on softer skills like teamwork and conflict resolution.
Hirsch, an OSU engineering alumnus who studied industrial and systems engineering, originally worked for Boeing before turning to social entrepreneurship.
“I just really wasn’t passionate about what I was doing, and I couldn’t manufacture that passion,” Hirsch said. “And, meanwhile, I was learning a lot more about social issues, like homelessness and human trafficking, and slowly my interests transitioned.”
Ultimately, the summit allowed people such as Hirsch to communicate with other people with similar interests, but Halleran said she hopes people take away more than just inspiration.
“Sometimes these events are very motivational, but nothing happens as a result,” she said. “We want people to take action based on their motivation.”
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