UNC's First Social Business Conference

 I'm not the biggest fan of windowless rooms, generally speaking, but UNC's first Social Business Conference may have changed my opinion slightly. Rooms, it seems, are only as good as the people who fill them. With that metric in mind, this room might have been an Ottoman palace.

UNC System President Tom Ross addressed the delegations from all 13 UNC system schools, recalling the university mandate to serve the people of North Carolina. Thirty student teams presented their pitches for socially conscious businesses aimed at the world's biggest problems. Muhammad Yunis raised goosebumps as he described the "super happiness" of helping others through a social business that accomplished change while remaining financially sustainable. A panel of social entrepreneurs ranging from TROSA founder Kevin Macdonald to venture capitalist Justin Desrosiers, all deftly moderated by Bull City Forward founder Christopher Gergen. The UNC MBA's, undergraduate students, and Innovation Scholars who populated UNC Chapel Hill's tables brought with them an enthusiasm and sense of rigor that made the bus ride to and from the event as portentous as the planned programming. Suffice to say, these people, and those in the photos below made the day an extraordinary showcase of what the UNC system can do.

Yunus group

UNC Alumnae and Judith Cone met Nobel Laureate Yunis after his keynote address on the role social businesses play in catalyzing growth and "happiness." (From left to right, Lizzy Hazeltine, Marissa Heyl, Muhammad Yunis, Callie Brauel, and Judith Cone at UNC's first social business conference.)

UNC-born Sanitation Creations and its Dungaroo, portable waste disposal system, placed third overall in the social business competition. Founder Liz Morris and team members Kristen Downs and Alison Sanders pose with Yunis.

MedScheme Founder Swetha Pasala advanced to the final pitch round with her concept of getting the right medical devices in the hands of doctors in developing countries.


Dr. Toan Phan, a new faculty member in the Economics Department, poses with Yunis. Big thanks to Dr. Phan for these photos!