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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 2 weeks ago

Social entrepreneurship conference brings together students, business leaders

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The conference was held Sept. 21 at New College in Sarasota.

These students want solutions. To find some, New College of Florida students Daniel Schell and Emiliano Espinosa organized a Social Entrepreneurship Conference.

“Social entrepreneurship can be a tool anyone can use to look at a problem and say: ‘Here’s a process. Here’s a product. Here’s something we can take action with,’” Schell tells Coffee Talk.

The conference, held Sept. 21 at New College in Sarasota, brought together students, entrepreneurs and community members. Speakers and judges at the event included prominent area businesspeople, from Dealers United CEO Pete Petersen to New Market Partners Founder and CEO Joy Randels, who was the keynote speaker. “We were impressed with the caliber of the people,” Espinosa says. “Having her as the first person to talk elevated the credibility of the conference.”

Espinosa says they started planning the conference a year ago. The process brought together students from area colleges in the Cross College Alliance — New College, Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

About 140 people attended the conference, which included panels on social entrepreneurship, environmental entrepreneurship and creative entrepreneurship.

A competition portion of the conference awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 cash prizes to student entrepreneurs. The $3,000 first-place prize went to New College student Jesus Olive for a self-improvement app for new habit creation, self-reflection and virtue cultivation called Better Today. “We felt the competition was a way to put our money where our mouth was,” Schell says. If there had hadn’t been a competition that involved a business incubator and developing business plans, he says, the event wouldn’t have been action-oriented.

Schell and Espinosa are already planning next year’s Social Entrepreneurship Conference. The date is set — Sept. 26, 2020 — and based on feedback from this year’s event, they plan to offer more opportunities for attendees to network with one another. The co-founders also want the conference to be sustainable for the future. “We want to allow other students from New College or partner schools to take on the role of organizing and supporting the organization process so they can also learn,” Espinosa says. “Once Daniel and I graduate, it can continue moving forward.”

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