Fellowship aims to inspire student entrepreneurs
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 09:10
A new entrepreneurial fellowship program has come to Tufts this year, introducing a select group of freshman participants to the world of social entrepreneurship.
Compass Partners, a two-year fellowship program currently based in five universities, aims to this year connect 15 Tufts freshmen with internships and business opportunities. It also unites the fellows with six upperclassmen mentors, who host lectures aimed at educating them about entrepreneurship.
Over 100 students applied for the program. The application process consisted of a written application and an interview with a mentor.
The program began last Wednesday with a lecture by Lauren Kay, a Brown University student who founded a hybrid babysitting and tutoring service called Smartsitting. The fellows engaged in a discussion with the mentors following the lecture.
"Life is really about networking," Kay told the fellows and mentors assembled at the lecture. "I wish I had the network now that you have."
The fellowship is made up of four phases. In the first phase, students pursue personal development and then move on to the second phase of business development training. In the third phase, students complete an internship. Compass Partners provides its students with internship, education and funding opportunities at organizations such as Prudential Financial, Inc., and One World Youth Project.
The final phase gives them access to capital to start a socially beneficial business venture.
"The Compass fellowship is intended to take young, passionate students who are interested in making a difference in the world and equip them with the tools and skills they need to do that," Compass Partners Co-founder Neil Shah told the Daily.
Senior Stephen Gershman brought the program to Tufts after meeting co-founders Shah and Arthur Woods, who originally founded the program at Georgetown University.
"Boston is the perfect area," Gershman said. "At Tufts, we have all these great resources; we have students who come here for social change. This is the perfect place."
The upperclassmen mentors are entirely responsible for choosing the fellows as well as organizing lectures and implementing the program, senior Sam Estridge, one of the mentors, said.
"We chose students for the passion and the ambition they showed in the application process," Estridge said. "It's about who can get the most out of the program and who's going to put the most into it."
Compass Partners provides a network of organizations that supports the program, according to Pamela Goldberg, the director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program in Tufts' Gordon Institute.
"Compass Partners will give them a leg up when they're starting to take entrepreneurial leadership courses and looking for internships in the social entrepreneurship sphere," Goldberg said.
Compass Partners currently operates at Georgetown University, The George Washington University, American University, Indiana University and Tufts.
Freshman SaraMarie Bottaro, who throughout high school ran a small business that sold homemade eco-friendly items, said she found the first lecture inspiring.
"Compass Partners is exactly what I wanted because I want to pursue entrepreneurship," Bottaro said. "It will be an invaluable resource for accomplishing my dreams."
Shah said that Compass Partners focuses on businesses that have some sort of social impact.
"All ventures that go through our program are required to be socially beneficial," Shah said. "They have to have all the aspects of a business while having all the aspects of a charity."
Student-run businesses should pursue philanthropic efforts while still striving to make a profit, Shah said.
"Philanthropy as we knew it is dead," Shah said. "Enter social entrepreneurs. They're businesses that all have a social mission. They all give back to the community they work in."
Shah said that because Tufts students cannot begin to take Entrepreneurial Leadership courses until sophomore year, Compass Partners gives them an opportunity to begin their entrepreneurial efforts early.
"We're all extremely excited about it," Estridge said. "We have a great group of freshmen who will go on to carry the legacy and run the program the next year and years after."