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Young social ventures coming out of the University of Chicago are working to uplift Chicago entrepreneurs of color in the construction industry, students overlooked by traditional debate programs, aging infrastructure in Myanmar, and high-school students struggling with standardized test prep.

Behind those enterprises are four recent University of Chicago graduates who earned 2019 Tarrson Social Venture Fellowships, along with funding to pursue their social ventures full time after graduation.

This month, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business announced winners of the fellowships, selecting two students from Booth, one from the College, and one from the Harris School of Public Policy.

The Tarrson Social Venture Fellowship provides $25,000 each in funding and other support to graduating university students or recent alumni who are committed to growing a startup that helps solve a social or environmental problem. The fellowships, which provide funding as well as mentoring, are supported by Ron Tarrson, ’72 (XP-31), and matching funds from John Edwardson, ’72.

MM Community

To be eligible for the fellowship, applicants must be committed to working full time for their startups, which should be focused on social or environmental impact. To view past Tarrson Fellowship winners, click here.

All four 2019 fellows competed in the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), which this year marks its 10-year anniversary, having helped jumpstart more than 100 startups that have gone on to raise more than $21.3 million.

“Social entrepreneurs in our third cohort of Tarrson Fellows—the largest yet—are dedicated to addressing social issues that affect locals as well as those in communities abroad,” said Robert H. Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance at Chicago Booth and John Edwardson Faculty Director of the Rustandy Center. “As the Social New Venture Challenge celebrates its 10th year, it’s no surprise that all four fellows honed their ideas through the competition and now, with the fellowship, will get the support they need to continue propelling their startups forward.”

The 2019 Tarrson Fellows are:

Josh Aaronson, AB ’19, of Debate it Forward

Josh graduated from the College in June 2019. Debate it Forward, which won the 2019 SNVC, is an education nonprofit that promotes healthy discourse in youth through play-based programming. The organization uses their innovative curriculum to engage students often overlooked by traditional debate programs: young students, students of low income, and students with diagnosed learning or developmental differences.

Kyle Johnson, ’19, of Business Services Collective

Kyle, a Civic Scholar in Booth’s Weekend MBA Program, graduated in 2019. Business Services Collective, which placed second in the 2019 SNVC, works with Chicago entrepreneurs of color in the construction trades to create a shared back office. By lowering the cost to delegate services like estimation, project management, and bookkeeping, Business Services Collective enables entrepreneurs to focus on growth and become engines of wealth creation in their communities.

John Mak, MPP ’19, of MM Community

John graduated from the university’s Harris School of Public Policy in June 2019, where he was a member of the inaugural class of Obama Foundation Scholars. MM Community, a 2019 SNVC finalist, is a Myanmar-based crowdsourcing platform that sources funds via low-interest loans from citizens and donations from international donors and impact investors. The funds are used to address needs in the local community such as building fences around drinking water ponds, or creating school libraries.

Kalyan Ray-Mazumder, ’19, of Prepmedians

Kalyan graduated from Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program in June 2019. Prepmedians, a 2019 SNVC finalist, is an affordable online learning platform that uses humor, music, and pop culture to prepare students for the SAT and ACT. Prepmedians is cultivating relationships with nonprofits and public school systems to bring the program to English language learners and students with various learning needs.

To learn more about the Tarrson Social Venture Fellowship, visit the Rustandy Center’s website.

To get the latest information about upcoming events and news planned around the 10th anniversary of the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), sign up here.