The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at Chicago Booth has awarded its inaugural Tarrson Social Venture Fellowships, selecting three students to receive $20,000 each to pursue their startups full time after graduation.

The Tarrson Social Venture Fellowship provides funding and other support to graduating University of Chicago students and recent alumni who are committed to growing a startup that helps solve a social or environmental problem.

The fellowships, which provide graduates with mentorship in the development of a fund-raising strategy as well as help securing office space, are funded by Ron Tarrson, ’72 (XP-31), a longtime supporter of the University of Chicago, Chicago Booth, and the Rustandy Center, and generous matching funds from John Edwardson, ’72.

“With so many obstacles facing social entrepreneurs today, I’m happy to help provide another pathway for students to pursue their startups after graduation,” Tarrson said. “Taking a new idea out of an academic program is never easy, but the Tarrson Fellowship offers committed entrepreneurs tackling social or environmental issues a chance to sustainably grow their organizations.” 

To be eligible for the fellowship, applicants must be committed to working full time for their startups, which should be incorporated, based in Chicago, and focused on social or environmental impact.

This year’s fellows all participated in the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), the social impact track of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, the university’s nationally ranked accelerator program. The SNVC is run by Booth's Rustandy Center, along with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“We're extremely proud of the first cohort of Tarrson Fellows,” said Will Gossin, the Rustandy Center’s senior associate director of social entrepreneurship and social venture funding. “The fellowship shows that students can start with a social or environmental passion, identify a compelling opportunity, develop it and launch it, and receive funding support as a Tarrson Fellow.”

The 2017 Tarrson Fellows include:

Hannah Meyer of Provide

Hannah will graduate from Booth's Evening MBA Program in August 2017. Provide, which won first place in the 2017 SNVC, aims to lower administrative burdens for child-care providers so they can focus on offering high-quality care to more low-income families and advocate for full public funding of early childhood education. The venture offers a software-based, back-office solution for daycare business owners, allowing them to enroll in government subsidy programs, manage licenses and accreditation, and maximize tax deductions.  

Jake Mikva of GoodWerk

Jake graduated from Booth's Full-Time MBA Program in June 2017. GoodWerk, a 2017 SNVC finalist, is an online platform that increases civic engagement by connecting citizens with candidates and causes that share their values. Its mission is to convert online “slacktivism” into real-world engagement by creating an action road map tailored for those who want to respond to news with more than a thumbs-up button.

Matthew Davidson of Tallgrass

Matthew will graduate from Booth's Evening MBA Program in December 2017. Tallgrass, a 2017 SNVC participant, endeavors to create a supply chain for capturing, transporting, and processing the hides of humanely raised cattle for sale to leather-goods makers. Tallgrass allows leather-goods makers to better serve a growing demographic of increasingly conscientious customers by providing hides harvested from cattle that have not been raised on commercial feedlots.