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Student group inspires socially conscious business

Social Enterprise at Cornell is a student-run group on a mission to inspire and cultivate impact-driven innovation. In collaboration with Life Changing Labs (LCL), they hosted the first-ever Startup Career Fair at Cornell March 27 to match local socially conscious startups with students seeking summer internships.

Imani Majied

“Our objective is to promote learning, compassion and inter-group collaboration in the professional community,” said Social Enterprise co-founder Naviya Kothari ’20, an engineering major. “Social Enterprise at Cornell aims to foster a community of change-makers and risk-takers.”

With the help of LCL, Social Enterprise invited more than a dozen growing startups to explain their businesses and job opportunities to Cornell students.

“Many of these companies participated in the LCL summer incubator program. Others are simply interested in spreading awareness about the dynamic startup community at Cornell,” said Jenna Winocur ’21, another Social Enterprise co-founder.

VitaScan, a startup with a mission to help alleviate malnutrition, was represented by engineering alum Alexandra Voinea ’18.

“We definitely need more social entrepreneurship-focused affairs, and it is wonderful to see Cornell entrepreneurship growing and developing,” Voinea said. “At VitaScan, we are offering students a learning experience and the opportunity to work with a startup in the field of biotech.”

Several student startups, which are moving from the market discovery phase to the implementation phase, were also recruiting students. Among them was Everybody Eats, a food delivery service where a portion of the proceeds from every meal ordered helps cover the cost of a meal for a person in the local community in need.

“Everybody Eats is participating in this career fair because we are looking for people to help us develop our app, but also looking for people who are just interested in wearing many hats,” said founder Imani Majied ’19. While the internship Everybody Eats offers is unpaid, Majied stressed that an advantage of joining her startup is “you will be working remotely, and we are very flexible.”

Rosie, another startup in the food sector led by CEO Nick Nickitas, MBA ’14, is in a position to offer paid internships.

“On so many levels, this career fair is a perfect match for Rosie,” said Lisa Patz, executive director of human resources at Rosie. “Our founders are Cornell alumni and were among one of the earliest eLab cohorts. The company is now in more than 30 states, and we are hiring to support our growth. We are always looking for good talent.

“I’ve worked many career fairs, but this one is really special,” Patz said. “The students with whom I’ve interacted are very motivated, very curious and wanting to learn. I feel like I can help guide them as they try to figure out what they want to do.”

The career fair is just the beginning of programming offered by Social Enterprise at Cornell. They will be organizing a series of pro-bono consulting, investing and design projects open to the entire Cornell community. Each project will have four or five different consultants/analysts across disciplines solving a business problem.

Through these open-sourced projects, Social Enterprise will provide real-world experiences to all those passionate about learning.

“The big emphasis for Social Enterprise at Cornell consulting projects is working with clients who have both a social impact and a for-profit model,” said Winocur.

“I think we can remodel the present professional environment to retain the close-knit community and personal challenge aspects while incorporating inclusivity and a passion for social impact,” Kothari said. “It’s all about the value of shared learning and shared experience toward a greater purpose.”

Debra Eichten is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

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Lindsey Hadlock