By Lacie Blankenship
The Turner Family Center for Social Ventures (TFC) recently hosted the first Vanderbilt TFC Social Enterprise Pitch Competition. The competition kicked off in mid-October and ran for 3 weeks before concluding with final pitch presentations to a panel of Tennessee-based entrepreneurs, civic leaders, and judges.
This year’s winners were Alyssa Patel (MBA’23), Elizabeth (Libby) Crowe (MBA’23), and Parker Willmon (Ph.D. BME’25), who pitched Molded, a company that cleans recycled goods in Nashville and upcycles them for 3-D print filament, which would be used in turn to design and print plastic goods for profit. The group estimated the business would create 600 jobs by 2024.
“The best part of this pitch competition was the interdisciplinary experience; my team was 2 MBA students and a Ph.D. student,” says Patel. “We were all able to bring our areas of expertise to create an idea that came from true collaboration.”
Participants competed on teams to best address the theme: “create positive impact by generating 500 jobs in Nashville (or the Middle Tennessee region) through a profitable business model by 2021.”
Throughout the competition, participants experimented with workforce development opportunities and business capabilities to address social disparities in employment.
Teams present to the panel of judges consisted of Bob Bernstein, Owner of Bongo Java; Shateara Hall (MPP’15), Wond’ry Social Innovation Program Coordinator, and Cali Livingston (MBA’20), Director of Customer Operations at LUCI. Jade Sampson, Founder of Silverline Strategic Partners, attended the pitches as a keynote speaker.
“I worked with 2 impressive MBA students with backgrounds wildly different from my own; what made them great partners were the skills they had acquired as a result of those backgrounds,” says Willmon. “Alyssa, a former teacher, was able to present flawlessly, and Libby credited her experience with Bloomberg for her impressive slide deck; a lot more could be said, but ultimately, I am happy I got to work and win with such an amazing team.”
“Vedanti Shah (MBA’22), our TFC Social Startups Chair, and her student committee brought together an amazing group of interdisciplinary graduate students to learn about emerging needs and build and pitch solutions to create impact while generating a profit,” says Kathleen Fuchs Hritz, TFC Assistant Director. “In their short time together, they learned about our city of Nashville and built knowledge, skills, and network in social enterprise.”