Budding entrepreneurs unveil social ventures at Taylor Student Showcase

Tulane Graduate Student Erin Marrero-Savoie Presents A Pitch For Her Social Venture, Phoenix Project Plus Nola, During The Taylor Student Showcase On April 11, 2018.

After six months of intense research and development, five Tulane student-led social ventures revealed business proposals at the Taylor Student Showcase held April 11.

The ventures, from a mental health tech company to a scholarship readiness program, are the first to be incubated in Taylor’s redesigned CI+ Social Venture Accelerator program.

“We made a big pivot this year, focusing on students that have lived the social change they want to see and intimately know the issue, or have spent a significant amount of time in the field,” explained Taylor Program Manager and CI+ coordinator Julia Lang as she opened the event.

CI+ helps students build long-term plans for their social venture through mentorship, connection to community partners, interaction with local innovators and the development of social entrepreneurial skills.

During the accelerator program, students develop skills in market research, design thinking, branding, budgeting, funding and pitching. Participants also learn how to select an appropriate business entity classification, assess social impact, and use the Business Model Canvas to map out a business plan and create lean prototypes. Beyond business acumen, CI+ gives students the tools to more deeply understand the social challenges they hope to address.

After one-minute pitches from each venture, showcase attendees were invited to “choose their own adventure” and hear more detailed presentations from the ideas that interested them the most. The dialogue was two-way, with audience members providing constructive feedback and suggestions to ventures after each round.

The CI+ accelerator drew changemakers from across Tulane’s campus, including an undergraduate student, six graduate students and an alumnus representing four different schools.

“We have a really eclectic cohort— students studying social work, a master’s of business, a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, it’s not like these students don’t have other things to do with their time,” said Lang. “But they have taken the time to commit to this program, and commit to their values and the change they want to see in the world.”

At the showcase, Taylor also awarded $20,650 to 27 student recipients of the Changemaker Catalyst Award. Awards were granted to support students in learning from and collaborating with effective changemakers and allies to better understand and tackle social problems.

View photos from the event here and learn more about each venture below.

Phoenix Project Plus Nola
Nonprofit building small homes to promote self-efficacy for New Orleans families.
Erin Marrero-Savoie, Executive MBA in Management, 2018

Radical Grandma Collective
Nonprofit online store creating a platform for women to support women in environmental justice work.
Zoe Swartz, Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies & International Development, 2015
Praveena Fernes, Bachelor of Science in Public Health, 2018

Scholarship Gem
Program providing scholarship readiness services to high school students and their families.
Zuri Gracin, Master of Business Administration, 2018

Science Imagination Plus
Campus organization providing professionals with tools to effectively share STEM knowledge and resources with the New Orleans community.
Weiwei Xu, Ph.D.candidate in biomedical sciences, 2018
Zuanming Zhang, Ph.D.candidate in biomedical sciences, 2023

Support Groups Central
Growth-stage mental health tech company providing video-based peer support groups for people with mental and behavioral health issues.
Tucker Keatley, Master of Social Work, 2017