Last night marked the end of the Minnesota Cup competition, with the Final Awards Reception. SVP MN participated as co-host of the Mosaic Social Entrepreneurship Cup, the Social Division of the competition. Throughout the process SVP Partners participated in a variety of ways. Today, two of them tell us about their experiences with the competition.
Carla Pavone – I have special affection for the Social Entrepreneur Division of the Minnesota Cup, because that was my introduction to Social Venture Partners. At the event showcasing the 2011 Social Entrepreneur Division finalists, I was amazed at the creativity of Minnesota nonprofits, and I wanted to be associated with the organization that helps extend their positive impact. The winner that year was HOURCAR, the car sharing service, which has doubled in size over the last two years.
This summer, I had the pleasure of viewing the business pitches of the 2013 Minnesota Cup semifinalists, a group of seven winnowed down from the initial applicants by SVP volunteers. They included: a new design for emergency housing, a placement service for military veterans, a service recycling business surplus to classrooms, support tools for beginning science teachers, application development training for at-risk youths, and custom storybooks for multiethinic children.
This year’s winner is the Minnesota Valley Action Council, an established force for good in Mankato which is piloting an “intrapreneurial” initiative, called a food hub. This hub will help bridge the gap between institutions (such as schools and restaurants) who want a reliable, high-volume supply of local fresh and/or organic produce, eggs and meats, with small farmers in southern Minnesota.
One benefit of being part of SVP is that I’m always learning something new. I had never heard of a food hub before, but as soon as I heard the pitch, the need and solution seemed so obvious! With SVP’s consulting help, we can look forward to the MVAC food hub’s success, and (I bet) other food hubs connecting small farmers and food-consuming institutions across the country.
Steve Van Tassel– [Through this competition] I worked with a group called 3Ring that combines open source licensing and web technology with their expertise in teaching science to develop free online curriculum that helps middle school science teachers be more effective and improves overall science learning outcomes.
I met the 3Ring team at the reception that followed the SVP event at which a number of the promising entrants in the Social Entrepreneur division of the MN Cup did short presentations to a group of partners and advisers. Based on that connection, 3Ring chose me as one of their mentors for the MN Cup. I met with the two principals from 3Ring, Joel Donna and Sarah Hick, for a few hours to discuss how they might improve their business plan, then met with them again prior to the plan submission deadline for some final feedback. I also spent a few hours with Joel going through the PowerPoint presentation he gave to the panel that would choose the division finalist. While I don’t know anything about teaching science, I did have experience with the MN Cup process as my company (Packet Power) was the Clean Tech division winner in 2009.
3Ring ended up coming in second in their division. While they were naturally a little disappointed not to be named a finalist, they did get $5,000—their first funding. They also felt the process helped them better define their offering and strengthen their plan.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to stay involved with them in some capacity going forward!