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NEWS: Urban Impact Through Social Entrepreneurship

NEWS: Urban Impact Through Social EntrepreneurshipNEWS: Urban Impact Through Social EntrepreneurshipSimon Business School

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Like most entrepreneurial ventures, it all starts with an idea. Simon Business School Professor Michael Wohl, associate director for social entrepreneurship, asked one of the student teams in his Urban Impact and Social Entrepreneurship course a question. ‘What if frozen food could be used as a way to alleviate food deserts caused by a lack of affordable healthy meals in Rochester?’ Food deserts are urban areas where it is difficult to buy affordable, nutritious fresh food.

The students went to work. 2017 MBA candidates Kat Cook, Fahria Omar, and Sarah Spoto examined all facets of the issue using the business skills they learned at Simon. Their solution: affordable nutritious frozen meals available in strategically placed vending machines throughout the City of Rochester. Working with Foodlink, the team explored the issue and a potential partnership on frozen meal production. “We're motivated to do more than just make profits with this business,” Spoto said. “We really want to make a difference here in the Rochester community.”

The desire among MBA students to make a difference in society using their business acumen is growing tremendously, Wohl says. “The change of millennials really being concerned about social impact is profound,” Wohl says. “In this course, we’re looking at everything from environmental issues to food deserts, all with the goal of alleviating urban problems. The experiential learning is invaluable, and if the project is successful in class, it can be implemented in the real world.”

Oasis Foods is generating some high profile attention. Students recently competed in the NYS Business Plan Competition in Albany and won first place in the social/nonprofit category and $10,000 toward starting their business.

Next up for Oasis Foods, compete in more business plan competitions with the goal of securing funding for a pilot project to test the vending machines in the Rochester community.

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