If Tim Scales, a 2017 Duke University Fuqua School of Business alum and former CASE Fellow, could give one piece of advice to aspiring social impact leaders, he would tell them that they should start a social enterprise. This is because, while at Fuqua, Scales had the opportunity to start CivicRise, a mobile app designed to increase civic engagement, through the CASE Launch Pad, which awards $10,000 and coaching support to students with a viable idea for a social venture.
“Being a founder was transformational for me,” said Scales. “I had an idea of where I was expecting to go after my Fuqua MBA, but the CASE Launch Pad sent me in an entirely new direction and gave me the opportunity to work within technology and civic engagement in a way that I had never experienced, which ultimately changed how I have approached both my career and my role as a participant in the political process.”
In addition to providing an opportunity to participate in experiential learning within an area of interest, Scales also feels that the Launch Pad gave him the confidence he needed to believe that he could start a social venture, which is a sentiment that many other CASE Launch Pad winners share.
For example, Anne Steptoe, a 2016 Launch Pad winner said, “While the financial freedom from the Launch Pad was absolutely invaluable, I would say that the most valuable part of the experience was mentorship from the CASE team. When applying to the Launch Pad, I was an entrepreneur that lacked confidence and having someone with experience, perspective and connections invest in my idea and become a thought partner gave me the confidence I needed in early days.”
Today, Steptoe is confidently operating and scaling her Launch Pad venture, MedServe, which uses the Teach for America model to connect pre-medical students (fellows) with inspiring physicians in underserved communities for a gap year experience prior to medical school. Since starting in 2015, MedServe has helped provide care at over 150,000 patient visits in approximately a third of the counties in North Carolina. Additionally, the clinics that it works with report the impact as substantial, with over 80 percent renewing with MedServe as one of the fellows leaves, and a significant number of them doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the number of fellows at their clinic over the past few years. The fellows are also demonstrating that they love this work and want to continue it, with 100 percent applying to health professional school at the end of their experience and 86 percent receiving acceptance.
While Steptoe is grateful that MedServe is still growing and thriving five years after its start, she admits that it has not always been an easy path. While getting her MBA, she found her desire to pursue social impact as the exception to the norm and said that, if not for the CASE Launch Pad, she is not sure if she would have been able to start a social impact business.
Recent 2019 Launch Pad winner Michelle Egger shares this point of view, “If you have a good idea, securing funding venture capital money is relatively straight forward compared to social enterprise funds. In a social enterprise, you have to make sure you have mission-aligned partners that agree on how you are measuring impact and there is no exact process on how to navigate that. The CASE Launch Pad provided me with a network of mentors and support to learn best practices at a low risk.”
For her Launch Pad project, Egger piloted Resilient Foods, a one-to-one food company that connects online purchasers with healthy snacks and sends the identical item or box to someone in need. After about a year and a half into the project, Egger identified that the business model was not working and reluctantly decided to retire the venture. Today, she is working with a new social venture called Biomilq, which works to produce nutritionally equivalent breastmilk from cultured human mammary cells so that families can achieve the recommended six-months of exclusive breastfeeding while also alleviating the climate impacts of bovine-based infant formula.
“While many parts of my Fuqua experience have prepared me for my future, I came here to be a social impact changemaker and CASE made it happen,” said Egger.
By providing financial flexibility, coaching support, a social impact network, the opportunity to learn through experience and so much more, the CASE Launch Pad has served as the catalyst to many great social innovations and provided invaluable skills and lessons to future impact leaders. To learn more about the projects of some of our other Launch Pad winners, visit the website.