Two Young Social Entrepreneurs in Germany Have Created a Sustainable Pizza Box

No one knows for sure who invented the pizza box, but it has been reinvented several times in recent years—and with good reason. For starters, it’s a square or rectangular box designed to hold mostly round pizzas. It also tends to trap moisture, which means the crust sometimes gets soggier by the time the pie reaches the customer.

But for Marlene Bruch and Luise Hornbach, the young German inventors of PIZZycle, the real problem with the pizza box is an environmental one. Many, if not most, recycling centers won’t accept boxes with grease stains, and at the height of the pandemic, the boxes were creating a major litter problem in their country. They don’t fit well into trash bins and often end up as litter in parks, sidewalks and streets.

Bruch and Hornbach were college students at the time, and they set out to solve the problem. The result was PIZZycle, a stackable and reusable pizza box that can be easily carried, cleaned in a dishwasher and used again and again. Made of highly durable, scratch- and heat-resistant, 100% recyclable material, PIZZycle—which can hold any pizza under 13 inches—is designed to reduce waste and combat a problem that has only worsened as demand for delivery and carryout has soared in the pandemic.

Related: Is your used pizza box recyclable? Here’s how to find out.

Here in the U.S., Crystal Dreisbach, a past Ignite Retreat speaker and executive director of the Durham, N.C. nonprofit Don’t Waste Durham, has developed her own sustainable solution to the pizza box dilemma. Her social enterprise, GreenToGo Pizza, provides restaurants with reusable, stackable and leakproof pizza boxes that keep pizza hotter for longer; after finishing their pizza, customers can drop their boxes off at GreenToGo return stations around the city or request pickup at their doorstep. GreenToGo then cleans and sanitizes the boxes and takes them back to the restaurant client for reuse.

But things work a little differently in Germany, where green initiatives have flourished. Unlike the U.S., Germany has enjoyed great success with a deposit system, called Pfand, that’s commonly used for single-use beer, soda, juice and water bottles. The customer pays a small deposit with every purchase of a beverage in a glass or plastic bottle; upon returning the bottle to the store, the customer gets their money back, and the bottle gets either recycled (in the case of plastic) or washed and reused (for glass bottles).

The PIZZycle team’s business model was created with Germany’s deposit system in mind. In the following Q&A, Bruch talks about the origins of PIZZycle, how their model works and what makes their box unique.

Marlene Bruch is the co-inventor of the PIZZycle pizza box.

On your website, you mention that PIZZycyle was “born as a uni project.” Can you tell us a little more about that project?

Bruch: During the beginning of the Corona pandemic, Luise and I were studying design at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach, Germany. The challenge was to create a solution for a problem that has emerged with the new worldwide situation. We decided to look into the outcomes of restaurant closings and what effects this had on takeaway waste. We discovered that pizza boxes make up 22% of German takeaway waste and that they cannot be recycled! This led us to design a reusable pizza box.

We know of at least one other reusable pizza box produced here in the U.S. What makes Pizzycle revolutionary?

Bruch: When we started the design process, we did not identify other solutions. In retrospect, I think this was our biggest advantage. As designers, we learned that good design has to emerge from geometrical requirements and respect the needs of consumers. Therefore, without any other possible product in mind, we came up with our solution.

PIZZycle consists of two identical plates, which allows the user to nest and stack the box. This way, pizza restaurants are finally able to adapt to a reusable pizza box without having to worry about limitations in storage. Additionally, the identical plates and the innovative lock mechanism enables the user to easily carry and open a reusable box with 13 inches in diameter. I personally believe this is a real revolution in sustainable packaging industry.

Of course, we provide opportunities for branding on the boxes starting from a smaller order. Pizzerias can choose their own colors and have their logo on PIZZycle. Everything, starting from the mold to the branding, is made in Germany.

 

Once a customer takes their pizza home in a PIZZycle box, what happens from that point?

Bruch: There are several possible systems: Firstly, a restaurant can rent out PIZZycles in return for a deposit. Usually, people will return the boxes with their next order and will get the deposit back.

Secondly, a restaurant can become part of a deposit system, which operates mostly nationwide and rents out the boxes to plenty of different restaurants for free. They organize a certain deposit and often operate apps, etc. This way, customers would not leave a deposit in cash but use their phones to scan a QR code on the boxes. The restaurants will usually be charged per usage.

Related: Fast-growing restaurant chain to help build a prison-to-college pipeline

Thirdly, a restaurant can sell PIZZycles to their customers, who can bring their box each time they get pizza and get a certain discount [as part of a loyalty program].

The goal is to create a sustainable alternative that is cheaper than cardboard boxes. PIZZycle can be used several hundred times as it’s dishwasher-safe, heat-resistant and extremely durable. This way, PIZZycle as a one-time investment will be cheaper than a common cardboard box after being used 10-15 times already.

Do you guys currently have any pizzeria clients in Germany?

Bruch: Yes, we are establishing partnerships here in Germany and all over Europe at the moment. Several pizzerias already use PIZZycles and have given us great feedback. We’re always keen to share our progress of who we’re working with on our website and social media platforms.

Do you have a plan yet to introduce PIZZycle in the U.S.?

Bruch: At the moment, we are focusing on the European market since the deposit scheme is very well known over here, as many countries use deposit bottles. We would love to enter the U.S. market. If you are a distributor and would like to work with us on making this vision a reality, please feel free to reach out!

 

Hebron Mekuria Develops Business Plan to Bring Children’s Books to Her Native Ethiopia

From tales of hamburger-loving dinosaurs and cats with crooked tails to “A Frog Ate My Sandwich” and “How to Catch a Mermaid,” there’s no shortage of quirky, colorful books for American tots and toddlers. Not so in Ethiopia, an African nation of 115 million, where nearly half of the population can’t read or write.

Hebron Mekuria, a sophomore majoring in engineering at Eastern Mennonite University, wants to change that. And her idea and presentation for a social impact business addressing the problem won 1st prize in the pitch competition at the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2022 Ignite Retreat, held April 1-3 in Staunton, Va.

For Mekuria, literacy in Ethiopia is a personal issue—that’s her native country. For her part, she’s not only highly literate, she’s also a published poet and has served as copy editor for several school papers. She’s even learning French. But Mekuria knows that illiteracy and poverty are inextricably linked, which means many Ethiopian children face an uphill struggle to overcome the difficult circumstances into which they’re born.

Related: Spring 2022 Ignite Retreat breaks record with largest-ever group of changemakers

Mekuria’s passion for helping the people of her native country made a big impression on her fellow Ignite Retreat attendees and helped her capture the $300 top prize in the event’s pitch contest. “We love working with students like Hebron who are actively making a difference in their communities,” said Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement and leader of the retreat. “Her peers selected her project to receive funding to take the next step and bring her idea to life! We are thrilled to offer her both financial support and mentorship as she gets started.”

Ethiopia is a nation with a rich cultural history, a land where great civilizations flourished and mighty kings ruled over vital trading routes that linked the Roman Empire to the Middle East and India. Today, the country is mired in poverty and subjected to massive droughts and other natural disasters, but it’s fighting its way back to global prominence and boasts one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, according to the Borgen Project.

Early education will be key to Ethiopia’s future, and Mekuria wants to make sure young children there have access to the same kind of reading materials that many American kids take for granted. It’s an idea she has been mulling over for a long time, she said.

“Many toddlers and preschoolers in America, as I’ve observed, have little picture books and board books that help them practice reading and develop an early reading culture,” she said. “From my conversations with other folks, many said that these resources were available to them in their mother tongue growing up. This isn’t a privilege that kids in Ethiopia, my home country, have.”

Hebron Mekuria shares her business idea with a fellow Ignite Retreat attendee.

At the Ignite Retreat, Mekuria pitched an idea for a company that creates reading resources for Ethiopian preschoolers, specifically in the Amharic language. “Although there are 80-plus different languages in Ethiopia that all share this problem, Amharic is my first tongue and the country’s working language, and I would love to combat this issue from a place of familiarity,” she said.

If anyone can do that, it’s Mekuria. She’s a 2020 Yoder/Webb scholar and honors program student at EMU who dedicates much of her free time to helping children. The service-minded changemaker has tutored kids, volunteered at orphanages and led Sunday school classes, according to an article on the EMU website. She is particularly interested in kids’ emotional, social and psychological needs. “Right now, caretakers focus much on the physical needs of children and do not realize how much power they have to also shape the minds of their children,” she said in that article.

Related: Ukraine-born Sullivan alumnus helping organize relief aid for his country

During the three-day Ignite Retreat, Mekuria attended two different tracks focused on social entrepreneurship: the Project Track on Saturday morning and the Problem Track that afternoon. “I felt like I got different things out of them,” she said. “The Project Track session was helpful in letting me identify what aspects were important in my business. For example, I identified how important customers and a venue were. The Problem Track … was really helpful in teaching me how to look for team members and what to look for.”

The retreat also put her in touch with more than 100 fellow changemakers from colleges and universities across the American South, all of whom share one ambitious goal: to build a better world. Folks like that aren’t easy to meet in everyday life, Mekuria noted. “Often, visionaries might find themselves in communities that don’t appreciate their drive and their dreams. Most college students feel uncomfortable around those who are angsty to challenge the status quo and to change the world. I have a feeling that Ignite was filled with many of these students who were excited and confident about changing the world in one aspect or another. Because of this like-mindedness, Ignite felt like such a safe space to verbalize our dreams, our plans and our grand goals that we know we can achieve but nobody else might have believed in in our regular setting.”

“I felt like that was the kind of environment that would nudge out the best in anyone and help students not be scared of their big dreams,” she added. “I really have no words for how much validation and bravery the retreat gave me to go after my dreams.”

Mekuria said she hopes to return for the next retreat, taking place October 7-9 in Asheville, N.C. “I absolutely want to come back for the next one!” she said. “I want to grow my ideas more and feel empowered and motivated. Next year, though, you best believe that I will bring a van full of friends with me!”

Trio of Sisters from Ole Miss Create a Business Designed for the Selfie Generation

Creating the perfect selfie isn’t as easy as some Instagram users make it look. Sometimes the lighting is all wrong, or the background is too drab. You can play with filters for hours to get just the right feel and mood—or maybe you’ll never get it.

But if you live in Tupelo, Miss., three entrepreneurial sisters from the University of Mississippi, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, have created a pop-art environment that will make you look like an Insta-wizard for just 20 bucks an hour.

Camille Walker McCallum, Kendall Walker and Chloe Walker opened the city’s first selfie museum, called Love Your Selfie, last July after Camille and Kendall took part in the CEED (Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development) Initiative at Ole Miss. Featuring 20 “Instagram-worthy” sets, the Black women-owned business attracts a social media-savvy crowd to its location inside Tupelo’s Mall at Barnes Crossing.

Related: This solar-powered, robotic beehive could help save the world’s honeybees

Kendall Walker (left), Chloe Walker and Camille Walker McCallum pose for a picture on one of Love Your Selfie’s 20 sets.

“CEED showed me the path to entrepreneurship,” Camille said. “After being involved in the program, owning my own business felt like an attainable goal rather than just a dream.”

So-called “selfie museums” started popping up around 2015, starting with 29Rooms in New York, N.Y., a three-day art installation created by the women-focused Refinery29 website. They feature themed sets with colorful backdrops and props designed as immersive backgrounds for shooting selfies. The family-friendly business concept has spread across the nation, from cities like Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit and Las Vegas to Chattanooga and Harrisburg, Penn.

Kendall went to her first selfie museum during a visit to Atlanta. “I came back to Tupelo and told [my sisters], ‘Y’all, this was so much fun’ and thought this was something we needed to do,” she recounted to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

The sisters brought the idea to their parents, who were on board right away. “We always wanted to go in business together, so it wasn’t a big shock for them to hear what we wanted to do,” Camille told the Daily Journal. “They were, like, ‘Here we go again,’ but of all the hare-brained schemes we’ve had in the past, the selfie museum they really liked. My mom has been a long-time photographer, and my dad is really entrepreneurial, so they were really into it.”

To hone their entrepreneurial skills, the sisters turned to the CEED program, a signature initiative of UM’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. CEED empowers business-minded students to partner with Mississippi communities and address their pressing social needs through education, innovation and entrepreneurship.

CEED connected the sisters with summer internships that helped train them for the work they do now. Camille, who earned her bachelor’s degree in public policy leadership in 2016, interned with the Mississippi Development Authority, assisting business advisers with research, pitch decks and financial projections for their clients. This experience helped her write Love Your Selfie’s business plan and secure funding.

Related: How Josephine Balzac-Arroyo inspires young changemakers at Rollins College

During her time with CEED, Kendall participated in two internships while working on a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders, which she completed in 2020.

She first served as a lead for Entrepreneurial Learning Center Charleston, a monthlong program in Charleston, Miss., where students combat summer learning loss and grow academically in a fun and safe environment. She also interned with the Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation, where she worked directly with Judd Wilson, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, and learned how its resources benefit local small businesses.

“Love Your Selfie is the type of business we love to have in our chamber: family-owned, young entrepreneurs coming home and full of energy,” Wilson said. “We are blessed that CDF played a small part of their success story.”

Prior to the launch of Love Your Selfie, Kendall’s experience with ELC Charleston and connections with CEED helped her start her first entrepreneurial venture, KendallGarten, a K-6 tutoring business that has operated since August 2020. She built upon those experiences and relationships in opening Love Your Selfie. She entered the business in the 2021 edition of CDF’s pitch competition, snagging the top prize of $500 cash and professional services to help get the business going.

Kendall also orchestrated a ribbon cutting with the chamber, which resulted in a viral video for both the city and Love Your Selfie.

Visitors to Love Your Selfie get an hour to enjoy 20 unique photo stations, capturing social media content and making lasting memories—all while using their cellphones.

For a more elevated experience (and a higher fee), guests can book a professional photography session with Love Your Selfie’s chief photographer, Ole Miss student Kyion White. A sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications at Ole Miss, White is also a CEED scholar from Tupelo.

Related: Elon University social entrepreneurs help Black-owned businesses find new customers

The sisters want to continue engaging with students like White and offering opportunities for them to develop their skills and learn more about running a small business.

“My experiences at the CDF and ELC Charleston helped to prepare me for owning my own business even in the midst of the pandemic,” Kendall said. “Opening a business with my sisters while simultaneously running my own has been one of the greatest joys of my life.”

The youngest sister, Chloe, brings to the group a unique creative perspective. As a true Gen Zer, she quickly finds and adapts to trends, keeping the store refreshed with sets that remain relevant to the target audience. She balances her work at Love Your Selfie with being a student-athlete at Itawamba Community College, playing on the Indians’ soccer team. She is looking forward to completing her bachelor’s degree and becoming more involved in the business.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Chloe said. “Love Your Selfie is the perfect place for me to learn and grow as a business owner, and the work is fun!”

“The CEED program was transformative for Kendall and me, and we want to help create that experience for others,” Camille said. “I know my sisters and I are strong because we have each other, and we want to provide that community and support to as many young entrepreneurs as we can.”

This article was adapted and expanded from a press release appearing on the University of Mississippi website.

This Solar-Powered, Robotic Beehive Could Help Save the World’s Honeybees

Can solar-powered robotic technologies save the world’s bee populations? An Israeli startup called Beewise has created a buzz, so to speak, with a robotic beehive that’s designed to protect honeybees from outside threats—such as climate change and pesticides—while significantly increasing their pollination capacity and honey production.

Think of the Beehome—the box’s official name—as a high-tech apartment complex for millions of bees. Resembling a rental storage unit, a single Beehome can house 24 bee colonies in a box spanning 8’ by 6’ and costs the beekeeper $400 per month, along with a delivery fee. It addresses some of the glaring deficiencies of the Langstroth box, an artificial hive that has been in widespread use for about 150 years.

According to Beewise’s website, the company’s mission is to “help beekeepers pollinate and produce honey by saving their bees, utilizing modern technology.” But Beewise’s technology can reap huge social dividends as well: Protecting these little master pollinators also protects the global food supply as climate change worsens across the planet.

“It is crazy,” Saar Safra, Beewise’s founder and CEO, told the Jerusalem Post last year. “Just think that five Israelis from a small Israeli kibbutz have the chutzpah to change the world.”

The Beehome’s robotic system, which relies on artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision, responds to threats against the hive in real time without human intervention. The Beehome is thermally regulated and protects the colony from fires, flooding and the dreaded Asian wasp, also known as the murder hornet. It can even feed the honeybees when their local food supply has dried up.

The Beehome offers honeybees an optimized, climate- and humidity-controlled environment. When pests invade the colony, the system automatically detects their presence and uses a chemical-free treatment to get rid of them. If the colony becomes overcrowded and gets ready to swarm and leave the Beehome, the AI system recognizes the signs and adjusts conditions to keep the bees happy and comfortable so they’ll stay put.

According to Beewise, “Beehome reduces bee mortality by 80 percent, resulting in increased yields of at least 50 percent while eliminating approximately 90 percent of manual labor when compared to traditional beehives.”

Thirty percent of the world’s food supply—including fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts—depends on the humble bee, yet the insect’s worldwide population has declined rapidly in recent years due to threats ranging from pesticides and natural parasites to disease and, above all, climate change.

Beewise says it has saved more than 160 million bees in the past year and currently manages more than 7 billion bees worldwide. It recently received an $80 million boost in a funding round led by Insight Partners, a New York-based global venture capital and private equity firm.

“Our entire global food supply is being threatened by a devastating collapse of the world’s honeybee population,” Insight Partners Principal Daniel Aronovitz said in a recent statement. “Beewise impressed us as the only solution addressing every complex issue that is contributing to the collapse. Not only have we funded a company with a fantastic business model, it also addresses one of the biggest challenges our planet is facing. We at Insight couldn’t be more excited.”

How Malawi’s Pizza Is Leading the Social Enterprise Movement in the Pizzeria Segment

At Malawi’s Pizza, headquartered in Provo, Utah, every pizza sold means a free nutritious meal for a hungry child in Africa.

With locations in Utah and Virginia, Malawi’s Pizza is one of a number of social enterprises in the pizza restaurant segment. The company’s slogan, “Pizza With a Purpose,” reflects its mission to combat food insecurity, while its name refers to the geographic focus of that mission: Malawi, a small nation in southern Africa that’s considered one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.

Co-founded in 2010 by Blake Roney and Chef Kent Anderson, Malawi’s Pizza works with the international aid organization, Feed the Children. Every month, Malawi’s management team tallies up the number of meals sold to its customers, then donates funds to produce the same number of meals for Malawi children facing food insecurity. The meals use locally grown grains—such as maize, soybean and millet—which are milled and blended with essential vitamins and nutrients before packaging and distribution to children in need. The nutritive supplement is specifically designed for growing children’s bodies.

As part of its mission to combat food insecurity in Malawi, Africa, Malawi’s Pizza donates meals made with locally grown grains to feed hungry children.

As of early 2022, the company had donated more than 1.4 million meals. Each Malawi’s franchisee also partners with a local hunger-fighting charity.

“The donations are a one-for-one exchange—for every guest we serve, we feed a child who otherwise would not eat that day,” Anderson told Fast Casual.

Concepts like Malawi’s touch a chord with younger Americans, who also happen to love pizza. “Consumers are interested in more meaning from their dining experience,” said Dr. Ben Litalien, founder and principal of Franchise Well, which developed the model for Malawi’s. “They want transparency in the menu, cooking methods, and even in the ownership, with an emphasis on local. Malawi’s franchise is timely and naturally appeals to experience-minded consumers, with an open format and a commitment to making a difference through the meal donation program.”

5000 Pies offers culinary training to help prepare young adults for careers in the foodservice industry.

A number of pizza restaurants have joined the social enterprise movement, including 5000 Pies, which offers culinary training and life-skills coaching to young adults in West Long Beach, California, and MOD Pizza, which operates feed-the-hungry programs around the U.S., employs formerly incarcerated individuals and people with disabilities.

Litalien noted that American consumers, especially millennials, are looking for “deeper meaning in all aspects of life experiences and not just a transaction. Millennials consider anything they do or buy via their smartphone a transaction, so fixed-location concepts must focus on deeper experiential environments to draw them in. Chef-inspired Malawi’s is crossing the demographic divide with meaning for millennials and gourmet meals for boomers. Franchise concepts of the future would do well to pay attention.”

This article was reprinted by permission of PMQ Pizza Magazine.

Study Abroad in Strasbourg, France Next Summer for Under $4,000

Any student from a Sullivan Foundation partner school can receive $2,000 in scholarships to take part in next summer’s Study Abroad France program, a one-month educational, leadership and travel adventure in beautiful and historic Strasbourg, France. Even if you don’t attend a Sullivan partner school, you can still receive a $1,000 scholarship directly from the CEPA Foundation, Sullivan’s Strasbourg-based partner in the program.

The program, titled Leading for Impact & Innovation, takes place from June 24 to July 23, 2022. Enrollment applications must be received by March 15.

The program fee is $5,790, but all participating students will receive a $1,000 scholarship from the CEPA Foundation if they apply by March 1. Students who attend a Sullivan partner school may also qualify for an additional $1,000 scholarship from the Sullivan Foundation.

For students in the Sullivan Foundation network, that means the total cost for this life-changing adventure comes to just $3,790 for a full month in the heart of Europe, including side trips to Heidelberg, Germany, and other nearby cities. Students will also have their weekends free to travel and explore the cities and historic sites that make Europe such a magical destination for millions of tourists every year. After all, Paris is just a short train ride away!

Scholarship funds are limited, and funds will be exhausted quickly, so it’s important to apply right away.

Click here to learn more about this unique study-abroad opportunity.

Click here to go directly to the application portal on the European Study Center’s website.

Students enjoy a little leisure time in Strasbourg, France during a study-abroad adventure.

Students enjoy a little leisure time in Strasbourg, France during a study-abroad adventure.

“This program has enhanced my understanding of my flaws, strengths and values,” said past participant Jonah Harris, a student from Georgia College and State University. “I feel more confident in my sense of self and have the tools to be an international leader.”

This engaging and interactive summer study abroad program combines classroom instruction with high-profile guest lectures, visits and excursions, plus practical training in stakeholder analysis, strategic planning, goal setting, mediation, social responsibility, intercultural negotiation, and leadership. At the end of the program, students will be better prepared for their future careers as leaders in a globalized world.

Lori Babb took part in the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad Prague program in 2019.

For the entire month, students will live and work together in the European Study Center’s Château de Pourtalès, a 250-year-old castle straight out of a fairy tale. Every morning brings a free catered French breakfast to kick off an exciting day of classroom learning, lectures and meetings with successful social entrepreneurs, and visits to European Union institutions where many of the world’s foremost leaders come together to chart a path to a peaceful and prosperous future.

Above all, this study-abroad experience will change the way you view the world—and your important role in it, says Lori Babb, a Campbell University alumnus who took part in the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad program in Prague in 2019. That adventure included presentations by active social entrepreneurs who had gone through the study-abroad program in years past. “To be able to see and meet those who experienced the same program and who took those strides to ignite change and create social enterprises was incredibly inspiring,” Babb said. “It also emphasizes how life-changing this summer abroad can be if you utilize and maximize the skills and resources the program provides.”

How Josephine Balzac-Arroyo Inspires Young Changemakers at Rollins College

By Stephanie Rizzo, Rollins College

For as long as she can remember, Josephine Balzac-Arroyo enjoyed learning. “My mother never had to get onto me to do my homework when I was a kid,” she said. “I was always very studious and genuinely loved school.”

Now an assistant professor of social entrepreneurship at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College, Balzac-Arroyo still loves school, and she’s also made a career of inspiring young changemakers looking to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

As the oldest sibling born into a Latinx family—her father is from Puerto Rico and her mother immigrated from Nicaragua seeking political asylum during the civil war—Balzac-Arroyo saw the sacrifices her parents made to give her and her brother a better life growing up. “I saw how hard they worked, and I wanted to work just as hard,” she said.

And work hard she did. After graduating as valedictorian from her high school, she attended the University of Central Florida, where she majored in psychology, and started a part-time position at a law firm. And then she rebelled, maybe for the first time in her life.

“My dad wanted me to apply to law school right out of undergrad, but I pushed back. For as long as I could remember, I’d devoted my life to school. Now I wanted to start my career,” she said.

Related: How Rollins College and the Sullivan Foundation are developing the next generation of impact entrepreneurs

For the next few years, Balzac-Arroyo worked as a paralegal in different law firms around Orlando. Her meticulous attention to detail served her well, and she soon gained a reputation as smart, hardworking and reliable.

“And then I had a mid-20s crisis,” she laughed. “My dad had been right. I wanted more. So I applied to law school, and it completely changed the trajectory of my life. In law school, I became more analytical, more inquisitive. I was inspired by so many things, specifically environmental law, climate change and the connection between our rights as humans and having a clean and healthy environment.”

this photo shows Josie Balzac-Arroyo and her Rollins College class working with Fleet Farming

Balzac-Arroyo and her students worked with Fleet Farming, a program developed by local nonprofit IDEAS For Us, to transform residential lawns into micro-farms that help decrease greenhouse-gas omissions. (Photo by Scott Cook)

After receiving her JD from FAMU College of Law, Balzac-Arroyo attended George Washington University, where she received a Master of Laws (LLM) in international environmental law. Along the way, she developed a love of teaching. What if she could parlay all that she was passionate about—teaching, the environment, effecting change through strategic activism—into one perfect job?

Enter Rollins. Now, six years on, she knows it was the right choice. “I’ve fallen in love with being in the classroom and the opportunity to impact future generations,” she said. “My students give off an energy that keeps me going, and hopefully I can inspire them in similar ways.”

International relations major Josh Willard, a class of 2020 graduate, met Balzac-Arroyo in his first semester at Rollins during his Rollins College Conference (RCC) course, Be the Change, an introduction to social entrepreneurship and the many different ways to use social disruption for good.

“Professor Balzac-Arroyo radiates a sense of optimism that we, as students, can make the world a better place,” he said. “I took one class with her my first year and have kept going back to her office for four years. She became one of my most important mentors, and her support set me on the course I’m on today. She encouraged me to open all the doors I could, and it just so happens that the door I chose to walk through, after graduating from Rollins, was to her alma mater, George Washington University, where I’m getting my master’s in international affairs.”

Related: Rollins College alumnus creates safe haven for families impacted by AIDS

Major Impact
Balzac-Arroyo is always connecting with students—whether it’s turning local lawns into organic farms or through Rollins’ Social Impact Hub, where anyone, regardless of their major, can partner with faculty and peers to tackle global social issues such as poverty, sustainability, education and more. The hub is designed to be a creative space where students can pitch ideas both big and small.

“The Hub is focused on aligning our actions with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” Balzac-Arroyo explained. “We introduce students to social innovation and teach them to be changemakers within a global community.”

this photo shows Rollins College professor Josie Balzac-Arroyo working one-on-one with a student

Through Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program, Josie Balzac-Arroyo and student Joshua Bedoya examined how corporations and businesses are being redefined as society is demanding that companies serve a social purpose and benefit all stakeholders. (Photo by Scott Cook)

One of the ways Balzac-Arroyo introduces her students to social innovation is through the Social Impact Hub’s yearly pitch competition, Ideas for Good. Students in her community engagement course, called Strategies for Changemakers, choose a Sustainable Development Goal and develop a pitch using the concept of human-centered design thinking. This means they engage in research about the needs of a community before they even begin to develop a solution. Past projects include everything from developing a better method for recycling plastics to investing in technology that makes it easier for diabetics to gauge their blood sugar levels. Once they’ve developed a pitch, students can win up to $50,000 in seed funding to make their ideas a reality.

Despite the wide range of subject matter, every project developed by Balzac-Arroyo’s students has one thing in common: Real people are at the heart of each and every idea. “By spending time with a community, it allows you to identify problems more effectively,” she said. “We want to avoid a savior mentality in favor of co-creating solutions to social challenges.”

Creating Pathways for Change
One of the classes Balzac-Arroyo especially loves teaching is Law & Ethics of Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which is a requirement of the social entrepreneurship program but doesn’t require prerequisites—meaning any student who is interested in the law can take it. This often results in a mixed bag of majors, everything from political science and international relations students to those pursuing social entrepreneurship. Each of these students brings a unique perspective to the course, which makes for a dynamic, collaborative environment through which to study law and gets at the very heart of Rollins’ interdisciplinary approach to education.

“I want my students to know that the law should not be intimidating,” Balzac-Arroyo said. “We operate in a world of laws every day. So even if you don’t plan on going to law school, there are still plenty of things you need to know if you want to go into business. How do you protect your employees? How do you build a basic contract? What do you need to know about intellectual property when it comes to your name, your logo or any proprietary technology you might develop?”

Photo by Scott Cook

Another major component of the class is mediation and negotiation, skills that are essential for changemaking. Balzac-Arroyo uses them constantly both in and outside of the classroom in her role as a community advocate for social and climate justice. It’s just another way that this lifelong learner continues to embrace new methods of effecting change.

Teaching and inspiring students isn’t Balzac-Arroyo’s only talent. She also loves to sing—she’s so good, she made it to the second round of American Idol. And her commitment to climate change led to an invitation to personally meet Senator Bernie Sanders in his Washington, D.C. office, where they discussed climate justice policy.

But Hannah Jackson, a social entrepreneurship graduate and current Crummer Graduate School of Business student, said Balzac-Arroyo’s main strength comes from her willingness to work alongside her students in the quest for change. She noted that Balzac-Arroyo creates “an enjoyable environment where students actually want to learn.”

“She appreciates students’ input just as much as her own, which makes it feel like she is learning alongside us,” Jackson added. “She’s mastered the skill of making students feel valued, and I look up to her because of her strength and courage to always stand on the right side of justice. As a woman of color, sometimes that boldness comes with a risk, but Professor Balzac always welcomes that risk with confidence.”

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Rollins College website.

This Sullivan Alumnus Is Leading Menstrual Equity Reform at Wofford College

As a high school student in Virginia, Mackenzie Syiem, a Sullivan Foundation Field Trip alumnus and cofounder of the social enterprise SEED., watched Netflix’s award-winning documentary “Short, Period. End of Sentence” and immediately felt moved to email students, faculty and staff to stress the need for menstrual products in the school’s restrooms.

She again championed the cause shortly after arriving at Wofford College, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, in 2019 and made requests to a Campus Union candidate last spring. “Menstrual products should be freely available,” said Syiem, an English and Spanish major from Shillong, Meghalaya, India. “It’s as necessary as toilet paper.”

The request was heard, and a team of students took action.

“As I was campaigning for student body president, I started an Instagram campaign where I would ask Wofford students to share their concerns, questions, comments—literally anything that they would like to see changed at Wofford,” said Destiny Shippy, a sociology and anthropology major from Spartanburg, who is a senior delegate. “Kenzie said she wanted to see free menstrual products around campus. When I saw this, I instantly began thinking about the people to contact to make this happen, because it’s such a necessity.”

Shippy was connected with Sera Guerry, an at-large delegate with Campus Union and a student coordinator in the college’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as Woods Wooten, the chair of Campus Union’s Campus Relations Committee. The three of them partnered with Syiem and had discussions with the college’s administration. Dispensers were installed over the summer in six restrooms across campus.

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Wofford College student leaders Woods Wooten, Destiny Shippy, Sera Guerry and Kenzie Syiem worked together to improve access to menstrual products across campus and to get dispensers installed in restrooms.

Syiem didn’t just request support for the project. She had been ensuring that menstrual products were available across campus.

As a first-year student, Syiem began stocking menstrual products in the restroom on her hall. She encouraged women to take what they needed. Through her work creating content for Just Periods, she has received supplies to distribute across campus and she’s shared products for houses in the college’s Greek village and supplies that are given to local women’s shelters.

After returning from a Sullivan Foundation social entrepreneurship field trip to Raleigh, N.C. in September 2019, Syiem went on to cofound SEED., a social-impact business that empowers artisans and craftspeople to sell their products—such as jewelry, artwork, bags and more—internationally, with profits going to support the programs that she and cofounder Grace Gehlken care about. “I got to meet amazing entrepreneurs who had created powerful social ventures and hear directly from them about their experiences,” she later recalled in an interview with the foundation. “That trip inspired me and helped me feel like I could do the same thing that all those amazing founders had done as long as I had the passion and was willing to put in the work.”

Menstrual equity is one of her favorite causes, and Syiem has found that gaining support for the movement at Wofford College isn’t difficult. “All it takes is a conversation,” she said. “It’s hard to ignore the facts. Ninety-nine percent of the time I hear, ‘I never knew that was an issue.’ But I go into the conversation expecting them to get it because it’s so logical.”

Guerry shared that experience. “Surprisingly, we found that there was very little, if any, pushback from students, faculty and staff and that there was, in actuality, a solid amount of support among those we spoke with,” says Guerry, a religion major from Moncks Corner, S.C.

Guerry says details needed to be addressed concerning the installation of dispensers, and the students found Aunt Flow, a social impact company that sells organic menstrual products while donating products to people in need. The college purchased dispensers from the company.

“It feels really good to know that my female peers have access to these dispensers and that we will continue to work with Wofford to make sure our campus is welcoming to everyone,” said Wooten, a government major from Lexington, South Carolina.

This article has been edited and expanded from the original version appearing on the Wofford College website.

Furman Alumnus Creates Company Offering Free Tech Support for the Senior Set

By Tina Underwood, Furman University

There’s a new kid on the block for online tech support. Meet Go Go Quincy, the brainchild of Tyler Wood, a 2014 graduate of Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University, and co-founder Ryan Greene. But Quincy isn’t for everyone—its target audience is adults aged 55 and older. And now, while the coronavirus Delta variant is raging, the company is offering the service to individuals at no charge.

“It’s an underserved population,” said Wood, who majored in communication studies at Furman and was a member of the baseball team. “Making it available for free is something we are happy to do—it’s a way to give back to a group that was so formative in our growing up. We want to return the favor.”

Greene came up with the idea of a tech support concierge for older adults when he visited his grandparents in Florida last year. Before returning to his home in New York, his grandfather handed him a hefty to-do list of technical problems that needed attention. That’s when the gears started turning for the entrepreneurial venture.

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As part of his MBA at Columbia University, Greene took a class on launching a startup. With Wood’s help building out the company model throughout the semester and preparing the final pitch for the class, which included visiting venture capital firms, the two were ready to “pressure test” the product.

For the past several months, with a total of only four employees, the startup now has close to 500 users, including direct-to-consumer clients, friends and family, and about 70 retirement facilities and communities across 11 states.

The popularity of the service has grown so much that Wood quit his day job to dedicate his time toward building the business.

Here’s how Quincy works: Users call a hotline to request help from one of Quincy’s U.S.-based technicians. Following account setup, a brief onboarding session between the user and technician establishes the nature of the problem. With permission from the user through a unique authentication code, the technician gains access to the user’s device through remote support software, allowing the rep to see what’s happening on the other end. The technician either guides the user, or if necessary, takes control of the device to resolve the issue. Every session is video-recorded so the user and any family members can know exactly what steps were taken to resolve the problem.

Wood said Quincy provides more than on-demand tech fixes. “There’s an emotional aspect to it. Sure, we are solving very raw technical problems, but there’s a human on the other side—a dialogue and a relationship. We just want to be that friendly ally for these individuals. That’s been very fulfilling for Ryan and myself in the last few months.”

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He describes a session in which a client struggled to send a five-minute video from her phone to her niece. The video of renewed wedding vows between the client and her husband was too long to send, so Wood walked the client through the process of editing the video to send in two smaller clips.

That’s the type of problem Wood and company see on a daily basis—simple for the more technically savvy, but perhaps frustrating for those who haven’t grown up with a phone in hand since age 8, Wood says.

And that’s the opportunity for the founders—to provide quick solutions so people can get on with their day. The service also frees up nursing staff at assisted living facilities whose primary role is to dispense caregiving, not tech know-how.

Wood expects to keep the service free to individuals 55 and older so they can receive help from the safety of their homes during the pandemic.

“We want to make sure they know they can count on this resource,” he said.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Furman University website.

This Sullivan Partner School Makes Its Own Vino to Help the Wine Industry

When you drink a glass of vino from the University of Kentucky Winery, you won’t just get a pleasant buzz—you’ll also be helping the state’s commercial wine industry.

When you think about wine, you probably think about Italy or France—or maybe Northern California. But the University of Kentucky (UK), a Sullivan Foundation partner school, wants you to think about bluegrass country instead. UK students, faculty, staff and retirees can now buy wines grown and produced locally by the UK Winery—and available only online—with all proceeds going to support grape and wine research that helps to advance Kentucky’s wine industry.

The U.S. wine industry is valued at around $88 billion, while it’s a $364 billion market worldwide. In Kentucky, boosting the prospects of wineries can mean more jobs and possibly tourism dollars, especially if the wines can compete in taste with Californian or overseas varieties.

There are currently 74 commercial wineries in Kentucky. UK’s vineyard research at the Horticulture Research Farm, part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, focuses on developing grape production practices that improve fruit quality and labor efficiency and reduce pesticide use. Researchers have evaluated more than 100 wine grape cultivars and numerous grapevine rootstocks for commercial viability.

Related: Furman grad’s startup promotes sustainable behavior with refillable containers

UK’s wine production research identifies methods to produce wines that reflect Kentucky’s unique soil and climate. That work includes identifying and using native yeast and bacteria to conduct fermentation.

All UK wines are produced using only fruit grown at the Horticulture Research Farm. Currently, there are 15 white, rosé, red, sparkling and fruit wines available, with nine wines newly released.

this photo shows grapes being grown for the University of Kentucky Winery.

The grapes are growing in the vineyard at the UK Horticulture Research Farm. (Photo by Stephen Patton.)

Those new wines include the 2017 Quercus alba, a full-bodied white wine. Extended aging in oak barrels gives it a bourbon-ish flare. The 2017 Flora is a dry white wine with an aroma of melon, apple and floral notes balanced with an earthy spice.

Both new rosés are 2017 vintages. Saignée is a dry wine with a high acid taste, and Verona is an unfiltered dry rosé with an intense fruity aroma.

The latest red wines are all 2017 vintages. Querus rubra is a dry red wine aged for 12 months in new Minnesota oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville. South Farm Red is dry with a dense color and classic red wine texture and just enough tannin to make things interesting. Carbonic, a balanced white wine with low alcohol and moderate acidity, has low but well-balanced tannin and a slight bitterness.

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Finally, the new sparkling wine, Chambourcin (2015), is similar in style to traditional champagne. Extended bottle aging in the presence of yeast provides a complex fruity-yeasty bouquet and a creamy mouthfeel. The 2017 Solidago is similar in style to dry/brut prosecco.

To wish to purchase wine through the UK Winery Web Store, you must be affiliated with the university. You’ll have to fill out a member registration form on the site, http://winery.ca.uky.edu/. After submitting an order, members may pick up their wines curbside at the UK Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington. Detailed descriptions of the wines are also available on the winery site.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the University of Kentucky website.