The HBS Social Enterprise Initiative aims to educate, support, and inspire leaders to tackle society’s toughest challenges and make a difference in the world. We are committed to the fight for racial justice and to promoting diversity and equity across all sectors, and we are proud to support many students engaging in this critical work. This summer, HBS is supporting a record 161 Social Enterprise Summer Fellows, with many organizations and projects focused on racial equity and justice. The Social Enterprise Initiative connected with some of the fellows to hear more about their work this summer and going forward.                  

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON THIS SUMMER?

Allie O'Shea (MBA 2021), Hack.Diversity: Hack.Diversity is focused on improving Black and Latinx representation in Boston's innovation economy. This summer, I am working on Hack.Diversity’s brand strategy and strategic growth plan. This is particularly important right now, given companies’ increased focus on diversity and inclusion in light of recent events that have highlighted structural racism in our society.

Brian Hollins (MBA 2021), Founder, The Aspen Fellowship: The Aspen Fellowship is a six-week program that provides black undergraduate students with the skills they need to succeed in corporate America. Fellows get one-on-one mentorship from an advisor, participate in a weekly speaker series on topics like career prep, mental health and leadership, and build a robust analytical skillset via our sponsors at Wall St Prep.

Bukie Adebo (MBA 2021), Rebel One Ventures: I am working with at an impact venture capital firm that funds founders of color and solutions that help to address inequality in financial services, education, and work.

Cathy Chukwulebe (MBA 2021), Founder, Little Black Library: Little Black Library promotes education on racial justice and the Black experience by sharing books and conversations on topics of race, identity, systemic racism, and antiracism.

Kate Handley (MBA 2021), Uptrust: Uptrust is building software that helps low-income individuals navigate the criminal justice system. We're focused on keeping people out of jail and helping them avoid fines and fees. I am working on our go-to-market for probation/parole clients and helping with capital raising.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SUMMER?

Cathy Chukwulebe: My goal is to launch ten Little Black Library locations in communities in Boston, initially stocked with 30 books each, and garner used and new book donations to promote a continual exchange of books. After establishing a process for exchanging books and knowledge on racial justice, I plan to test different platforms and approaches for catalyzing conversations, including sharing author's perspectives and connecting readers to each other for deeper discussion and learning.

Allie O'Shea: My personal goals for the internship are to learn more about diversity and inclusion from an organizational perspective, including how companies think about recruiting and retaining diverse employees, and to truly immerse myself in start-up culture. Having worked primarily at large organizations, it is great to experience what it is like working in a small, nimble environment.

Brian Hollins: As COVID struck, I saw classmates at HBS losing internships, and knew that the trickle-down effect of this pandemic would severely impact the black undergraduate population. Far too many black students graduate with just academia on their resume, and I wanted to use this program as an opportunity to keep those students on the path to success, while equipping them with additional skills that I don't believe you build in a traditional corporate internship. My goal by the end of the program is that these 50 students feel more confident to enter the real world, and have new relationships that will demonstrate the power of network and community as they enter a world largely driven by those same forces.

HOW HAS YOUR MBA SKILLSET PREPARED YOU TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THIS ROLE?

Brian Hollins: More than anything else, my MBA has unlocked the entrepreneurial bug in me! I have had the idea of this Fellowship for 3+ years, but watching other students build and test ideas at HBS gave me the courage to finally do so myself. The Social Enterprise Fellowship has provided tremendous resources that have allowed me to improve the program and guided me toward the longer term thinking that is necessary to scale and continue the program for years to come.

Kate Handley: Almost everything I'm doing is new and there's no way I could execute without my first year at HBS. From go-to-market planning in Marketing to understanding how VCs and term sheets work in The Entrepreneurial Manager course, I am applying my new MBA skillset every day. Beyond the technical skills, I've become more self-aware and in-tune with the communication and leadership styles of others. This internship is my first time starting a new job with career experience under my belt and the skills I've learned at HBS gave me a new level of humility, curiosity, and empathy towards my new teammates.

Cathy Chukwulebe: The MBA program has taught me how to ask for help and how to prioritize the advice I receive from others to make my own decision. To launch a social enterprise, you have to move quick, but with thoughtfulness and intention, and seeking help is the key to being resourceful. Additionally, the MBA taught us tactical skills on how to hypothesize and test your product.

Allie O'Shea: My MBA skillset has prepared me to analyze Hack's current brand and growth strategy, and to bring forth new ideas and recommendation that can improve the organization's brand and help them grow. Each day, I am using quantitative and qualitative analysis skills to analyze Hack's current situation, and leveraging critical thinking skills to put forth recommendations.

HOW HAS THE SUMMER INFLUENCED YOUR THINKING ON FUTURE INVOLVEMENT IN SOCIAL ENTERPRISE?

Bukie Adebo: It has solidified my belief that technology has the power to dramatically change the lives of marginalized communities. It's also helped me understand how I want to focus my efforts moving forward. While there are a lot of issues I want to tackle after HBS, I want to focus on companies that help to address the racial wealth gap in the US. It feels like the perfect alignment of my background, skills, and passions.

Cathy Chukwulebe: Launching a social enterprise is both difficult and exciting. The mission is really important to me because it is personally the best driver of my motivation. I would love to continue working on Little Black Library after graduating.

Allie O'Shea: My summer has really solidified my interest in social enterprise. I have enjoyed working on a topic area that is so important and immediately relevant to addressing one of society's greatest challenges -- structural racism. It feels good to be able to leverage my skillset in such a meaningful way.

Brian Hollins: I have shifted my thinking from business career "or" social enterprise to business career "and" social enterprise. There are so many incredible business leaders who have found ways to start impactful organizations around communities like the black undergrad population I am targeting, and I hope to find the resources and funding in the near future that enable me to continue on this journey of helping hundreds (or even thousands!) of students down the road.

Kate Handley: This summer has solidified my commitment to working in impact. Uptrust is helping keep thousands of people out of jail which has an enormous impact on people's lives and our wider society. After working with an awesome team at a fast-growing company that is helping some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, I'm absolutely sold on working on big, complex challenges for the rest of my career.

This was originally published on the Social Enterprise Impact Insights Blog.