03 Mar 2021

Get to Know GenUnity, a Social Enterprise Track New Venture Competition Team


With the New Venture Competition (NVC) finale right around the corner (be sure to register and tune in March 30 at 6:00 pm), learn more about team GenUnity, a social enterprise track participant helping to support adults in building the relationships, knowledge, and skills to drive civic change.

Team members: Jerren Chang (MBA/MPP 2021), Nimisha Ganesh (MBA 2021), Florian Schalliol (MBA 2021), Casey McGinley (MBA/MS 2021)

What inspired you to start your company?

Our team converged upon our vision after trying to navigate our own paths to go beyond social media activism to meaningful work—in city government (Jerren), K-12 education (Nimisha), philanthropy (Florian), and part-time volunteering commitments (Casey). We found that opportunities for civic leadership are too often reserved for those with privilege and resources, requiring an understanding of how our systems operate, skills to build coalitions, and the social capital to make the right connections.

We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to realize their civic potential. At GenUnity, we are building a ‘civic gym’ to strengthen individual and collective capacity to drive change, support our institutions and systems to deliver more equitable outcomes, ultimately building happier, healthier communities.

How has the Rock Center or Social Enterprise Initiative helped with your entrepreneurial journey? Are there any other HBS resources that you have been using?

SEI Summer fellowships and the Rock Center enabled our team to work on GenUnity full-time over two summers, culminating in the launch of our pilot program in the fall of 2020. As a Rock Accelerator team, funding and access to additional expertise has been critical to navigate our next phase of growth, including launching new programs in 2021.

Beyond the Rock Center and SEI, we’ve also received invaluable support from mentors across the i-Lab, HBS, and Harvard, who all shared their content expertise and connections to community partners to catalyze our efforts to reimagine civic leadership.

How have you been preparing for the competition?

We’ve been practicing and refining our pitch with our advisors and peers. Each repetition has provided helpful feedback and data in learning how to better tailor our pitches for our different audiences. We’re excited to share and center the stories of our pilot cohort members, who are the heart of GenUnity.

What part of the NVC journey has been the most helpful for your team?

Access to expert resources—especially on fundraising and positioning—have been incredibly helpful. As we’re evaluating our pilot program, we deeply appreciate the chance to pressure-test our strategy for 2021 and beyond.

How did you go about creating your competition pitch? Do you have any advice for someone looking to create a pitch?

Our pitch has been evolving over the past few years. We keep our deck updated to support our ongoing conversations with program partners—this becomes our base for pitch competitions. Given our impact focus, this approach ensures that our story and work are grounded in feedback from the community.

In terms of advice, it is about communicating your story in a way that walks the audience effectively through your vision—getting outside perspectives early and often is key.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Deeply understand the problem you are trying to solve. As our The Entrepreneurial Manager (TEM) professors have ingrained in us, there is often a myth that “if you build it, the customers will come.” Instead, we’ve aspired to focus relentlessly on our members and serving their needs. The solution to the problem will likely (and should) evolve—as ours has—but a rigorous understanding of the problem is always the foundation.

Learn more about team GenUnity.

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