The John C. Soper Prize in Social Entrepreneurship encourages students to create projects that confront social issues. The contest is sponsored by the John Carroll University Entrepreneurship program and is in remembrance of John C. Soper, a former professor of finance and economics at JCU who passed away in 2013.
Soper was the John J. Kahl Senior chair in Entrepreneurship at John Carroll University from 2006 to 2011.
When Soper left the chair, John Carroll’s Entrepreneurship program partnered with the Entrepreneurship Association, which offers financial and advising support, in order to create the John C. Soper prize in his honor. The winner of the prize receives $1,000 and works with a mentor for guidance on making his or her idea a reality.
The judges are Soper’s widow, members of the Entrepreneurship Association and social entrepreneurs in the community.
Jacqueline Schmidt, professor in the Tim Russert department of Communications and Theatre Arts and head of the entrepreneurship program, described the judges as “the people who you would be [facing] to pitch this idea.”
She also highlights the benefit of this presentation is regarding networking. The prize provides “the opportunity to connect with those folks.” She explains that the judges often offer contact information or names of additional people who can help the students.
The prize allows students to take a social issue and examine it from a constructive perspective. Schmidt said, “Students look at a problem and figure out what they can do by taking an idea, and develop it.” Schmidt continued, “They feel so empowered by it.”
The first winning project was the Carroll Ballers. The success of the organization has led to the group’s continued success and growth in working with female correctional facilities, as well as male juvenile detention centers.
The second and most recent winner was an organization called TreeShirts. Co-founder of TreeShirts, senior Angelica Bucci explained that although she was required to enter the contest for a social entrepreneurship class, she and her group were moved by the social issue they chose to focus on: the environment.
The organization uses money earned by selling organically made T-shirts to plant a tree in the Brazilian rainforest. Bucci said, “Because of this focus on a higher mission, our group was motivated to create a sustainable business model that would make a lasting impact on our environment.”
Schmidt and Bucci both praise the prize’s acceptance of students from all majors. Schmidt said, “The one thing about entrepreneurship and creativity is it generates best when you get people from different backgrounds.”
Students from different majors are encouraged to get together to try to solve a problem they see in the community.
According to Bucci, “If you are the type of person that is inspired and motivated to help solve some of the planet’s toughest social problems, then this is the competition for you.”
Editor’s Note: To apply for the John C. Soper Prize, e-mail your application to Mark Hauserman at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, Nov. 11.