Seniors Teach Social Entrepreneurship
Neil Shah (B’10) and Arthur Woods (B’10) came to Georgetown knowing they wanted to start businesses. Four years later they have met their goals, and are teaching others how to do the same.
Shah and Woods created Compass Partners in 2008 to teach social entrepreneurship at the college level. The company selects 15 students from Georgetown and nearby American University each year for a two-year program that connects the students with entrepreneurs and local executives for mentorship and opportunities to develop their own businesses.
“Anyone with the right resources and motivation can learn the skill set required to be a successful entrepreneur,” says Shah, a marketing and management major from Indianapolis.
But Shah and Woods say social entrepreneurship requires something more that is not always found in the classroom. There has to be a drive to empower communities to make change, they say.
Putting Their Passion Into Practice
Robert Bies, professor of management in the McDonough School of Business, has taught both students about the aspects in social entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurs and businesses are interested in one bottom line – financial sustainability,” he explains. “Social entrepreneurship operates on what we call the double bottom line, where businesses look at being socially sustainable along with the financial sustainability.”
Social responsibility and business are the foundations of Compass Partners, but Shah and Woods say their No. 1 goal is to inspire others to pursue a dream. It’s a desire they say fully formed after working with visiting assistant professor Sarah Stiles.
“This would not have been possible if we didn’t have anyone who believed in us,” says Woods, who majored in international business plus operations and information management. Woods is from Lake Almanor, Calif.
The students were introduced to Stiles after Shah took her social entrepreneurship course during his sophomore year. The course introduced Shah to social change theory and required him to work with a local nonprofit.
“A lot of inspiration came from her course,” says Shah. “You learn why you should start a social business and how it changes the world.”
Despite top job offers in consulting and technology, the two are dedicating the remainder of the year to expanding Compass Partners.
“Our goal is slow but steady growth across the United States,” said Shah. The current focus for the company is on expanding the program to other D.C. area colleges and universities.
Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and American’s School of International Service are supporters of the company, which received 103 applications this year for the 15 available fellowship positions.
“Arthur and Neil are role models for taking the initiative to run with an idea and welcoming others to run with them,” says Stiles. “This is a race where all participants are winners.”
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