Student Spotlight: 5 Inspiring Student Founders

You thought you had a lot on your plate this semester, but let senior Anne Marie Crowley introduce you to five students that started social enterprises while still in the process of earning their degree. Don’t worry, we promise you’ll feel more inspired than intimidated by the end of this post! 

As a college student consumed with March Madness game watches, midterm exams, and medical school applications, I find it hard to allot time for sleep, let alone starting a social venture.  I may generate innovative business ideas in classes, but I rarely seriously consider following through with them. As a student, I blame my failure to pursue these ideas on lack of time, business experience, and funds. The following five student social entrepreneurs have overcome these challenges and managed to add one more thing to their “to-do list”, and in turn brought inspiration to my own work.

inspiring1Jack McDermott: Balbus Speech

 Jack began his Balbus Speech social start-up to connect the speech therapy community while a student at Tufts University. Dealing with a stutter has been a lifelong struggle for Jack, and he hoped to help young people achieve greater success in speech therapy through interactive mobile tools (1).  He created two apps, “Speech 4 Good” and “Fluently,” which are proven speech therapy tools and cost $10-$15, as compared to $200-$400 per hour speech therapy sessions.  He hopes to continue to build the platform when he graduates and to create an enterprise app for speech pathologists (2).

Sejal Hathi: Girls Helping Girls


Sejal is a student at Yale University and began the international nonprofit, Girls Helping Girls. As the CEO, she works to train young women in developing nations by pairing them with girls from the United States and allowing them to discuss and address issues they face.  Today, her organization has 12 sites in U.S. cities, 20 sites in countries around the world, and has connected over 30,000 girls.  Upon graduation, Sejal plans to turn over the work of Girls Helping Girls to her colleagues. She will be turning her attention medical school and girltank, the “she-lab for social-change entrepreneurship” that she founded with Tara Roberts (3).

Vincent Ko, Luke Lagera and Michael Mills: Panda Sunglasses

inspiring3Vincent, Luke, and Michael were studying at Georgetown University when they created Panda Sunglasses, a sunglasses business to replace plastic and metal sunglasses commonly seen on college campuses as giveaways.  The sustainable handmade sunglasses their business sells are made of bamboo.  To address a social mission, Panda Sunglasses formed a partnership with Tribal Medical Outreach Association, and through this organization it helps fund eye examinations and free eyeglass distribution. Today, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and a number of boutiques carry Panda sunglasses (4).

Vineet Singal and Donovan Barfield: Anjna Patient Education


Vineet Singal and Donovan Barfield created the Anjna Patient Education during their time as undergraduates at Stanford University. Both had healthcare experiences as children that challenge people across the country today. Vineet struggled with childhood obesity and Type II diabetes, and Donovan’s family had trouble affording adequate healthcare. During their time at Stanford, they noticed the need for medication compliance, reduction of hospitalizations, and education of chronic diseases, including diabetes and asthma, in low-income populations. To address these gaps in the healthcare system, they formed Anjna Patient Education, a nonprofit organization which helps physicians reach the vulnerable via mobile technology to encourage preventative care. Vineet turned down medical school to work on the company full-time (5).

James Whelton: CoderDojo

inspiring5James Whelton came up with the idea for CoderDojo when he was a student at Presentation Brothers’ College in Cork, Ireland, and gained popularity among other students for his ability to hack his iPod.  The other students wanted to learn James’ coding techniques, so he started a club to teach the basics of HTML and CSS coding. From there, he launched the CoderDojo non-profit global movement. Today, CoderDojo is led by volunteers and acts as an open source movement that runs free not-for-profit coding clubs for curious students. At these Dojos, people can learn the ins and outs of coding and share their ideas with others who have similar interests (6).









2 responses to “Student Spotlight: 5 Inspiring Student Founders

  1. I LOVE this blog! If you ever need something to mention I founded the website and am launching a new program that essentially sets up collection spots at local businesses every first Saturday of the month so donors can bring new or gently used (love the recycle) items into local businesses. I attached an info page and would be thrilled to chat more. Its mission is simply to make donating simple and local, to raise awareness of local nonprofits, give the community easy ways to give back, and encourage shopping local. Thanks!

    Trish Dilg (Class of ’00 married to Andrew Dilg Class of ’98 with triplet girls future class of ’31) Owner Paper Bag Child

    Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2014 14:01:00 +0000 To:


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