Pennies 4 Progress was shining brightly at the first annual University of North Carolina Social Business Plan Competition. The non-profit’s team members, NC State students Ryan O’Donnell, Brandon Narybouth, and Kevin Miller, won top prize at the state-wide competition. That was no small feat, considering there were 31 teams competing from all 17 schools in the UNC system.
The competition was held Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, as part of the UNC Social Business Conference. Organized by the UNC General Administration, the purpose of the conference was to bring together economic development interests from all regions of the state to discuss social business concepts. In addition, college student teams from across North Carolina were challenged to develop business solutions to pressing local and state issues.
The NC State team received a cash prize of $2,500 to put towards their business, as well as free mentoring from TiE Carolinas and the North Carolina Small Business Development Center (SBTDC). They will also represent their fellow competitors at the Board of Governors meeting in October.
All three members of the Pennies 4 Progress team are students in Poole College’s Undergraduate Programs. Miller and O’Donnell also are completing a second major in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Miller is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Business Administration with an entrepreneurship concentration and a B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Spanish. O’Donnell is a junior pursuing a B.S. in Economics with a business concentration and a B.A. in International Studies with an international economy concentration and a minor in Chinese. Narybouth is a sophomore pursuing a B.S. in Economics with a business concentration and a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in finance.
Their non-profit aims to make it easy for any business to make a positive social impact in their local community and abroad by enabling businesses to add on a one-cent donation from each customer to the total of every transaction in their store. This penny supports micro-finance partners abroad. When the initial loan is repaid, it supports local community projects, such as food drives, community gardens and hospitals.
“We are currently starting up and in talks with a few people to (begin) our beta test next year in the local community,” Narybouth said. “Businesses will sign up to participate in our program and add a one cent mandatory donation to each customer’s transaction which is then transferred to us.” The team is working out the final details of funneling the money into the microcredit system, in consultation with those who have the expertise they need, including local social business leaders. “However, all three of us plan to see this through to the end,” he said.
Inspired by his extensive work with the NC Food Bank (now the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina) during high school, O’Donnell hatched the idea for Pennies 4 Progress and serves as chief executive officer. He brought on Narybouth as chief financial officer because of his experience in the financial industry. Miller rounds out the group as chief innovation officer, based on his work at the Unreasonable Institute, a social entrepreneurship incubator dedicated to solving the world’s biggest problems.
According to Miller, the best part of the competition was the people they met, which he felt was worth more than any prize.
The students were treated to a keynote presentation from Professor Muhammad Yunus. Yunus is a world-renowned Bangladeshi banker and economist best known for his work in microcredit. Microcredit loans are small loans awarded to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. Yunus and the Grameen Bank that he established were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Yunus told the students they had the power to change anything because of the technology that exists today.
“Human creativity is limitless,” he said. “The distance between possible and impossible is shrinking.”
And Pennies 4 Progress is working toward positive change, one penny at a time. Their website is currently under construction; in the meantime, additional information is available via their Facebook page.
Ryan O’Donnell is from High Point, N.C. and he graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in 2011. His parents are Shawn and Suzanne O’Donnell.
Brandon Narybouth is from Huntersville, N.C., and graduated from Hopewell High School in 2011. His parents names are Puton and Sounida Narybouth and they live in Charlotte, NC.
Kevin Miller graduated from Strake Jesuit College Prep in 2009 in Houston, TX. His parents are Mark and Kathy Miller and they live in Charlotte, NC.
Photo credit: University of North Carolina General Administration