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Kellogg announces 2017 Social Impact Awards winners

Two Kellogg social entrepreneurs receive a total of $140,000 to launch and develop their startups after graduation.

This spring, Kellogg announced awards to two graduating social entrepreneurs. Tiffany Smith, ’17 and Saumya, ’17, were honored for their commitment to developing startups that address social or environmental challenges through novel, sustainable and well-developed visions.

Saumya was awarded the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award and Tiffany Smith the NewDay Social Entrepreneurship Award. Each student’s start-up will receive $70,000 in seed funding to fuel their social ventures post-graduation. Both students are already celebrated within Kellogg for their social innovation, were inducted into the Kellogg Youn Impact Scholars, and named to the New Venture track of Kellogg’s Zell Fellows this academic year.

These annual awards are an example of the unique ways Kellogg supports its social entrepreneurs. “At Kellogg our social entrepreneurs have the opportunity to take advantage of everything that all our Kellogg entrepreneurs have access to, plus they have our social impact support as well,” said Megan Kashner ’03, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Social Impact at Kellogg. “Saumya and Tiffany are both great examples of students who have done a phenomenal job of taking advantage of everything Kellogg has to offer them as entrepreneurs and in social entrepreneurship,” Kashner said.

Winning the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award, Saumya’s organization, Kheyti, provides affordable downsized greenhouse kits along with agricultural support to small-holder farmers in India whose crop yields had been affected by climate change. The farmers, who would otherwise be unable to afford the greenhouse technology widely used by industrial farmers, benefit from Kheyti’s “greenhouse-in-a-box” system that uses 90% less water, grows seven times more food, and gives farmers a steady dependable income. The prize money will help Kheyti (which means “farming” in Hindi), hire team members to help with farmer support and greenhouse production. Saumya plans to head to India to work full-time on Kheyti after receiving her MBA, which she says has been key to building her network. “Kellogg has opened doors to every person we’d want to connect with, whether for partnerships or fundraising or getting advice on the business model. It was all possible because I was at business school,” she says.

The NewDay Social Entrepreneurship Award is awarded each spring to a social venture that is located in or benefits the Chicago area. Smith’s startup, Tiltas, provides mentoring connections between people recently released from prison and former prisoners who have successfully joined the world of work. Tiltas provides one-on-one support with the aim of decreasing recidivism rates. “I’m invested in alleviating the undue burden on people getting out of prison who want to do better by themselves,” Smith says, adding that a recent announcement from the U.S. Attorney General that encouraged harsher prison sentences for low level drug offenders only provided her with more motivation. “I now have to do this work,” she says.

Smith says the award funding will likely go towards hiring a developer, staff members, and interns for Tiltas. To her, even more important than the financial support, is what the award stands for. “It means that people see something in me that I might not see in myself every day,” she says.

Kellogg also awarded new loan assistance prizes this year to graduating students whose plans involve working in the nonprofit space or launching social impact startups. Bonaventure Fandohan, ’17, received the Kellogg Public/Nonprofit Loan Assistance Award, which provides funding for loan debt relief to graduates working in the social impact field and who demonstrate the willingness to pursue a career in social impact within the public and nonprofit sectors upon graduation.

After graduation, Fandohan plans on continuing his work at Rotary International, where he works in economic and community development. “Not everybody from Kellogg has to go to corporate,” he says. “When you have the knowledge, the skills, and the network you have created by going to Kellogg, you can choose to make the world a better place.”