Social Venture Academy

The purpose of the Social Venture Academy is to prepare BYU students to launch effective social ventures. While a “venture” can broadly refer to any new business that involves an element of risk, the term “social venture” more specifically refers to an organization that seeks to solve or alleviate a social issue affecting a vulnerable population.

How Do I Participate?

The Academy works with two primary groups: student-run social ventures and student consultants who advise the social venture teams.  

Do you have a product or business idea that you believe will help make the world a better place? Would you like support and funding to make your idea a reality? Are you interested in increased mentorship and access to a team of student consultants?

This is the place for you! Below are frequently asked questions and the opportunity to apply to the Academy.

The Academy provides a conduit by which student-run social ventures can gain funding as they reach specific goals. This funding is awarded by Ballard Center leadership after the social venture team, helped by Academy-trained consultants, makes a presentation to a panel of experienced individuals in the field of social impact. We believe that while the funding offered to social ventures is helpful and motivating, the training, feedback, advice, connections, and guidance are the invaluable and true advantages provided by the Academy.

For more information, see our “Resources” page.

Social ventures may join the Academy at any time, though they should be aware that funding is typically only awarded during the two major school semesters when they have the help of Academy consultants.

Before receiving funding, all ventures should fit the definition of a “social venture.” To qualify as a social venture, ventures must meet the following requirements:

(1) Solves a Social Issue: The venture must address, alleviate, or solve a social issue. Core functions of the venture create impact, not ancillary portions of the venture. For example, Ecoscraps converts food waste into composted fertilizer. The core product reduces waste and methane, a core greenhouse gas. The company does not simply give 10 percent of profits to recycling efforts.

(2) Helps a Vulnerable Population: The venture must help a vulnerable population or the environment. Qualified ventures improve the lives of people who are disadvantaged or oppressed in a systemic, societal, or cultural way. For example, Fundación Paraguaya has an agricultural high school that teaches organic agriculture and business skills to poor, indigenous youth. The company does not target middle- or upper-class youth. 

(3) Needs Non-Traditional Funding: A core part of the venture’s intervention requires funders who recognize the need to work with vulnerable populations and measure outcome data to ensure positive changes in their customers’ lives. For example, Resol needed initial capital from funders who believed – unlike standard Angel or VC firms – in the organization’s mission to help female Venezuelan refugees build their own businesses.

Don’t have an idea for a social product but would still like to participate? Become a consultant! As a consultant, you’ll have the opportunity to support a student-run startup that is working to make a positive social impact in the world, plus you’ll learn and share key business principles. This is a 3-credit, limited enrollment class.

Below are frequently asked questions and the opportunity to apply as a consultant.

Student consultants can be BYU students from any major who are interested in strengthening management consulting skills while learning more about the world of social impact.

Students who are accepted as consultants will join our 3-credit class that teaches them valuable consulting skills and assists them as they work with social ventures within the program. Student consultants meet in class twice a week to learn social impact consulting skills; they also meet frequently as a team and with the social ventures they consult.

The Social Venture Academy trains new student consultants every Fall and Winter semester as part of the class MSB 471R. Social venture teams present to the judging panel at least once a semester. Since new consulting teams are constructed each semester as part of the class, students interested in becoming consultants should apply well before the start of their desired semester.