Social Venture Startups

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. 

I Have a Social Venture Idea

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?

The Social Venture Academy is the place for you! Below are frequently asked questions and instructions for when and how to apply to the academy.

How will the academy support me?

The academy helps student-run social ventures gain funding as they reach specific goals. This funding is awarded by Ballard Center for Social Impact 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 offering funding for social ventures is helpful and motivating, the training, feedback, advice, connections, and guidance are the true advantages provided by the academy.

For more information, see our “Resources” section down below.

When can I join the academy?

Social ventures may join the academy at any time. However, funding is typically only awarded during the fall and winter semesters, when help is available from academy consultants.

What are the eligibility requirements?

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:

  • Solves a Social Issue: The venture must address, alleviate, or solve a social issue. Creating impact is a core function of the venture, not a secondary objective or natural byproduct. 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.
  • 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. 
  • Needs Nontraditional 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.
Olivia Berhan works with an Ethiopian woman as part of her venture, Kelali, which provides jobs to disenfranchised women in Ethiopia.

Contact Us

The Social Venture Academy is a student-run program of the Ballard Center for Social Impact. Questions or concerns can be directed towards our faculty advisor, Steven Fox, or directly to our student leadership team.

Faculty Advisor

Steven Fox

Ballard Center

Ballard Center for Social Impact
Marriott School of Business
Brigham Young University
360 TNRB
Provo, UT 84602
(801) 422-5283


Guidance from Academy Consultant Team

To act as a catalyst for success, the Social Venture Academy connects each venture with a team of student mentors called consultants. Social Venture Academy consultants meet with ventures to help them progress through idea validation, business model development, and launch. Many consultants have a background in social impact, business, or consulting. Consultants actively work with ventures to overcome their challenges, achieve their goals, and change our world for the better. Connecting with a team of Social Venture Academy consultants is the first step toward receiving funding and valuable advice.

Expert Feedback

Student teams in the Social Venture Academy have the opportunity to present to a panel of judges (composed of successful entrepreneurs and mentors in the field of business and social impact) who will evaluate ventures based on predetermined criteria. This criteria depends on the stage of funding for which the venture is pitching, with the stages defined as follows:

  • Idea Showcase: At this stage, ventures will be required to create and upload a three-to-five-minute video that highlights the social product or service that they will provide to alleviate a specific social problem afflicting an identified vulnerable population. 
  • Social Product: The purpose of this stage is to ensure that ventures have validated their solution. Important steps include formulating a hypothesis, building an MVP (minimal viable product), validating customer/user reactions, and iterating on this process. Teams should have evidence that their solution has realistic potential to become an effective social impact intervention. Judges will not be asking about financial viability or other venture model areas at this point. Validation of the product or service is the focus here.
  • Social Venture: After completing the Social Product milestone, the purpose of the Social Venture stage is to ensure that teams are building a sustainable venture model around their solution. Teams should state the likely legal structure of their venture and demonstrate they are willing to pivot/iterate on their venture model as needed. Frameworks such as the Business Model Canvas are often helpful for teams to consider when validating the sustainability of their venture. This pitch includes updated information from the Social Product stage. Teams achieving Social Venture status also receive invaluable feedback from Ballard Center advisors. Some of these advisors have been involved in private equity or venture capital as a profession and therefore can help student social venture teams best position themselves to receive outside funding.


As explained earlier, funding is divided into three phases of increasing complexity: Social Idea, Social Product, and Social Venture. While ventures typically spend one semester in each phase, the academy will work with the venture at the pace most appropriate to its needs. However, while each venture will progress at its own pace, the venture may only be awarded the money from each phase once.

The Phases
  • Social Idea is focused on early ideation. These early-stage ventures may receive from $200 to $1,000.
  • Social Product is based on the founding team’s ability to execute on its ideas and develop a working minimum viable product. Teams may receive up to $2,000.
  • Social Venture is based on the team’s demonstration of solid market traction with well-developed operational plans for the venture. Most importantly, the venture is addressing a vulnerable market while helping to solve a social issue. Teams may be awarded up to $10,000.
  • Once Social Venture status has been awarded, teams can continue to work with the Ballard Center mentors and set funding milestones and can become eligible for an additional $12,000 of funding.

Teams are not competing against each other to receive funding. All ventures that meet the criteria of the Social Venture Academy are eligible for funding. For a more comprehensive presentation regarding the criteria for receiving funding, review the following presentation: Social Venture Academy Criteria.

Other Competitions

Students are also encouraged to participate in other social business competitions to gain exposure and funding. Check out the Miller Competition Series to find more opportunities to gain exposure and funding for your ideas.

Past Winners


  • Ascendant Tracker
  • Community Development Network
  • LacNation
  • Village Book Builders
  • Community Development Network
  • Cultural Exchange Coding Camp (conditional)
  • Dosys (conditional)
  • Charity Bridge International
  • Autism Aid Venture


  • Village Book Builders
  • Virtual Town Hall
  • Ascendant Tracker


  • LacNation




  • Alpha
  • Blue Pride Botswanna
  • Eneza Uganda
  • ET Learns
  • Itara
  • KidUp
  • La Dalia
  • Marafiki Africa
  • Neonatal Rescue
  • Rwanda Tech
  • Temp Sumo


  • Ambrosia Milk
  • Haedrian
  • Dark Horse
  • GoSolar
  • Hey Joe Show
  • Libertad
  • Precision Membranes
  • Promethean
  • Tacuta
  • WiithU


  • Halo Freeze Dry
  • InoFridge
  • KVM Foundation
  • MicroMoz Investment
  • 3D Recycling 
  • 3E Education
  • aCanela Spice
  • Haedrian Project


  • Musana Jewelry
  • 20/20 International
  • Laugh Model
  • PennyPledge
  • Recyclops
  • Dream Come True for IDD
  • Ecotourism along the Silk Road
  • Educational Reform
  • Fight Pornography by Fighting Secrecy
  • Halo Freeze Dry
  • HustleMeter
  • Improving Farmer Livelihoods in Haiti
  • Marketplace for Perspective
  • Patch the World
  • Pay-As-You-Go Solar Panels
  • Peacekeeping
  • PennyPledge
  • Move Well
  • Recyclops
  • Small Business Development in Colombia
  • The Protege Effect
  • Video Journaling


  • Kofi & Co
  • Musana Jewelry 
  • NEW Fit 
  • Crystal Block
  • Global Saints


  • Trano Mirary
  • Achatina Snail Farms
  • Serve Surfer 


  • Tilapiana
  • TeensACT
  • Stratus


  • 2ft. Prosthetics
  • EcoScraps
  • International Children’s Legal Aid


  • The Tipping Bucket
  • SainTerre
  • StartUp


  • Students for Self-Sustainable Schools
  • SchoolTipline
  • Next Deseret


  • Motu BioFuels
  • TRIP


  • Radius
  • ACE Int’l GMAT Preparation
  • Center for Technical Training


  • MarketPlace Africa
  • Centers for Complementary Education*
  • ChariState


  • Mayan Tree Company & Foundation*
  • Machalilla Aquarium*

*Placed in the semifinals of the Global Social Venture Competition, the largest international competition in its field.