Fish-Farming Franchise Wins 2011 Social Venture Competition

Students use business to better the world

According to finalists at the 2011 Social Venture Competition, solving a few of the world's problems is possible — use tutoring, technology and tilapia. The competition, hosted by the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, challenged students to create innovative solutions to social concerns, such as those in education, volunteering and agriculture, and honored finalists with more than $50,000.

Tilapiana, a program for fish-farming franchises in Ghana, took first place and received $10,000, plus and an extra $3,000 as the audience-choice award winner. The name Tilapiana comes from the tilapia fish, one of the most popular varieties in fish farming.

According to Justin King, co-founder of Tilapiana, Ghana has experienced an 80 percent decline in marine stocks and currently produces less than half of the country's demand for fish. Tilapiana's solution leverages local production and distribution so Ghanaians can grow their own fish, sell them and feed their families in a sustainable way.

"Although fish farming is done around the world, there's not much in Africa," says King, a second-year MBA student from Kaysville, Utah. "It's a fairly new industry, and Ghana has passed recent laws and initiatives because they want this to be their next big economic stimulant."

Fellow co-founder Andrew Steward, a second-year MBA student from South Jordan, Utah, and Janice Kirk, a first-year MBA student from Blanding, Utah, have also been essential to Tilapiana's success. The organization plans to expand its fish-farming model to five countries in Africa within five years.

Aaron Miller, faculty director of the competition, says students at the SVC combine their passions for business and bettering the world; their ideas are too good to leave unrecognized.

 "BYU is a leader in social entrepreneurship among universities in the United States," Miller says. "Most social venture competitions pool applicants from multiple schools. The fact that we can sustain such high quality ventures every year with BYU students alone is pretty remarkable."

The second place team, TeensACT, won $4,000 for their program that empowers teens for college. The program decreases the dropout rate of students by offering ACT prep courses, guest speakers, campus tours and assistance in finding and applying for scholarships. In the last year they've had remarkable success sending high schoolers on to higher education. The momentum will likely continue, as colleges across the nation are requesting their program.

"There's a passion and a demand for the program and that's what helped me to know from square one that TeensACT was going to succeed," says Tory Norman, a second-year MAcc student from Fairview, Utah, working on the project.

In addition to Norman, TeensACT includes Dayan Bernal, founder and 2010 BYU graduate in Latin American studies from La Paz, Bolivia; Saeko Logsdon, second-year MPA student from Hokkaido, Japan; Carolina Otero, a sophomore studying sociology from Oceanside, Calif.; and Katherine Wilkinson, a senior English teaching major from Hamilton, Va.

Stratus, a software program that connects businesses with nonprofits, took third at the SVC and received $1,000. According to founder Adam Norton, a senior studying entrepreneurship from Bellville, Ark., the program pairs employees' skills with nonprofits' needs to make a perfect match. 

And as the announcer of the competition added, "Stratus is going to change the way businesses and nonprofits work together. Just you watch."

The three finalists are also eligible for additional mentoring through the Ballard Center. The Center awards each team an extra $12,000 upon meeting benchmarks throughout the year.

At the competition, the Ballard Center also announced the launch of its Social Venture Academy, a program that mentors students in social entrepreneurship and how to actualize their ideas. The program is available to all majors. Future Social Venture Competition finalists will only be eligible if enrolled in the Social Venture Academy.

The Marriott School is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems and entrepreneurship. The school's mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School's graduate and undergraduate programs.

Media Contact: Joseph Ogden (801) 422-8938
Writer: Carrie Akinaka