Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp Deemed a Big Success

July 20, 2015

The 2015 Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp at the UA's Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain was seen as a big success -- for those aspiring social entrepreneurs who were paired with mentors and for the mentors who got a glimpse of what lies ahead for Arkansas.

From all perspectives, the event was deemed a success. Twenty-two teams of students participated (their names and startup ideas are below), and mentors included MentorCamp founder Permjot Valia; the UA's Carol Reeves; Trish Flanagan, co-founder of IA client Picasolar; and IA adviser Jeff Amerine and his wife Phyl (right) of Startup Junkie.

"The ability to break down and pinpoint the message for our organization was really valuable," participant Elston Forte said. "As a result of the boot camp, we're going back and looking at our five-year business plan to make it a seven-year plan. We want to capitalize on all of the revenue streams we learned about." 

WRI Director Marta Loyd saw future social entrepreneurs take steps forward at the event, held over the weekend at WRI.

"We saw that progress from every team, and it speaks directly to their character and perseverance and to the quality of the mentors at the boot camp," she said.

The event opened with a keynote from Noble Impact founder Steve Clark. Noble, which has developed a social entrepreneurship cirriculum for students, recently expanded its program to the middle school at eStem public charter school in downtown Little Rock.

It represented a partnership between WRI, the UA's Clinton School, the UA Office of Entrepreneurship and the Innovation Hub.

More here on the event from Arkansas Business, and the full WRI release is below:

Progress of participants seen as highlight of 2015 Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp

PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (July 20, 2015) — Elston Forte came to the 2015 Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp with a lot of passion. He left with a lot of focus.

Forte, who leads the Young Intellectual Active Minds (Y.I.AM) Project, was one of 22 participants at the boot camp, which paired aspiring social entrepreneurs with mentors from Arkansas, the United States and abroad to develop skills and knowledge needed to launch and/or scale a social enterprise.

The boot camp, held July 17-19 at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, was a partnership between the Institute, the Clinton School of Public Service, the University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.

Each team opened the boot camp by pitching their social enterprise to the panel of mentors. Forte was nearly overcome with emotion and energy as he talked about Y.I.AM, a program designed to reduce recidivism and increase positive outcomes for young African-American males.

“Your energy is great,” said Permjot Valia, the London-based CEO and founder of MentorCamp, “but it’s really getting in the way of your message. You need to find that balance between having enough emotion to keep us engaged and not having so much that your point gets lost.”

That and other feedback Forte and his team received in the next 48 hours proved to be invaluable. When he presented his revised pitch to the panel of mentors, and under the observance of Clinton School Dean Skip Rutherford and Institute Executive Director Dr. Marta Loyd, he was poised, passionate and on point.

“The ability to break down and pinpoint the message for our organization was really valuable,” Forte said. “As a result of the boot camp, we’re going back and looking at our five-year business plan to make it a seven-year plan. We want to capitalize on all of the revenue streams we learned about.”

The progress made by each group was obvious, and they were each commended by the mentors for their hard work.

“The transformation and focus that they showed in the final presentations was truly remarkable,” Loyd said. “We saw that progress from every team, and it speaks directly to their character and perseverance and to the quality of the mentors at the boot camp.”

Joining Forte on the Y.I.AM team was Edward Roberts, Haley Shelton and Patrice Bax. Other social entrepreneurship groups participating were Kids Cook!, represented by Anaya Faith; USTED Corp., represented by Reginald Brown; Arkansas STEM Coalition, represented by Walter Burgess, Katherine Prewitt and Allison Nichols; Tesseract Studio, represented by David Fredrick, Keenan Cole, Chloe Costello, Taylor Yust, Hailey Ray and Gregory Rogers; Olive Loom, represented by Leah Garrett; Sweet, represented by Stephanie Harris; Support Groups United, represented by Jordan King and Danny Duong; Words to Grow On, represented by Dr. Peggy Sissel; Gabr Summer Institute, represented by Nathan Thomas; and Volunteer Network, represented by Natalia Topete.

The teams heard presentations from mentors and others, including an opening night interview of Steve Clark, founder of Propak, Inc. and co-founder of Rockfish and Noble Impact. They were also able to hear a social enterprise success story from Shea Halligan of Westrock Coffee. The rich content and variety of perspectives were part of what made the boot camp so valuable to the participants.

“The high-level work that the participants achieved in one weekend shows the importance and value of social entrepreneurs in Arkansas in solving our most pressing social issues,” said Nikolai DiPippa, director of public programs and strategic partnerships at the Clinton School of Public Service. “I look forward to watching the participants become thought leaders in this field and creating positive social impact.”

DiPippa and Valia were joined in serving as mentors by Phyl and Jeff Amerine, co-founders of Startup Junkie Consulting; Dr. Carol Reeves, associate vice-provost of entrepreneurship at the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas; Dr. Cynthia Sides, associate director for the Office of Entrepreneurship and the director of the IGNITE (Industry Generating New Ideas and Technology through Education) program at the University of Arkansas; Trish Flanagan, co-founder of Picasolar and Noble Impact; Ben Kaufman, research officer for the Walton Family Foundation; and John Montgomery, chairman emeritus and senior legal advisor at Montgomery & Hansen, LLP in California.

Montgomery gave a presentation Saturday night about benefit corporations, a legal standing for companies so they can be measured both by profit growth and by social impact.

“One of our takeaways is we’re going to explore the benefit corporation status,” Forte said.

Reeves told the participants at the end of the boot camp that she felt energized by the work that had been done, and that she looked forward to future work in the area of social entrepreneurship in Arkansas.

“The participants came in with open minds, a willingness to learn and a strong work ethic, which made it possible for them to accomplish in 48 hours what would normally take months of work,” Reeves said. “All of the participants came in with passion; they left with a much better understanding of what it will take to make their ideas a reality and how to inspire others to join them in their efforts. The world-class mentors were blown away by the progress the participants made during the weekend, and they are anxious to see how these social entrepreneurs will transform the state.”

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute
In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.

Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.

About the Clinton School of Public Service
The first school in the nation to offer a Master of Public Service (MPS) degree, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service gives students the knowledge and experience to further their careers in the areas of nonprofit, governmental, volunteer or private sector service.

A two-year graduate program with a real-world curriculum, the Clinton School is located on the grounds of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Ark. The school embodies former President Clinton’s vision of building leadership in civic engagement and enhancing people’s capacity to work across disciplinary, racial, ethnic and geographical boundaries. For more information, visit

About the University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship
The mission of the University of Arkansas’ Office of Entrepreneurship is to catalyze entrepreneurial activities and innovation across the university and throughout the state in order to build Arkansas’ knowledge-based economy.

Established in 2011, the Office of Entrepreneurship has led commercialization retreats for faculty from the research universities in the state, supported student and faculty commercialization activities, integrated University of Arkansas research with demand-driven innovation needs in the state through the IGNITE program, and hosted several social entrepreneurship events.

University of Arkansas students have led the world in national and international business plan competitions since 2009, winning almost twice as many competitions as the next closest competitor. Students have won over $2.3 million in prize money, established 13 high-growth businesses, and raised almost $30 million to build their companies. Visit. for more information.

About the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub
The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub ( is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing innovative and entrepreneurial activity in Arkansas by creating a collaborative ecosystem and pipelines that mobilize the resources, programs and educational opportunities necessary to develop, attract and retain talent and to build the state’s economy.

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