Academics

Social Entrepreneurship at Heller

A group of students with the Heller Startup Challenge poster from 2019
Heller Startup Challenge 2019
students in a breakout room at Heller
Heller Startup Challenge 2019
Heller Startup Challenge 2019 participants with winning checks
Heller Startup Challenge 2019
Heller Startup Challenge 2019 participants
Heller Startup Challenge 2019

If you think only business students can start their own ventures, think again. Heller offers a variety of competitions, workshops and classes to give every student the opportunity to pursue a social venture, develop a plan and get feedback from professionals. Whether you’re pursuing an MBA or not, you’ll learn how to bring a business idea to life.

At Heller, we don’t believe in silos. Students always have the support of their own cohorts—but are encouraged to step beyond those boundaries to engage with students in every program. They mingle and make friends, and even form teams to share expertise and deliver a successful program or product that can help solve some of the world’s most pressing social challenges. 

Here are just a few examples of how Heller students can flex their entrepreneurial muscles: 

The Heller Startup Challenge

60 hours. Dozens of students. $1,000 prize. This intensive, three-day social enterprise initiative, open to Heller students as well as undergraduates and alumni, gives students who aren’t in the Heller MBA program or the International Business School an opportunity to put their ideas to the test. Participants form or join teams around an idea to solve a pressing social issue, develop a business plan with the help of a mentor, learn from peers with different skill sets and pitch their plan at the end of the weekend. Read one student’s first-hand account of the Heller Startup Challenge

The Hult Prize at Brandeis

This year-long international student competition to sustainably solve the world’s most pressing social challenges offers a $1 million prize—but first, students have to win at their local college competition. The Hult Prize at Brandeis is the culmination of a semester full of entrepreneurship, offering students a chance to pitch ideas refined through feedback at previous events. To meet the requirements of the Hult Prize, students are challenged to scale up their ideas to maximize global impact.

SPARKTank by Brandeis Innovation

Each year, Brandeis students, faculty and staff face off to win grants from a pool of $50,000 in funding, as well as the mentorship, support and training they need to grow their ideas from concept to potentially successful enterprises. Heller teams frequently do well in this competition, including winning more than $22,000 in combined prize money in 2018 and taking four of the top spots in 2020

Net Impact – Heller Chapter

Net Impact is an international network of professional and student networks focused on using business for environmental sustainability and social impact through topics such as corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship. It serves as one of the largest MBA organizations in the world. Net Impact Heller partners with the Brandeis International Business School and Boston Net Impact chapters to host a variety of professional and networking events such as the Impact Summit in Boston and the Triple Bottom Line speaker series. 

Social Entrepreneurship Courses

MBA Program Director Carole Carlson teaches two courses each year: 

Elizabeth Nguyen, who is earning a Social Impact MBA as well as an MA in Sustainable International Development, explains how her Peace Corps background in social entrepreneurship led her to Heller.

Heller alumni Wafaa Arbash, Jennie Kelly and Shadi Sheikh SarafWorkAround: A social enterprise founded by three Heller alumnae

Wafaa Arbash, MA SID/COEX’17, Jennie Kelly, MA SID/MBA’17 and Shadi Sheikh Sara, MA SID/COEX’17, co-founded WorkAround, a startup company that provides online micro-tasking jobs to refugees and displaced people around the globe. They first pitched it at the Heller Startup Challenge. Read their story in Heller Magazine. 

Bertha Asare, a MA in Sustainable International Development student, shares why she started a nonprofit to help people with disabilities in Ghana and how Heller, through its social entrepreneurship pitch series and supportive professors, is helping her take her organization to the next level.