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Social Venture Start-ups

Through the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, innovative students and alumni from UNC School of Social Work have launched social enterprises in their communities. These enterprises address social problems by targeting workforce development, increasing advocacy supports, and providing opportunities for greater accessibility.

Several of these social enterprises are profiled below.

If you are an alumnus of UNC School of Social Work with a social enterprise to include here — or you have a great idea for a social enterprise that you want to launch but aren’t sure where to begin — contact Tanya Jisa with the SIE Lab to share your successes and to learn more about the types of support and resources that are available.

THRIVE Cheer and Dance Company

Founder: Kalyn Wilson (MSW ’19) | Empowering Young Women of Color
Kalyn Wilson launched the THRIVE Cheer and Dance Company to merge her skills in instructing competitive cheerleading with her passion for helping young women of color gain skills, confidence, and resources that can help them succeed in college and in life.

Wilson noticed the need to facilitate a school-to-college pipeline for youth in underserved communities who opt for the “spirit sports” and are often overlooked, underfunded, and undersupported in their collegiate spirit sports endeavors. Through events, fundraising, and community building, Wilson hopes to help bridge the gaps of self-efficacy, social capital, and resources in aid of helping youth thrive.

Hope Renovations

Founder: Nora Spencer (MSW ’17) | Transforming the Lives of Women and Seniors
Nora Spencer founded Hope Renovations in 2017 to transform lives and bring hope to women and senior citizens. Hope Renovations offers a free 10-week training program to unemployed and underemployed women, teaching basic construction skills, job safety, soft skills (including personal finance and effective communication), and job readiness skills (including resume writing and interviewing).

At the completion of the training, Hope Renovations facilitates job applications and interviews with local employers or additional education at local community colleges. Women in the program participate in training and apprenticeships in the homes of aging adults, providing these seniors with repairs and renovations that are needed for the seniors to remain safely in their own homes.

SAY IT Solutions

Founder: Karen Kranbuehl (JD, MSW ’17) | Turning Recovery Progress into Life Progress
Karen Kranbuehl was training to become a substance use disorder counselor when she realized that people in counseling had an urgent need for self-advocacy skills. This realization led her to develop the SAY IT program in 2015, with the goal of providing individuals with self-advocacy skills to meet individual needs and speak with others about recovery in the most effective ways.

Seeing the positive response that individuals, counselors, court personnel, and administrators have had to the SAY IT program, Kranbuehl created SAY IT Solutions in 2016 and launched its online program in 2018. Participants use an online dashboard to navigate more than 60 videos (each video is between one and eight minutes in length). The videos feature relevant content, colorful graphics, resources, and guidance to create a personalized, goal-oriented self-advocacy strategy.