In my first year at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), I took a class called “The Entrepreneurial Approach to Environmental Problem Solving.” Little did I know, this course happened to be one of the few entrepreneurship courses offered at the school. It provided students with the freedom to brainstorm, develop, and execute a business plan for a venture that would solve a pressing environmental or social issue. In the protected environment of the classroom, my classmates and I shared ideas, expressed opinions, criticized methods, and developed plans. This whole experience kindled my interest in the field of environmental and social entrepreneurship and I was determined to take advantage of all the resources the school has to offer.
As it turned out, there were not many. The School of Management offered few courses on Business Planning and Entrepreneurship but nothing particularly dedicated to the field of social and environmental entrepreneurship. I knew this needed to change and decided to do something about it.
I talked with my fellow classmates and other wishful entrepreneurs on campus, and I got involved in a project commission by the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale. The project’s goal is to critically evaluate the current state of entrepreneurship environment at F&ES and Yale in general and propose steps to improve and develop structured, resource-abundant entrepreneurship program.
It proved to be a challenging but crucial task to better understand how the Yale can help support and encourage entrepreneurs on campus. Some of the preliminary results showed that F&ES has the potential to fill a niche – be a leader in the emerging field of environmental and social entrepreneurship.
Two of the programs run by the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale are great examples of how young and motivated entrepreneurs on campus can get financing and professional advice to start up their business ideas. The Sobotka Seed Stage Venture Grant and the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize offer students the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a group of professional investors and complete for funding to launch or further finance their business ideas. As a part of the team that helped facilitate these two programs, I was impressed and fascinated by the scope, complexity, and broad social and environmental impact of the submitted proposals demonstrated. It is satisfying to see the interest people have in both Sobotka and Sabin Prizes and the effort they have put to prepare their proposals.
The need for social and environmental entrepreneurship support on campus is obvious. I am glad to see that CBEY is taking the initiative and is offering not only advice and resources but financing as well to promote and support rising entrepreneurs at F&ES.
Teodora Stoyanova is a second-year student at the Yale School of Forestry. She is interested in promoting environmental and corporate sustainability and learning more about the nexus of business and the environment.