Dr. Muhammad Yunus visited the Georgia Institute of Technology last October to speak to the more than 1,200 students who participated in the Georgia Social Business and Microcredit Forum. The Forum was organized by the University System of Georgia in collaboration with Georgia State agencies. Dr. Yunus spoke to the students, telling them that the future of society depended on youth. “This is your age, this is your time,” he said. “You are the most powerful generation in the entire history of mankind.”
Dr. Yunus is the pioneer of microcredit, where very small loans are granted to those in poverty in order to help them start businesses. The Forum included a business plan competition based on another Dr. Yunus concept — social businesses. A social business addresses a social problem, and makes a minimum profit sufficient to sustain the business, but insufficient to generate profit for individuals involved. The students were challenged to create social businesses that addresses local and state issues. The students were asked to identify a social problem in their community, conduct a market analysis and develop a business to address the problem.
“One of my goals as chancellor is to reinforce the value of college to society and individuals,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby. “This competition was an excellent way to showcase the critical thinking and creative talents of students and how they can take their skills and knowledge and apply to real problems here in Georgia.”
38 teams representing more than 30 Georgia universities and colleges competed in the business plan competition. The teams presented their business plans to judges representing local business and academic communities, as well as Dr. Yunus.
First place was awarded to a team from Southern Polytechnic State University for their business plan Restoration Trust. The team was composed of ten students: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration students Lauren Tyus and James (Ben) Fulghum; MSA students Sonal Doshi, Joelle Day and Arthur Vaughn; MBA students Christopher Estrada, Rebecca Stringer and Fred Arnold; Sana Yasmeen, a high school, dual-enrollment, honors biology student; and Tiane McKoy, a student in the Bachelor of Apparel and Textiles program. The student team was advised by Associate Professor and MSA Program Coordinator Donald L. Ariail, Dr. Sandra Vasa-Sideris, professor of management; Dr. Joyce McGriff, associate professor of marketing; and Gregory Quinet, assistant professor of management.
The SPSU students spent the three weeks prior to the competition creating Restoration Trust. “Restoration Trust is a microloan program aimed at abused women,” Ariail said. “Often times, in shelters, they don’t have the money they need to get an apartment or car, to get out of the cycle of abuse and violence. So they have to go back home to the abuser. This would allow small loans to be lent through the Restoration Trust group with reasonable terms with very low interest to these victims, most who don’t have any credit, and it would help them establish credit and give them funding for transportation, housing and education, to get their lives back on track.”
Ariail said that the students plan to launch the business this academic year, and are already considering expanding the business to help women residing outside of Georgia. The Forum also prompted the University System of Georgia to establish the Georgia Social Business Fund, which will be funded by private and corporate dollars, to help finance student-inspired project related to Dr. Yunus’ social business model.
The above photograph is courtesy of jupiterimages via Thinkstock.com.