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Wake Forest announces entrepreneurship awards

May 9, 2007

Wake Forest University’s Entrepreneurship Society and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts (OELA) recently held the second annual Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards Banquet, in which they recognized individuals for demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, achievement and social responsibility and for serving as inspirations to students, faculty and staff. 

This year, the groups recognized one alumnus, six students and six faculty members for their entrepreneurial ventures in 10 different categories. 

Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award

Russ Hobbs, founder of Blue Ocean Software and 1988 graduate of Wake Forest, was awarded the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award in honor of his successful entrepreneurial career. 

In 1990, Hobbs started Blue Ocean Software with $6,000 and Track-It!®, a help desk and asset management product he developed.  Within 10 years, the Track-It! product line was the most widely-installed help desk software in the world, and Blue Ocean Software was listed as one of the fastest growing companies.  Hobbs sold Blue Ocean Software to Intuit in 2002 for $177 million in a transaction that Forbes magazine listed as one of the top five venture-capital backed deals in the United States that year.

E-Commerce Award

Two awards were given in the category of e-commerce.  The first was presented to two seniors, Will Rawley, a business major, and Drew Crofton, a political science major, for their Internet-based venture,  Armed with $500 and help from a fellow student entrepreneur, these two students developed a business model, conducted a major marketing campaign and launched a beta site for an online college student marketplace.

The second e-commerce award was given to senior biology major John Michael Baratta for  Three years ago, Baratta and his cousin began developing the concept for a Web site that would allow people to buy and sell used medical equipment, including crutches, walkers and motorized scooters.  After two years, the site has more than 6,000 regular participants and is growing rapidly.

Artistic Venture Award         

In the category of artistic venture, the entrepreneurship award was presented to junior economics major Andy Albert for his band Holiday Parade.  During the past year, Albert and two other artists formed the band and produced two albums.  Albert, the band’s lead vocalist, has written tunes and lyrics that have generated a loyal fan base and more than 30,000 MySpace members.  The group is now seeking to sign with a record label. 

Commercial and Retail Venture Award

Martha Napier, a senior studio art major, was recognized as the winner for the commercial and retail venture award.  Napier turned her artistic talent and passion into Justees:  For Justice, a successful business offering a line of customizable knit tops that help support non-profit organizations and initiatives that support women’s causes.

Social Enterprise

Two awards were presented in the category of social enterprise.  The first recipient, senior biology major Jonathan Barry, was inspired to launch his venture while he was teaching writing and mentoring at-risk children at Northwest Middle School.  Barry launched the H.O.P.E. (helping to overcome physical expectations) Project, one of Wake Forest’s most successful and largest service organizations. 

H.O.P.E. is a volunteer liaison organization and mentoring program between Wake Forest students and students at The Children's Center and the Special Children's School.  Student volunteers provide weekly one-on-one mentoring for children to promote the academic, social and emotional development of each child.  Today, more than 170 students volunteer with the organization.

The second honoree in the social enterprise category was sophomore French major Hillary Francis.  While on a family trip to Kenya at age 12, Francis was troubled by seeing school children in a Maasai tribal village writing in the sand with their fingers because there was no chalk or chalkboard. 

At age 16, still unable to forget that image, she founded Backpacks Abroad to help provide school supplies and financial support for impoverished children around the world.  Within the past several months, Backpacks Abroad has sent shipments of supplies and financial support to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Belize, Zambia and Brazil.

Faculty Venture of the Year  Award           

Associate Professor of Mathematics Ken Berenhaut received the Faculty Venture of the Year award for the development of Involve, a mathematics journal showcasing high-quality mathematical research involving students.  Berenhaut received a small seed grant from the OELA to start the project and was recognized for applying entrepreneurial principles to provide sustainable support for the publication and for contributing to the ongoing education of students both in mathematics and entrepreneurship.

Course Development Award

Two awards were presented in the category of course development.  The first went to Jed Macosko, assistant professor of physics, for his first-year seminar course, “Harnessing Life’s Molecular Machines: From AIDS Tests to Hydrogen Cars.” 

In the course, students explored molecular machines, the tiny machines that are found within living cells, and learned how those machines perform.  They drafted proposals to leverage their ideas as well as those from professors, scientists and local entrepreneurs to develop products and services, including inexpensive AIDS tests for developing nations.

Terry Baker, associate professor of accountancy at Wake Forest’s Calloway School of Business and Accountancy, received the second award for course development.  Baker developed a course for fifth-year accounting students called “Accounting and Financial Management for Entrepreneurs.”  The course included experiential learning projects to assist entrepreneurs with financial analysis and to develop spreadsheet tools to make financial projections.  Students were matched with entrepreneurs so they could gain hands-on experience with an entrepreneurial venture.

Local Community Involvement and Outreach

This year’s award for local community involvement and outreach was given to Ulrike Wiethaus, professor of humanities, for her multi-year work with the Guilford Native American Association in Greensboro.  Wiethaus has designed and taught two courses and will teach a new course next year on cultural diversity and social entrepreneurship. 

She also organized and implemented the American Indian Winter Festival and Market on the Wake Forest campus in December 2005 and the conference "Celebrating Women of Proud Nations,” which had a Native American women’s entrepreneurship panel, this past January.

International Community Involvement and Outreach Award

The International Community Involvement and Outreach award was given to Jeanne Simonelli, professor and chair of anthropology, for her work in developing an organization with the Chiapas Indians in southern Mexico to improve economic development and health-related issues for the area. 

Her most recent initiative with the Chiapas Indians was creating a “train the trainer” program that sends a team of health professionals to train healthcare providers and those who train future health practitioners in infant and maternal health.

Mentoring Award

The award for mentoring went to John Abraham, an adjunct instructor for the OELA at Wake Forest, who has significantly supported the entrepreneurship program and volunteered to teach a course in venture capital.  A venture capitalist at Kodiak Venture Partners, Abraham has mentored numerous student entrepreneurs, giving them advice on financing, business planning and operations.  He has also personally helped more than a dozen students find summer internships in entrepreneurial organizations and start-ups.

Press Contacts:

Pam Barrett
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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