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Trying times spark innovation and compassion among student entrepreneurs

By April 13, 2020September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Ian Smith, Toaster Ambassador and Finance Major at CSOM

In times like these it is hard to focus on anything other than the care of your loved ones and yourself. However, compassionate student entrepreneurs have teamed up with local business Avocadish to activate real change. The group has devoted themselves to responsibly prepare, deliver, and donate 10,000 nutritious meals directly to Twin Cities’ families affected by COVID-19.

Read on to learn more about 10K Meals and how UMN students are sparking innovation through compassion. 

Create Land of 10K Meals

The initiative is aptly named Create Land of 10k Meals and the group of entrepreneurs plans to use local volunteers and underutilized commercial kitchen space to ensure no one is going hungry over the next 6 months. 

Avocadish, a local avocado-based food startup co-founded by CSOM grad Alex Varouhas, was forced to delay its opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the group of student entrepreneurs sought to abandon their own startup and focus on the problem of the century. When the crisis hit the stars aligned for the two groups to come together and work as a force for good. 

When I asked Rachel Iida one of the student entrepreneurs why she was working to aid victims she said “I’m doing this because I think it’s an amazing project and a great way to assist and support the Twin Cities community. It’s helped me stay connected to the Twin Cities even though I’m home in California. I also felt like this was a tangible, implementable way to make a huge impact.” Rachel has completely taken over Avocodish’s social media to spread awareness about 10K meals. 

Photo: UMN Entrepreneurship in Action students, Rae Knopf, Courtney Ricci, Amy Gilbert, & Rachel Iida, combined their entrepreneurial skills and passion for serving their community and collaborated with Avocadish to start #CreateLandof10KMeals

Rae Knopf, another one of the student entrepreneurs, manages volunteers to pack and prep the meals. The other two student entrepreneurs have key parts in the effort: Amy Gilbert managing delivery logistics and Courtney Ricci managing public relations. 

Visit the land of 10K meals to sign up for meals, volunteer, donate, and more!

Photo: A team of Land of 10K Meals volunteers celebrating a day of hard work preparing meals in support of those in need.

Students entrepreneurs push for real change

These entrepreneurs are not alone. Students from across Entrepreneurship in Action (IBUS 3055), a course guiding students through the launch of small businesses, have all transitioned into aiding victims through entrepreneurship and innovation.

“When the students returned from spring break, they unanimously demanded to cease their current operations and focus on people in need,” said John Stavig, Entrepreneurship in Action instructor and Director of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management. “The 10K Meals team quickly pivoted to use their existing commercial kitchen facility and equipment to feed laid-off workers. Other teams are creating newsletters and/or websites where individuals can find ways to safely connect and exercise during the social distancing.” 

Staying connected, staying engaged, staying safe

Hannah Zagon is another student in Entrepreneurship in Action and when the pandemic hit she decided to pivot from her kombucha company to a newsletter based on remote activities. “The initial problem that I wanted to solve was making college kids educated and involved during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Hannah.

“I also had many friends that weren’t following the guidelines because they claimed they still wanted to have a normal college semester with friends’ or they ‘didn’t want to stay in their apartment alone.’ That is when I realized that the biggest reason why college students weren’t following the guidelines was that they didn’t know what else to do.”

The Remote includes activities, recipes, self-care tips and more. Her goal is to shine some light in these students’ lives who might be struggling and give them resources on how they can help themselves and the community.

A snapshot of The Remote‘s April 6th newsletter launched by Entrepreneurship in Action student Hannah Zagon aims to keep UMN students engaged while at home.

Innovation and compassion is alive and well

Across the University of Minnesota students, faculty, and entrepreneurs alike are working together to show that COVID-19 will not stop innovation here. Whether it’s helping directly through meal delivery or creating a newsletter to encourage social distancing, the compassionate Entrepreneurship in Action students seen here are showing why it is important to be selfless in the midst of a crisis.

Kimberlie Moock

Author Kimberlie Moock

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