A former School of Management student and his professor will fund the kind of social enterprise efforts that motivated them to start their own company over a decade ago.
Seth Goldman SOM ’95 and School of Management Professor Barry Nalebuff, who cofounded the beverage company Honest Tea, have donated half a million dollars to SOM to create the Seth and Barry Social Enterprise Fund. Tony Sheldon, executive director of the SOM’s Program on Social Enterprise, said the donation will bring speakers to campus and create a $250,000 endowment for the program. More immediately, the donation will subsidize student attendance at the “Net Impact Conference” in Portland, Ore., an annual event that brings together students and business leaders from across the world to discuss social enterprise.
“I think one of the great things about SOM students is that they are idealist and that they realize there can be a broader purpose to business than just making money,” Nalebuff said. “Of course, you’ve got to make money or else nothing works, but there should be a broader mission behind that.”
The two collaborated to found the company a few years after Goldman took a course taught by Nalebuff at the SOM. Goldman said they donated the money in part to thank the school for giving him the skills to create Honest Tea, a beverage company that produces drinks made of organic, fair-trade ingredients. He added that the school places a strong emphasis on social enterprise — the notion that business practices can also serve social or philanthropic goals.
Fauzia Dawood SOM ’12, co-president of the school’s Net Impact club, whose members attend the Net Impact Conference each year, said the Seth and Barry Fund will cover at least $150 of the costs associated with the conference. After the donation was announced Oct. 6, the number of students registered for the conference rose from roughly 11 to about 40, she said, adding that students have had to pay to attend the conference with almost no financial support in the past. While 49 students went to last year’s conference, she said that conference was closer to Connecticut and was less costly as a result.
Dawood said programming at the conference is an important part of the curriculum her club offers its members, which focuses on how to merge business and social responsibility.
“I remember [the conference] being one of my most pivotal moments in business school so far,” Dawood said. “I can’t even express what an opportunity this is giving to students, including myself.”
While Goldman was unable to attend the first Net Impact Conference that took place in his time at the SOM, he said he got “so much inspiration and energy” just in hearing about the experiences of peers who attended. He attended the conference next year and went on to found the school’s Net Impact Club.
Sheldon said the donation will enable the school to expand its social entrepreneurship programming, which he described as an integral part of the curriculum. Unlike some other business schools, students working to earn an MBA at Yale cannot graduate without studying how business skills can address social concerns, he said.
Bryce Hall SOM ’12, president of the school’s student government, said many SOM students are interested in careers besides finance and consulting, which creates a sense of social consciousness at the school.
The Net Impact Conference will take place from Oct. 27-29 and will feature over 300 speakers from companies including General Mills, Google, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.