Duke / UNC

Business Student Mentoring Program Lights the Way for Social Entrepreneurs in the Making

Students at UNC and Duke Business Schools shadowed Anna Sidana, One Million Lights founder and CEO, in order to learn from a social entrepreneur in action.

Through spending some time with  One Million Lights founder, students Anne Stoehr, Stephanie Poole, Nadia Berrio, Melissa Furlong, Abigail Sylvester, and Danphuong Ton were able to put together a social entrepreneur profile of Anna Sidana. The interactions inspired the student group to raise funds for 100 solar lights and distribute them in India over the summer of 2010.

Here an excerpt of their Social Entrepreneur Profile:

Q: What led you to choose to shadow her?

A: A group member heard about One Million Lights work in Africa through a Stanford GSB contact. The group was interested in international development and education issues and this organization seemed to address both in an environmental way.

Q: What issues did your social entrepreneur face during the project?

A: Developing corporate partnerships, increasing fundraising and publicity, and expanding solar light distribution

Q: What was interesting, surprising or inspiring about shadowing this SE?

A: Anna Sidana is a dynamic woman with a range of experiences and impeccable communication skills. She is a visionary who values the importance of networks and connections. Beyond the goal of distributing one million lights, she wants to connect people to the cause. Even though the organization has an international focus, it was interesting to learn about Anna’s passion for developing partnerships with local schools to educate US students about the solar and clean technology. Throughout this project, our team learned about the difficulty in trying to create scale with limited resources. While the organization could easily partner with a large NGO to handle light distribution and logistics, this would take away the personal element. In addition, we learned about the importance of spreading the word through individual engagement, corporate partnerships, and website communications.

Q: What did you learn about being a social entrepreneur from this project?

A: Persistence and patience are extremely important. Additionally, there is power in connections and partnerships to achieve the intended social mission.

The full profile will soon be available on the Research Initiative on Social Entrepreneurs (RISE) at Columbia Business School.