Sands Fellowship Recipients

Carlson MBA Fellowship Funds Student Entrepreneurs to Do Good

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sands Fellowship recipients are taking the Minnesota entrepreneurial landscape by storm: current fellows won this year's MN Cup and took the top three spots in the Acara Challenge.

Now in its third year, the Sands Fellowship supports a select number of entrepreneurs to develop their ideas for making their community a better place. The $5,000 fellowship is awarded to Carlson MBA students pursuing social ventures with tangible impact on Minneapolis-St. Paul in areas ranging from environment and public health, to housing and education.

"The incoming generation of MBA students wants to make a meaningful impact through their careers," says Holmes Center Director John Stavig. "This is a powerful trend, and it’s inspiring for all of us here at the Carlson School."

University of Minnesota alumni Bill and Susan Sands established the fellowship in hopes of inspiring future generations of Carlson MBA students to apply their business expertise to make a major impact on their community. Over the years, the Sands have led a variety of economic development organizations to make the Twin Cities a better place: Their efforts have proven how businesses can help to rehabilitate communities facing severe challenges.

"Social ventures are a part of a healthy community," says Susan Sands. "This fellowship is a way for MBA students to understand that they do have a very direct impact on improving the lives of others."

In addition to providing funds for the fellowship, the Sands also help students build a network of like-minded entrepreneurs.

"Bill and Susan wanted to help me grow and make the most out of the experience," says Sands Fellow Steven Bruce, ‘16 MBA. "They introduced me to the people who helped me succeed."

Bruce is a recent fellowship recipient who founded Autonomee, a venture that helps aspiring software engineers launch careers in the industry. Because of the flexibility the fellowship afforded, he was able to complete an internship in Silicon Valley while simultaneously nurturing his venture.

Ventures with impact

Since its inception, the Sands Fellowship has been awarded to 12 Carlson MBA students.

Joe Braman, ‘16 MBA, used the fellowship to launch Braman Brothers Real Estate, LLP, a socially responsible real estate sales and investment firm that supports non-profits and works to expand access to affordable, safe, ethically managed housing for low-income residents. He also tapped into a valuable network of seasoned entrepreneurs to refine his business.

Peter Schmitt, ‘16 MBA and MPP, is developing City Compost MN, a waste processing company that cuts trash volume and creates a valuable end product. Now delivering his initial production to retail customers, his concept for the business has evolved considerably.

Elise Maxwell, ’16 MBA, is leading development of Ova Woman, an e-commerce community that increases access to innovative intimate products for women. In addition to the funds and connections the fellowship afforded, she says the best part of the Sands Fellowship was collaborating with Pollen to craft a cohesive story about how her personal experiences inspired her to start Ova, which connected her with a greater audience.

"The fellowship signaled to me that it was OK to take an alternative path to my MBA. It is easy to feel pressure in the MBA program to get a corporate internship, but this fellowship provided the opportunity to spend the entire school year thinking about how to catalyze innovation in women's intimate health," says Maxwell.

Sands Fellows are taking the Minnesota entrepreneurial landscape by storm: current fellows took the top three spots in the 2015 Acara Challenge, and Maxwell recently won the student division of the 2015 MN Cup while Bruce was a finalist. Inaugural Sands Fellowship honorees Jeff Ochs and Eartha Bell currently lead social start-ups Gopher Angels and Frogtown Farm, respectively.

How to apply

The Sands Fellowship is available to any Carlson MBA student with an idea for a social venture that addresses critical challenges in the Twin Cities community.

MBA students are encouraged to either co-design summer internship projects with local mission-based organizations or to develop plans to launch their own new social venture.  While not required, students are encouraged to seek matching funding from the organization.

Applications for the fellowship are due January 31, 2016, and winners will be notified by February 14, 2016. Applicants must submit their resume and a two-page written proposal to be considered. If you’re interested in applying, contact Stavig at and plan to attend an informational luncheon on November 10, 2015.

Pictured above, left to right: Joe Braman, Susan Sands, Elise Maxwell, Peter Schmitt, Steven Bruce, Sarah Pritzker, and Bill Sands