Sand Fellowship Hero

Carlson School Announces 2021 Sands Fellowship Recipients

Thursday, January 14, 2021

From finding new funding for women’s shelters to creating ways to responsibly dispose of firearms, six business ventures from Carlson School MBA students were selected as 2021 Sands Family Social Ventures Fellowships.

Each project now has the opportunity, thanks to an initial $5,000 award, to create a transformative experience that contributes to the local community. 

“This is a great group of worthy projects and we’re excited to see how they make the Twin Cities a better place,” says John Stavig, program director at the Carlson School’s Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. “Through these fellowships, these students will hone their entrepreneurship skills and take their initial steps to become visible leaders in the community.”

University of Minnesota graduates 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. Now in its ninth year, 53 Sands Fellows have either partnered with existing organizations or launched new ventures that address important societal issues in the Twin Cities.

These six business ventures join two 2020 fellowship winners, which will return for another year. The information below comes directly from the students applications. 


2021 Sands Fellows

Melanie Ellsworth, ’22 MBA
Proposed Social Venture: New Funding Sources for Women’s Shelters

Address the history of underinvestment in women’s shelter facilities in the Twin Cities by developing new ways to communicate the needs of these organizations and create funding channels that will provide them long-term sustainability. This effort will specifically explore potential local partnerships and test the development of potential options for increased peer-to-peer funding.

Shannon Fitzgerald, ’22 MBA
Proposed Social Venture: Social Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition

This project is designed to extend the understanding of social capital and impact investing by working alongside Third Path Capital (led by former Sands Fellow Adam Rao). It will explore the acquisition funding landscape, research the market, and connect Third Path to other companies doing similar work. They also aim to identify specific opportunities for launching a new enterprise using the entrepreneurship-through-acquisition model to transform an existing Twin Cities business into an impact organization with a social mission. 

Cy Hudson, ’22 MBA
Proposed Social Venture: Responsible Destruction of Firearms

This venture proposes the creation of a company dedicated to responsibly destroying unwanted firearms, which can pose a personal risk and public hazard. The project will identify the tax implications regarding charitable donations for federal and state entities, their current costs of disposal methods, and the possibility of raising initial funds to "pay for the privilege" of disposal. They will also develop processes for legal contracts, documentation, transportation, and disposal logistics.

Steven Kutz, ’22 MBA/MPP
Proposed Social Venture: Affordable Housing for Veterans

This effort supports a veteran’s efforts to simultaneously build wealth and contribute to the affordable housing stock in Minneapolis through the purchase of a multifamily home. The project’s goal is to develop a streamlined and replicable process for other veterans to find, finance, and rehabilitate multifamily properties, leveraging Veterans Administration (VA) loan products and industry partnerships.

Sean Lundy, ’22 MBA, and Ullas Pathak, ’22 MBA
Proposed Social Venture: Youth Homelessness

This team will conduct outreach to various stakeholders across the Twin Cities to discuss what issues currently exist in addressing teen homelessness. They seek to open up lines of communication for potential operational bottlenecks due to inventory management that hinder the effective flow of resources from reaching target beneficiaries. In collaboration with Bridge for Youth, Neighborhood House, and Youthlink, the applicants will work to deploy mobile units and collaborate with the app to socialize these services across the target population. The mobile units are individual ventures by respective organizations to meet target beneficiaries where they are, deliver resources, and gather feedback.

Brian Trubowitz, ’22 MBA
Proposed Social Venture: Educational Software for Learning Disabilities & English Language Learners

This venture utilizes both existing and newly developed educational software to combine translation software with personalized lesson plans, depending on the student’s accommodations, to provide students with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. This technology will include closed captioning, real-time translations, audio note-taking, and presented visuals along with lectures. Much like a paraprofessional, this technology will help support students, teachers, and parents alike.


Returning 2020 Sands Fellows

Robert Astrup, ’20 BSB, ’21 MBA
Ongoing Social Venture: Cultural Travel for Minnesotans

International travel site TripTaker was developed in 2020 to create travel experiences that help Minnesota youth become a source of cultural awareness and inclusiveness. By curating immersive, mission-based trips that expose youth to diverse cultures and pair them with local travel buddies, TripTaker helps current and former students to gain an appreciation for other cultures. Also seeking to develop funding options for “global experience scholarships” that sponsor educational experiences for less fortunate individuals, with a goal of creating a more globally aware, enriched, and informed society.

Hunter Brocato, ’21 MBA
Ongoing Social Venture: Youth Job Skills Training

Expand Lion’s Fire initial pilot to test this social venture designed for job readiness training, with high school youth from North Minneapolis running a mobile wood-fired pizza oven during the summer of 2021 and managing on-site operations.