c/o New Venture

c/o New Venture

The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE) announced the grand prize winners for the New Venture Awards (NVA) on Monday, April 22.  The semester-long selection process culminated in the NVA luncheon on Friday, April 19, where six finalists pitched their projects.

“The 2024 Patricelli Center New Venture Awards were the most competitive in the Center’s 13 year history,” PCSE Director Ahmed Badr ’20 wrote in an email to The Argus. “We’re proud to have provided funding for all the applicants, for a total of $44,000. For the first time, all applicants received [at least] a $1,000 grant towards their ventures.”  

A panel of ten judges selected Pyari (Priyanshu Pokhrel ’26 and Yale junior Nikita Paudel), Mudanza Dance Project (Rebeca Trevino ’24), and Nailepu Foundation (Diana Kimojino ’25 and Kyle Roshankish ’24) as this year’s awardees. As part of the awards, they each received $6,000 to financially support their work for their respective missions and focus areas. 

Pyari is a menstrual health management company based in Nepal that aims to ensure access to menstrual hygiene, regardless of socioeconomic status, while destigmatizing menstruation, which sometimes carries cultural taboos.

“With this support, we are going back to Nepal to launch Pyari this summer and conduct multiple art, education, and skill-learning workshops with our team based in Nepal,” Pokhrel wrote in an email to The Argus. “We are also hoping to engage other Wesleyan students with our project this summer and push forward the larger goal of global awareness and engagement. We have collaborated with leading research and sustainable solution based organizations in Nepal and have a board of advisors including health experts, business strategists, and chemical engineers. The NVA has given us a big opportunity and we are excited to take Pyari from idea to action this summer!”

Prior to receiving the NVA, Pyari was also a finalist for the Davis Projects for Peace at Wesleyan and one of four finalists for Startup Yale’s Thorne Prize. Although they started with a local brand in mind, the founders hope to build a global presence for the organization with the connections forged in the past year.

The Nailepu Foundation strives to create safe spaces and educational opportunities for young women in the Maasai tribe in Kenya, especially those who are experiencing cultural hostility like female genital mutilation, early childhood marriage, and education disruption.

Similarly, the Nailepu Foundation has grown since its inception throughout the selection process for the NVA. During its launch, the Nailepu Foundation gained the support of 3,000 attendees, including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health in Kenya. Currently, the board members are looking to launch a second cohort to build a technical school for girls in Narok, Kenya.

“Working on this project has been a phenomenal experience,” Roshankish and Kimojino wrote in an email to The Argus. “The application process for the NVA was tough but incredibly rewarding. It helped us better articulate our goals and fine-tune our approach. For the future, we are excited about the potential growth of our organization and equally excited to see how the New Ventures Awards continue to empower young entrepreneurs from Wesleyan to bring their visions to life.”

The Mudanza Dance Project is geared towards facilitating an after-school program made up of weekly dance workshops at local schools in Vickery Meadows, an immigrant and refugee community in Dallas, Texas. Trevino emphasized that the organization aims to support young residents in expressing themselves artistically. The group hopes to help fill a need for cultural production in the local community by encouraging communication and storytelling through dance.

Beginning this year, the PCSE extended awards to the finalists in addition to those who won the grand prize. Each of the three NVA finalists—Wings of Change Entrepreneurship Fellowship (Lois Amponsah ’27), Zarasoa (Thibeaux Hirsh ’25), and medX Insight (Adil Mohammed’ 27)—received a $3,000 grant. 

“The Patricelli Center is honored to support Wesleyan entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making significant, intentional, and wide-ranging impact across local, national, and international contexts,” Badr wrote.

The NVA applicants and recipients also utilized available resources from the University throughout the selection process. These include coaching and mentoring, access to the newly-launched Patricelli Center venture directory, and invitations to fully funded trips to the United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, Harvard University Social Innovator Showcase, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  

With the generous support from the NVA, the awardees are set to scale their projects further in this coming year.

Francisca Wijaya can be reached at fwijaya@wesleyan.edu.

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