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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Research & Inquiry July 8, 2021

Capturing Smith’s Entrepreneurial Spirit


The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at Smith College.

For proof, look no further than the recent Grinspoon Foundation Entrepreneurship Awards, where six Smith students, representing three vastly different business ventures, were honored.


  • Sara Kragness AC ’21 was recognized with both a Concept Award and a Judge’s Favorite award for her business, The People’s Archive. A social media platform that allows people to share their experiences around social issues, The People’s Archive aims to “connect like-minded people to advance democracy,” Kragness says. “The People’s Archive is a long-term venture that I intend to bring to market one day. Winning this award has helped develop my confidence as an entrepreneur,” she adds.
  • Vanessa Silva-Burgos ’24’s initiative, Compassionate Styles, received a Concept Award for entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and curiosity. Silva-Burgos says she developed Compassionate Styles not only to bring responsibly sourced fashion to customers, but also to support young leaders in entrepreneurship and activism. “The Grinspoon award is a symbol that my project’s vision spoke to someone and their values,” she says, “which means it can reach others and impact them in a positive way.” She plans to use the award money to take her business from idea to tangible entity. “I hope it will provide funding for tools and materials to start prototypes,” Silva-Burgos explains.
  • Rooted in a deep desire to enhance an existing essential industry, TARO—a food delivery service hoping to improve sources of income for informal workers in Cambodia—also received a Concept Award. Fronted by Matlhabeli Molaoli ’22, the TARO team includes Sethatevy Bong ’22, Kacey Jean-Jacques ’22 and Chi Qui ’24. Accelerated by the pandemic, TARO’s mission is simple: to bring economic dignity to crucial yet underappreciated and undercompensated workers. “Receiving such positive feedback early on was very encouraging for us as budding entrepreneurs,” says Molaoli. “We believe that the TARO solution could move the needle on how street food is done.” Buoyed by the Grinspoon recognition, Molaoli’s team is moving forward with the business, vying for cash prizes at this year’s Draper Competition and Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship.

René Heavlow, director of operations at the Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, chair of the planning committee for Smith’s prestigious Draper Competition and Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative adviser, couldn’t be more pleased that Smith students continue to develop compelling ideas. As varied in their objectives as they are in the qualities that made them stand out to the judges, she notes, “each Smith venture shows immense promise, and speaks volumes about the preparation our students receive at Smith.”

Since 2003, the Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative has distributed $50,000 in small scale awards ($300–$2,500) to Smith students who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit via a concept or revenue-generating venture.

Susannah Howe, senior lecturer in engineering and director of Smith’s well known Design Clinic, notes that these accolades highlight important work being done by Smithies.

“We have many students interested in exploring their own ventures across a wide range of disciplines,” says Howe, who has been involved with the Grinspoon Foundation Entrepreneurship Initiative as a faculty adviser since 2004. “They also think entrepreneurially within existing career paths.”

These students, she adds, “are on a path to being change agents in a complex world.”