Seed Grant Challenge

The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship will award three $5,000 seed grants each year to fund the launch or early-stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected social enterprise, project, program, or venture. We encourage applications not only for the creation of new for-profit or non-profit organizations, but also to pilot programs that will exist independently or under the umbrella of an already-existing organization.

Read about past winners: 2013 2014 2015 2016

Apply here 

  • What is the timeline for the 2015/2016 Seed Grant Challenge?

    Throughout the year: Workshops and private mentoring through the PCSE

    December: Information sessions on December 15, 16, and 17 at noon each day in Allbritton 022. 

    By December 31: Judges announced; Round 1 application available on PCSE website

    January 24: Round 1 applications due by 11:59 p.m.

    February 2: Up to six finalists announced; feedback from judges shared privately with all applicants

    February 15: Round 2 applications due from finalists

    February 26: Public presentations (“pitches”) 12-1 p.m. and private finalist interviews 1:30-2:30 p.m.

    By March 6: Up to three seed grant winners announced

  • Who is eligible for a PCSE Seed Grant?

    Projects or ventures must:

    • address a proven social need
    • be scalable or replicable
    • have capacity for impact

    Entries are not required to lead to a new organization or company; they can be new programs or projects implemented within an existing entity.  Those that are new ventures can be for-profit, non-profit, hybrid, or pilot projects with no legal structure at this time. Entries can be US-based or international.

    Teams may be made up of one or more members, but at least one founding member must be a current Wesleyan undergraduate. Teams made up completely of Wesleyan students may have an advantage.

  • What does the Round 1 Application include?

    Applicants will need to submit a proposal created using our partner site, Xtensio, with basic information about their project/venture, its parent organization (for projects that will reside within another entity), and all members of the leadership team. Proposals will address these questions (no more than 600 words total):

    • Business Plan: Describe your project/venture and its general business plan (i.e. how it will function/operate).
    • Social Problem: Explain the social problem that your project/venture will address. Include data to explain the scope and severity.
    • Impact: Describe and quantify its anticipated impact.
    • Your Competitors: Are there other organizations tackling the same problem? How is their approach different from yours?
    • Grant Allocation: How do you plan to spend the $5,000?

    Click here for the application form.

  • What are the judging criteria?

    Judges will assess the applicant(s) and the idea(s). Quality of the idea, the execution plan, and the applicant or team will be most important in selecting grantees. Severity of the social problem and potential for impact will be secondary.

    Characteristics that the judges will look for include:

    The Applicant(s):

    • Purpose/Passion – commitment for the program area in which he/she plans to work, commitment to Wesleyan, personal integrity
    • Resilience – demonstrated ability to overcome obstacles
    • Leadership – demonstrated leadership and entrepreneurial potential

    The Project/Idea:

    • Innovation – demonstrates a new approach
    • Importance – addresses a pressing social problem
    • Organization – clear and compelling mission, objectives, program operation, service delivery, data strategy, financial plan, etc.
    • Feasibility –  well-designed and could be rolled out effectively before December 31, 2016
    • Potential for Impact - has the potential to create big, bold change
  • Who are the judges?

    2016 PCSE Seed Grant judges: 

    • Lara Galinsky '96, Consultant, GOOD; former Senior Vice President, Echoing Green; PCSE Advisory Board Co-chair
    • Giulio Gallaroti, Professor of Government and Tutor in the College of Social Studies, Wesleyan University
    • Jonathan Gertler '77, M.D., Managing Partner, CEO, and Co-Founder at Back Bay Life Science Advisors
    • Biz Ghormley '04, Membership & Operations, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP); Private Investigator, One World Research
    • Lily Herman '16, Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief, and CEO,; writer at The Muse, Her Campus and HelloFlo; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Anne Lebleu '00, Philanthropy Management Director, Arabella Advisors; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Jeremy Mindich '87, Board Chair, Root Capital; Cofounder, Propel Capital; Managing Partner, Scopia Capital
    • Ajay Rajani '06, Founder, The Inevitable Collective
    • Rob Rosenthal, Director of the Allbritton Center and John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, Wesleyan University; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • George Suttles '03, Vice President, Senior Philanthropic Relationship Manager, U.S. Trust; Board Member, Storefront Academy Harlem and Odyssey House
    • Glendowlyn Thames, Director of the Small Business Innovation Group, CT Innovations; Director of CTNext
    • Melinda Weekes-Laidlow '89, President, Weekes In Advance Enterprises; Social Entrepreneur in Residence, Echoing Green; PCSE Advisory Board Member

    Thank you to our 2015 PCSE Seed Grant judges:

    • Joaquin Benares '15, Founder of BUKO; 2014 PCSE Seed Grant winner
    • Marcus Chung '98, Vice President of Social Responsibility and Vendor Compliance, Children's Place; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Peter Frank '12, Founder and CEO of
    • Lexy Funk '91, Co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Industries; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Dan Gregory '78 P'07, Co-director of the Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education; Founding faculty advisor of IDEA
    • Rachel Hines '82 P'18, international monetary expert formerly with J.P. Morgan, World Bank, and USAID
    • Barbara Juhasz, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Service Learning, Wesleyan University
    • Anne Lebleu '00, Philanthropy Management Director, Arabella Advisors
    • Rob Rosenthal, Director of the Allbritton Center and John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, Wesleyan University; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Melinda Weekes-Laidlow ’89, Managing Director, Race Forward; Principal, Weekes In Advance Enterprises 
    • Sarah Williams ’88, Co-founder, Propel Capital; Principal, Sarah Williams Consulting; PCSE Advisory Board Co-chair

    Thank you to our 2014 PCSE Seed Grant judges:

    • Phoebe Boyer ’89, Senior Advisor, Robertson Foundation; former Trustee, Wesleyan University; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Ali Chaudhry ’12, Business Analyst at Deloitte Consulting; Founder and CEO of Possibilities Pakistan
    • Tim Devane '09, Entrepreneur In Residence, Red Sea Ventures; former Director of Sales & Business Development at; president & co-founder of Birthright  Earth; co-chair of Digital Wesleyan
    • Lexy Funk '91, Co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Industries
    • Amir Hasson ’98, CEO of Oxigen America and Chief Development Officer of Oxigen India; judge and mentor for Harvard and MIT Business Plan competitions
    • Rachel Hines '82 P'18, international monetary expert formerly with J.P. Morgan, World Bank, and USAID
    • Makaela Kingsley ’98, Director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Wesleyan University
    • Rob Rosenthal, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, Wesleyan University; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Maeve Russell '14, Executive Committee Member, Wesleyan Chapter of Shining Hope for Communities; Communications Intern, RefugePoint; Coordinator, Wesleyan’s Office of Community Service
    • Marc Schleifer '95, Regional Director for Eurasia and South Asia at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
    • Sarah Williams ’88, Co-founder, Advective Capital; Principal, Sarah Williams Consulting; PCSE Advisory Board Co-chair
  • What happens if my project/venture is chosen as a finalist?

    Up to 6 finalists will advance to round two. Finalists will be required to submit two recommendation letters and a detailed project plan that expands on the information submitted in Round 1. Recommendation letters from Wesleyan faculty and staff members are preferred but not required. Finalists will also give a public presentation and be interviewed privately by the judges.

    For the project plan, format is flexible but it must start with a one-page executive summary and include a detailed budget (listing other potential funding sources), an overview of staffing and operations, and data to back claims. It could also include a list of mentors or advisors already on board and an explanation of how the project could engage the larger Wesleyan community. Maximum length is 10 pages, but it does not need to be that long. 

    Presentations will be open to the entire Wesleyan community. They will be recorded and webcast. Each finalist team will have up to 8 minutes to pitch their project. Slides and videos are optional. Attendees will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite projects, and judges will take these votes into consideration when selecting winners.

    The finalist interviews will be closed. Each finalist team will be interviewed privately by a panel of judges. Interviews will last approximately 10 minutes.

  • How do winners collect their grants, and what are the expectations of grant recipients?

    Grant payments will be made in two installments: $4500 in March 2016, and $500 in September 2016, pending satisfactory progress. Checks will be payable to a member of the winning team who is a currently-enrolled Wesleyan student (i.e. payments must be made to an individual, not an organization). It is expected that grant money will be spent no later than December 31, 2016.

    Winners will also receive mentoring from Patricelli Center staff and volunteers, 24/7 access to the PCSE Board Room, and priority registration for PCSE workshops and events.

    Grant recipients will be expected to take full advantage of Patricelli Center programs, submit blog posts, and offer peer advising upon request.