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Londonderry student wins UNH's Social Venture Innovation Challenge with buzzworthy idea

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

December 06. 2017 12:20AM
Andrew DeMeo, who is graduating from UNH this month, has a beekeeping business model he said will help save the declining North American bee population. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)



Clara Miller, the director and president of the Heron Foundation, talked about how foundations can influence positive social change through their investments at UNH Tuesday. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DURHAM — A student studying sustainability at the University of New Hampshire won this year’s Social Venture Innovation Challenge with a buzzworthy idea Tuesday.

Andrew DeMeo of Londonderry is graduating this month and has a concept for a beekeeping company called Honey-Do. He and his partner, Jessica Waters, who is also from Londonderry, envision a world where people keep bees on their property in exchange for half the honey the bees produce.

“Customers pay a one-time fee and we will cover everything else,” DeMeo said. “It’s unique amongst beekeeping businesses because usually they charge you every year, and they charge a lot more. We’re trying to make this simple and affordable and accessible to people.”

DeMeo said the declining bee population is a serious issue from a sustainability standpoint.

“We need alternatives from the mass commercial models for people to keep bees. We need it to be affordable and we need it to be sensible because they’re essential to our natural ecosystems,” DeMeo said.

DeMeo and Waters, who graduated from Emerson College, will use the $5,000 they received to help get Honey-Do off the ground.

The winning community team was IdeaShare. The concept company received $10,000 to redesign wheelchairs so handicapped individuals and their caregivers are not at risk for injury. Sharon Parker and Glenn Shwaery worked on the idea. Shwaery is an adjunct professor at UNH Manchester.

This was the fifth annual UNH’s Social Venture Innovation Challenge. Since it began, more than 300 individuals from 96 teams have participated in the challenge. This year, finalists competed for $27,500 in cash prizes, as well as in-kind prizes worth more than $40,500.

Alumna Clara Miller, director and president of the Heron Foundation, was recognized as the UNH Center for Social Innovation & Enterprise’s 2017 Social Innovator of the Year. During a keynote speech, Miller described how Wall Street and Main Streets need a better connection to help solve critical social issues.

“A typical private foundation is created by a financial gift by a generous donor. That gift is invested, typically conventionally, for maximum return and minimum risk and five percent is spent in grants and other qualifying expenses per IRS law,” Miller said.

Miller explained that by not understanding the impacts of investments, many foundations work against their own causes. Since she took over in 2011, Heron has aligned its assets with its mission to aid people and communities in lifting themselves out of poverty.

“We ask, ‘What is the best use of a Heron dollar, or any dollar?’” Miller said.

The Heron Foundation now focuses primarily on investing in enterprises that create reliable income streams, she said. It also measures the positive and negative social impacts of enterprises to provide data standards and comparability for like-minded investors and managers, according to the Heron website.


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