Social Enterprise and Rally: Making Positive Change in our Community

Rob Panepinto, President of Florentine Strategies, shares how the Rally Social Enterprise Accelerator partnership makes positive change in our community.

By: Rob Panepinto 

This article appears in the August 2020 Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship newsletter.

Now more than ever, entrepreneurial thinking and innovation is needed to address some of our most pressing local and global issues.

Social enterprise is the pinnacle of combining entrepreneurial expertise with the ability through business to make meaningful positive change. Social enterprises can be nonprofit, for profit, or a combination of both, but have both a sustainable, non-philanthropic driven revenue, and measurable social impact.

Recognizing the unique challenges of launching and scaling a social enterprise, a group of community organizations including Rollins College, the Central Florida Foundation, Entrepreneurs in Action, Downtown Credo, Clean the World, and the City of Orlando, formed the Rally Social Enterprise Accelerator in 2016.

The Rally Social Enterprise Accelerator hosts two, four-month accelerators per year, supporting the growth of for profit and nonprofit social enterprises. While we always have a focus on supporting entrepreneurs and solving problems here in Orlando and Florida, Rally has also built a national and international reputation. Now in our 5th cohort, we have helped a diverse group of social enterprises from Orlando, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Turkey and Uganda build their businesses while positively impacting issues from human trafficking, to clean water, transportation, and access to education.

One of our local success stories, ecoSPEARS, is a spin out of a partnership between the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College and NASA, licensing NASA technology to safely and effectively clean long polluted rivers and waterways. As part of the Integrated Capstone Experience, Crummer assembled student teams to work with ecoSPEARS co-founder and CEO Serg Albino ’10MBA to help discover the commercial applicability to the ecoSPEARS patent.

Rally’s ability to help social entrepreneurs is driven by: the educational curriculum of the Accelerator, building on both the lean business model canvas and the theory of change processes; access to funding through the EIA Social Venture Fund and the Rally Grant Fund; and the unique combination of mentorship and financial support provided by our Rally Makers, “Orlando’s Innovative Philanthropists.”

But it is the Rally Makers that really make Rally “go”, through their time, treasure, and talent. Rally has come to understand that the social entrepreneurs in our accelerator tend to develop tunnel vision around their product/service and approach to social impact. With their deep business, philanthropic, and community experience, Rally Makers are uniquely equipped to serve as mentors to Rally’s social entrepreneurs.

Rally Makers who volunteer as mentors believe problems are worth solving. They are ready to support innovative approaches reaching for sustainable solutions to the toughest social, environmental, and economic problems. They are energized by the opportunity to leverage their experiences, wisdom, skills, and networks to accelerate passionate capable social entrepreneurs. All are critical to Rally’s success.

Rally Makers are innovators who believe in the potential of entrepreneurial approaches. They are philanthropically minded, but do not want to drop their business sense on the ground as they work to solve problems. They are excited by the idea of organizations who can sustain themselves while they address real social, environmental, or economic problems and are less reliant on annually renewing giving campaigns. They are the innovative philanthropists and impact minded business leaders who are energized by a collective effort that will accelerate smart entrepreneurs addressing all sorts of intractable issues.

Some Rally Makers are available as subject matter experts to present to a whole cohort or meet one-on-one to address specific topics of expertise. Others tackle the challenge of meeting twice a month, in person or on the phone, with an entrepreneur in our cohort working on the front lines. Still others, are donors and advocates for Rally in the community.

If you are interested in learning more about Rally or would like to become a Rally Maker, please reach out to me at Robpanepinto@florentinestrategies.com or Lisa Reineck at LReineck@Rollins.edu. 

More about Rob Panepinto

Rob Panepinto is President of Florentine Strategies, which provides board support, strategic consulting, and investment capital for healthcare, social enterprise and technology companies. Rob is part of the University of Central Florida’s Partnership and Innovation team, serving as a Co-Director of their Innovation Districts. Rob is also the CEO of Entrepreneurs in Action, a social venture fund that invests in local social enterprises, helping them create successful businesses and jobs while addressing community and global social needs.

Rob is passionate about the positive impact businesses and business leaders drive for their communities and is an active “civic entrepreneur” serving on multiple civic and nonprofit boards. Rob is a Founder and Board Chair of Orlando’s Social Enterprise Accelerator, Rally, serves as Chair of the Central Florida Housing Action Team, an initiative of the Central Florida Foundation, was past Chair of the Central Florida Foundation board, and is a Board Member for the Orlando Economic Partnership. He also serves on the Board of Stater Studio, Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business Board of Overseers and is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship at Crummer.

Previously, Rob was part of the founding executive team for Connextions, helping them grow from a small manufacturing company to become an innovative healthcare technology and services company. Connextions was sold to Optum in 2011.

Rob was a 2018 candidate for Orange County Mayor.


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