A dozen budding social entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for innovative products and services during the annual Social Enterprise Conference in February, and four came away with top honors.

The sold-out event marked the 13th year of the conference, which is jointly organized by students from HBS and the Harvard Kennedy School. The two-day event on the HBS campus drew 1,500 attendees from across the country for panels, workshops, a career fair, and the Pitch for Change business plan competition, where social entrepreneurs vie for cash awards and consulting services.

First place went to Ho’oulu Pacific, which plans to use modern agricultural technology and management to enable people living on remote Pacific islands to grow fresh vegetables and fish to replace unhealthful diets high in calories and low in nutrition.

Second place was awarded to Jamela Oil, a luxury cosmetics company offering a brand of all-natural facial moisturizing oils derived from argan oil, obtained from southern Morocco’s argan tree. The company will work with the rural poor to build sustainable business around argan oil production.

Emprofit, based in Haiti, took third place. It aims to create jobs via a commission-based, door-to-door sales organization while reinvesting profits to expand and provide employee benefits in Haiti.

In addition to the judges’ picks, the “Audience Choice” award went to Essmart, a retail distribution company in rural southern India. Through Essmart, small retail shop owners sell essential technologies, such as bicycle-powered machines, affordable solar lanterns, and smokeless cook stoves, designed for the rural poor at the bottom of the economic pyramid.


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