On top of taking Management 100 and adjusting to college life, Wharton School freshman Charlie Javice has also launched PoverUP — a grassroots movement to raise awareness about microfinance in high schools and universities — all within her first eight months of college.
Javice’s website is scheduled to launch Friday at 18 high schools and 50 college campuses including Penn, Harvard and Tufts universities.
The site showcases research on microfinance and offers fellowships, internships and microfinance investment opportunities to students. PoverUP has been a work in progress for a year and a half. Javice hopes the site will help students become educated investors.
PoverUP has partnerships with microfinance institutions that support ventures in 85 different countries including France and Argentina. PoverUP will loan money to these institutions that will in turn invest in social businesses. In the future, the startup hopes to also be a direct investor, escaping the middleman of microfinance institutions, Wharton freshman and PoverUP board member Celia Lewis said.
Javice works with a board of 15 to 20 students, which includes her younger brother — a high-school senior — and other college students.
The company was set up to cater to students since “we are students ourselves, we know what we’re interested in,” Lewis said.
PoverUp also supports are also specifically catered towards a student budget. For instance, PoverUP requires a lower minimum investment than other companies. It also has a mobile giving feature, allowing people to invest on their cell phones.
Javice won support for PoverUP through the Wharton Venture Initiation Program, an education program managed by Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, which helps students implement their business ideas and receive advising from professionals in the field.
Javice is the first freshman accepted into VIP, since Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs began managing the program in 2006, Senior Associate Director of Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs Clare Leinweber said, adding that when Javice applied last fall, the program boasted a 22-percent acceptance rate.
“[Javice] spoke about [her project] clearly and eloquently. She had a vision about how to transcend Penn by spreading across the world. That was very compelling,” she said.
PoverUP was also a client for a Management 100 team last fall.
Wharton freshman Amanda Coe said working with Javis as a client was an enjoyable experience because she was “more understanding” than the typical adult client.
While most students wait until after graduation to begin startups, Javice said there are advantages to starting early.
“We have the shock factor. We have all the demographics available to us, and we have access to all college campuses,” she said.
Javice came up with the idea for PoverUP in high school after learning about Muhammad Yunus, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 along with his venture Grameen Bank.
After an “eye-opening experience” volunteering at an orphanage in Thailand, Javice investigated opportunities for students to get involved with microfinance and did not find many options. From there, PoverUP “grew organically,” she said.
Javice built her company up through networking at microfinance conferences across the country, where she was often the youngest participant, and pitching PoverUP to the adults that she met.
Though she said it was intimidating at first, “the more you pitch, the more people are willing to help you. If you show passion and drive for it, they will too.”
PoverUp has been honored by Inc.com — a business and entrepreneurship magazine — as one of “America’s Coolest College Start-ups in 2011.” Javice hopes to reach 500 college campuses in the next five to 10 years.Comments powered by Disqus
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