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Discovering social entrepreneurship with The Mine Fellowship

When sociology senior Abbey Marino returned from her study abroad program in Thailand, she was not quite the same person. Her inquisitive and outgoing nature was now fueled by a passion for social justice.

“I realized there were many grassroots developments in Thailand that were gaining traction and making a difference in the community,” Marino said.

“It’s important to do something that will raise awareness for a cause you believe in, and I wanted to have some type of social justice grassroots effect in my last year at TU.”  

When Marino saw an advertisement for The Mine Fellowship, she found her opportunity to make a positive impact in Tulsa. The Mine is a nonprofit dedicated to being a catalyst for social innovation by equipping Tulsa entrepreneurs, creative people and developers to make a better world. “The fellowship is part professional development and part real-world project in Tulsa,” Marino explained. “They want to train local young professionals in social entrepreneurship.”

Ten Mine fellows were selected and divided into two teams, each working with a different entrepreneur. Marino was on Sofia Noshay’s team. Noshay founded Jujuu, which creates “curated gift boxes packed full of local goods that all have some type of social mission to them,” Marino said.

The first box is called “Sweet Home Oklahoma.” It features products only found in Tulsa, and it has ties to TU. The box includes goodies from Desert Foods, which is a product of a TU global scholars team. “They dehydrate fruits, and all of the produce is sourced from local farms derived from food that would otherwise not be sold because it’s too ugly,” Marino said. Their mission is to raise awareness about Tulsa food deserts, provide healthy snacks and reduce food waste.

Marino not only became part of a social justice project, but also learned about running a business. “As someone who had no experience or study of business, it’s been great to learn  different marketing strategies, financial models and what it takes to build your own business,” she said.

From Thailand to Tulsa, Marino has learned to look at the world a little differently. “When you declare a sociology major, you get a tee-shirt that says – ‘sociology: make the familiar strange,’” she said. “You look at the interactions you have and the things you do, and sociology changes the way you see it. It provides an understanding of why the world works the way it does.”

It is Marino’s broadened perceptions of the world that have allowed her to mix business acumen with a heart for doing good; and with that combination, Marino proved business is good.