Passion + Savvy = Difference

By Joshua Stowe (ND '01) | Spring 2016

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Two years ago, following her first year at Notre Dame, Alexis Doyle traveled to Guatemala, where she worked in a lab that diagnosed parasite infections in fecal samples — a major problem fueled largely by lack of hygiene.

Doyle, now a junior majoring in biological sciences and peace studies with a minor in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service, left determined to help tackle the problem. Drawing on the expertise of Unleashed, a student group focused on impact investing and social enterprise consulting, she has since started work on a solution.

Doyle has designed a project that will allow Guatemalan women to package soap for sale. The money they raise will fund water, sanitation and hygiene projects. It’s an example of social enterprise, where business can address a social issue in an economically sustainable way.

Unleashed helped me define a marketing strategy for the product and to identify my target customer for when the product makes it to the market,” Doyle says. “The team did a really great job in helping me thoroughly understand the different aspects of marketing analysis for the product.”

It’s just one of the latest undertakings for Unleashed. Co-founder Tommy Flaim discovered impact investing during an internship after his freshman year, when he heard about Goldman Sachs’ investing in an impact bond for early childhood education. Impact investing is a financial approach to funding efforts to address social problems while providing a competitive rate of return for investors.

“That was the launch pad for my initial interest in impact investing,” says Flaim, a senior majoring in finance. “I wanted to join a club at first, so I did some research, but there was really nothing for impact investing and social entrepreneurship at the undergraduate level, so I decided to start one. As corny as it sounds, I think Notre Dame has a lot of potential to make an impact in this field, and our goal is to unleash this potential.”

Unleashed currently has about 100 members. Melissa Paulsen, assistant director of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, serves as advisor. It has provided consulting services, doing due-diligence on projects for clients. Projects including supporting Doyle’s work in Guatemala; advising an initiative that enables women in Ghana to build and sell bamboo bikes; and helping an online marketplace that aims to sell ethically sourced goods from developing countries.

After he graduates from Notre Dame, Flaim will work in investment banking at Citibank and hopes to start a socially responsible clothing brand at some point. Meanwhile, Unleashed is transitioning to new leadership under co-presidents Jackie Bruns and Nick Hardiman, both juniors. The two 
are finance majors, and Bruns has a supplementary major in Spanish.

Going forward, Flaim sees Unleashed continuing to make a difference: “Put simply, I want ND to be the leader in impact investing and social entrepreneurship.”