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Babson College Alumni Named Finalists in 2016 SPARK Boston Impact Awards

SPARK Boston, a City of Boston initiative that empowers the millennial generation to play a greater role in planning for the future, has announced its 2016 SPARK Impact Award finalists.

Babson College alumni Sarah (Sherburne) Case MBA’17, founder of TechGen and Program Manager at New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA), and Ian So ’08, Co-founder and Owner of Chicken & Rice Guys, make up two of only three finalists in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation category.

Additional categories include Arts and Culture, Community Building and Neighborhood Improvement, Activism and Issue Advocacy, and Unsung Heroes—the ‘outstanding teachers, social workers, nurses, emergency responders, and human services professionals whose everyday dedication supports a healthy, thriving city.’

“The [2016] award categories reflect the diversity of ways millennial residents embody the role of leader and change maker,” said SPARK Boston. “Mayor Walsh put out an open call for nominations…and we received over one hundred submissions in return…Now it’s up to you to decide who wins!”

Vote for the winner in each category

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at MassChallenge in Boston on Thursday, December 1.

Sarah (Sherburne) Case MBA’17

Sarah Case MBA'17I’m a program manager at NEVCA and founder of TechGen, focusing on connecting university students and the local innovation ecosystem. I am a California girl who made Boston my home, and I owe it to my friends and network who helped me get connected and launch my career here. I’m also passionate about helping people.

TechGen is the bridge between New England’s best university student and its top healthcare and technology companies. Our mission is to create personal connections between members of these two communities in ways that serve the interests of both, as well as the local innovation economy as a whole. TechGen consists of both an online platform and a social and educational program, highlighting the best of what it means to work and play in Massachusetts to ensure more students stay and build their futures here after graduation.

Building something from the ground up is daunting, exciting, hard, fun and incredibly rewarding. TechGen was an idea two years ago and it is incredibly gratifying to work so hard and see it come together. Hearing student and company stories about great internships and experiences always remind me that we’re making a difference.

On the other hand, building something from the ground up is also challenging. There are so many unknowns for us and for our audience. We have to determine the “ground rules” and then educate students, companies and stakeholders on how we work, why we’re here, and why they should engage. And all of that is so dynamic. In our first fall running the platform, we learned that while both students and companies are eager to connect, needs and timelines are much more varied compared to spring. So we’re working to adapt to this different hiring season. We’re also always expanding the TechGen community by going to more campuses and attending events across the community. We’re essentially building the car as we drive it!

Boston is an incredible city for a lot of different reasons, one of which is that we have some of the best colleges and universities in our backyard, which breeds awesome ideas, great companies, etc. But as someone who came here for school and stayed, I didn’t see clear paths to get involved. Whether it is volunteering, political action, networking for a career, etc. I didn’t really know how to get started. And there is so much here! So my vision is a Boston in which there are clear entry points into this community for young people making it even easier to call Boston home and to feel as though you’re part of the fabric of this great city.

When asked what advice she’d give aspiring leaders among Boston millennials, Case says:

Pay it forward. I actually have a list of 12 or so “tips and tricks” I share when I present at local colleges and universities but I think pay it forward is at the top. It’s so important to be aware of those around you and always be ready and willing to help someone else out. If you’re learning, growing and excelling, it’s likely because you have someone or a group of people supporting and guiding you, so make sure to return the favor!

Ian So ‘08

Ian So '08I am the co-founder/owner of Chicken & Rice Guys. I am the CEO and responsible for setting the internal direction, expansion, and culture of the company, overseeing operations, finance, fundraising, and building relationships with external partners. 

My greatest success so far has been starting my own business, and growing what was one food truck we bought online, to now a five food truck, four restaurant company. As the ultimate leader of my company, I am my own biggest challenge. We have doubled in revenue and in employees every year. And as we have doubled, I have had to keep pace as a leader and double my leadership ability.

Starting my own business has afforded me so many ways to learn about myself and the world, and I would love to have others have that same opportunity. That’s why I founded the Asian Entrepreneurship Foundation, to share the gift of, and support, entrepreneurship in the Asian community. I also love seeing our own employees grow and develop. The food industry is extremely tough, there’s very little financial reward or glamour for most. So it’s pretty awesome to see our people, many of whom come from tough backgrounds and situations, find a home and career at Chicken & Rice Guys.

Chicken & Rice Guys is committed to supporting the community as well as our employees. Through the Chicken & Rice Guys Foundation, the charitable arm of Chicken & Rice Guys, we have donated 4,200 meals to the Women’s Lunch Place. We have also developed a partnership with Triangle Inc., a job training facility for people with mental and physical disabilities. To date, Chicken & Rice Guys has integrated multiple people working on a daily basis and providing 160 hours on a monthly basis. Chicken & Rice Guys also sponsors inner city students to start businesses through the BUILD program, and provides free food to blood donors at Mass General Hospital. We donate gift cards and free food to dozens of nonprofits in the Boston Metro Area, including the Jimmy Fund.

I really like the small town charm Boston has, but still has that big city feel. I wish more young people would see Boston as a place to settle down and start a life. Too many of my friends move to the West Coast because of the weather, or they feel there are not enough social and professional opportunities in Boston. I think young people should realize the value of home and community is about the personal connections you build over time.

When asked what advice she’d give aspiring leaders among Boston millennials, So adds:

As millennials, we have access to the most information of any previous generation. But with all that information, there will never be a substitute for wisdom and experience. I hired my first professional manager a year ago and the two subsequent professionals I hired since have been invaluable.