Last week, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill played host to Global Entrepreneurship Week, an initiative of the Kauffman Foundation to spur interest and engagement in entrepreneurship initiatives and communities across the globe.

In total, organizers planned and delivered 23 events, said lead organizer Mathilde Verdier, who also serves as program coordinator for the university’s social innovation initiative. “It was a huge success,” said Verdier, “events included everything from speakers and panels to networking events, workshops, pitch competitions, office hours, a fashion show, and the Triangle’s first Reverse Pitch-a-Thon.”

According to Verdier, the event at UNC-Chapel Hill ranked as the number 2 university partners and in the top 3 community partners across the U.S. Part of that ranking is because organizers ensured a strong focus on social innovation through the week including studying key themes such as food insecurity, mass incarceration, clean energy, public health, and more, said Verdier.

More than 900 people pre-registered for events held throughout the week. “Many people who came out to events had not considered entrepreneurship as a path before,” said Verdier, “this was their first exposure to entrepreneurship and [they] found themselves afterwards ready to launch ideas of their own.”

The week provided attendees a way to engage in entrepreneurship and to learn more about the entrepreneurial economy of the Triangle, said Verdier. Key takeaways that participants received included acquiring new knowledge and wisdom from experienced entrepreneurs, focusing efforts to address big social challenges, qualified feedback on entrepreneurial ideas, increased connection to the blossoming entrepreneurial community, and new skills and methods for exploring product creation and launch.

“The most compelling story to emerge was the community really coming together to takes notes and learn from food insecurity experts and then commit to developing solutions to tackle food insecurity in NC,” said Verdier. “There was a sense of collective responsibility and commitment to addressing food insecurity in our state.”

More than 100 startups competed in the Carolina Challenge Pitch Party, said Verdier, representing a huge celebration of entrepreneurship at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The top prize winner for Saturday’s “Cooking Up Ideas to Achieve Food for All” pitch contest was Farmers Interactive, a three person team of Victoria Bliss, Kaelan Forbes, and Chen Zhang. The team, which formed at an earlier Design-Thinking Bootcamp, pitched their idea of an online game to inspire kids to grow their own produce.

“The game focuses on vegetables,” said Forbes, and as players accumulated points in the digital game, the company would mail seed packets and information on how to grow the crops. “We are trying to promote children to know how to grow produce,” said Forbes, and to increase the accessibility to healthy food options.

“Participating was a great experience and gave us the chance to look closely at a problem and develop a solution, all in one day,” said Bliss. “Food is a complex and important issue in our community.”

Winning companies at pitch events throughout the week were given small cash prizes ($200) and are encouraged to apply to the University’s Social Innovation Challenge, a statewide social entrepreneurship competition, and also to apply to the $50,000 prize that will be awarded by the United Way of the Triangle to a company that successfully demonstrates a solution for tackling food insecurity in the Triangle.

Richard Hyman, a graduate student in the school of social work, won an earlier pitch contest for his app, Facilitator.

“The app brings people together to discuss topics and questions that have been created by the users,” said Hyman. “Once a group of people in the same area have been matched, they can vote on the discussion questions the individuals in the group have come up with. The app then gives the group a time and place to meet. When the group meets, the app serves as a facilitator.”

He’s hoping the app could help address mental health issues, particularly suicide and shootings, as well as substance abuse.

“Because social isolation contributes to these problems,” said Hyman, “this idea targets these issues by proving an easy and simple method for people to meet and talk, reducing social isolation.”

“I plan to further develop my concept and apply to the UNC social innovation challenge,” said Hyman, “As well as the statewide social entrepreneurship competition, as well as any other grants that can help me realize this concept.”

Global Entrepreneurship Week at UNC-Chapel Hill included more than 12 community partners, including Launch Chapel Hill. The event was led by a steering committee made up of 20 staff and student members from UNC-Chapel Hill.