Student Stories

Abhi Lokesh

Abhi Lokesh

Co-founder & CEO
Fracture

In Spring 2006, the second semester of his freshman year, while on track to follow both of his parents and his older sister in a career as a physician, Abhi Lokesh stumbled upon Dr. Kristin Joys’ Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship class. He took the class and for his final project, worked with two classmates to start a nonprofit that sold art in order to raise money to help alleviate the health and poverty epidemic in Swaziland. Abhi credits his experience in Dr. Joys’ class as the catalyst that led him to get involved in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EIC) at UF. He joined the EIC Ambassadors and served as a RA for the first YELS (Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability) high school summer program, in 2007.

These experiences offered Abhi the opportunity to spend time with entrepreneurs who were changing the world, to learn from and work alongside them. With help from Dr. Joys, Abhi & his two classmates applied for and won a $10,000 Projects for Peace Grant, taking them to Swaziland, where they worked with the Ministry of Health and WHO to pilot their ideas. It was here, in a small town in Swaziland, that Abhi and his partner Alex came up with Fracture, a revolutionary technology that takes photos directly from a smartphone (or any digital device) and beautifully prints them on glass to be displayed in people’s homes. Abhi graduated from UF in 2009, and in their first three years, Fracture raised over $2 million in capital, sold more than 50,000 fractures and built a team and facility in downtown Gainesville. 2019 is their tenth year and Fracture now employs over 80 full-time employees and expects to sell over $20 million prints by year’s end.

Abhi is often asked to speak on campus, to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and changemakers. In doing so, Abhi shares that Fracture’s success would not have been possible without the spark of opportunity given to him by the Social Impact & Sustainability Initiative in UF’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center. This Spring, while sharing a Live Case in his role as Social Entrepreneur in Residence for Dr. Joys’ undergraduate class, Abhi challenged the class to generate ideas for how Fracture could launch a new giving campaign, donating 1% of their profits to support the work of nonprofit organizations focused on bringing light to environmental justice & human rights issues both in the greater-Gainesville community and around the world.

Abhi Lokesh riding in the back of a pickup

For over a decade I’ve had the privilege of knowing Kristin and having her be one of my most trusted mentors. She’s played an invaluable role in helping me launch a nonprofit venture as a student, write, submit, and successfully receive a significant grant to implement agricultural research in Africa, and think through my company’s short and long-term plans to be as sustainable and positively impactful as possible.

Abhi Lokesh
Camila Pazos

Camila Pazos

Director of Search & Selection
Echoing Green

While studying Psychology and Sociology as an undergraduate at UF, Camila was introduced to Social Entrepreneurship in a class with Dr. Kristin Joys in Spring 2008. Camila was excited and intrigued by the opportunities Social Entrepreneurship offered and became deeply involved with a myriad of Social Entrepreneurship initiatives on campus, including serving as the TA for the “Social Problems & Solutions” class that Dr. Joys taught as part of the 2009 YELS (Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability) high school summer program. That year she graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Sociology, and decided to continue at UF, earning a Masters in Sustainable Development Practice with a graduate certificate in Global Public Health, which took her to Botswana to conduct field research.

During her time in the MDP program, Camila frequently TAed for Dr. Joys’ classes and assisted her in organizing events and speakers for students to learn more about Social Entrepreneurship. Initially Camila aspired to work for the United Nations Development Program, working with NGOs to further global health issues, or perhaps returning to Columbia, where she spent her early childhood. As graduation neared, Camila sought career advice from Dr. Joys and learned of an opportunity with Echoing Green, a social accelerator and pioneer angel investor of early-stage social entrepreneurs.

In 2012, Camila was hired as the Special Assistant to the President of Echoing Green and as the leader of all search and recruitment efforts; in Fall 2014 she was promoted to Director of Search & Selection for the Echoing Green Scholars Program. Camila believes that in an inequitable world, the power of a community can be transformational and views her role at Echoing Green as a vehicle for giving access to those who are so often underrepresented in the social impact space. Camila now works and lives in New York City, and credits her job to learning about Social Entrepreneurship as a University of Florida student.

Camila Pazos kneeling in tall, wild grass

Kristin encouraged me to believe that I too had a path towards creating social change. For the past nine years, not only has she been a mentor—but also a role model, sounding board, champion, friend, and ally. Kristin saw potential in me and invested in my leadership. With her guidance and support I was able to reach and obtain new professional opportunities and carve out a path for professional development. I love what I do and where I am today and it all started with Kristin.

Camila Pazos
Sam McPherson

Sam McPherson

Founder & CEO
Events Local

Sam McPherson grew up in Gainesville and as a high school senior, met Dr. Kristin Joys and learned of her work teaching Social Entrepreneurship at UF. Sam’s interest was piqued, and in 2007 he moved to New York City to attend Pace University, where he majored in Entrepreneurship and worked in Washington, D.C. During his time at Pace, he interned with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and traveled to rural villages in Guatemala, where he volunteered with elementary schools. Sam explains that the trip was a turning point in his life: “I was overtaken by that experience in Guatemala, ever since, I just focused on studying entrepreneurship and trying to help communities like that.”

Sam began exploring graduate programs that would give him the opportunity to apply the principles of entrepreneurship to solving social, environmental, and economic problems, like those he saw first-hand in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. In 2011 he returned to Gainesville to earn his Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship, aiming to focus on Social Entrepreneurship. During his time in the Masters in Entrepreneurship program, McPherson took Dr. Kristin Joys’ Intro to Social Entrepreneurship class and was inspired to launch his own socially minded business, called Reciprocity + Co. Reciprocity + Co. produced beautiful canvas tote bags and backpacks that each represented a different global issue: health, education, climate change, or poverty. Each time a customer purchased one of these bags, a portion of the revenue went directly towards a nonprofit that addressed that issue. Reciprocity + Co. won the 2012 UF NetImpact Sustainability Better Living Business Plan Challenge and was featured in Forbes.

After graduation, Sam spent a year in Washington, D.C. scaling his venture before receiving an offer to return to Gainesville to be the third employee at SharpSpring, a rapidly growing startup. From 2014-2017, Sam was focused on helping SharpSpring grow, while his own social-entrepreneurial aspirations took a back seat. When he left SharpSpring, they’d grown to over 130 employees, most of whom were under Sam’s supervision. Sam launched Events Local, a platform for customers to discover and engage with with the artisans, makers, and craftspersons in our local communities and around the world, in January 2017. Just one year later, Events Local has become a certified B Corporation and is being used by over 7,000 makers; this fall they are scaling by partnering with event organizers, and will be the platform used by over 50 major art festivals across the country. They were recently featured in Forbes. Sam returns each semester to speak in Dr. Joys’ classes and mentor students’ Experiential Learning Consulting Projects, inspiring the next generation of student social entrepreneurs.

Sam McPherson

I had the pleasure of taking Kristin’s Intro to Social Entrepreneurship course as part of my MSE degree, her class inspired me to launch a company called Reciprocity and Co., a socially conscious business. The advice and guidance that Kristin provided me with was out of this world. I am now 28 years old and am in the process of launching my second social venture: Eventslocal.com. I owe my continued enthusiasm for doing good in the world to her.

Sam McPherson