Social Media for Social Good

A sophomore’s online start-up is making the world a better place, one business at a time

Growing up, Tambe Agbor watched his parents and other farmers in Cameroon bring their produce to market, but there were no buyers. The food was often left for scavenging animals. Now he connects farmers directly to buyers, including export markets, and provides them with the latest market pricing and details on best farming practices—all through text messaging. Business for the farmers has never been better.

Most recently, his network has grown even larger in size and scope thanks to a new company, Kip Solutions, whose chief operating officer is Tufts sophomore Sonia Chokshi, A15. Kip Solutions has helped improve Agbor’s text-messaging service and created a website, Facebook page and Twitter account to raise awareness and funds; some of the money has helped buy cell phones to expand the farmers’ network.

“Tambe’s story is typical of what we want to do,” Chokshi says. “He has the passion and ideas, and we understand these digital spaces and the power of marketing. So we can get the messages out in the right way to the right people. I like to say our clients know their goals; we are the medium for making them happen.”

Named America’s Coolest College Start-up in 2012 by Inc. magazine, Kip Solutions uses social media to encourage social good. It has no offices; the staff consists of 10 college students spread across the country, all linked virtually.

Founded last October, Kip Solutions already has 12 clients, all dedicated to promoting social causes worldwide. Chokshi came on board shortly after the firm was started, and since then has worked with founder Patrick Ip, a student at the University of Chicago, to grow the company. (Ip learned about Chokshi through her brother, also a student at the University of Chicago, who thought they would make a good team.)

“Sonia almost immediately leaped to creating the future vision of Kip Solutions with me,” says Ip. “She’s a visionary who maintains a strong sense of pragmatism.”

“We see the potential for social media—and all information and communications technologies—to produce social change,” says Chokshi. “I had been fascinated by the power of marketing for some time, and I wanted to use that power for good.”

Making the Connection

An international relations major, Chokshi says she wants to avoid the “politics of politics,” preferring to work on small, hands-on projects such as the farmers’ network in Cameroon, where she can witness changes in people’s lives.

“Sonia has done it all, from consulting with our most important clients to creating the strategic vision for our company,” Ip says.

The company taps into her generation’s motivation to do something meaningful when they see an opportunity, Chokshi says. She points to the recent social media campaign to raise awareness about Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. Five days after the anti-Kony organization Invisible Children launched a Facebook page highlighting his atrocities, 7 million followers were spreading the word and pressing for U.S. involvement to capture him.

“My generation has a broader view and can connect through the Internet as no other before us,” Chokshi says. “The Kony campaign is evidence that if given a clear message and an action that can be taken, this generation will do it. People are just waiting and saying, ‘Show me the way.’ ”

This summer, Chokshi will be working for a new client, a for-profit firm that encourages students to become social-cause entrepreneurs. As part of that work, she will film Boston-area college students who are starting their own social businesses, and get them to talk about what makes their efforts worthwhile. The videos will be available on the client’s website and promoted through social media and other outlets. Showing that sort of personal contact is critical to all successful social media campaigns, she says.

“What most people don’t realize is that social media is not a magic potion—load a web page and suddenly you will have thousands of followers,” Chokshi says. “Success is really based on building trust through off-line, face-to-face outreach, and then using that online to create a positive buzz.”

Starting an award-winning business and balancing class work is a challenge, “but not unlike what students doing internships face,” Chokshi says. And better than an internship, it is now Chokshi’s post-graduation career.

Down the road, she and Ip see Kip Solutions involving increasing numbers of college students, creating a network of people with the skills to work on social causes.

“I want to capture our generation’s renewed interest in action for social good,” Chokshi says, “and continue to find new ways to use the connectivity created by social media.”

Gail Bambrick can be reached at


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