Entrepreneurial Opportunities Inspire Comic Book Nonprofit

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Will Jarvis (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Will Jarvis ’16 knew two things from an early age: He wanted to attend Carolina, and he wanted to work in venture capital. He counted on UNC and a liberal arts education to help him develop a life path and the skills to walk it.

As Jarvis approaches May graduation with a bachelor’s degree in English, minors in entrepreneurship and the program in philosophy, politics and economics — plus a nonprofit startup he founded that is operating on two continents — Jarvis says UNC delivered.

“Humanities and a liberal arts education are really valuable if you use them correctly,” he said.

Jarvis chose to major in English, inspired by his father, a successful Rocky Mount dentist and UNC English major, and by a biography of John Adams, who said, “If you understand literature and business, you’ll be a great man.”

He then began “reading about philosophy, politics and economics and searching about working with the poor and public policy, trying to figure out how do you make the world a better place?”

Meanwhile, Jarvis’ sister, Faith, then a high school student (now a UNC sophomore), undertook an innovative project for her Girl Scout Gold Award.

“She went to the hospital and asked what they needed to improve kids’ experiences,” Jarvis said. “They said they needed patient education materials … that kids could connect with. So she created these comic books that informed kids about what goes on in the hospital. They were a huge hit.”

Faith moved on to other things, but Jarvis recognized the value of her idea and got involved with Carolina’s entrepreneurial community to learn how to develop it. He participated in the Carolina Challenge Pitch Party, a competition to help students develop entrepreneurial skills.

"Mighty Molly” helps children understand their hospital experience.

“Mighty Molly” helps children understand their hospital experience.

Jarvis snagged a spot in UNC alumnus and entrepreneur Jim Kitchen’s 1789 Venture Lab, a student startup incubator on Franklin Street. With space, support and connections, Jarvis formed a nonprofit, SuperkidCARE, developed a business plan and secured a grant that paid for his sister’s original comic book to be redrawn by a former Marvel comic book artist. He also learned about the College’s entrepreneurship minor.

In the e-minor’s social venture course, William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship James H. Johnson Jr. taught Jarvis how to develop a sustainable nonprofit model and not “depend on the kindness of strangers,” Jarvis said.

The minor also sent Jarvis to China for the Summer Internship in Shanghai program on a Phillips Ambassador Scholarship, where he helped a biotech scientist develop a revenue model for her technology company. She returned the favor, investing in Jarvis’ nonprofit and recruiting others to fund its comic book printing and distribution in China.

Jarvis is now following the advice of UNC chemist-serial entrepreneur Joe DeSimone to “find a rocket ship before it takes off,” searching UNC’s Office of Technology Development files to identify just the right biotech startup to jump onboard and help it soar.

His takeaways from UNC? Knowledge, critical-thinking skills and a powerful network of connections.

“When I decide to do something, I figure out how to get it done,” Jarvis said. “Carolina has given me the basis in theory, critical-thinking skills and connections to do that. It’s like pouring gas on a fire.”


By Cyndy Falgout