Social Entrepreneur: Conscious Companies | Benefit Corporations | Impact Investing

By Tony Loyd: Business executive and mentor to social entrepreneurs

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.

Category: Non-Profit

Open in iTunes

Open RSS feed

Open Website

Rate for this podcast


Social Entrepreneur is for aspiring and early-stage social entrepreneurs; and for those who want to make an impact on the world. Every Monday you hear interviews with social entrepreneurs, founders, investors and thought leaders. Listen to the stories that led them to become change makers. The guests give advice for early stage and aspiring social entrepreneurs. We always end each episode with a call to action. If you're ready to change the world, join us.

Episode Date
The Future of Corporate Social Responsibility, with Rachel Hutchisson, Blackbaud

Rachel Hutchisson has spent more than 20 years working at the intersection of business and social good.  

Blackbaud is a technology company that powers the social good community. Rachel Hutchison is Blackbaud's VP, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, and a thought leader on corporate social responsibility. Rachel believes that “Good is for everyone.” She teaches companies to embrace what she calls Human Social Responsibility, putting people at the center of their strategies. 

Rachel was born into a family of college professors. “My grandfather, father, aunts, and uncles were all professors...and my mother was a teacher,” she describes. “That meant I also grew up around a lot of books, conversations, and ideas.”

When Rachel was five years old, her family moved to England. She points to this as “hugely formative for me and my sisters.” Rachel’s family traveled throughout Europe, camping along the way, and seeing the world as it was in the 1970s. Remember that this was during the cold war with hardened borders, different currencies in each country, and widely varying food and ideas. She says of this time, “At a very young age, I knew there was much to see of the world and that we weren't all the same.”

Rachel learned about social responsibility at an early age. “I didn't know it then, but I realize looking back that I was raised in a household that believed in giving back,” she explains. “It's less that we talked about it and more that my parents simply modeled it. Both of my parents were active on nonprofit boards (although I didn't know the word nonprofit then) - the Literacy Council, the public library, the senior citizen's center. And I knew they gave charitable contributions to those organizations and the colleges they attended. We didn't have a lot of money, but that didn't get in the way of supporting causes that were important.”

Over time, Rachel developed a sense of personal mission. “I am fundamentally bothered by the lack of equity in our world - whether you are looking at this through a gender lens or a racial lens or another lens entirely.”

Joining Purpose with Career

Rachel joined Blackbaud more than 20 years ago. Blackbaud is a publicly-traded, cloud-based technology company offering technology, data, and expertise that powers social good people and organizations. When Rachel joined Blackbaud when there were 100 employees. Today, they have over 3,300. Blackbaud works with about 40,000 organizations around the world. Rachel says of Blackbaud, “We are a shared value company with economic and societal benefit combined at our core.”

Rachel grew Blackbaud’s Corporate Social Responsibility from the ground, up. She had developed a model known as Human Social Responsibility. She recently wrote about Human Social Responsibility in the whitepaper, CSR 2020: Experts Look Ahead.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Rachel Hutchisson

“Something I’m passionate about is Human Social Responsibility.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“I believe the future of CSR is a shift in how we think about it, from focusing on the needs of the corporate to focusing on the needs of the people in the company.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“72% of people who work for a business in America work for small to mid-size businesses.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“All the resources in the market that were available to me were for the really, really big guys.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“There are enough issues in the world that we need everybody at the table.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“People today bring their whole selves to work.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“More people are saying; you should recognize who I am, not just what I do.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“We want to give them what I call voice and choice in engaging them.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“This is all about organizational health.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“You need to make sure that whatever you’re doing as a business, the organization is healthy.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“We have an economic benefit and societal benefit tied together at the core of our business strategy.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“A company isn’t just a building on a piece of land. It’s a robust part of a community.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“There’s a very hard cost to turnover.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“We now have costs that you can tie to turnover.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“86% of them said it mattered to them when they joined the company that we did the work that we did. They made an intentional choice to be here.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“Your employees are individual people with choice.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“This is a discussion that’s happening in the broad-based business press.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“When I graduated from college, it was the Gordon Gekko ‘greed is good’ era.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“I love that these different sectors are coming closer together instead of being pushed apart.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“It’s not just for the big guys.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“You just start with your own community.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“That’s what this is all about. Understanding your community - understanding the needs of your community.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“There’s not some magic resource that says, ‘this is how you do it.’” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“Some CSR departments feel like they’re down the street and around the corner from the actual company.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“I have a philosophy that good is for everyone.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

“Anyone can be an agent of good.” @RachelHutchssn @blackbaud

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 13, 2018
This Social Entrepreneur uses Chocolate as a Force for Good, with Shawn Askinosie, Askinosie Chocolate

Askinosie Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory who sources their beans directly from farmers in low-income countries.

For more than a decade, Shawn Askinosie has been searching for a way to make an impact. “For me, the sense of purpose comes from my faith,” Shawn explains. For more than 17 years, he has been associated with a Trappist monetary near his home in Springfield, Missouri. “And, I think it really springs forth from my compassion that results from my dad’s death.” Shawn’s father died of lung cancer when Shawn was only 14 years old. His mother also died at a young age. “When those things happen to us, whatever sorrow it may be: we have a broken heart. And then we’re better able to see others who have that kind of broken-heartedness. And I think, over the years, that’s what has drawn me to this kind of purpose.”

Shawn tells the story of his search for meaning in his book, Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul, which he co-wrote with his daughter Lawren.

In Search of Meaningful Work

In 2005, Shawn was a criminal defense lawyer. “I made my reputation in the defense of murder cases,” Shawn says. “I loved everything about it, until I didn’t. When you don’t love it anymore, you feel it, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The only problem was, I had no other skill. I didn’t know how to do anything other than cross-examine people.”

Over the next five years, Shawn began exploring hobbies outside of work. However, he says, “It just wasn’t coming.” For the next five years, he tried a wide variety of hobbies. “Even 12 years ago, Google was in full force,” he explains. “I was distracted by all of the possibilities.”

He thought of buying a franchise. He tried making cupcakes. “I went to Magnolia Bakery in New York, just to look at the cupcakes and taste them, and see the place,” he says. He thought about baking pies. He looked at a frozen custard franchise. And yet, he never felt fully drawn to any of these possibilities. “I told myself I would feel it when it was right. I would sense deep down that this was what I was supposed to do, and it just wasn’t happening.”

Creating Space for the Right Idea

“As I approached this from a very traditional Type A, hard-charging entrepreneur, I said, OK, let’ research all the possibilities. What makes sense financially? How much savings do I have? What can I invest? What’s the ROI? What’s the barrier to entry? I asked all the questions, but I didn’t feel it.” Pushing forward through a logical path was not leading him to the outcome he was looking for.

“This process was five years. And during that process, I prayed this very simple prayer, ‘Dear God, give me something else to do.’” The answer to Shawn’s prayers came unexpectedly. “During this 5-year search, I got this volunteer opportunity to work in our local hospital in palliative care, which is essentially end-of-life care,” he describes. Every Friday, he would visit with patients in the hospital. “It had nothing to do with my search,” he says. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, the fifth thing on my list was, go volunteer at this hospital.’”

However, Shawn was open to volunteering at the hospital because of sorrow in his own life. When Shawn was 14 years old, his dad died of lung cancer. “I thought, I can go help people who are experiencing the dying process.” The patients would request a volunteer to visit them. “I would go in and talk to them about whatever they wanted to talk about. Then at the end, I would offer to pray with them. When people agreed, Shawn asked, “What would you like me to pray for?” This opened up a new avenue of conversation.

“For those seconds,” Shawn recalls,” and I mean seconds, I actually thought of someone besides myself. I was so driven to find the next thing. And for those seconds, it was not about me. And then, many times, when I left the front doors of this big hospital, walking out to my car, I felt like my feet weren’t on the ground.”

In this five-year period of volunteering, “There was this space created in me, to contemplate, to think about what would be in my future. I needed that. I love the quote, and I put it in the book, Khalil Gibran, ‘Our greatest joy is our sorrow unmasked.’ Well, my greatest sorrow was my dad’s death. It created this space for me to think about something like chocolate.”

Chocolate is the Answer

Eventually, Shawn settled on a single idea – chocolate. “I went from making it one pound at a time to 500 pounds at a time,” he says. “Back then, nobody knew what bean to bar chocolate was. We import cocoa beans from places like Ecuador, Tanzania, the Amazon, and the Philippines. We bring in these containers. They pull up to the back door of my factory. We roast the cocoa beans. We grind it and add the only other ingredient, which is organic sugar, and make chocolate bars. We sell them directly. We don’t have a distributor. There are just 16 people in my company, including me and my daughter.”

How do they distribute their chocolate bars? “Back in the beginning, nobody even knew what bean-to-bar chocolate was, so that was a real uphill challenge.” To sell the bars, they call stores and ask them if they want to carry their chocolate. “Year after year, through word of mouth, and winning some awards for our chocolate, we’ve made a name for ourselves.”

Small Business as a Force for Good

Askinosie Chocolate practices open-book management and profit sharing. Shawn explains, “What that means is, we share the numbers. We teach what they mean. And then, we share in the outcome.” They translate the profit sharing reports into the native language of the farmers. They also publish their reports on their website. “Anybody can see what I paid farmers in every single bean buy for the last 11 years.”

Askinosie Chocolate also works with local students. “My factory is in a revitalizing part of our community, around a lot of poverty,” Shawn describes. “That’s where I wanted it to be. There’s a homeless shelter nearby. We wanted to start a program that engages the kids of our neighborhood.” Shawn started Chocolate University over ten years ago. They have an elementary school, middle school and high school program.

“Every other year, we take the high school kids that are in this competitive program, to Tanzania,” Shawn says. “Remember, we’re only 16 people. The people in my company go to the elementary school, and the elementary school kids come to my factory.”

“We want to teach them about two things: One, that small business can be a force for good in the world. And the second thing is, there’s a world beyond Springfield, MO.”

Practicing Reverse Scale

Moving against cultural pressures, Shawn had decided to not rapidly scale his business. “One of our vocations is not getting bigger, but getting better at staying small. That is a real push against the pressures of growing, growing, growing at all costs. Investors want you to scale. Chambers of Commerce want you to scale because it means more jobs for the community. Your family wants you to scale because it means you’re going to be richer, supposedly. So, there’s this myth that top-line growth, just grow, grow, grow, is going to be better for everyone.

“But, I was drawn to this business because of all the things that we’ve talked about: farmers, students, just to travel and meet people,” Shawn explains. “But, if I scale, then what I’m doing is, I’m writing checks, I’m supervising, I’m managing, I’m delegating, I’m finding people to do the things I did before so that I can grow…If I’m not careful, what I’ve done is, I’ve lost the sense of what drew me to this business in the first place.

“So, what I want to do is hold on to a tether, and the tether is a practice we call reverse scale. When you grow at all costs, it becomes hard when you are distant from others. And when you become distant from other people, it’s hard to find yourself.

“I want to say to people, look, if you have an idea, don’t subscribe to this cultural pressure, this if it doesn’t scale, then it’s not worthy, that it’s not valuable. Because my message is, it is valuable If it helps the people on your street, near your business, that’s valuable.  

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Shawn Askinosie

“I prayed this very simple prayer, ‘Dear God, give me something else to do.’” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“It didn’t have to be chocolate. It could have been anything.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“To work with farmers and students, and to make a product, that’s what was missing.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“We share the numbers. We teach what they mean. And then, we share in the outcome.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“This summer, I begin my 40th origin trip.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“Small business can be a force for good.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“Travel gives us a sense of connection; that we really are connected to each other.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“Back then, nobody knew what bean-to-bar chocolate was.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“Go find somebody who needs you, and start.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie

“Where does it hurt? Begin from that place of sorrow, because you’re going to find great joy.” @shawnaskinosie @askinosie


Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 06, 2018
This Social Entrepreneur is Changing the Story of Human Trafficking, with Stephanie Page, Stories Foundation

Stories Foundation is committed to resourcing the rescue and restoration of human trafficking victims through education, advocacy, and microgrants

Between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. 80% are female, and half are children. Can this story be changed? Stephanie Page thinks so.

Stephanie grew up in a safe and happy home. “I grew up in a close-knit family,” she says. “I am the oldest of 4 children, two boys, and two girls. I was a high achiever and a people pleaser. I loved my friends and being social. I loved the church. I loved my family. I was an avid reader.”

Starting when she was a teenager, Stephanie traveled extensively. This exposed her to a world much different than her sheltered upbringing. After high school, she lived in Ukraine. As an adult, she lived in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. “All of those experiences opened my eyes and changed my worldview,” she says.

In 2012, Stephanie and her mother read the book, Passport through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances by Kimberly Smith. In the book, Kimberly shares her extraordinary stories of fighting human trafficking as an ordinary mom. Stephanie was both inspired and outraged.

“The idea that humans could and do exploit the vulnerabilities in others for their financial gain and pleasure makes me angry,” she explains. “It is bad enough that we live in a world where people are hurting for a reason often beyond anyone’s control (cancer, natural disaster, etc.) But then to think that there are people who will exploit those in vulnerable situations. It is simply not OK.”

Inspired by what she learned about human trafficking, Stephanie took a fearless inventory of the skills and gifts she had in hand. She decided to begin by educating the public and advocating for those caught in human trafficking. “I’ve always been a speaker and a communicator,” she explains. “So, I thought, I can give this. I can create events. And I can stand on a stage. I can communicate what this issue is, and what our role is.”

By 2013, Stephanie came up with an idea to make a difference. She wanted to open “Stories Café.” Their theme would be “Live your story, share your story, change a story.” Stephanie admits though, “! I am fluent in vision but struggle in administration.” As they began to plan, they began to realize how big of a challenge it is to open a restaurant. By 2015, she formed Stories Foundation as a nonprofit organization.

The Freedom Truck is Born

Starting in 2016, Stories Foundation held several events, centered around food. They were able to raise funds and provide microgrants to two organizations working with those vulnerable to human trafficking.

While watching a television show about food trucks, Stephanie thought, “Wouldn’t that be so cool if we had a food truck, and it spread awareness about human trafficking everywhere it went, and, it served great food? We could share our vision on a smaller scale, and everyone would get it!”  

To buy and equip a food truck, they ran a crowdfunding campaign on StartSomeGood. They were able to raise $32,000 in 30 days. They call the food truck the Freedom Truck. The Freedom Truck raises awareness while raising funds to combat human trafficking.  

Driving Forward

Moving forward, Stephanie has plans to make an even bigger impact. They are currently raising $100,000 in order to obtain a building. When they do, they will be able to provide training and employment for survivors of and those at risk to human trafficking.

To meet their fundraising goal, they are raising funds on Facebook. They are also hosting a Superhero 5K on August 4, 2018.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Stephanie Page

“All the money that comes through the truck goes into a microgrant fund.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“It’s a way for the community to be connected to the cause through something they would purchase already.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“My parents were huge examples, and still are of how to love people well.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“Life is messy for everybody, no matter how you started.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“We often don’t choose suffering. It’s a byproduct of someone else’s action or, the world.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“As human beings, we can step into that suffering. We can have compassion. We can cause the change to happen.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“I thought slavery was over. I had no idea slavery was a thing.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“All of you who write books, keep going because it changes lives.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“All I could think was, ‘This isn’t OK.’ And, ‘Why aren’t we doing something about this?’” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“I first had to educate myself.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“Every person has a part to play in fighting human trafficking.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“The more I learned, the more shocked I was.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“I’ve always been a speaker and a communicator. So, I thought, I can give this.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“I had always thought, to be honest, that prostitutes chose their profession.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“That was my first ah-ha moment. This is way bigger than I could have comprehended.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“It’s literally in my backyard.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“I didn’t know anyone who had been affected by trafficking.”

“No one is immune to being trafficked.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“90% of prostitutes are women and girls who have been trafficked.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“It’s not ‘If you build it, they will come.’ It’s ‘If you build it and market the crap out of it, maybe they’ll come.’” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“Once we raised the money and had to do the thing, I got really overwhelmed.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“We think that everything should be perfect before we move forward.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“It’s always been hard, but I think the hard things are the best things, and it’s worth it.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“Take the first step. Just do it.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

“The more income we have, the more jobs we can create.” @stephaniempage @StoriesFDN

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 30, 2018
Fueled by Prize Money, These Social Entrepreneurs Are Striking at the Root of Poverty, with Leeore Levinstein and Jesse Abelson, Vetiver Solutions

Vetiver Solutions is a for-profit social business that is alleviating poverty and malnutrition for subsistence farmers in Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest country in the northern hemisphere. 2.5 million Haitians live in extreme poverty. Two out of three live on less than $2 per day. 100,000 Haitian children are acutely malnourished.

Jesse Abelson first started traveling to Haiti in 2013 as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with Project Medishare. Between 2013 and 2016, he traveled there five times. “After seeing countless deaths due to poverty and malnutrition, I decided that I wanted to work to tackle the problem at the root,” Jesse explains. “There is only so much I can do in Haiti in a week, working as an EMT. I suspected that I would have to wait until after medical school to make an impact.”

Jesse met Leeore Levinstein when they were both freshmen at the University of Minnesota. In 2015, Leeore signed up for a series of courses called the Grand Challenge Course. After her initial class, she tried to convince Jesse to join her. “I was messaging him, for weeks, trying to convince him to take this course called ‘Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues.’”

“I was a little hesitant at first,” Jesse confesses. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It didn’t count towards my major, so I was hesitant to do that.” Jesse eventually agreed, and they enrolled in the course in the fall of 2016.

Because of Jesse’s experience in Haiti, Jesse and Leeore wanted to focus their efforts there. However, the course was focused on solutions for Kenya or Uganda. “We wanted to convince our instructors that we should do a project in Haiti,” Leeore explains. “So, the two of us sat in his parent’s dining room, bouncing ideas off one another. I didn’t have a super-strong background in Haiti,” Leeore admits. “So, I’m reading the Wikipedia page while we’re talking. I get to this line that set off a lightbulb for me. It said, ‘Haiti is the world’s largest exporter of vetiver.’ In my mind, I thought, how is Haiti the world’s largest exporter of anything? And, what is vetiver?”

She right-clicked the link to vetiver. “It turns out that vetiver is this magic grass,” Leeore says. “It has this incredible root system that prevents erosion. It can filter soil. It acts as a pesticide. It turns out that Haiti was exporting the roots of vetiver. From the roots, you can extract essential oil. Imagine pulling up 15 feet of roots. It just turns up the soil.”

After further research, Jesse and Leeore were able to convince their professors to let them work on a project for Haiti.

During the class, Jesse connected with his contacts in Haiti, asking questions and conducting research. He also traveled to Haiti during his winter break to once again volunteer with Project Medishare. While there, he was able to conduct research, focusing on the impact of vetiver.

Using Award Money to Prove Their Solution

By the spring of 2017, the team had conducted enough research to present their business plan that used vetiver. However, instead of using the roots of the plants, they found a use for the shoots of the plants, which is currently a waste product. They process the plant shoots into a fiber, which is spun into yarn. Their solution has both a short-term and long-term impact. They provide revenue to subsistence farmers in the short term and prevent soil erosion in the long term.

They presented their solution at the Acara Challenge, a pitch competition for students with ideas for financially sustainable social ventures that address social and environmental challenges. They took home the silver prize, which came with a small cash stipend.

Leeore remembers, “To me, until we got our funding from Acara, it felt to me very…on paper. I remember when we were awarded the prize. Jesse and I just looked at each other. All of a sudden, this moment of realization just fell over us. Oh! Goodness! This is a thing now. We’re actually doing this,” she laughs.

Suddenly the team went from testing concepts in a garage in Minnesota to sending team members to work on the ground in Haiti. Leeore describes the moment. “It was sitting down and saying; we have team members going to a foreign country, where we don’t know anything. There’s no running water or electricity. So, first of all, how do we ensure their safety? It became very concrete. Until we went, we didn’t even know if this whole process was going to work.”

The team used the Acara prize money to travel to Haiti. “We had enough money to get there. We didn’t have enough to do much work while we were there,” Jesse explains.

With this initial blush of success, the Vetiver Solutions team put together a GoFundMe fundraising page and sent funding requests to friends and family.

By the summer of 2017, they had their proof of concept. They began recruiting team members to work in product development and marketing. “It wasn’t until after the summer that we sat around the table with five people, with passion, and knowledge, and skills. We were finally creating a team that could do this,” Leeore says. But they still needed funding to continue their business.

In the spring of 2018, the Vetiver Solutions Team participated in the e-Fest pitch competition, sponsored by the University of St. Thomas, Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. The competition started with an online application. Vetiver Solutions was selected as one of 25 teams to come to the school and compete with a series of presentations. The first pitch was 90 seconds. The next round was 15 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of questions. The team won fourth place overall, and they won the social impact award. Altogether, Vetiver Solutions was awarded $25,000 in prize money.

Start from Scratch

“This has never been done before,” says Jesse. “We had to start from scratch and try to process vetiver down to fibers, which we successfully did. We hand-spun it into yarn, but we quickly realized, with my lack of spinning skills,” Jesse laughs, “that’s not something that can really be sold.”

Vetiver Solutions is harvesting and cleaning the vetiver fiber by hand in Haiti. According to Jesse, “We’re working closely with a village that does not have running water or electricity. Everything we do there is completely by hand. We process it all using fire, water, and an input chemical. Then we have the fibers that are ready to use.”

“The really cool thing about vetiver,” Jesse describes, “is that you can blend it with other fibers. We blended it with cotton, and it gave this nice soft material that you can make clothing out of. We were also able to blend it with banana fibers. It gave it a tougher feel. So, it’s pretty versatile.”

“We work closely with the Weavers Guild of Minnesota,” Jesse explains. “We were able to show them this product, and they gave us some feedback and tips.”

Vetiver Solutions is hoping to have their first commercially viable yarn this fall. Jesse explains what is next. “We have to get the fiber; we have to clean the fiber and send the fibers out to a spinning mill.”

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Leeore Levinstein and Jesse Abelson

“Because it’s a product that’s never been in the market before, we’re expecting a little difficulty.” Jesse Abelson, @Vetiver_Inc

“Everything we kept researching, kept bringing us back to vetiver.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“I decided that I wanted to work to tackle the problem at the root.” Jesse Abelson, @Vetiver_Inc

“I had been looking for years for a way to make a bigger impact.” Jesse Abelson, @Vetiver_Inc

“I have a background in genetics. Genetics isn’t going to help me make yarn.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“If you decide the sky’s the limit, you’ll make it to the sky. If you decide the limit is further, you’ll make it there too.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“It’s so cool that you can use entrepreneurship as a means to do good.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc  

“Two years ago, I never would have thought that I would start a company in Haiti that is working to decrease poverty and malnutrition.” Jesse Abelson, @Vetiver_Inc

“Vetiver is this magic grass.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“We have our proof of concept. We know that this is going to work.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“We kept backtracking down to the ground.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“We were a bunch of students who were interested in science.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“We’re not going to get anything done if we just sit here and talk about it.” Jesse Abelson, @Vetiver_Inc

“We’re not just playing around anymore in our garage.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

“Whatever you do, whatever you’re passionate about, just start.” Jesse Abelson, @Vetiver_Inc

“You set your own limits.” Leeore Levinstein, @Vetiver_Inc

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 28, 2018
Weaving Artisans and Markets Together, with Alicia Wallace, All Across Africa

All Across Africa creates sustainable jobs to alleviate poverty in Africa.

Travel had been a key component of Alicia Wallace’s journey. When she was 14 years old, she visited slums in Mexico. At the time, she thought “this isn’t right.” She wondered if there was a model that creates homes, jobs and dignity for people, without depending on charity. She knew then that she wanted to commit her talents and energy to serving others.

While attending university in Seattle, Alicia found a job at a law firm. Within two years, she was managing the law firm. “I thought that was gong to be my career path,” Alicia explains, “to climb a corporate ladder, and be in leadership in a large corporation. But there was still this fire in me to travel and change the world.”

A Bucket List Trip Leads to Sustainable Impact

 “I was making a good wage,” she says. “Part of my bucket list was ‘go to Africa.’” In 2009, an opportunity came up to travel to Sierra Leone. Alicia thought “How can I say no? That’s on my bucket list.” While she was there, she says “I learned and saw things that I could not forget.” She was suddenly confronted with the fact that she had lived her life in a bubble. “And that became my mission.”

Alicia wanted to grow the solution from the local community. “My first mission there, it was this white savior model,” she acknowledges. Not long after her 2009 medical trip, there was an Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. The team of doctors that had gone every year, did not go for the next two years. “It was this model where we did not develop the community to solve their own problem.” When she returned from her trip she first asked, “How do we create a scholarship fund to send local doctors to school?”

Alicia started looking for opportunities to contribute her talents. “I was interviewing organizations as much as they were interviewing me,” she laughs. “I wanted to understand what sustainability looked like. What did it look like to empower people to make their own decision?”

She interviewed with the nonprofit Rwanda Partners. In her first interview, she and the executive director Greg Stone, argued about development methods and whether microfinance was changing people’s lives. Eventually she accepted a job with Rwanda Partners and moved to Rwanda. “What I saw when I lived in Rwanda,” Alicia says, “is when you’re creating a job for a person, they have control and power. That’s where I found a difference in economic empowerment. They need an external market. They need to be connected to Europe and America. There isn’t a local demand that is strong enough.”

Working with Greg Stone, Alicia says, “We started creating jobs for men and women locally: farming projects, chicken and egg farms, and pineapple plantations.” Along the way, Greg was gifted several baskets. “He came back to the US and started the get them in front of people through his church, and craft fares. He found a very strong response to the product.” They started an income-generating project through artisan craft, using local artisans and material, while connecting them with external markets. “For us, creating jobs became an exporting model where we could return a high wage, lifting people out of poverty much faster than a local market model could.”

When Work Met Luck

Greg and Alicia caught a lucky break when a buyer for Costco happened to walk by a booth where Greg was selling woven products. “Costco was the first customer that we had,” Alicia says. “In this model, we were able to scale supply and demand equally.” By using the Costco “road show” model, they were able to control their growth. “We could take on as many road shows as we wanted in a month,” Alicia explains.

“It was then about making a really good product,” Alicia says. “The story mattered, but the product, at the end of the day, was key. We find that some customers only care about the design, the color, and the quality. They’ll buy it, regardless of it being made by an artisan. They just think it’s a beautiful product. We find others who are looking for a gift and might choose this gift over another gift because they know about the impact.”

In 2013, Greg and Alicia founded All Across Africa. Their products are sold under the KAZI brand. To ensure that the products they sell match the demands of the market, the products are designed in the US and produced by artisans from local material in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Ghana.

The Impact of All Across Africa

All Across Africa is dedicated to alleviating poverty and creating jobs for men and women in Africa. They produce tens of thousands of units per year. Customers include Costco, ProFlowers, Ethan Allen, Anthropologie, West Elm, One Kings Lane, and over 500 boutique retailers.

The average artisan supports 5.7 dependents. “They’re also creating 1.5 jobs in their area,” Alicia describes. “Because this is direct foreign investment, new cash introduced, the women are now buying meat in the marketplace and creating a job for the butcher. And the butcher is now paying school fees to the teacher.” Artisans are going from earning perhaps twenty cents per day working on a local farm to earning three to eight dollars per day. For 3,400 men and women, it’s 95% of their income.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Alicia Wallace

“We’re developing a product with an end-purpose that is creating a job and an income.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“We’re experts in woven products.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“My heart broke. I came back quite angry that we have chosen to live in these bubbles.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“How do we provide the funding, but it’s not reliant on our spring vacation?” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“I was interviewing organizations as much as they were interviewing me.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“I created a reputation for myself that nobody wanted to hire me.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“Business is successful because of hard work and luck.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“I started by looking at magazines and moved to hiring designers and buying forecast trend reports.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“How, when we show up at a trade show, do we look like the other things in the marketplace?” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“I feel like it’s job first, education paired second.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“We’re producing tens of thousands of units annually.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“Artisans on average are supporting 5.7 dependents.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“It’s amazing to see this direct foreign investment circulate and have a multiplier effect.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“You have to trust the mentors and take advice, but you’re the one running your business.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

“An ant hill is built by a lot of ants working on their one specific task, moving on grain of sand at a time.” Alicia Wallace, @KAZI_Goods

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 16, 2018
Hope, Cookies, and the End of Relationship Violence, with Junita Flowers, Junita’s Jar

Junita’s Jar donates a portion of their profits to end relationship violence.

One year ago, Junita Flowers said, “Clarity comes while you are working.” And, she is always working. So, it comes as no surprise that she launched a new brand, Junita’s Jar. They offer new products, including 3 oz snack packs. She has a new overarching message, #HopeMunchesOn. And her new job title is “Hope Muncher in Chief.” Still, she remains true to her mission. She brings hope to women experiencing relationship violence.

“Junita’s Jar is focused on creating meaningful conversations that foster education and awareness around relationship violence,” Junita explains. A portion of profits from each purchase of Junita’s Jar cookies is donated to support education and awareness initiatives leading to the end of relationship violence.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Junita Flowers

“We believe in the power of really good food and desserts to bring people together.” @JunitaLFlowers

“Our overarching message is ‘Hope munches on!’” @JunitaLFlowers

“It was survival mode.” @JunitaLFlowers

“It’s the clarity and the focus of being on the other side of trauma.” @JunitaLFlowers

“We are a cookie company on a mission.” @JunitaLFlowers

“Our goal is to be purveyors of hope.” @JunitaLFlowers

“Everybody wants to be heard. And everybody wants to be validated.” @JunitaLFlowers

“That’s the movement that I want to be part of creating.” @JunitaLFlowers

“Even in the smallest of crumbs, goodness still exists.” @JunitaLFlowers

“I believe we’re all born with this purpose.” @JunitaLFlowers

“Usually, purpose comes from that place that we’re not the expert.” @JunitaLFlowers

“Say yes to the uncomfortable things, because that’s where the bulk of lessons are and that’s where your courage appears.” @JunitaLFlowers

“Be prepared to pivot, but never quit.” @JunitaLFlowers

“You have to trust your gut so that you can live with your decision.” @JunitaLFlowers


Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 02, 2018
When Vision Meets Purpose, with Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

Hands & Feet creates apparel with inspiring messages and donates 50% of the profits to end childhood hunger.

In the US, around 13.1 million children struggle with food insecurity. The mission of Hands & Feet is to help end childhood hunger in the United States. According to the company’s Founder, Susan Elwer, “We accomplish this by donating 50% of the profits to our local non-profit partners who are working to end childhood hunger in the United States. There is enough food available in the United States for everyone. The issue is how do we get the food into the hands of the people who need it and at the right time?”

Susan is familiar with food insecurity. “I grew up in a single parent household that relied on welfare for housing, food, and medical needs. Although we had limited financial resources, I never felt like I did without. When it got closer to payday or food stamp day, the contents of our cupboards would dwindle, but I don't think I gave it much thought.

“Looking back, I can appreciate how good my mom was at meal planning and budgeting. I don't think it was until around the fourth grade that I realized my circumstances were different than some of my friends. I especially remember never having the option to pack a cold lunch because I received free hot lunch at school. As I got older and realized we didn't have ‘regular’ money to buy food, trips to the grocery store grew increasingly embarrassing because we had to pay with food stamps. I would typically help with bagging or make myself scarce when it came time to pay.”

Entrepreneurship Was Not in Her Life Plan

She did not grow up imagining herself as an entrepreneur. “As a child, I was quiet and shy. I did what I was told and followed the rules. I didn't rock the boat - at school or home. As I got older, I knew that if I wanted to have a different life than those I saw around me, I would need to get an education beyond high school. When I first told my mother that I wanted to go to college, she immediately dismissed the idea and said I should get a job instead. At the time her response made me angry. Now, as an adult, I realize she was speaking from a place of fear. She knew she couldn't help with college expenses so therefore to her; it wasn't an option.”

Despite the barriers, Susan found a way to complete her degree at Winona State University, where she studies Sociology and Criminal Justice.

“Until four years ago I was a stay at home mother, a role that I loved and embraced wholeheartedly,” Susan says. “When our youngest daughter was in the first grade, I decided to re-enter the workforce. For the past four years, I have worked as an assistant in a pre-school room.”

Turning an Idea into a Business

How did Susan come up with the idea for Hands & Feet? “In late 2015 I was sitting in church and had a vision to create apparel with inspiring and encouraging messages to change the conversation. My vision didn't go any further than the piece of paper I wrote it on.” She knew it was a good idea, but the idea seemed incomplete. It wasn’t until November 2016, that she came up with a greater purpose for the business.

“I was working as an assistant in my pre-school classroom. One of the teachers told me that a 4-year-old student of ours had gone the first three months of the school year without a lunch. This broke my heart and brought me to tears. Immediately this brought up memories of growing up on welfare. I was all too familiar with the shame and stigma associated with being on welfare. I knew that this was my opportunity to do something.

“This was when vision met purpose. We took my vision for creating apparel with inspiring messages and combined it with the purpose of helping to end childhood hunger in the United States. In August of 2017, we launched Hands & Feet. We named our company Hands & Feet because we want to be of service to others.”

How did Hands & Feet go beyond the idea phase? “We thought we had a good idea, but we tested the concept with friends, family, and other business people. The feedback we received was extremely positive and encouraging. People agreed that we had a workable concept. From there we reached into our network of people for help on how to build a website, how to produce apparel, how to do PR, to understand who is working on hunger-related issues and more.”

Challenges and Luck

What was their biggest challenge along the way? “One of our biggest challenges continues to be building brand awareness. I have decided not to return to the classroom in the fall so I can devote all my energy to building Hands & Feet.” How have they gotten the word out so far? According to Susan, “Our presence on social media platforms - Facebook and Instagram. Also, we have participated in different pop-up events. This has allowed us to meet our potential customers and tell our story firsthand and build relationships.”

They had a few lucky breaks along the way. “My initial vision for Hands & Feet was to be a retail apparel brand. Shortly after we launched, we had the amazing opportunity to create shirts for the Walk to End Hunger at the Mall of America. Although creating corporate and event-based apparel wasn't something that we initially thought about offering we quickly realized this is another way to build brand awareness.”

What is Next for Hands & Feet?

“We are in the process of figuring out how to build an infrastructure to support some big corporate opportunities we are pursuing: how to supply hundreds of thousands of shirts for those opportunities. When we do this, our impact will rocket to millions of meals created. Also, we are continuing to build our retail presence organically through a variety of avenues, including pop-ups, makers markets, and other traditional retail outlets.”

Their idea seems to be gaining traction. In 2017, with just a few months of operation, Hands & Feet contributed enough money to their nonprofit partner to provide over 18,000 meals. For 2018 their goal is to create 100,000 meals.

What has been most rewarding for Susan? “The impact Hands & Feet is having in our community and across the United States. In addition, launching my own business has turned me into a dreamer and doer. I'm driven by the unwavering support of my husband Eric and the ability to give my daughters a front row seat to my journey.”

Best Advice for Social Entrepreneurs

What is the best advice that Susan can pass along to early-stage social entrepreneurs? “Don't be afraid to ask for help. No one expects you to have all the answers. You will be amazed at how willing people are to share their expertise.” She adds, “Slow down and be present. If I hadn't slowed down and reflected on the need I saw in one 4-year-old boy's life - Hands & Feet wouldn't be here today. When you see an opportunity, move on it! One simple act can make an impact beyond your wildest imagination.”

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Susan Elwer

“I had a vision come to me to create apparel with inspiring messages.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“If I was going to wear apparel, I wanted that message to mean something to me.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“It didn’t go anywhere except my journal.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“One of the teachers told me, we’ve got a student who has gone the first three months of school without a lunch.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“It brought back memories of my own childhood.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“I didn’t have a why. I didn’t have a purpose.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“In 2016, vision met purpose.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“We wouldn’t know where best to spend those dollars, so let’s go to the experts.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Wherever you’re purchasing, that’s where those dollars go.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Our customers want to feel like they’re making an impact in their own community.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Going hungry, it’s a silent issue. No one wants to talk about it.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“More often than not, it’s working families.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“This is an OK thing. I can go ask for help.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“How exactly are these garments made? That’s the other part of this equation.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“We want to make sure the product itself has a good back story as well.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Now more than ever, consumers are savvy.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“You can’t build a business by yourself.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Launching Hands & Feet turned me into a dreamer and a doer.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Nothings going to get done if you’re just sitting there.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“We didn’t really have a goal. We said, let’s just put this out there and see where it goes.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Hands & Feet is an apparel company, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to create meals for children.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“It shows strength and courage to be able to ask for help.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“You don’t have to know it all.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“There are people in the world who are more than happy to share their time and expertise with you.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“If I hadn’t slowed down and reflected on the needs of this one 4-year-old boy, Hands & Feet would not be here.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

“There are opportunities out there for all of us.” Susan Elwer, Hands & Feet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jun 25, 2018
Five Impact Entrepreneur Fellowships Up for Grabs, with Mary Rick, Impact Hub MSP and FINNovation Lab Collaboration

The Impact Hub Minneapolis - Saint Paul and the FINNovation Lab have teamed up to create a new impact startup incubator. Now they are offering five $50,000 fellowships.

Social Entrepreneurs have a new place to gather. The Impact Hub Minneapolis – Saint Paul (MSP) has teamed up with the FINNovation Lab to occupy a new space at FINNEGANS House in Minneapolis’ East Town District. The Impact Hub MSP will focus on co-working, collaboration, and events. FINNovation Lab is providing venture services for impact entrepreneurs. According to Mary Rick, CEO at FINNovation Lab and Impact Hub MSP Collaboration, “Our mission is to inspire, nourish, and scale inclusive impact enterprises, entrepreneurs, and community leaders.”

The collaboration is off to a fast start. They launched a new FINNovation Fellowship. “What it includes is $50,000 of a living stipend, one year of co-working, and nine months of curated curriculum and mentorship,” Mary explains. “We want to be able to help them at the really, really formative months and years of their business building…We want to give them the resources to make sure they’re kicked off in the right direction.”

The FINNovation Fellowship application period closes on July 15.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Mary Rick

“It’s a collaboration between two local organizations.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“Impact Hub is essentially a co-working, event, and community space.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We are building a one-stop shop for impact for impact entrepreneurs and enterprises.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“The FINNovation Lab is really doing more of the deep dive and robust venture services.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“The Impact Hub has done a tremendous job over the years of having a lot of different dynamic events.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“It is all one global community and we have a lot of different ways to connect.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We are specifically looking at impact enterprises and impact entrepreneurs.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We want to be that place where people go to really build their business and they have some sort of social purpose.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“Our first program is our Impact Entrepreneur Fellowship Program.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We want to give them the resources to make sure they’re kicked off in the right direction.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We’re industry agnostic.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We’re looking at both the individual and the idea.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“It will be an individually-focused program, not an organization or team-focused program.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We aim to start locally and regionally first.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We think this will be a nationally-recognized program.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We see ourselves as a business incubator.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“This program is entity-type agnostic. We’re accepting for-profit and nonprofit models.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We look to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“Impact Hubs globally are focused on the Sustainable Development Goals.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“Jacquie Berglund is the Founder of the FINNovation Lab.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“I just became a really, really curious person.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“I did a year of rural community development work in Kenya.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“That experience was one of the absolute touchstones in my life.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“We students were not sent in to figure anything out or solve anyone else’s problems. We were sent in to learn.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“It was a big starry-eyed project. We ended up closing our doors.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“I was with Peace Coffee for about five years.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“Trust yourself. Get connected. And figure out how to stay inspired.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

“Look for that next in-person experience.” @maryrick @ImpactHubMSP and FINNovation Lab

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jun 18, 2018
This App Launched a Female Solidarity Movement, with Aine Mulloy, GirlCrew

GirlCrew is a social networking app for women to make new friends.

It seems that female solidarity has never been more important. Women still struggle to gain meaningful power over their lives and choices. One in five women will experience violence at the hand of their intimate partner. Systemic gender discrimination still exists. Even though women make up 50.8% of the US population, only 39% of all managerial roles are held by women. When it comes to CEO positions, only 4.2% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women.

Aine Mulloy of GirlCrew was born for a time like this. “It has always been important to me to be part of something that is bigger than myself, a company that people feel attached to, and one that is making a positive change somehow.”

Aine participated in her first protest around the age of four. “We staged a protest outside our house, demanding our parents read more of our favorite bedtime story. We wrote out placards attached to broom handles and chanted as we marched around the garden in pajamas and wellies. Unfortunately, our grasp of writing wasn’t the best, and our signs read ‘We wont more!’ But it did work. It was one of my first tastes of social activism, albeit on a small scale.”

When Aine co-founded GirlCrew, she knew she had found like-minded women. “I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many inspiring, brave, and tenacious women through GirlCrew, and I can only hope one day someone may say the same about me. Maybe it’s because I’ve four younger siblings, but I truly believe people have a responsibility to do good, share wisdom, and help one another where and when you can.”

GirlCrew is solving a frequent problem for millions of women worldwide. “It can be really hard to make new friends as an adult, especially if you have moved to a new city or country,” Aine explains.

“GirlCrew is aimed at women looking to make new friends, either because they have moved to a new city or country, or because they have found themselves at a different life stage to their friends. Their friends might be settling down, getting married and having children, but they aren’t. The majority of GirlCrew’s members are women aged 25-40.”

It Started With a Tinder Hack

GirlCrew got its start when one of the company’s co-founders, Elva Carri, used Tinder in an unusual way. Aine tells the story. “One Friday night Elva was staying in because although there was a club night she wanted to go to, she didn't want to go solo and all her friends were either busy or tired. So, she 'hacked' Tinder. She changed her gender setting to male so that her profile would show up to all the other single girls in Dublin where she lives. She put up a profile picture explaining she was actually female and not looking for dates but just looking for some people to go out dancing with. She thought people would think she was crazy but did it anyway. Within 24 hours she had over 100 enthusiastic matches, and GirlCrew grew from there.”

Elva knew she was going to need help, so she teamed up with Aine and Pamela Newenham. The three co-founders began growing GirlCrew groups in cities all over the world.

GirlCrew raised funding from private investors as well as the Irish government state agency Enterprise Ireland. GirlCrew makes money through events, partnerships, and subscriptions. They have a premium subscription offering. Premium members get four hosted events per month, as well as various discounts and their own private group. GirlCrew organizes careers events called GirlCrew Pro, and entrepreneur dinners called the Female Founders Supper Club. They have also built partnerships with major corporations. “Microsoft is our main partner for GirlCrew Pro, and Dell EMC is our main partner for the Female Founders Supper Club,” Aine explains.

They Didn’t Always Get It Right

Like any startup, GirlCrew didn’t always get it right. “We initially outsourced the development of our app which was a big mistake” Aine describes. “Thankfully we got an amazing technical advisor on board, who was able to guide us through everything. We had to start over from scratch again, but we did it and brought development in-house. Without our tech advisor, we wouldn’t have known if the developers we interviewed were bluffing and made things up. We might have made some more costly decisions.”

They also experimented with dividing larger groups into smaller groups. “We divided London into East London, South London, North London, West London and Central London.” That did not work out. They learned to keep the city-wide groups together while maintaining positive conversations. They’ve had to learn to be strict about their guidelines, which include respect for others.

Here’s what Aine has learned. “Move fast. Speed is the key to start-up success. You need to have a clear vision of where you’re going, and you need to get there quickly. There’s a phrase in the start-up world which feeds into this, and its ‘done is better than perfect.’ You can always iterate later.”

Growing GirlCrew

GirlCrew is growing rapidly. They have chapters in over fifty cities worldwide and are adding more. For those who are in a location that does not have a local GirlCrew, they also have topic groups such as Trips & Travel, Careers, and Entrepreneurs. “Ultimately, we don't want any woman to have to be stuck home alone on a Friday night if they want to go out,” Aine says. “We want women everywhere to have a community behind them, and to be able to get support, advice, and recommendations easily from a trusted source.”

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Aine Mulloy

“It’s incredible to see women come together and banding together.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“There’s the idea of a rising water lifts all boats.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“People felt that they can’t speak up, or when they did, their voices weren’t heard.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“I don’t know if all social media is actually social.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“GirlCrew helps that online-offline piece.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“People find housemates through us. They find jobs through us.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“It’s truly social beyond just sharing, sharing, sharing.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“Any member can create and host an event.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“You’re not relying on someone else to do things for you.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“The sky’s the limit in terms of what people want to do.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“Tinder is not the first place you might think of when you’re thinking of female empowerment.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“It just really snowballed from there.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“It grew initially very organically.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“Whatever you put in, you’ll get it back ten-fold.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“We were growing GirlCrew as well as having our full-time jobs.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“She met our co-founder, Pamela at an entrepreneur summit.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“The three of us squirreled ourselves away and developed our first business plan.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“It was a lot of people telling their friends about it.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“We played a couple of pranks along the way.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“We’re slightly different to anything else out there at the moment.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“It’s one of those ideas that people seem to love.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“We need to get to scale as quickly as we can.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“We mapped out city by city.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“The best thing is seeing how much the community has helped one another.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“To me, it’s the small things that are proof that people are willing to help one another.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

“It’s great to see that we’ve created something that is positive.” @AineMulloy, @GirlCrewHQ

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jun 11, 2018
Upcycling Food Waste into Tea with a Purpose, with Daniela Uribe, Lazy Bear Tea

Lazy Bear Tea is a socially and environmentally inspired beverage company brewing teas from cascara, the dried coffee fruit.

I suspect that, like me, you drink coffee…lots of coffee. But, also like me, you’ve probably never held a coffee fruit in your hand. The coffee bean that we are familiar with is the seed of the coffee fruit. And, just like a plumb, peach, or cherry, coffee fruit has a skin and flesh that surrounds the seed. The coffee fruit is known as cascara, the Spanish word for husk. We know what happens with the coffee bean, but what about the husk?

Cascara is commonly a wasted byproduct of coffee production. Lazy Bear Tea purchases cascara to brew into cascara tea, doubling farmer incomes while improving the environment. Cascara is a delicious and nutritious base for beverages traditionally consumed in some coffee-growing countries. Using cascara in beverages not only diverts waste from the ecosystem but also creates additional and meaningful sources of income for coffee farmers.

Coffee is one of the most highly traded agricultural commodities globally, yet most coffee farmers live in poverty. These farmers grow millions of hectares of coffee fruit, often selling the bean for low prices due to limited market access. While direct and fair trade have emerged to address issues of access, a vast income gap still exists for most coffee farmers.

Coffee production yields millions of tons of wasted cascara that is left behind after the inner beans are collected and sold. With no market for the cascara, the fruit piles up, is dumped into waterways and can pollute local ecosystems. It’s estimated that each hectare of coffee creates 2.25 tons of cascara waste each year. This fruit contributes to 75% of the water pollution associated with coffee production. With over 10 million hectares of coffee globally, there are over 20 million tons of waste each year.

When Lazy Bear Tea purchases cascara, coffee farmers harvest once, but profit twice. This means an incredible boost to farmer livelihoods with minor change to their existing farming practices.

Lazy Bear’s cascara teas are brewed with natural, simple ingredients to celebrate the exceptional flavor and nutrition of the coffee fruit. These teas are like traditional beverages brewed and consumed at home in places like Yemen and Bolivia for hundreds of years, but until now not commercialized in mass markets in a ready-to-drink (RTD) format.

Daniela Uribe’s Early Start to Entrepreneurship

Daniela grew up in Pereira, Colombia. “I spent endless days playing in the streets with friends,” she explains. “One of our favorite things to do was come up with ways to make a little money to buy ice cream and other treats after school. We created dozens of businesses out of our parents' kitchens and living rooms, so I guess I've had an entrepreneurial knack for a while!”

Daniela spent her childhood weekends with cousins on coffee farms and got to know about coffee production. “Colombia was still suffering from a great deal of violence in my childhood,” she says. “The obvious inequality of our society was evident and painful even to a child. I've been dreaming of ways to be useful in the world since I can remember. As I child I would find small ways to make a difference. It was particularly inspiring for me to see my mom's dedication to our community and her own sense of responsibility to be of use was deeply ingrained in me.”

When Daniela was a teenager, she and her mother moved to Washington, D.C. as political asylees. Still Daniela wanted to make a difference. “I tried the academic research route briefly as an undergraduate with ambitions to get a PhD and help make sense of what was happening through research,” she explains. “It simply did not work for me. I wanted to be closer to the ‘real world,’ co-envisioning solutions.”

The Drink that Made the Difference

Although Daniela grew up in a coffee-growing family in Colombia, she had never had cascara tea. Then a cousin brought her cascara to try. “I looked at him like he was crazy. What do you mean, the trash that piles up on the farm? You want me to drink this?”

However, it was love at first sip. “The first time I tried the tea I was blown away,” she exclaims. “Something that tasted that good had the potential to change the life of farmers and lessen the contamination of waterways near coffee farms.”

Daniela wondered about the commercial viability of cascara. Around this same time Starbucks and Blue Bottle Coffee introduced cascara-based drinks to their menus. “That's when I knew we were onto something bigger. I bought a few pounds of cascara, started brewing concoctions after work” Daniela recruited her life-partner, Drew Fink, and one of Drew’s classmates, Erik Ornitz. They rented space in a commercial kitchen called Commonwealth Kitchen.

To sell the first few bottles of their cascara tea, Daniel put a few bottles into a cooler, strapped it on her back and rode her bicycle from shop to shop. “Those first few stores allowed us to do in-store demos and tell people more about our company and mission. It was those first few people we spoke with who would become the pioneer customers and backers of our vision for Lazy Bear Tea.”

Learning as They Go

“There are lots of things to keep track of and learn as you get started: health permits, scaling recipes, learning industry terms,” Daniela explains. “We had to learn that our initial customers were not the people who would eventually buy and drink our tea, but rather the gatekeepers to those individuals, like store owners, buyers, cafe managers.”

Daniela learned that store owners might not share their passion for helping coffee farmers. “They may not share the same priorities or values we had created our product around. We had to create new sales materials and pitches that would resonate with them. We had to understand the motivations of many different players that are critical to your success as a food business.”

As Lazy Bear Tea is scaling past their first city into the Northeastern United States, they have had to continue to learn. “Learning how to go from proof of concept to scaling even at a very small stage. How to activate distributors, plan out production, make projections, etc.”

The Reward in the Journey

“Getting up every morning and knowing I will face a new set of challenges and questions to solve,” Daniela describes. “Not knowing what is ahead yet having clear purpose and vision is a really exciting place to be in at this point in my career and life.

“Today, there is a limited supply of dried, processed cascara, which makes our supply chain development work critical. We have already begun to build our supply chain in Colombia where we are working with the Coffee Growers Federation to meet demand from Lazy Bear Tea and other buyers. Furthermore, we will pool cascara production by working with a community wet mill project in the town of Belen de Umbria working with dozens of female coffee growers. This model significantly streamlines the collection and drying process and improves the quality of the cascara sourced. We will also be activating new retail partners and regions to boost sales and exposure of our brand and mission.”

Daniela’s Lessons Learned

Daniela had this advice for early-stage social entrepreneurs. “Solidify your passion and conviction very early on. Use that passion to recruit a small circle of supporters who will be there to support you and productively challenge you along the way. Running a small business is really hard work with daily ups and downs. While you know the problems you are solving matters and your solution is worth a shot, there will be countless people who will stand in the way of your success. Tapping into your passion and the clear reasons you are doing what you are doing will keep you know you must do.”

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Daniela Uribe:

“There are about 22 million tons of coffee waste produced every year.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“Every farm struggles with this issue.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“It’s incredibly polluting.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“I spent all my weekends just roaming through the fields.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“I became quite obsessed.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“I thought it was a really delicious idea.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“It could divert waste from the farm and be a source of income for the farmers.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“It would be so difficult to start a company based on an ingredient most people had never heard of.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“If that was not a sign, I don’t know what else could be.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“For us, that was a huge turning point.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“If I don’t do this, I will never forgive myself. I can’t not do this.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“We found a shared commercial kitchen in Boston called CommonWealth Kitchen.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“It’s a food incubator that welcomes companies like us.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“All the steps were very inevitable, once it was set in motion.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“I would just go around to get people to either love the tea or feel so sorry for me, they would say yes.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“You learn along the way.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“Your first gatekeeper is that store owner or buyer at that supermarket.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“Our hypothesis was that everybody would love the impact story.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“We had to pivot a little bit from relying so much on our halo.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“It was humbling to realize that the story would get us a long way, but not all the way.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“Sloths love the coffee region where I grew up.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“There is this affinity we felt with this chill sloth.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“So far we’ve funded it ourselves.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“We were eligible for iLab fellowships, Rock fellowships.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“We’re able to just learn and be really scrappy with what we have.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“We went online, Googled ‘contract manufacturers beverages northeast.’” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“In this business, so much of it is about relationship and trust.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

“You’re going to come across so many challenges.” Daniela Uribe, @LazyBearTea

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jun 04, 2018
Elisa Birnbaum, Author of “In the Business of Change: How Social Entrepreneurs are Disrupting Business as Usual”

In the Business of Change features stories of changemakers who use the power of business to address society’s most pressing problems.

Elisa Birnbaum is the publisher and editor-in-chief of SEE Change Magazine, a digital publication of social entrepreneurship and social change. You may recall her interview from June 2017. Elisa has a new book out, In the Business of Change: How Social Entrepreneurs are Disrupting Business as Usual.

The book highlights how social entrepreneurs are using business savvy to create change in their communities. Elisa tells stories from a wide-range of sectors, including employment, food, art, education, and social justice. Each chapter focuses on lessons learned and measurable impact. The book provides practical tips for starting and scaling a social enterprise.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Elisa Birnbaum:

“It’s part storytelling and part lessons for those who want to start their own social enterprise.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“It’s for the average person who wants inspiring storytelling.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“Look at all of this amazing work being done.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“I wanted to provide a broad spectrum of people doing things in different sectors.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“The book has actually been on my mind for a long time.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“It’s good to tell stories in different medium.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“You want to get these stories out there in as many ways as you can.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“This was a lot more strategic.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“There were a couple of chapters that ended up changing.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“You have to be flexible.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“Social entrepreneurs are taking a bigger role in systems change.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“I didn’t start writing until I had a contract.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“I had a book on my mind for many years.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“People don’t get to see the grit, the passion, and the work that goes into it.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“These stories, I find so inspiring.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

“I enjoyed the process more than I imagined I would.” @ElisaBirnbaum @SEEChangemag

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


May 28, 2018
Making a Sustainable Difference, with Sasha Kramer, SOIL

SOIL is working in Haiti to design, test, and implement social business models to increase access to sanitation services.

When the business model is right, anything can be a valuable asset, even human waste. SOIL uses a business model that provides sanitation services, improves soil fertility, and creates livelihoods in Haiti. Soil collects human waste and transforms it into compost that can be safely used in agriculture.

Ecologist Sasha Kramer of SOIL describes her work this way. “We are taking human waste, something that is one of the largest factors in public health issues in the world. And, we are transforming it into something that I, as ecologist thinks is valuable in the world, which is soil, for rebuilding soil fertility and improving agriculture and reforestation.” And, by using social business models, they are creating livelihoods for Hattians. This business model could be a way to provide sanitation services to some of the 2.6 billion people worldwide who lack access to a toilet.

SOIL seeks to prove that it’s possible to sustainably provide affordable and dignified household sanitation services even in the world’s most under-resourced communities. In SOIL’s simple social business design, wastes from SOIL in-home toilets – locally branded as “EkoLakay” - are collected weekly and transported to a composting waste treatment facility to be safely treated and transformed into rich, agricultural-grade compost. This compost is then sold for agricultural application, improving both the fertility and water retention of soil. Revenue from monthly toilet user fees and compost sales are collected to support ongoing project costs and to showcase the potential for private sector involvement in the provision of affordable and sustainable sanitation services in the world’s most impoverished and water-scarce communities.

An Early Start

Sasha Kramer is an ecologist and human rights advocate who has been living and working in Haiti since 2004. But her journey started much earlier. “I grew up in an isolated rural community in upstate NY, but I was lucky that my parents worked hard to expose me to the inequalities in the world through books and movies,” Sasha explains. “I especially remember being influenced by a book called ‘The Best of Life Magazine,’ which had incredible photos from heroic times in history.

“I was always aware that I was lucky to grow up in safety and comfort and it made me want to find a way to balance my undeserved luck through finding a career where I could challenge the systems that create the conditions where not everyone can experience the same luck that I did.”

Sasha first came to Haiti in 2004 as a human rights observer in the wake of a coup. She spent the next two years traveling in and out of Haiti. “I fell in love with the country,” she says. “It became very clear to me that the most pervasive of human rights abuses in Haiti is poverty.”

A Misstep

In her goal to create a sustainable difference, Sasha says she did not always get it right. “Our initial misstep was one that is not at all uncommon,” she explains. “It’s the idea that providing the infrastructure is going to solve the problem. It’s relatively easy to come in and build a bunch of toilets, give them to people, step out, take the photos and say the project is completed. I think that has been the issue with development projects worldwide.

“Over the years, I’ve come to recognize how naive that really was to assume that, where the level of need was greatest, that people’s willingness to volunteer would be higher. In fact, it’s just the opposite. People who are struggling just to live don’t have time to clean up someone else’s waste and not making a living doing so.”

After three years of giving away toilets, SOIL realized that their model was not working. “We knew that we needed to find a way for people to have a sanitation service that people would want so much that they would be willing to pay something for it.”

Then came the devastating earthquake of 2010. SOIL sent half of their team to Port-au-Prince to see how they could be helpful. For four years, SOIL provided emergency services. Through that emergency response experience, SOIL designed a toilet that uses a replaceable container.

“We took what we had learned from the earthquake in terms of toilet design and waste treatment and brought them back to Cap-Haitien. That’s how we ended up designing our social business for household sanitation.”

SOIL’s Impact

SOIL’s EkoLakay household sanitation social business pilot is providing over 1,000 households in the greater Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince regions with dignified, in-home sanitation. And SOIL’s EcoSan waste treatment facilities treat and transform more than 500 tons of human waste annually, providing a powerful example of how to affordably and effectively increase access to sustainable sanitation services worldwide.

Even as a small grassroots effort, SOIL’s initiative is now one of the most promising tests globally of the paradigm-shifting hypothesis that sanitation no longer needs to focus on waste disposal, but rather on the ecologically beneficial and economically viable nutrient recapture and agricultural reuse of human waste.

SOIL’s model is also one of the few interventions globally that has shown progress towards creating a working social business model for providing sustainable sanitation services to informal urban settlements.

However, Sasha reminds us, “SOIL’s technology and service has been specifically designed for Haiti’s cultural and environmental context and, although most components of the sanitation service we provide are relevant for growing urban areas around the world, replication of our approach would require thoughtful adaptation to the local context in which it was being applied.”

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Sasha Kramer:

“I think about it from the perspective on an ecologist.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

“We’re transforming a public health risk into an environmental solution.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

“2.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to a toilet.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

“Globally, soil fertility is declining.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

 “We learned that lesson the hard way.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

“I was very curious to understand these two different perspectives.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

“By being forced to start slowly, it gives you a chance to establish the relationships.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

“We designed a system that is not heavily reliant on heavy infrastructure.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

“You’re going to fall on your face so many times along the way.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


May 21, 2018
The Stories that Change Us, Jackie Biederman, Changemaker Podcast

Changemaker Podcast is about social good startup stories, inspiring life lessons, and unexpected ideas.

Why do people and businesses want to learn to tell stories? According to Jackie Biederman, host the Changemaker Podcast, “That’s how we’re wired as people. We want to tune in to stories.”

Stories move us. They take us out of our logical brains and help us to connect with one another.

When people hear stories of social good, they are engaged, informed and inspired.

Because social entrepreneurs are everyday people like you and me, when listeners hear their stories, they see themselves as possible changemakers too.

The stories inspire people to act. Listeners are more inclined to give time, talent, and treasure to help a cause. Or, they take the leap and become changemakers themselves.

The circle expands and encourages more social good and more stories that need to be told.

So, more social entrepreneurs telling their stories to more listeners equals more social good in the world.

According to Jackie, the mission of Changemaker Podcast is “To inspire people to dream and empower them to act so that, together, we can change our world for the better.” How do they do that? Jackie says “By sharing stories, ideas, and lessons about people who are solving some of the world's biggest problems.  By focusing on the power of an individual and the power of business to drive change.”

Jackie grew up in the suburbs in Minnesota with her parents and 2 older sisters. “My sisters are brutally honest and have told me their candid opinions of all of my business ideas,” she laughs. “They love Changemaker and have been so supportive in providing feedback to make it better, so I know that I'm onto something!”

Jackie started Changemaker to spark a sense of hope. “There are so many problems all around us.,” she explains. “It can feel hopeless and leave us feeling defeated.  I get depressed when reading the news, but it's helped me to decide to be part of the solution. I've realized that small actions can drive positive change.”

Instead of focusing on negative news, Jackie decided to focus on solutions. “I'm driven to amplify the positive stuff happening in the world in the midst of negativity. When I came across social entrepreneurs I thought, ‘that's who I want to help.’”

Jackie joined online forums and groups. She found people who were new to business, and yet wanting to make a difference. “While there are resources, they can be overwhelming and dry,” Jackie says. “Since I didn't know much about this area or running a business, I decided to enlist the help of people who are a few steps ahead.”

For Changemaker Podcast, Jackie collected stories and lessons from social entrepreneurs, “so we can learn from each other. I want to make it easier for people to make a difference.”

Looking back, Jackie wishes that she would have acted sooner. “What didn't work was living in my head. Thinking through ideas and doing research is important but can harbor the insecurities I have for putting myself out there and publishing my work. There's risk in getting uncomfortable, but that's the only way to help.”

She was eventually inspired to make progress instead of waiting for perfection. Jackie likes to quote Seth Godin, "Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.” To begin, Jackie created a pilot program with two women, Ashley and Maria. “It wasn't perfect, but it gave people something to comment on and understand more clearly what I was attempting to do. It also gave me a starting point that I could refine and make better.”

“I'm inspired by how much good there is in the world,” she exclaims. “People are giving their time and using their talents in ways that is truly driving change. They are starting with nothing to create solutions. To discover their stories and creativity and hear about their dreams is what gets me so excited!”

What can storytelling teach us about business?

To hone her craft, Jackie has studied storytelling. Here are a few tips that Jackie shared about the power of stories:

  • “Have a focus. If someone will take away one thing from what you’re trying to say, what would you want that to be?
  • “Be authentic. People want to connect with you as a person. Some tips that are used in radio or audio storytelling are, to keep sentences short. If you listen to how you naturally speak, there are a lot of short phrases. There are a lot of dashes or pauses.
  • “Take people with you and raise questions - get people curious and wondering what's next. Read a good book and there’s motion in it. This happened, then this happened, then this happened.
  • “Don't be afraid to kill. Ira Glass said, ‘By killing, you can make something even better live.’ That’s really hard to do, because we’ve invested so much. But it’s something that can make your product even better in the end.”

Season one of Changemaker Podcast is now available. You can find it at

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Jackie Biederman:

“We have this innate feeling to tune into stories.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“I strive to tell a story with each episode.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“If you can’t summarize what your focus is in one sentence, you need to rework it.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“People want to connect with you as a person.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“Don’t be afraid to kill.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“It wasn’t a phrase that I’d heard before.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“Business owners and entrepreneurs are some of the most amazing and creative people.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“Social entrepreneurs were even more exciting.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“What if I could interview people who are a few steps ahead?”

“It takes around 150 to 200 hours.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

“Start small and take a step.” @JackieBiederman @changemakerpod

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


May 13, 2018
These Intrapreneurs are Feeding the Hungry, with Megan Shea and Chip Heim, The Soulfull Project

The Soulfull Project is a certified BCorp. For every serving of cereal purchased, The Soulfull Project donates a serving to a food bank.

The latest data from the Economic Research Service at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that 41 million people in the United States are living with food insecurity. 13 million of those are children. When children are hungry, it impacts their health. Poor health can make it difficult to learn. And a lack of education can trap another generation in poverty.

According to Megan Shea, co-founder of The Soulfull Project, “Food insecurity is more than just a number. It affects every community.”

In the past year, Megan and co-founder Chip Heim have traveled the country to see hunger first-hand. “As you get into each community you see, the one thing that is the same is that there is food insecurity everywhere. But, how and why each community is struggling with it is different and how they respond is different.”

Chip adds, “What I did not know when this started is, who uses a food bank. It’s not just people who don’t have homes. Most of the people who use food banks are the working poor…It really hit home, seeing who uses the food banks and realizing it could be me one day who needs a food bank. What kinds of foods would I want to eat?”

The Soulfull Project uses a buy-one-give-one model to reduce food insecurity. For every serving of cereal purchased, they donate a serving of cereal to a food bank in a local community.

The Soulfull Project launched last year with a pilot program. “We were focused on the area we’re in, right outside of Philadelphia,” Megan explains. “As the company has grown, we’ve grown our partners. We’re now partnered with over 200 food banks around the country.” They have set an ambitious goal for their new company of providing one million servings in 2018.

A Broken Promise Leads to a Breakthrough Idea

In 2015, Megan and Chip found themselves in a neighborhood near Dallas, TX. As employees of the Campbell Soup Company, they were conducting ethnographic surveys, talking to people about what they ate and how they lived their everyday lives. “We were meeting with families that were in a higher income bracket,” Chip remembers. “Completely by chance, we ended up meeting this family that had no food in their cabinets, nothing in their fridge. For me, that was the moment, when we walked out of that home and realized the situation that family was in and that we might be able to make a difference and help families in need.”

“They were dealing with hunger on a daily basis,” Megan adds. “We made this promise that we were going to help them: more than give them extra food and money but help them in a really meaningful way. But, we never followed through on that promise. We had the best of intentions, but life just got in the way.

“We came back from this trip. We came back to our jobs and our families A day turned into a week, turned into a month. A year later, we had never done anything.”

About a year later, Megan and Chip were reminded of that promise to help. Chip tells the story. “Campbell has a warehouse in Camden, NJ. We were working late on a Wednesday night. A mom knocked on the door of the warehouse. She had three kids with her. She asked if we had any food because she needed food for dinner. We gave them food. And we came inside. We said, ‘You know, we never did help that family. We’ve got to figure this out.’”

Chip and Megan sat down then and for the next hour sketched out the idea that would become The Soulfull Project. Chip says, “It was the greatest thing to come up with this concept, but the scariest thing to try to figure out how to do it.”

From Employees to Intrapreneurs

“Neither Chip nor I had ever set out to be entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurs,” Megan describes. “We had no idea how to start a business. It’s been a real learning process. Working inside Campbell, we did the most logical thing, and we didn’t tell anyone about it for a while,” she laughs. “We did this at night and on the weekends.”

Megan and Chip began researching the causes of hunger, the solutions, and how to shape a business model to make a difference. “Beyond the business model, we did a lot of research with our first giving partner, The Food Bank of South Jersey.”

Chip adds, “Honestly; our biggest nightmare would be to make something and donate something that people don’t need. So, we went right to the source.” When Megan and Chip approached the food bank, they were not sure what to expect. Chip says that “We’re not the most optimistic people…We weren’t sure they were going to like the idea. We presented it to them, and they absolutely loved it. Our four-grain hot cereal was developed with The Food Bank of South Jersey.”

With the business model, the input of the food bank, and the design of their first product, their side project started looking more and more like reality. Megan says, “We kept working on it until it got to the point where we were ready to go. We had our first three giving partners lined up. We went to our first customer in the Northeast, Wegmans, and asked them to partner with us on a test and they agreed.”

Finally, it was time to approach Campbell Soup Company and pitch their idea. “We knew that to build a model like this that is sustainable for both the mission and to continue to grow, it had to be approached just like any other business,” Megan explains.

As it happens, Megan and Chip had a meeting with the heads of finance and the divisions of Campbell Soup Company. Megan tells the story. “We had a long meeting with them one day in October. We showed them our day-job project. While they had an hour for lunch, we hijacked their lunch. While they were eating, it was the first time we showed them The Soulfull Project.

“We said this is the idea, this is the company, and this is what we want to do. I remember the President of the Americas said, ‘I don’t hear a question. It sounds like you’re telling us, this is what you’re doing.’ The reaction was immediate.” The executive team agreed to provide a small investment to start the company.

“It was a learning process for everyone,” Megan says. “I don’t think there are a lot of examples of startups operating within large companies.”

“What’s interesting about this company,” Chip says, “is that it came out of the need. We said, what is needed? And, let’s work from there out.”

Today, The Soulfull Project is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Campbell Food Company. To ensure outside scrutiny of their work, they went through the arduous process of becoming a Certified BCorp. They have an ambitious goal of providing one million servings of cereal to their 200 food bank partners.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Megan Shea and Chip Heim:

“It’s more than breakfast for yourself.” @megandshea @thesoulfullproj

“They were dealing with hunger on a daily basis.” @megandshea @thesoulfullproj

“We made this promise that we were going to help them.” @megandshea @thesoulfullproj

“Food insecurity is more than just a number.” @megandshea @thesoulfullproj

“It’s been incredibly inspiring and eye-opening.” @chiph404 @thesoulfullproj

“We’ve got to figure this out.” @chiph404 @thesoulfullproj

“It’s been a real learning process.” @megandshea @thesoulfullproj

“I dusted off my old business school textbooks.” @megandshea @thesoulfullproj

“If you start your day with a donut, your whole day is shot.” @chiph404 @thesoulfullproj

“We didn’t know that much about cereal. It was the idea.” @chiph404 @thesoulfullproj

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:



May 07, 2018
Journalism as a Force for Good, with Tina Rosenberg, Solutions Journalism Network

The Solutions Journalism Network is supporting rigorous reporting on social problems, with an eye on what works.

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. Around the world, journalism is experiencing a watershed moment. According to a Knight-Gallup survey, 84% of Americans believe that the news media is key to a healthy democracy. Less than half, 44% can name an objective news source.

Mobile, social media, and the ease of online publishing have disaggregated the news into billions of channels. 58% of those surveyed say that more sources can make it harder to stay informed. 73 say that the spread of inaccurate information on the internet is a major problem.

Local and regional news organizations face financial challenges. The rise of free classified ads, such as Craigslist, and job boards, such as Monster, have siphoned off critical revenue sources, leaving local news organizations to do more with less. Last month, the Denver Post published a picture illustrating the decline of staff levels from more than 250 in 2013 to fewer than 100 five years later.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer survey in the UK, people are consuming less news media. Why? 40% report that the news is too depressing. But does news have to leave consumers feeling depleted, powerless, and cynical?

Tina Rosenberg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist. She is the co-writer of a column in the NY Times called Fixes, which looks at social problems with an eye towards solutions. She is also the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network.

According to Rosenberg, since the 1970s Watergate era, serious journalists have “defined our jobs pretty exclusively as uncovering wrongdoing.” What is the consequence? “It has been such an exclusive focus on what’s wrong, that we are distorting people’s view of society. We are not covering the other half of the story, which is how people are solving those problems.”

The Solutions Journalism Network is attempting to legitimize and promote journalists covering solutions. “We should be writing about how people are responding to problems and what evidence there is of success.”

Rosenberg says that consumers of news can spot a story written from a solutions perspective in two ways. “It would be a story that probably talks a little bit about the problems, but also looks at how someone is trying to solve it.”

She adds, “In a way, you’ll know it’s a solutions journalism story because it will have a different psychological effect on you. With traditional journalism, which is problem-focused, the effect it has is, we tend to want to go to bed and pull the covers over our heads.” However, “If you’re reading a solutions story, it makes you feel empowered, it makes you feel excited, it makes you feel like, hey, there is stuff going on out there to change things.”

Solutions journalism describes a problem, for example, the rise of opioids, or contaminated drinking water. However, the reporting does not stop there. Solutions journalism asks the question, “Who does it better?” Who is in a similar circumstance to us, but is taking action and creating results? “That’s what solutions journalism is,” Rosenberg says. “We’re going to report on this problem, but let’s also report on who is doing a better job, and how they’re doing it.”

Journalists need not give up their role as a watchdog to practice solutions journalism. In fact, Rosenberg assets that solutions journalism is an effective way to bring about change. “If you want to have an impact, if you want to bring about change in your city, it’s great to add that solutions component. Nothing embarrasses a city official more than being told, ah-hem, fifty miles away, they’re doing a much better job with the same resources.”

The Solutions Journalism Network is increasingly working with local and regional news outlets. “A lot of local news organizations have closed. The ones that haven’t closed have cut their staff. We’re working with one paper in Alabama, for example, that had forty people, fifteen years ago, and now has seven.” The Solutions Journalism Network is helping smaller news organizations to collaborate with nearby news outlets to work on stories. “One of the things we’re trying to do,” Rosenberg explains, “is get readers, and viewers and listeners in those areas reengaged in the news.”

What is the impact of solutions journalism? Rosenberg offers several examples of cities acting, based on solution stories. She adds “Solutions journalism increases trust: not only trust in our news organization because we have a better relationship with our city when people know we’re not just doing gotcha journalism…It not only increases trust in journalism. It increases our trust in each other.”

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Tina Rosenberg:

“We have defined our jobs, pretty exclusively, as uncovering wrongdoing.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“It has been such an exclusive focus on what’s wrong, we are distorting people’s view of society.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“We should be writing about how people are responding to problems and what evidence there is of success.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“You’ll know it’s a solutions journalism story because it will have a different psychological effect on you.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“They’re thinking, ‘this is not real journalism.’” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“Real solutions journalism is going to a place and reporting on what they’re doing.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“We are not covering the other half of those stories, which is how people are solving those problems.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“Solutions journalism increases trust.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“You have a lot of newspapers that have been bought up by hedge fund managers.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“We have to produce a product that matters to people.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“It’s really having an effect.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“We have to be thinking through what matters to our audience.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

“[They] don’t trust the news because they don’t see themselves reflected or respected by the news.” @tirosenberg @soljourno

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


May 02, 2018
Focus on Purpose, with Meghan French Dunbar, Conscious Company Media

Conscious Company Media is the first multimedia organization in the country that specifically focuses on purpose-driven business.

Meghan French Dunbar grew up in the mountains of Colorado. She saw early examples of how to run a business. “Both of my parents started and operated their own small businesses and were incredibly supportive of everything my brother and I did,” she explains.

She was driven to succeed from an early age. “I was an achiever. I idolized my older brother and was obsessed with excelling in all sports, especially soccer and basketball. I was always driven to achieve academically as well and saw everything as a competition.”

Meghan also saw the importance of making a difference in the lives of others. She says, “My mother is an occupational therapist and works with kids with severe disabilities. When I was young, my mom took me to work with her often and had me watch children my age who were struggling with very sincere challenges. It planted in me a deep desire to want to help.”

Eventually, Meghan discovered the power of business to do good through her work at the Environmental Defense Fund. And she deepened her sense of purpose while attending Presidio Graduate School.

After graduation, Meghan edited magazines. However, the work did not go well. One evening, Meghan and her friend Maren Keeley talked about an idea for a magazine that focused on purpose-driven businesses. It was a fateful conversation. Three hours after Meghan and Maren had this conversation, Meghan lost her job.

Meghan and Maren decided to launch Conscious Company Magazine. But there was a lot to do. They cold-emailed a list of influencers and, to their surprise, most of the people they approached agreed to be interviewed.

To fund their first run of the magazine, they launched a Kickstarter campaign. They hoped to raise $50,000. Unfortunately, they fell short of their goal. Because of Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing model, after all of Meghan and Maren’s efforts, they received none of the pledged money.

Instead of giving up, they decided to try again on Indiegogo. This time, they succeeded in raising $20,000.

Their first issue of the magazine was picked up by every Whole Foods in the US. “From there, we got the word out by hustling,” Meghan explains. “We sent magazines to every conference we could think of, we attended as many events as possible, we sought speaking opportunities, and did anything we could to tell people about our work.”

Meghan admits that they did not get everything right. “The biggest thing right out of the gate was not focusing more on marketing and sales. We also totally overestimated our growth in the first two years, which threw off our projections.”

Still, they kept moving forward. “We continued to push for distribution in more retail stores and added Kroger, Barnes and Noble, and many more. In 2017, we added events to our product line, and that helped us get the word out even further.”

Conscious Company Magazine has firmly established itself as the authority in the conscious business movement. The brand has continued to grow beyond the magazine. Today, Conscious Company Media is the first multimedia organization in the United States that specifically focuses on purpose-driven business. In addition to the magazine, they produce the annual Conscious Company Leaders Forum and World-Changing Women’s Summit.

The Conscious Company Leaders Forum will take place June 6 through 8 in Scotts Valley, CA.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Meghan French Dunbar:

“The path was insane.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“This is what I was put here to do.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“I always wanted to help.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“They were telling us, don’t even think about going into magazines.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“I saw this collaboration between environmental groups and companies.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“I was hooked.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“I went in open and curious.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“It was one of those questions that change your life.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“Things unfold if you start taking steps in the right direction.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“At that moment, the sky was falling.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“It was the gut-check moment for me.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

“I viscerally remember walking into Whole Foods and seeing our magazine.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Apr 28, 2018
Used Bikes, Big Impact, with Calla Martin and Mary McKeown, Express Bike Shop

Express Bike Shop is a learning lab where young people develop the habits and skills for work.

Today might be a good day to ride a bike. In fact, almost any day is a great day to ride a bike. Biking can be fun. It’s great exercise. It reduces your carbon footprint. The environmental impact of manufacturing and maintaining a bike is far below that of a car. The only thing better than a new bike is a used bike. And the only thing better than a used bike is a used bike that provides jobs for young people with a barrier to employment.

Express Bike Shop in Saint Paul, Minnesota is a full-service repair shop that also sells refurbished bikes. Profits from bike sales and repair go towards a youth apprenticeship program. Express Bike Shop is a social enterprise owned by a nonprofit organization, Keystone Community Services.

Bicycles are considered hard to recycle items. When you donate a bike to the Express Bike Shop, they either strip the bike down for parts or build the bike up for resell. Since their inception, Express Bike Shop has collected and refurbished more than 20,000 bicycles. They sell between 500 and 600 bikes per years. Components that cannot be reused are recycled. Each year they recycle between 15 and 18 tons of metal and three tons of rubber.

100% of the revenue from the bike shop is reinvested in youth employment programs. The shop serves as a learning lab where young people learn about work and business. They believe that early work experience is the best predictor of later work experience. They have a saying at Express Bike Shop. “The best work readiness program is a job.

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Apr 22, 2018
The Many Side-Hustles of Sherrell Dorsey, ThePLUG and BLKTECHCLT

ThePLUG is the first daily tech newsletter covering founders and innovators of color.

What do these people have in common: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Tim Cook, and Larry Ellison? Yes, these are all icons of the tech industry. They also happen to be white men.

Sherrell Dorsey of ThePLUG says, “Part of my personal and professional growth was staying abreast of what was happening in the news.” However, she noticed a gap in tech news. “The daily business and tech news cycle is filled with the stories and work of white men building the future,” she says. “Rarely are we recognizing the work of black, brown, or female-led companies that are powering our future.”

As Sherrell investigated why this gap existed, the common explanation that read was that there were no black or brown people in STEM. “It was just lazy journalism related to the problem,” Sherrell contends. Working in the tech industry, Sherrell saw first-hand the contribution that people of color made to the field. But where were their stories?

Sherrell’s answer is ThePLUG Daily. She and her team curate some of the best news stories about founders and innovators of color. They also create original, well-written content.

Where Social Justice, Entrepreneurship, Tech, and Journalism Collide

Sherrell Dorsey grew up in Seattle, surrounded by a family of activists and social justice leaders. “Much of my work is inspired by their early commitments to black, brown and marginalized communities being treated with humanity,” she explains. Sherrell’s work would eventually follow in these same social justice footprints. “I remember going to those board meetings where my mom was working on issues. I hated it back then. But now I’m like, ‘Oh my god, she created a monster.’”

Sherrell was also an early entrepreneur. Sherrell’s mother instilled in her a sense of independence. She insisted that Sherrell find a way to earn money to purchase the extras she wanted. From the age of 12, Sherrell gave tap dancing lessons. As she grew up, she took on more and more clients. Eventually, she convinced the studio owner to give her a key to the studio so that she could provide private lessons at a higher price.

She also worked at her aunt’s hair salon. “I got to watch these incredible women who were providing such a tremendous community service,” she explains. “I watched the way they interacted with their clients. I watched the way they ran their operations. It gave me this idea of, wow, I can do whatever I want to do.”

Not only was Sherrell an early entrepreneur, she had an early start in the tech industry. She was an intern at Microsoft while she was still in high school. After college, she spent time working with Uber and Google Fiber.

Sherrell also honed her writing skills. While she was still in college, she launched OBV Media, a multimedia content platform serving a community of eco-conscious multicultural women. She has also contributed to Fast Company, TriplePundit, Black Enterprise, Redox, and others.

Today, Sherrell is a data journalist and entrepreneur. Her interests have come together in ThePLUG and BLKTECHCLT, Charlotte’s only inclusive and immersive tech center.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sherrell Dorsey

“Having access to resources helped me to have choice and freedom.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“My family supported me, but I had to look outside for influence and guidance on business.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“It’s definitely been a nonlinear path.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“Every decision I made was about, what do I want to learn?” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I learn hands-on.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I began to explore that through writing.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I knew I wanted to work with super-smart people and people who would challenge me.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I stayed on my aunt’s couch for three months.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I started hacking with a Goodbits account and MailChimp.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I didn’t have a logo. I didn’t even have a true voice for the publication.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I wasn’t sure what it was. I just knew this service should be out there.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I was up at 5 AM putting together the newsletter.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“It really forces you to go back to your original Why.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“Now we’re looking at original reporting.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“We’re very excited about turning data into stories.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“For us, there’s that public interest piece that’s important.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“How do we drive inquiry into how tech applies to our communities?” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“I’m starting to understand and respect the purity of what journalism is supposed to be about.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“Persistence, grit, and endurance matters.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“If you feel like you don’t have the skills to take it to the next level, get some help.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

“We derive a ton of value from constantly serving our audience.” @Sherrell_Dorsey @_theplugdaily

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Apr 09, 2018
Make a Living without Losing Yourself, with Sharon Rowe, The Magic of Tiny Business

The Magic of Tiny Business is now available for preorder.

Sharon Rowe is a pioneer in social entrepreneurship. She launched her company, Eco-Bags Products, almost thirty years ago. Her company produces ECOBAGS, the original reusable bag.

When the daughter of a friend approached Sharon looking for a book on how to launch a business, Sharon looked around and didn’t see what she wanted in the marketplace. Like any good entrepreneur, Sharon decided to fill that gap. The solution is her new book, The Magic of Tiny Business: You Don’t Have to Go Big to Make a Great Living.

Sharon first told me about her book exactly one year ago when she first appeared on Social Entrepreneur. You can hear her interview here:

When I asked Sharon who she had in mind when she wrote the book, she quickly responded “Me. Thirty years ago.” She wrote the book that she wishes would have been on the market when she began.

Sharon takes on the myths that keep aspiring entrepreneurs from starting. “There are too many cultural myths out there that say; you can’t get started unless you have…this,” she explains. “I wanted to take the cover off the mystery called business.” The book provides practical advice on how to start without becoming overwhelmed. “I wove into this book a lot of takeaways that you can easily and readily apply,” Sharon says. “I wrote it to be accessible, applicable, and fun.”

The Magic of Tiny Business is available for preorder today.

Quotes from Sharon Rowe

“I built a business that fit my life.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“I decided to write the book to get clearer on my why, and then to figure out, how did I do it?” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“Along the way, there was a lot of failures.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“It was time to start sharing what I’d learned.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“There are too many cultural myths out there that say, you can’t get started unless you have…this.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“I wanted to take the cover off the mystery called business.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“It’s a lot of work to get the work you don’t want to do.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“Without profit, you can’t proceed.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“This is not another book about ‘get confident and go.’” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“If you can identify your why, you can stay on the right path.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“You’re going to fail at least 20% of the time, so just let it go.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“It’s not about making a killing. It’s about making a very good living.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“A book, you can share.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“I am still pretty attached to my pen and my paper.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“It’s kind of like a birthing process.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“I wove into this book a lot of takeaways that you can easily and readily apply.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“Preorders really matter.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“I wrote it to be accessible, applicable, and fun.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“It’s about becoming a part of many different communities.” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

“What’s your why?” @sharon_rowe_ @ecobags

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Apr 09, 2018
Beyond Autism Awareness, Thorkil Sonne, Specialisterne

Specialisterne is creating one million jobs for people with autism

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. Autism affects 1 in 68 children, and the prevalence is growing. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S. Though no two cases of autism are alike, autism impacts social interaction, cognitive function, and communication. 40% of children with autism do not speak.

These differences in people who experience autism can lead to social isolation. Most are locked out of the workplace. But does that have to be the case?

According to Thorkil Sonne of Specialisterne, autistic people have capabilities that make them ideally suited for certain specialist jobs. The name Specialisterne is Danish for “specialists.” Thorkil describes it this way. “This is a group of people who are not thriving on the paradigm of a generalist. But they can thrive under the paradigm of specialists.” He has a goal of creating one million jobs for people with autism.

“Autistic people have many talents, like everyone has,” Thorkil explains. “They have attention to detail. They are very structured. They have pride in what they do. And very often they come up with ideas that no one else has thought about. This is what so many companies are looking for.”

According to Thorkil, one barrier to employment is the ability to sell themselves to recruiters. “How can we help recruiters understand the talent, rather than how good this person is at selling himself or herself?” That’s where Specialisterne comes in.

“Typically, we will have conversations with a company. We’ll ask them where they have challenges to recruit talent,” Thorkil says. “Do you have jobs that could benefit from attention to detail and some ideas that no one else has thought about? I’ll bet a lot of jobs would benefit from people like that.”

Specialisterne screens employers for a good fit. “We don’t want to work with just any employer,” Thorkil describes. “We want to work with companies that understand that you have to adapt to settings where autistic people can thrive.”

They look for companies with four primary values:

  • Diversity: They value diversity on their teams. They recognize that diversity makes teams stronger.
  • Accommodations: Companies recognize the need for accommodations for the individual.
  • Clarity: Set expectations. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Expect that you will have honesty in return.
  • Accessibility: If employees need guidance, they know where to go and get it.

Not surprisingly, Thorkil explains, “What we see is, a place where autistic people thrive, will be a better place to work for everyone.”

Because Thorkil’s background is IT, Specialisterne has a strong relationship in the IT industry. However, they have placed people in jobs from pig farming to cybersecurity and everything in between. “These are the specialists that your company needs, and we can help you.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Thorkil Sonne

“How would you describe a non-autistic person? We’re all individuals.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“It felt like a catastrophe.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“I felt it was so unfair that people like that don’t get a chance like everyone else.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“It’s also unfair to the labor market.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“We have created barriers that keep so many talented autistic people out of the workforce.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“My son was the same kid the day before and the day after the diagnosis.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“We had to accept the way he is, and then try to influence our society.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“I did not spend my time on risk analysis.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“I asked my wife if we could mortgage the house because I needed to do this.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“We don’t have an exit strategy until we have changed society.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“When you create the right environment, the ‘dis’ disappears from disability.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“These are the specialists that your company needs, and we can help you.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“Dedication and family support are more important than risk analysis and business plans.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“It is difficult to solve a social challenge through a business model.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

“We can all be changemakers.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Apr 02, 2018
Create Talks that Move the World, with Sally Koering Zimney, This Moved Me

This Moved Me helps purpose-driven changemakers speak with confidence, clarity, and authenticity so they can create talks that move the world.

Moments become movements when meaning can be transmitted from one person to another. Whether it’s the #MeToo moment, or a new era of civil rights, important ideas are spread from person to person.

Humans are fortunate that we have language to convey these important ideas. However, unfortunately, many of us have preconceived ideas about what it means to speak in front of others. Many of these ideas are unhelpful.

That’s where Sally Koering Zimney comes in. Sally is an award-winning speaker and a presentation coach. She helps people create talks that move the world through her company, This Moved Me Productions and her weekly podcast, This Moved Me. Sally is so unconventional in her approach, she even has a TEDx talk on being an Un-Speaker.

Sally’s Path to Becoming a Speaking Coach

Sally’s love of moving audiences started early in life. In a recent interview, Sally described her childhood this way, “Middle class, middle child, middle America!” Her parents were both beloved teachers. Her mom focused her later career on adult education as an administrator helping immigrants learn English and take citizenship classes.

“My three brothers and I would drop in to my mom's night classes, meeting people from all over the world in our fairly sheltered suburban city. Our lives were by any definition 'privileged', and yet, we were raised on values like inclusion, compassion, social justice, and the belief that education is the way to change the world.”

As the only girl with three brothers, Sally was a bit of a tomboy. “I loved sports when I was young and would eagerly jump into whatever activity my parents signed me up for.” From an early age, Sally loved to sing and was drawn to creative expression. “I loved to swing on my backyard swing set, and sing and sing and sing. My Dad turned his storage shed into a playhouse and schoolhouse for my imaginative playtime. It was a creative and imaginative place I would spend hours in every day. I was a happy, busy, extroverted and messy little tomboy who felt loved and supported. It was a wonderful childhood.”

As Sally grew up, she found her home on the theater stage. “I was in high school speech and won the National Championship of Original Oratory and had defining moments on stage in theater. There were heartbreaks and set-backs as well, of course! - but looking back on it now, it was such a positive experience overall.”

From the beginning of her career, Sally coached her colleagues on their presentations.

"The problem that bothered me was that most presentation coaches were setting out a formula for an ‘executive presence’ or ‘perfect and polished presentation.’ I wanted to help speakers to bust through these old and plastic definitions of speaking to find their more 'authentic' voice, which is a much tougher, messier, and less defined approach.”

“Too many presentations were just plain bad,” she explains. “Yet few were surprised or bothered by that. It was just kind of accepted. ‘Yeah, we just do slides like that. Yeah, these meetings are always boring. Yeah, that's just the corporate lingo. Yeah, who cares!?’ Authenticity changes all of that. It asks us to do so much more with the moment but offers so much more to the audience.”

Sally’s Work Today

Sally’s purpose derives from a belief that we can move the world with a talk. “It has happened, and continues to happen,” she says. “Sometimes in a sermon, or from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or on the TED stage, or in front of the board room.”

Sally coaches presenters both inside and outside of corporations. “An internal presentation to your colleagues can change the direction of your business, and the world. It happens in the big and little moments, and so it's worth preparing for them and investing in making sure they matter to your audience."

But, why does she emphasize authenticity? Her focus is not just on the speaker, but on helping the speaker to create an experience for the audience. “Authenticity is challenging to define, and even harder to find in oneself and then share,” Sally admits. “But ironically, it's easy to identify from an audience's perspective. And it makes the process of creating, practicing and delivering your message both more impactful and much scarier.”

What Sally Got Wrong

Sally admits that she did not always get her coaching practice right. “My biggest mistakes early on in my coaching career came from how I gave feedback. As is typical starting out, I was so eager to prove myself and my expertise. I wasn't thinking about how the feedback would be received. I was only thinking about how on-point it was. And the speaker paid the price.”

How badly was she off mark? “It was brutal. I even used grades, for goodness sake,” she admits. “These poor speakers, who didn't have any choice in working with me, took big hits to their confidence levels, which is never good.”

Eventually, Sally modified her coaching style. "It didn't take me long to realize that even if I was right in my feedback, it didn't matter. The speaker felt less ready to get up and try again. A speaker's ego is an essential part of their ability to get up and own the moment. I had to slow down and give only the feedback that would be helpful to them in this moment. I started my feedback mantra ‘honest and helpful.’”

Something unexpected came from giving honest and helpful feedback. “I discovered that giving feedback became this wonderfully vulnerable and relationship-building experience,” Sally explains. “I don't like conflict, but I had to walk into it again and again as a coach. And eventually I saw that giving empowering feedback not only worked, but it was fulfilling for the speaker and me. One of my speakers said that through the process, they felt truly seen and loved. That really touched me, because I know how hard it is to receive feedback. "

Sally’s Work Continues

Sally is building self-guided content for speakers in what she is calling MoversUniversity. Sally describes MoversUniversity as “an online platform of training modules for speakers to help them develop clearer content, deliver more authentic presentations, and master a speaker's mindset. It's been a long-time coming, and I'm excited to launch it in the next several months.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sally Koering Zimney

“The people who find me are mission and message-focused.”

“I talk about editing as one of the most underutilized, underrecognized skills that we need as leaders.”

“What am I willing to stand up and put myself on the line for?”

“What is the new thing I have to say about this old idea?”

“You can write a great speech, but then what do you do?”

“We want to speak fully integrated physically.”

“The biggest role I play as a coach is pushing people up on their feet faster.”

“I spend a lot of time breaking down people’s ideas of what speaking really is.”

“People want to connect with a speaker. I want to know who you are.”

“We have to show up, and for people to feel connected.”

“My mantra now is, ‘honest and helpful.’”

“This is an artform more than it is a science.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Mar 26, 2018
BONUS Interview, Sally Koering Zimney, This Moved Me

This Moved Me helps purpose-driven changemakers speak with confidence, clarity, and authenticity so they can create talks that move the world.

This interview contains bonus material where Sally discusses:

  • How she learned to be a speaker and coach.
  • What she got wrong about coaching.
  • Her personal mantra as a coach.
  • How feedback can be a gift.

You can find the full interview here:

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Mar 26, 2018
Science and Our Relationship with Nature, with Bonnie Keeler, The Natural Capital Project

The Natural Capital Project is developing practical tools and approaches to account for nature’s contributions to society.

As Bonnie Keeler grew up in Eagan, MN, she loved to explore Minnesota’s natural wonders with her family. “My mom was a master at relationships,” Bonnie recalls. “One of the things she taught me was, how people are at the center of everything. Every problem is essentially a problem of relationships. Science can take us part of the way there, in terms of providing the appropriate knowledge base. But when it comes down to actually making change, that’s all about relationships.”  

Today, Bonnie is a lead scientist with The Natural Capital Project. The Natural Capital Project is a partnership between the University of Minnesota, Stanford University, the Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund. They solve big problems related with how we value nature, and the relationship between people and the environment.

The Natural Capital Project works with a variety of organizations from local community groups who are advocating for a particular environmental future, to private sector companies who are trying to green their supply chain, to national-level governments who are considering the impact of infrastructure. They collaborate with decision-makers to identify questions and develop new science and tools to answer those questions. They test and publish results in peer-reviewed journals.

“If you’ve made a big international commitment to the environment, how do we make that practical, and think of the implementation of it?” Bonnie asks. “Where do you protect? What landscapes do you restore? How do you invest in new infrastructure, whether it’s hydropower, or a big agricultural incentive program? Or a payment program to farmers to adopt different conservation practices? Those are big environmental management decisions that have a set of consequences, not just for those ecosystems, but for the people who depend on them.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Bonnie Keeler

“We’re so connected to the environment in so many ways.”

“The big problem is, those connections aren’t very visible.”

“We’re often not thinking of the full set of consequences.”

“There is a broad set of users and audiences that our projects serve.”

“We have partnerships around the world.”

“If you’ve made an international commitment to the environment, how do you make that practical?”

“We spent a lot of time car camping.”

“My mom was a master at relationships.”

“People are at the center of everything.”

“It’s the human dimensions that require careful thought.”

“I was searching for the connection between people and nature.”

“There was a way to be a scientist, but be engaged in those people-oriented, human dimension problems.”

“Partnerships are everything.”

“Are you reading the environmental page in your local newspaper?”

“Find someone who you have the opportunity to be inspired by.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Mar 19, 2018
E-Commerce for Everyone, with Isaac Hunja, Sky.Garden

Sky.Garden is a SaaS e-commerce platform built for retailers in Africa.

People who work in the informal economy make up half to three-quarters of the non-agricultural labor force in many countries. In Kenya, the informal sector represents 82.7% of all employment.

Many of the people involved in the informal economy also have a job in the formal economy. Isaac Hunja, the Chief Marketing Officer at Sky.Garden, comments, “Every Kenyan has a side-hustle.”

One example of the informal economy is street vendors. They may have a kiosk in a marketplace or they may be selling goods from the back seat of their car. According to Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO):

  • Most street vendors provide the main source of income for their households.
  • Over half of street vendors surveyed said they source the goods they sell from formal enterprises.
  • Street vendors create jobs, not only for themselves but also for porters, security guards, transport operators, storage providers, and others.
  • Many generate revenue for cities through payments for licenses and permits, fees and fines, and certain kinds of taxes

Street vendors have a particular set of challenges. They may place a classified ad, offering their merchandise for sale. Customers call their mobile phone, with perhaps one in ten calls converting to a sale. Then the merchant must figure out how to deliver their merchandise and get paid. They may use a carrier. The carrier must deliver the merchandise, collect the payment and return the money to the merchant. The entire chain of events is fraught with problems.

Sky.Garden offers an alternative to this problematic process. Merchants can download the app and set up their online store in five minutes. They can take pictures with their phone and upload their inventory in less than 30 minutes. Each item in their shop has a unique URL. And their webshop has a unique URL. This allows the vendor to share links via WhatsApp, text message, or social media.

When a sale is made, Sky.Garden takes the transaction from there. They call the vendor to confirm the item is still available. They call the customer to confirm delivery details and dispatch a courier to deliver the item. Once the item is delivered, payment is made via mobile money, mPESA. Sky.Garden manages customer care using a machine learning framework. The process protects all parties involved and builds trust in the platform. Sky.Garden has over 3,000 unique web shops on their platform, featuring over 10,000 products.

Sky.Garden employs field agents to acquire new merchants, help them upload their first inventory, and teach the merchants to use e-commerce. While they are working with the vendors, the field agents are also vetting the vendors to ensure that they are not selling knock-off items. There is also a daily clean-up process on the platform to ensure all merchandise meets Sky.Garden’s requirements.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Isaac Hunja

“We’ve been able to handle it by getting our hands dirty.”

“Make the world your business.”

“Every Kenyan has a side-hustle.”

“They had a lot of money falling through their fingers.”

“We’re trying to make e-commerce accessible to the market.”

“We have a big city expansion plan.”

“We only charge per transaction.”

“We give the merchant the freedom to choose.”

“I guess the startup blood is in me.”

“They wanted to give e-commerce back to the hands of the people.”

“We mapped 6,000 to 7,000 merchants and spoke to about half of them.”

“Using the merchants’ networks really helped.”

“You speak to one merchant in a building, and he would act as a gatekeeper.”

“We were able to build a platform around them.”

“Building the platform around Kenyan merchants, we realized we needed to build I with Kenyan developers as well.”

“We were built out of a fantastic program called iHub.”

“Nairobi is a melting pot of really bright young people who are developing things every day.”

“Every single product has a unique link. Every single webshop has a unique link.”

“Launching a social-based company isn’t easy.”

“Knowing that you’re doing something good, continue doing it, and the money will follow.”

“Investors are there for social-based companies.”

“Most importantly, track everything.”

“Scale. Scale. Scale.”

“We are as agile as possible.”

“Our customer service is world-class.”

“We’re bringing e-commerce back.”

“In five minutes, you have a webshop.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Mar 12, 2018
The Power of a Simple Idea, with Lulu Cerone, LemonAID Warriors

LemonAID Warriors is a youth empowerment program that aims to give young people the tools that they need to turn their compassion into action, and raise funds and awareness for causes that they care about

Lulu Cerone was an entrepreneur from an early age. At the age of six, she opened her first lemonade stand. At first, she used the money to buy toys or candy. But her mom made a suggestion. Why not use the profits to help someone else? Lulu looked into it and found an animal shelter that needed the funds. “This really crazy thing happened,” Lulu said. “This crazy thing I was doing with my friends actually took on this whole new meaning. It became a lot more fun. My friends and I became more engaged. We felt like what we were doing was meaningful.”

Lulu became interested in community service. However, she had a hard time finding opportunities to serve at a young age. Most organizations require volunteers to be 16 to 18 years-old. She found a few opportunities through her school. Her parents tried helping her to find opportunities. Lulu explains, “It’s hard to know how to raise effective global citizens as a parent.”

In 2010, when an earthquake struck Haiti, Lulu was ten years old. She says, “That was the first time I was aware of a global tragedy. I remember being online with my mom and looking at pictures of kids whose lives had been completely changed by the earthquake. I really had this strong urge to help.” When Lulu went to school, she challenged the boys to a Boys vs Girls LemonAID fundraising competition. Her fifth-grade class raised just over $4,000 in two weeks.

This early success has had a ripple effect. “I found it spinning out of my control really quickly,” Lulu says. She looked back at what worked with the Lemonade stands and came up with bigger idea – PhilanthroParties. A PhilanthroParty is any gathering with a social purpose behind it. Lulu started an organization, LemonAID Warriors to spread this idea of youth empowerment. She wrote a book, PhilanthroParties!: A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back.

“This is such a simple idea, but people really latched onto it,” Lulu says. “There is power in simplicity.” Lulu has attracted partnerships for her business. She partnered with Mattel and Forever 21. She was recently recognized as a L’Oréal Woman of Worth. She is currently a freshman in collage as she continues to develop her nonprofit.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lulu Cerone

“Growing up, I had a passion for community service.”

“Young people can get involved.”

“They can do it in fun and simple ways that integrate social action into their social life.”

“That’s when I had my first PhilanthroParty.”

“It was the first time my friends and I felt like we could be agents of change.”

“I did not set out to start a nonprofit organization.”

“This is such a simple idea, but people really latched onto it.”

“There is power in simplicity.”

“LemonAID Warriors is youth-driven and community-based.”

“It was incredible being in eighth grade and having Mattel looking to me.”

“See yourself as an important agent of change.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Mar 05, 2018
Find Your Funding, Part 2, Cathy Clark, CASE Smart Impact Capital

CASE Smart Impact Capital is a toolkit that helps you to raise capital that aligns with your needs.

In 1992, Cathy Clark had a conversation with Lloyd Morrissett, the co-founder of Sesame Workshop. Lloyd told her “Change happens when the right people with the right idea and the right capital come together at the right time.”

This idea stuck with Cathy and has guided her career since. When Cathy first appeared on Social Entrepreneur in January 2016, she said. “It isn’t enough to have a good idea, to want to help people, but you have to have an organization to do it, and eventually that organization needs capital. And that has become the theme of my career.”

Cathy Clark is the faculty director for the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at the Duke Fuqua School of Business. She runs the Initiative on Impacting Investing.

Cathy and the team at CASE have developed a resource to help social entrepreneurs to be more efficient and effective in raising investment capital. The solution is called CASE Smart Impact Capital. It is a toolkit that contains short videos, downloadable resources, spreadsheets, and more. The modules are bite-sized and flexible. You can jump to any section at any time to match where you are on your fundraising journey.

CASE Smart Impact Capital was developed over a two-year period, while working with partner organizations such as MIT, Stanford, USAID, Uncharted, and Spring.

In this interview, Cathy takes the listeners from the theoretical basis of impact investing through a description of CASE Smart Impact Capital. If you want to jump ahead, leap to 15:50 in the interview. We didn’t get to everything we wanted to talk about, so we’ve put together a short Bonus episode, which you can find here.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Cathy Clark

“The term impact investing was coined almost ten years ago.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“Anyone who is investing is taking their dollar and putting it into a capitalist system, where that dollar has an impact.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“It’s basically, people voting with their dollars.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“Anyone who has an investment account is already investing in an outcome.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“We live in a finite set of resources. The planet earth is not infinite.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“Unlimited growth within a resource-constrained environment simply does not make sense.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“We have to tilt capitalism in a slightly different direction.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“I teach at a business school because I believe business has the largest leverage point.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“At CASE, we call it leaping the chasm. Other people call it the pioneer gap.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“I’ve been looking at this for over 20 years.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“What I saw was completely demoralizing.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“We really wanted to build this around the needs of entrepreneurs.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“We have a template or a tool, where you make a decision, and you move on.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“We wanted to make this modular and easy.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“We created a triage process.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“Most of our entrepreneurs had the wrong list.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

“The stakes are really high.” @cathyhc, @CASESmartImpact

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Feb 26, 2018
BONUS Episode: Cathy Clark Talks About Larry Fink’s Letter to CEOs

BONUS Episode: Cathy Clark Talks About Larry Fink’s Letter to CEOs


Cathy Clark stopped by to talk about CASE Smart Impact Capital, a rich resource to help entrepreneurs to be more efficient and effective in raising investment capital. While she was here, I took the opportunity to ask Cathy about a letter that Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, wrote to CEOs. Blackrock manages $6.3 trillion in investments. In this letter, Mr. Fink said, “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.” You can read the entire letter here. You can hear the full interview with Cathy where she talks about CASE Smart Impact Capital here.

I asked Cathy about this letter, and about the dynamic tension that business leaders sense between shareholders and other stakeholders. You can hear her answer to these two questions in this bonus episode.

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Feb 26, 2018
Find Your Funding, Part 1, Jeff Ochs, Venn Foundation

The Venn Foundation uses Program-Related Investments in surprising new ways.

This week, we’re kicking off a two-part mini-series how to fund a business that does social good. We did something like this in April 2016. Next week, Cathy Clark is going to be here to talk about CASE Smart Impact Capital, an online resource to help social entrepreneurs figure out how to find the right capital at the right time.

This week, we’re talking to Jeff Ochs of the Venn Foundation. Jeff is an experienced entrepreneur and investor. He invented and commercialized an educational party game that was licensed by Hasbro. He started a successful nonprofit, Breakthrough Twin Cities. And he was the Executive Director of an angel investing network. In each of these instances, Jeff saw the difficulty of getting the right investments to the right startups at the right time.

Jeff explains that today there are two types of capital:

  1. Charitable donations, which support causes we care about with no expectation whatsoever for financial return.
  2. For-profit investments, which are designed to make as much money as possible for investors on a risk-adjusted basis.

“In this current capital system, it is obvious why there is no investment capital available that is willing to accept ‘below-market’ financial terms,” Jeff explains. To meet this challenge, Jeff partnered with Rob Scarlett and Jeanne Voight to launch the Venn Foundation.

Jeff says, “At the highest level, Venn Foundation has a method for using charitable donations, which today we just give away, to make investments. This allows us to create the below-market investment capital that we badly need. Charitable investments have all the same tax advantages of donations, are anchored against -100% financial returns of donations, and allow the precious charitable donation to be recycled over and over again. Venn Foundation is where charity and investing meet.”

Venn is creating a marketplace for charitable investing. They are removing the obstacles that donors face in making charitable investments directly. By opening a special donor-advised fund called a Venn Account, any individual or organization can recommend that their charitable dollars be used by Venn to make Program-Related Investments, or PRIs. Venn can syndicate any PRI among any number of Venn Accounts. Financial returns from these PRIs go back to participating funds for the donors to redeploy into new PRIs or to grant out as desired.

Venn recently made a program-related investment to Binary Bridge. BinaryBridge creates software that helps humanitarians do their work effectively and efficiently. You may recall our conversation with BinaryBridge founder Lori Most.

Who should seek program-related investing? Jeff suggests that business and nonprofit leaders ask themselves, “Is that I’m doing helping advance a charitable cause as defined by the IRS? And if the answer is yes, or maybe yes, the program-related investment tool is something that could apply to you and your goals.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jeff Ochs

“If that kind of capital existed, what could we do?” Jeff Ochs, Venn Foundation

“It’s where charity and investing meet.” Jeff Ochs, Venn Foundation

“Today, there is not a market for charitable investing.” Jeff Ochs, Venn Foundation

“If capital behaved differently, what would be possible?” Jeff Ochs, Venn Foundation

“Capital is the lifeblood of our economy.” Jeff Ochs, Venn Foundation

“If we can change the nature of capital, we can change the way our economy works.” Jeff Ochs, Venn Foundation

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Feb 19, 2018
Mobile Gaming for Social Good, with Elizabeth Sarquis, Global Gaming Initiative and Jukko

Global Gaming Initiative provides a suite of tools and services to make it easier for game developers and publishers to produce and monetize games for social good.

Elizabeth Sarquis was born in a small town along the Magdalena River in Colombia. When Elizabeth was five years old, her family moved to the US. Growing up, she went to school in the US and spent time her summers in Colombia. Elizabeth says “It struck me when I would see children on the streets begging. Then I would go back home, and I would have everything. It didn’t make sense to me.”

As an adult, Elizabeth worked in nonprofits focused on children’s issues. During the 2008 financial meltdown, Elizabeth observed how difficult it was for nonprofits to raise funds. And, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, she noticed that there was a wide gap between the money raised and the impact of those funds. “I knew something had to change,” she says. “I wanted to create a model that used technology, which I love, and create an impact.”

In 2010, Elizabeth’s 14-year-old son traveled to Ecuador to volunteer with a nonprofit. Her son told her a story about a boy he met. The boy did not have transportation, and therefore, did not attend school. Elizabeth’s son challenged her to help. Around this same time, Elizabeth found herself playing Angry Birds for hours. She thought, “Can’t we figure out a way to use games, tied to impact?” From this thought cam Global Gaming Initiative.

Global Gaming Initiative is a mobile game company that creates games and aligns them with social impact. They are a cooperative. They work with game developers who want to create social impact through their game. Global Gaming Initiative is a BCorporation. They have been selected as a “Best for the World” company two years in a row.

Global Gaming Initiative was not successful right away. They hired eight engineers and animators, spent months on the game, but it was not commercially successful. “We didn’t bring marketing in soon enough,” Elizabeth explains. “At that time, it was a bit more of the wild west in the app store.”  

One of Global Gaming Initiative’s first successful games was Sidekick Cycle, a competitive retro arcade game that positions players in a race against time. Profits from in-app purchases and advertisement go towards bicycles for kids. The game is popular and has provided lots of bikes. However, parents began to push back on the content of the advertisements.

To help control the types of ads that are presented on their games, Elizabeth and her team created Jukko. Jukko connects game players with socially-conscious brands. Jukko is scheduled to launch around April of 2018.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Elizabeth Sarquis

“You can make games and you can have an impact.” @elizabetsarquis, @GGInitiative

“You have to surround yourself with a network of people who believe in what you’re doing.” @elizabetsarquis, @GGInitiative

“Get involved in your community.” @elizabetsarquis, @GGInitiative

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Feb 12, 2018
Figuring Out Faith in Business and Marriage, with Jessica Jackley

Jessica Jackley and Reza Aslan are exploring what it means to live in an interfaith family.

The first week of February is Interfaith Harmony Week. Given the heightened friction between religious groups, this celebration of interfaith harmony is crucial. Each year, religious leaders engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental Commandments; Love of God, and Love of Neighbor.

Jessica Jackley is best known for her role as a co-founder of Kiva is the first peer-to-peer microlending platform. Anyone who has an internet connection and a credit card or PayPal account, you can go to, browse the profiles of entrepreneurs who need a small loan. These loans are often just a few hundred dollars. You can chip in. You can lend $25 toward that loan need. Over time you get repaid. Since launched a little more than 12 years ago, the site has facilitated over $1 billion in loans. 

Millions of people in developing countries run microenterprises, from a fisher, to a dressmaker, to someone running a kiosk in a small village. For those entrepreneurs, microloans can be an important source of capital to help them to grow and sustain their businesses.

“It’s not as if a lot of folks don’t know how to lift themselves out of poverty,” Jessica explains. “They just don’t have access to the right resources to do so.”

A Strained Relationship with Poverty and Business

“I’d always had a fascination, and a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the idea of poverty and the poor, as it was presented to me by a lot of well-intentioned organizations,” Jessica says. Nonprofits, NGOs, and people who came to her church painted a picture of sadness, hopelessness, and desperation. These stories made Jessica feel guilty, shameful and panicked.

“The role that I was supposed to play was to respond by giving money,” Jessica describes, “letting these organizations go do ‘the real work.’ And then they’d come back and ask for more.

“That pattern of hearing the sad story, respond by feeling awful and freaked out, and then reaching into my pocket to give whatever spare change I had so that I could go on with my life…that wasn’t a cycle that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, it made me feel distanced from people who are living in poverty. It very much otherized them. So, this sort of separation happened early on in my life.” 

When Jessica attended college, she studied philosophy, poetry, and political science. She avoided business classes. “I thought ‘business is bad. Business is about taking, and I want to be one of the givers’…I even thought, ‘entrepreneurs are the worst. They’re the gain leaders for starting businesses.’”

In a moment of serendipity, Jessica’s first job after college was as a temporary employee at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “I felt like I was sleeping with the enemy,” she jokes. However, she quickly realized that she was surrounded by people who wanted to use the power of business to solve the problems that mattered to her.

In the Fall of 2003, Dr. Muhammad Yunus gave a guest lecture on campus. Dr. Yunus pioneered the idea of microloans. “It was this real ah-ha moment for me,” Jessica explains. “It shifted things. He talked about the poor in a way that didn’t make me feel terrible. It didn’t feel like there was an agenda to have me play this very limited and particular role in this story.”

“It made me think that I could begin my great work in the world the way he had, by sitting down with people and listening to them very carefully.” Jessica reached out to several people, including Brian Lennon, who at the time was running Village Enterprise. Brian gave Jessica the opportunity to come to East Africa and to learn from local entrepreneurs.

Village Enterprise provided small grants to people in poverty. Jessica saw first-hand how small amounts of capital could make a big difference. Many of the people who had received grants were ready to start and grow a business, but they needed microloans.

Jessica returned to the US to share her idea about giving microcredit loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. She spent many months shopping the idea and gaining feedback. She points to this time as her one small regret. “I took too long waiting for the world to give me permission,” she says. Finally, she partnered with co-founder Matt Flannery, built a website, and returned to East Africa to profile entrepreneurs. In April 2005, Kiva made it’s first seven loans for a total of $3,500. By September of that year, all the loans were repaid. was on its way.

By 2010, Jessica left to launch a new company, ProFounder. ProFounder was a crowdfunding platform for small businesses in the US to raise investment capital. The company folded after a little more than two years. Jessica moved to the Collaborative Fund where she remains a Venture Advisor. Today, she is a Social Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business.

The Role of Faith in Jessica Jackley’s Journey

Recently, Jessica has been speaking out more on the role that her religious belief system has had on your life. “Some of the concepts, principles, and the practices that were embedded in me at an early age have allowed me to pursue the things that I believe in…I think of entrepreneurship as, you dream things up, you imagine them, and then you make that real. It’s very much a faith-building exercise.”

“I have always felt like my life was tied to something bigger than me. I’ve always felt connected to a higher power.”

However, Jessica worries a little about talking about her faith. “It can alienate some people,” she says. Nonetheless, when she looks back at her work with, she says, “I believe I was called to do that.”

Rather than practicing religion as an exclusive system, Jessica and her husband, Reza Aslan, practice religious inclusion. Reza is a practicing Muslim. He is also a writer whose books include God: A Human History, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization.

“We have an interfaith marriage and an interfaith family,” Jessica describes. They try to expose their children to a breadth of religious beliefs. “We try to do world religions 101 at home. Our little nickname for that is Home Church.” Jessica and Reza also try to instill a depth of spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, and community.

Jessica admits that they don’t have their interfaith practice perfect yet. “We’re learning as we go,” she says. Jessica and Reza are documenting what they are learning on their interfaith journey, hoping to be helpful to other interfaith families.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jessica Jackley

“It’s not as if a lot of folks don’t know how to lift themselves out of poverty.” @jessicajackley

“It made me feel distanced from people who are living in poverty.” @jessicajackley

“I thought ‘Business is bad. Business is about taking, and I want to be one of the givers.’” @jessicajackley

“He talked about the poor in a way that didn’t make me feel terrible.” @jessicajackley

“I took too long waiting for the world to give me permission.” @jessicajackley

“I have always felt like my life was tied to something bigger than me.” @jessicajackley

“We have an interfaith marriage and an interfaith family” @jessicajackley

“We’re learning as we go.” @jessicajackley

“The majority of new marriages are interfaith.” @jessicajackley

“Start doing something. There’s always a step that you can take.”

“Pay attention to what is speaking to you.” @jessicajackley

“There are small things you can do every single day to start you on your journey.” @jessicajackley

“Don’t be embarrassed about those small beginnings. Just start doing something.” @jessicajackley

“Pick your thing and commit.” @jessicajackley

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Feb 02, 2018
The Terrifying, Magical Life of a Social Entrepreneur, with Emily Hunt Turner, All Square

All Square is a craft grilled cheese restaurant and training institute that breaks down barriers for those with a criminal record.

A criminal record can be a barrier to employment, housing, benefits, and voting. With barriers to employment and housing, there is a high rate of recidivism. One study across 30 states found that 67.8% of released prisoners were rearrested within three years of release.

Recidivism is a large problem impacting millions of people, including the loved ones of those with criminal records. Nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23. Arrests fall disproportionately on men of color. One out of every 106 white men is behind bars. Compare that to one in every 36 Hispanic men and one in every 15 African American men. And, it’s not just men who have criminal records. In the ten-year period from 1997 to 2007, the number of women in prison increased by 832%.

The volume of cases in the criminal justice system overwhelms the courts. Defendants are pressured to accept a plea deal for probation or early parole. Many who accept these deals do not realize the full consequences of their future employment and housing options.

Emily Hunt Turner is doing something about this. Emily is an architect, a civil rights attorney, and more recently the founder of All Square. All Square is a craft grilled cheese restaurant and training institute for those with a criminal record. They plan on opening their restaurant this spring. Their name is a play on words, representing those who have paid their debts to society are "all square" and free to move forward unencumbered.

When opened, All Square will be a self-sustaining social enterprise. Profit from the restaurant will fuel the organization. As a non-profit, they will augment their professional institute with grants and individual donations.

Emily grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Things weren’t always easy. Her mother raised her as a single parent. She says that “as a gay woman from rural North Dakota, from a family who has never known financial stability, I have seen and experienced adversity.” Still, she describes her early life as “the most incredibly happy childhood. I was a very happy kid.” Emily describes her mother as “the most inclusive human I've ever known. She was so eccentric in her dress and her manners. She was quite a force and a vision.”

When Emily grew up, studied Architecture at Syracuse University. She became interested in issues surrounding housing. She worked on a documentary film, The Atlanta Way that describes gentrification in Atlanta after the 1996 Olympics. “I learned about some of the troubling practices that took place in the name of clearing housing for athletes. I was beyond troubled. It was shocking to me that this sort of thing could actually happen.”

“What came out of that was, unexpectedly, a passion for housing discrimination and displacement,” Emily explains. Seeing her passion, a professor encouraged Emily to study law. “Keep in mind, Emily says, “this was my seventh year in college.” Nonetheless, Emily remarks  “This led to my law degree and my focus on contemporary housing discrimination through zoning, land-use, lending algorithms, and low-income housing tax credits.”

Emily worked as an attorney for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for nearly five years. “I not only ran into widespread housing discrimination in lending, zoning, and land-use, but I also saw it day-in and day-out in tenant selection policies.” Emily witnessed how those with criminal records are excluded from both public and private housing.

Eventually, Emily realized that she could not change the outcomes from people with criminal records from inside of HUD. “I had no legal remedies for this exclusion. It is basically legal to exclude those with records from housing.”

Emily came up with a business plan. Around a year earlier, she had thought about a grilled cheese restaurant. At the time, she had laughed off the idea. However, she thought, “I want to be part of the solution.” Emily’s solution was to create employment for people with criminal records through a grilled cheese restaurant. She also wanted to create a powerful brand. She landed on the name All Square.

Advice that Shaped her Solution

Before Emily went further, she shared her idea with several people. First, checked in with two groups of people – the formerly incarcerated and experts in barriers to employment. Both groups agreed that creating a restaurant with employment opportunities was a promising idea. However, they added an extra element. They encouraged Emily to go further by creating an institute that would look at the holistic needs of the person, to prepare them to be successful in the work world.

Emily found Edwins in Cleveland, a restaurant and institution employing people with criminal records. She reached out to the owners who met with her and encouraged her. Edwins is a fine-dining restaurant with high overhead. They encouraged her to pursue her fast-casual restaurant idea.

Emily checked in with other restaurateurs she knew. They encouraged her to keep the menu simple to avoid high food costs and labor costs. They also told her, if she was going to pursue this idea, she could not do this part-time while still working at HUD. With this input and the addition of the professional institute, All Square was an idea whose time had come.

Two months after those conversations, Emily resigned from her job at HUD. The next day, she launched a Kickstarter campaign for All Square. This campaign included a six-city tour across the country. The goal was to raise $50,000. They exceeded their goal, raising $60,000.

Challenges and Solutions

Coming off of the success of the Kickstarter campaign, All Square had momentum. However, not everything has gone smoothly. Emily suffered a major personal setback. Her mother, who was such a large figure in her life, passed away only three months after the Kickstarter campaign. “This loss was both grave and unexpected,” Emily says. “The emotional hardship has been devastating; so difficult.” Emily feels lucky to have friends and a fiancé to see her through. “Self-care is critical,” she explained. “I'm still working on getting that piece right.”

Emily has continued to struggle with the business aspects of All Square. Despite the fact that All Square has raised over $140,000 in capital in the last 16 months, she has struggled to access business loans. “I think we're now there with securing our construction loan, but wow, has it been difficult,” she says.

Emily also had a steep learning curve. “I didn’t know the first thing about starting a business when I started this 16 months ago,” she explains. “There are thousands of things I've learned since starting: How to properly structure a nonprofit; understanding social impact investing; understanding the benefits of a hybrid structure; understanding capital markets,” and more. However, she says “I feel like I now have a very strong business foundation.”

Emily says that she is grateful for “the humans that have come into my life and the time/energy those that are already in my life have freely given. It's been just incredible.”

She has a laser focus on just one goal. “Our focus is on our first location on Minnehaha Avenue. Period,” she laughs.”

Emily’s advice to aspiring social entrepreneurs comes from a saying on a neckless she wears. “It always seems impossible until it's done.” But “done” requires more than talk. It also requires collaborating with others, even those with whom you may not initially agree. “Rather than posting articles condemning or condoning certain viewpoints, which I, of course, used to do constantly, find a human in your life with whom you disagree on the subject matter, and see if there's any space for common ground, despite your differences.”

All Square is slated to open in late Spring of 2018.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Emily Hunt Turner

“It felt like people’s lives were being treated like monopoly pieces.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“The law…wasn’t something that had ever appealed to me.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“It was really compelling to work from the inside.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“The biggest thing that I saw that was the criminal record piece.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“You don’t see housing discrimination how you used to – very overtly.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“It’s very strategically written into single-family zoning ordinances.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“I thought, as a lawyer, there’s a way to be part of the solution from the inside.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“Somehow a social enterprise centered on a restaurant and an institute came from all of that.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“What if I became the employer?” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“We led by example.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“What if I can be part of the solution in a respectful way?” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“Weighing in on social media…just doesn’t feel effective.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“There’s an institute side of it that looks at the human as a whole.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“I will say it was the most terrifying 45 days of my life.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“I was asking people to invest in an idea.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“It was terrifying, and kind of magical.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“I’m the impulsive one in the relationship.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“That helped me to say, if not now, when?” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“Real things take real time.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“I think law school did for me was really appreciate and value perspectives that diverge from mine.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

“I still believe finding common ground despite differences is still possible.” @emilyhuntturner, @allsquarempls

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jan 29, 2018
A Business Solution to Coral Reef Restoration, with Gator Halpern and Sam Teicher, Coral Vita

Coral Vita is growing climate-change resilient coral in order to restore dying coral reefs.

Coral reefs make up less than 1% of the surface area of the oceans, and yet, they provide a home for 25% of all marine fish species. Globally, coral reefs contain between 6,000 and 8,000 species of fish. As a point of comparison, across North America, there are 914 species of birds. Humans depend on coral reefs for everything from livelihoods, food, and medicines.

According to Sam Teicher, co-founder of Coral Vita, “There are up to one billion people around the world who depend on reefs for their livelihoods. Reefs conservatively generate $30 billion per year through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection.”

Sam’s co-founder at Coral Vita, Gator Halpern adds, “The ocean provides us, not only most of the oxygen that we breathe, but also food for billions of people around the world.”

However, coral reefs are threatened worldwide. It took between 5,000 and 10,000 for the Great Barrier Reef to be created by nature. And yet, because of overfishing, poor coastal development, pollution and climate change, we expect to lose 75% of all of the world’s coral by 2050, unless we do something about it.

Sam continues, “This is obviously an ecological tragedy, losing such incredible ecosystems, but what we’re also considering is that this is a socio-economic catastrophe.” Gator added, “These issues of ocean degradation are essential for everyone, everywhere. All life forms depend on having healthy coral reefs to survive.”

Coral Vita brings dying reefs back to life by growing climate change resilient corals and transplanting them into degraded reefs. They are establishing a network of land-based coral farms. Sam explains, “We sell coral restoration as a service to customers who depend on healthy reefs, like hotels, governments, the coastal insurance industry.”

Coral Vita works with cutting-edge researchers to grow coral through a process called “assisted evolution.” Assisted evolution allows Coral Vita to boost the climate resilience of coral. Gator and Sam work closely with Dr. Ruth Gates at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, and Dr. David Vaughan of the Mote Marine Lab to commercialize their work.

Sam experienced a coral reef restoration project in Mauritius in 2012 and 2013. The project was funded by a grant from the UN. “I saw fishermen returning to this lagoon,” Sam says. “It was amazing to see, we can bring a reef back to life. But, there is only so much grant funding. Given the scope of the problem…that grant funding model wasn’t going to cut it.”

Sam and Gator both grew up on the ocean. They met while studying at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “We both wanted to make the big changes in the world we think are necessary in order to have our society thrive in the future,” Gator explains. When Sam explained his experience with a coral farm in Mauritius to Gator, Gator says “My eyes lit up. I thought this was an incredible thing. My entrepreneurial mind starting thinking, ‘Hey, this could be a company!’”

Sam and Gator wrote their business plan in their last semester at Yale. Since then, their work has been recognized and supported by organizations such as Echoing Green, Halcyon Incubator, J.M Kaplan Fund, and more.

So far, Coral Vita has raised $1 million to launch and run their pilot coral farm. They are taking pre-orders for an “adopt a coral” campaign.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Gator Halpern and Sam Teicher

“Since the 1970’s, we’ve lost around 30% of the world’s reefs.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“We’re projected to lose 75% of reefs by 2050.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“Over the last few years, over half of the Great Barrier Reef died, or is dying.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“There are up to one billion people around the world who depend on reefs.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“Reefs conservatively generate $30 billion per year.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“Coral reefs dying is a serious problem that affects everyone everywhere.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“The ocean provides us, not only most of the oxygen that we breathe, but also food for billions of people around the world.” Gator Halpern, @CoralVitaReefs

“We are creating stronger reefs that will be able to survive the oceans of the future.” Gator Halpern, @CoralVitaReefs

“The best thing to do for coral reefs is to stop killing them.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“We have this deep love for the ocean environment.” Gator Halpern, @CoralVitaReefs

“We have witnessed how reefs have suffered and died.” Gator Halpern, @CoralVitaReefs

“It’s definitely taken many evolutions.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“How do we create a system that is financially sustainable, to also do large-scale restoration?” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“One grant for one lagoon isn’t going to work for all the world’s reefs.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“I’ve yet to meet an entrepreneur who hasn’t had some sort of setback.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“There is a lot of support out there for people trying to do things to improve our society.” Gator Halpern, @CoralVitaReefs

“In the field of social entrepreneurship, there’s a very strong community led by Echoing Green and Halcyon Incubator.” Gator Halpern, @CoralVitaReefs

“It’s a field that comes with a lot of personal passion.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“Consider who is already working in this space.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“Try to check your ego.” @SamTeicher, @CoralVitaReefs

“Go outside. Be in nature. Jump in the ocean if you can.” Gator Halpern, @CoralVitaReefs

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jan 22, 2018
Launching Minority-Led Tech Startups with Mondo Davison, The Black Tech Guy

Mondo Davison, known as “The Black Tech Guy,” is on a mission to inspire a generation of black youth to pursue a life in tech.

African-Americans make up a little more than 11 percent of the US population. Yet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, only 2.1% of businesses with at least one employee were owned by African-Americans. In the tech sector, the statistics are worse. According to CB Insights’ data on VC investments, only 1 percent of VC-funded startup founders are black. Mondo Davison, known as “The Black Tech Guy,” is trying to close that gap.

When Mondo was a child, people would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Mondo always said he was going to play professional sports. When they heard this answer, folks would often ask, “What’s your Plan B?” This really bothered Mondo. “Is there anybody besides my dad that believes in this Plan A?”

When Mondo grew up, he went to the University of Tennessee and tried to walk on. “I got crushed,” he says. He went to Florida A&M and had a similar experience. He eventually graduated from college and became an educator.

Mondo worked in a school district with a high rate of poverty. When he asked kids what they wanted to be when they grew up, many of them said that they were going to play professional sports. “I didn’t want to be that adult that said, ‘What’s your Plan B?’ Really it was, what can I do different? That’s when The Black Tech Guy was birthed. Can I build this persona of this Black Tech Guy who is doing awesome things in tech, so that I can compel a young mind to go into tech as their Plan A?”

In January 2010, Mondo had a moment of synchronicity. “I was sitting at home, and I was flipping through channels. I came across this one-hour special on CNBC called Planet of the Apps.” Mondo thought to himself, “Let me go into this space. Let me see if I can actually do something.” Mondo explains, “That’s how I got into tech. Right after I watched that series, I invested my whole self into tech.”

Early Setbacks

Things did not go smoothly for Mondo. “For the next five years, I did everything wrong,” he admits. “I didn’t understand what best practices were.” Initially, Mondo sought out business advice from those who were experienced in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. However, their advice did not fit. “Brining a tech startup to market is completely different than building a traditional business.”

At the time, Mondo felt like he had to get his business idea perfect before launching. “That was so wrong, and I ended up wasting $50,000.” Mondo wishes he would have had someone to show him the way to build a tech startup. “I had nobody to help me navigate this space. I didn’t know anybody who had been through the tech journey to even ask.”

Mondo describes his first big mistake. When he built his first app, he was ready to launch, when he discovered a competitor. “I essentially stopped and didn’t go to market. I invested a bunch more money on ‘How can I make my thing cooler?’” He added several new features without feedback from the marketplace. “What I learned moving forward was, it’s not about the bells and whistles. How do you get that minimum viable product to market and then execute your product to the best of your ability?”

Building Knowledge and a Tribe

Eventually, Mondo found an online course from Stanford University that spelled out how to launch and iterate a tech startup. And, in another moment of synchronicity, Mondo came across an organization called Graveti. Graveti’s mission is to make Minnesota a promised land for people of color in tech and entrepreneurship. “We all met at a time when we needed each other, Mondo says. “It just organically happened.” Graveti became a peer group with whom he could share his struggles and learn from others.

Mondo does not regret making mistakes and learning. “My mission is to inspire and motivate black boys to go into tech. If it takes me to learn through $50,000 worth of mistakes, that’s a small price to pay. When you realize why you were put on this earth, you wake up every morning and you have this drive because you have this North Star you want to accomplish, life is just different.”

Shifting Business Models

The first few apps that Mondo built were focused on a monetization strategy that depended on a million or more users. Today, he focuses on consumer pay business model. He is currently focusing on two new projects: Shortiez and SafeSpace.

Shortiez is a digital library of culturally relevant content. Mondo’s goal is for kids of color to see themselves reflected in the stories they read.

SafeSpace allows the user to notify anyone within 3 blocks to respond as a witness when interacting with law enforcement. SafeSpace was built in collaboration with Software for Good, whose goal is to make the world a better place by building great software for companies doing great things.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Mondo Davison

“I only own The Black Tech Guy shirts.”

“You can get an MVP to market and just test, iterate.”

“It was just a lot of crashing and burning.”

“It’s not a mom-and-pop shop where you have to take down all the bricks.”

“We built this brotherhood.”

“We all met at a time when we needed each other.”

“I call us this family of founders.”

“I have domain expertise, working in that space for seven years.”

“There are limited to no books that are culturally relevant in the classroom.”

“I couldn’t find any book that had a person of color on the cover. Fast forward 25 years, and that’s still the case.”

“So many schools have this problem.”

Be innovative. Try something. Be risky.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jan 15, 2018
Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference, with Kathleen Kelly Janus

Kathleen Kelly Janus is the author of Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference.

Kathleen Kelly Janus grew up in a family that cared about social causes. “My family cared about volunteering, and spent our weekends volunteering at soup kitchens,” she explains. “But they also cared about the organizations, and supporting the conditions so that nonprofits can not only survive, but can thrive.”

Kathleen studied the law at UC Berkley. After graduating, she worked as an attorney. In 2004, she cofounded a nonprofit, Spark. Spark makes it easy for young people to give to women's causes. At their first fundraising event, Kathleen and her cofounders watched in amazement as attendees formed a line around the block. That first night, they raised $5,000 for an organization in Rwanda. As word spread about Spark, their revenues doubled every few months. By the third year, they were ready to hire their first Executive Director. But that is where their fundraising plateaued.

“Just at the point when we were poised to take the organization to the next level, we hit a wall,” Kathleen says. “We couldn’t get over this hump of $300,000 – $500,000 in revenue.” As a lecturer at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship, Kathleen heard stories of organizations that had overcome the plateau in fundraising. She saw examples of success among her friends.

“That is the question I’ve been studying for the past five years,” Kathleen explains. “What does it take for nonprofits to succeed, and particularly in those early stages? What does it take to get over that hump?”

Kathleen used what she knew from her own startup experience. She worked with her students to research hundreds of articles on best practices. She surveyed thought leaders and interviewed hundreds of successful social entrepreneurs. Based on what she’s learned, Kathleen has written a new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference. She lays out five key strategies of successful nonprofits:

  • Testing Ideas
  • Measuring Impact
  • Funding Experimentation
  • Leading Collaboratively
  • Telling Compelling Stories

Social Startup Success describes specific methods for executing each of these key strategies.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kathleen Kelly Janus

“We were operating month-to-month, trying to make ends meet.”

“In Silicon Valley, I saw these organizations that were taking off.”

“What were organizations like Kiva doing differently than we were doing at Spark?”

“What was allowing them to take their organizations to the next level and to maximize their impact?”

“That hump is something a lot of organizations are facing.”

“Of the 300,000 nonprofits in the United States, two-thirds of them are $500,000 and below in revenue.”

“A lot of them have proven ideas that can work in communities around the world.”

“Every organization is going to have a different threshold.”

“By sustainable I mean, are you able to operate in such a way that allows you to focus your energy on the impact?”

“Every one of these organizations had these very early periods of illumination before they went out to raise money.”

“They were very careful about testing it early on.”

“The best social entrepreneurs fall in love with the problem, not the solution.”

“Organizations that measured their impact from the start, tended to scale more quickly.”

“Always be thinking about the impact and measuring that.”

“The organizations that are most successful are the organizations that have a much more distributed leadership culture.”

“Go work for someone who has been successful before you.”

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

“A lot of the best organizations have executive coaches.”

“We all have the capacity to make a difference in the world.”

“We all need to think about how we can support our nonprofits.”

“Pick a cause. Pick a nonprofit organization, and go out there and make a difference.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jan 08, 2018
From #MeToo to #HeForShe, with Julie Kratz, Pivot Point

Julie Kratz is the author of One: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality.

Our 24-hour news cycle is filled with thousands of short-lived moments: a school shooting; government corruption; crisis in the Middle East. Each headline crowds out the next. It can be hard to focus on one story for any period of time. But every now and then, a story sticks around. It breaks through the noise of the busy news cycle. A moment becomes a movement.

From the admission of a presidential candidate that he had groped women and gotten away with it, to the Women’s March last year, and gaining momentum with the Harvey Weinstein revelations, the #MeToo movement began. Women are organizing, speaking out and taking action.

It’s important to remember that #MeToo is about more than sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s also about equal career opportunities and equal pay for equal work.

Men may want to help, but may not know where to begin. There’s a new book available that deals with just this question of how to be a male ally. It’s called One: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality. It’s written by Julie Kratz, the founder of Pivot Point. She is a speaker, a trainer and author. This book was written after extensive interviews with successful women and male allies.

In this interview, Julie describes what an organization might look like if it achieved gender equality. She contrasts that with the current reality. Julie describes the consequences to organizations who do not maximize the talents of women. She provides indicators that organizations can look for to indicate whether or not they are achieving gender equality. She provides some positive examples of organizations who are getting gender equality right.

Julie also lays out four key strategies for being a successful male ally:

  • Channeling the women they empathize
  • Asking for her HERstory
  • Speaking up with her
  • Doing the fair share

You can also read an explanation of each of these key areas on Julie’s blog here.

About Julie Kratz

Julie is a leadership trainer. She led teams in companies such as Caterpillar, Nationwide Insurance, and Adayana. After experiencing her own career “pivot point,” Julie developed a process to help women leaders create their winning career game plan.

Julie promotes gender equality in the workplace by helping women navigate their “what’s next” moments. Julie is a frequent keynote speaker and executive coach. Julie is also the author of Pivot Point: How to Build a Winning Career Game Plan.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Julie Kratz

“An ally is somebody that is in it with you…side-by-side with you.”

“Ideally, you would look around the leadership table and see diversity.”

“When you have gender equality at the highest level of organizations, you have a much stronger profitability number.”

“McKinsey sites a 16% higher profitability rate with gender equality organizations.”

“It’s not a zero-sum game.”

“The statistics aren’t really changing.”

“What we’ve found is, it’s not blatant.”

“We’ve accepted that things are changing. It’s going to be a slow, gradual change. But, that’s actually not true. If we don’t do something now, it can actually get worse.”

“The world just has to be different for my daughters.”

“It’s not a line-item on your financials, which is why I think there is not a sense of urgency.”

“The power of the team is so much stronger, because all voices are heard.”

“80% of the buying decisions in our country are made by women.”

“Look around. Think about who is not here.”

“Women, on average, for the same work are paid 83% of what their male peers are paid.”

“There’s this unconscious bias, the subtle things we do every day with how we value women’s work.”

“When you say it’s a priority, your behaviors match that it’s a priority.”

“There are a lot of men in the middle that I call men on the fringe.”

“Men are better suited to call out bad behavior from other men.”

“You think about what has held women back, I don’t think we’ve been so good at including men in the dialog. We’re talking about 50% of the population.”

“Men need to feel included. They need to feel a part of this.”

“Strong women leaders engage these men in their careers.”

“Ask a woman what it’s like to be her.”

“People want to talk about it, but they don’t know how.”

“Think of one thing you can do to support this conversation.”

“We need men as allies.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jan 01, 2018
Create a Better World through…Paperwork? Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

Farm Commons empowers farmers to rewrite farm law by and for themselves.

Rachel Armstrong knew exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up. She wanted to be a farmer, just like her father and her grandfather. “Respecting where food comes from was part and parcel to my childhood, Rachel explains. But she received some important advice. “I changed my mind a little bit when my mother said, ‘That’s a terrible idea.’” Rachel knew the realities of agriculture. “The farming life is very difficult…Rural people are disadvantaged in so many ways.” So, she did as so many farm kids did. She went away to college.

But a funny thing happened at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She found an incredible farming community. “There were folks selling directly to consumers,” Rachel says. “Folks farming in a way that respected the environment. And they were making money. That, to me, was everything I had hoped for.”

Rachel became deeply involved in the sustainable agricultural community. She managed a community garden. She worked on farms. She started a catering company that used local foods. “I’m very much a self-motivated person,” she says with a laugh.

Though she was involved in many aspects of sustainable farming, Rachel was still looking for her niche. She wondered, “How was I going to foster this community that I love so much?” It did not take long for Rachel to realize that the community needed legal information. “There were sneaky problems creeping up in our community that we didn’t know how to deal with. There were questions we didn’t know how to answer. So, I figured, how hard can it be? I better go to law school,” she says with a laugh.

During her three years at law school, Rachel formed the business plan for what would become Farm Commons. In 2012, Rachel applied for and became an Echoing Green fellow. This provided her with the working capital, mentoring and support she needed to launch Farm Commons.

The Problem Farm Commons is Solving

Sustainable farmers grow food in a way that respects the environment and the communities in which they live. But that means that their business models don’t fit the legal mold which was developed for the conventional, commodity-style farm. Farm Commons creates educational forums and cultivates the leadership of individual farmers.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Rachel Armstrong

“It isn’t necessarily about the rules and regulations. It’s about our relationships.”

“When farmers write good paperwork, they’re creating solutions that helps them go forward.”

“Paperwork can be revolutionary.”

“Those leases matter.”

“Sustainable farmers need to protect themselves.”

“Education is not enough.”

“We need farmers to go beyond knowing things, to doing things.”

“We want sustainable farm law to be written by and for sustainable farmers.”

“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be an attorney.”

“I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up.”

“Respecting where food comes from was part and parcel to my childhood.”

“I changed my mind a little bit when my mother said, ‘That’s a terrible idea.’”

“The farming life is very difficult.”

“Rural people are disadvantaged in so many ways.”

“In Madison, Wisconsin I found an incredible farming community.”

“I dove right into the sustainable agriculture community.”

“I’m very much a self-motivated person.”

“How am I going to foster this community that I love so much?”

“The very first money that I received was a fellowship from Echoing Green.”

“We want to create a model for a legal commons that goes beyond just sustainable farming.”

“Everyone deserves the ability to shape their community’s legal destiny.”

“89% of the farmers that we reach, make a change to their business within three months.”

“We reach about 2,000 farmers per year, and that’s growing.”

“Listen to the community that you serve.”

“The community knows what the community needs. We make it possible.”

“My job as the Director of Farm Commons is to figure out how to meet the need in a way that they prefer.”

“You haven’t solved their problems if you don’t listen to them.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jan 01, 2018
Community Feasts for a Cause, with Emily Torgrimson, Eat for Equity

Eat for Equity is building a culture of generosity through sustainable community feasts.

In the early 2000s, Emily Torgrimson was a college student on financial aid. She lived in a cooperative house in Boston with 24 people. “We always came together around food,” she recalls. “The kitchen was the hub of the home.”

During Emily’s senior year, Hurricane Katrina struck the southern US coast. Not only was Katrina one of the costliest and deadliest storms in US history, it also uncovered financial and racial inequities. Emily wanted to do something, but, she says, “I had no money to give. So, I wondered what kind of difference I could make.”

Because it was Emily’s turn to cook in her cooperative house, she was looking at recipes, when she stumbled across a recipe for jambalaya. This gave her an idea. She asked her housemates, “If I made a New Orleans themed meal, do you think people would throw in a buck or two for hurricane relief?” Her housemates agreed. They handed out fliers. They invited friends and classmates. In the end, one-hundred people showed up, ate Cajun food and raised money for hurricane relief. They called the event “Eat for Equity.” Eat for Equity eventually became Emily’s life’s work.

After returning to Minnesota, Emily began to host Eat for Equity meals with her roommate in their small home. After about a year of monthly meals, a friend, Jane, hosted an Eat for Equity meal. People who knew Jane showed up for the meal. Then Eat for Equity began to grow to more homes, more social causes, and more people who were willing to experience something new.

How does Eat for Equity Work? You walk in to a home, an art gallery or a farm. Volunteers have prepared a feast with from-scratch cooking, utilizing local produce. You give what you can. That might be $10 or $50. You might not have money, but you can volunteer to help with dishes or provide music. The meal supports a nonprofit cause.

Eat for Equity also hosts dinners called “The Welcome Table,” which is focused on immigrants and refugees. Four cooks are featured in each dinner. Each course reflects their family heritage.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Emily Torgrimson

“You walk into abundance.”

“How do you use food to bring people together to support a great cause, to address inequities around us?”

“I think of Eat for Equity as trying to create connections.”

“There are all these ways you can give that feed you and also create something bigger around you.”

“You can be generous with what you have.”

“You share a piece of yourself when you cook for people.”

“I wanted to be part of the story, as much as I wanted to tell it.”

“I fell in love with Minneapolis and the culture of collaboration.”

“Catering has basically doubled every year.”

“Just try something and see how it feels.”

“Everything happens around food.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Dec 18, 2017
Fair Trade Coffee from Smallholder Farmers, with Lee Wallace, Peace Coffee [ENCORE]

NOTE: This is an encore presentation of an episode that first aired on July 11, 2016. Advice from Lee Wallace is featured in the book, Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. To hear the original, extended interview, go here:


Smallholder farmers grow more than half of the coffee consumed worldwide.

Imagine if you will, that you are working at a non-profit in Minnesota, focusing on public policy. The phone rings, and the person on the other end says “Hello. This is the Port of Los Angeles. We have 38,000 pounds of green coffee with your name on it. How would you like to pick this up?” You know nothing about coffee or roasting or retail. What would you do?

That is exactly what happened twenty years ago at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In today’s Social Entrepreneur, Lee Wallace, the Queen Bean of Peace Coffee tells us the rest of the story.

Peace Coffee is a for-profit social enterprise, owned by a nonprofit, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Peace Coffee has a wholesale business that they have been running for about two decades. They also have four retail coffee shops within the Twin Cities, Minnesota.

Last year Peace Coffee purchased 735,000 lbs. of coffee from 12 countries and 20 smallholder farmer cooperatives. In the process, Peace Coffee paid $370,000 in fair trade premiums.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lee Wallace

“We think hard about how to do the right thing for coffee farmers.”

“Our customers named us.”

“I was trying to find a career that made sense to me in terms of my passions.”

“What I was trying to do was find places that sit at the nexus of mission and money.”

“Pretty quickly I realized that this is a magical place for me.”

“I have always been interested in how organizations work.”

“We spend a lot of our time at work.”

“The Twin Cities is an amazing place to learn about natural foods because we have such a vibrant and thriving co-op ecosystem.”

“My dad really wanted us to understand the history of industry as it came in and out of communities and how that really impacted families in those communities.”

“The original idea was that we would be an importer of all kinds of things.”

“More than 50% of the world’s coffee farmers, farm coffee on very small parcels of land.”

“We come this work with the sense that, what we’re doing is working on trying to elevate the livelihood of an awful lot of people who historically have been very disadvantaged when it comes to the way trade works.”

“It’s livelihood, but its community development too.”

“Co-ops are stepping in and playing the role of civil society in these communities.”

“People in these communities have ideas and know how they’re going to make their communities better. Our job is to be a good partner on the other side of that.”

“We have a price floor…We believe that below this level is unsustainable for coffee farmers.”

“This company existing 10 years from now is more important than what is happening this month. This company is bigger than all of us.”

“You’d be amazed at who would be willing to talk to you.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Dec 18, 2017
Kate Goodall Explains Why Halcyon is Like the X-Men

Halcyon catalyzes emerging creatives who are striving for a better world.

Kate Goodall, the CEO at Halcyon explains their work this way: “If you think of the X-Men, and you think of Charles Xavier’s Academy for the Gifted, that’s kind of like Halcyon. We take these amazing social entrepreneurs from different backgrounds. They all come together in this inspirational setting to grow together. And they support each other towards solutions that can impact many lives around the world.”

Halcyon supports scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs. They are looking for people with a great vision for solving important problems, and who has the talent to do so. For these folks, Halcyon provides resources, information, and connections, allowing them to reach their goals a lot faster than they would on their own.

The core of Halcyon is made up of the Halcyon incubator. They take the best social entrepreneurs from around the world and provide them with a place to live and work for five months. They also provide a $10,000 stipend, a mentor, a business network, business services, and legal advice. After their five-month residency, alumni who live nearby can continue to work out of the Halcyon space for free.

An unusual component to the Halcyon Incubator is, they do take equity in the companies they support. “We come at this through a risk-taking philanthropic perspective,” Kate explains. “We really are like venture capitalists, doing our due diligence on these people and then taking a bet very early on.”

Halcyon was co-founded by Dr. Sachiko Kuno. Dr. Kuno cofounded and was the major shareholder in two pharmaceutical firms: Sucampo Pharmaceuticals in Maryland and R-Tech Ueno in Japan. Kate says of Dr. Kuno, “This is really possible because of her generosity.” Dr. Kuno dedicated the 30,000-square foot house in which Halcyon operates. Dr. Kuno also covers all the operations of the house. Halcyon raises philanthropic capital for the stipends, programs and services.

Another component of Halcyon’s work is the Halcyon Arts Lab, which spun out of the success of the Incubator. “We saw how impactful it was to give people time and space. We figured out how we would do the same thing for civic-minded artists,” Kate describes. Artists get 9 months of free residence and a suite of resources. At the end of their residency, the artists deliver a socially impactful art project. The artists “pay it forward” by mentoring a high-school artist who also produces a socially relevant art project.

“At the core of Halcyon’s methodology is this idea of helping somebody find self-efficacy,” Kate said. “What we mean by that is the ability to envision something, and to take one step over the other to achieve it.”

Halcyon does not to focus on a single sector, such as healthcare or education. “We saw ourselves our expertise, not in one subject area, but rather in the methodology of providing space and time and community and access,” Kate says. “We decided to take anyone with solutions who have demonstrated that they understand the problem and they have developed a sound business plan around it.”

Halcyon specifically focuses on the underserved. “About 5% of VC funding goes to women, 1% to African-Americans, and far less than that to women of color,” Kate says. “And, interestingly, in the art world, the numbers are almost exactly the same when you look at collections in museums across North America and Europe.” Because of Halcyon’s focus on the underserved, 51% of the founders they support are women and 62% are founders of color. “It makes our cohort groups stronger because you get a variety of perspectives when solving any problem.”

Halcyon’s methodology produces measurable results. “In just over three years, the fellows of Halcyon have impacted nearly half a million lives around the world, raised over 25 million dollars and created 350 jobs,” says Kate.

Kate Goodall’s Journey to Halcyon

Kate grew up in England where she was the oldest child to a single mother. “I think that made me aggressively independent,” she observes. “I’ve always been a bit of an explorer, very curious.” She and her mother moved to the United States when Kate was 14 years old. It was a time transition and transformation – a new age, a new country and a new culture. “I really learned with the culture shift. I learned to talk to a whole different group of people.”

In college, Kate studied film, French, and world literature. “I was a generalist, or a Renaissance person,” she says. “I’m always fascinated with humans and our struggles and our pain.”

In grad school, she studies maritime archeology. She dove on ship wrecks for many years. “The transferrable skills set from that period of my life is, I learned not to panic.”  

Kate’s career took her into philanthropic work, working with organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Science-Technology Centers. In 2013, Kate became the Chief Operating Officer of the S&R Foundation with Dr. Kuno. Kate and Dr. Kuno co-founded Halcyon.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kate Goodall

“The core of Halcyon is the idea of helping someone find self-efficacy.”

“There is this big myth around fail fast in this space.”

“The kinds of things our fellows are working on are not the kinds of things where failure is an option.”

“We set out intentionally to be diverse.”

“About 5% of VC funding goes to women, 1% to African-Americans, and far less than that to women of color.”

“Focus on what is the core problem that you are trying to solve.”

“In just over three years the fellows have impacted nearly half a million lives.”

“Think outside the box and consider slightly more risky propositions.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Dec 11, 2017
A Social Enterprise with a Radio Show at its Heart, with Krista Tippett, OnBeing [ENCORE]

NOTE: This is an encore presentation of an episode that first aired on March 14, 2016. Krista Tippett is featured in the book, Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. To hear the original, extended interview, go here:  


When I sat down with Krista Tippett of OnBeing to interview her for Social Entrepreneur, she told me some stories that she has told before through her books, award-winning radio program, and her many public appearances. However, she also talked about the back stories, the inner workings of her social enterprise. “We have not really talked about this much in public,” she told me.

If you are an avid fan of Krista Tippett, you might already know that she grew up in Shawnee, Oklahoma. She attended Brown University where she experienced a world different than what she had known. At Brown, Krista told me, she learned to be brave. She was an exchange student in Rostock when it was part of communist East Germany. She spent time as a reporter for the New York Times, and she worked at the US Embassy in Germany as Pershing missiles were pushed around a map.

In Europe, Krista was exposed to great power and those with few financial resources. She observed that some people with material abundance withered spiritually while others with few earthly goods maintained a rich inner life. She learned that circumstances do not dictate the quality of our spirits.

She traveled and lived in England. She attended Yale Divinity School. She moved to Collegeville, Minnesota where she took up a multi-year project to record the oral history of religious leaders. And as these leaders told her their stories, the thought occurred to her that others would benefit from these rich conversations. It was from this root that OnBeing was born.

In this revealing interview, Krista Tippett describes the way that September 11, 2001, suddenly thrust her onto a national platform with a radio program originally called Speaking of Faith. She tells how the radio show went from an idea to a meager pilot to an abrupt and urgent national conversation.

Krista describes the details of the inner workings of OnBeing, the decision to change the name from Speaking of Faith and the choice three years ago to spin off from American Public Media. To do so, she formed the social enterprise Krista Tippett Public Productions. They call it a social enterprise with a radio show at its heart. “We’re still figuring out what that means,” she told me.

Krista filled the hour with insights she learned as she launched a social enterprise and with practical advice for those who would follow her. In the end, Krista’s call to action for the listeners of Social Entrepreneur was to be there for one another as we see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

Social Enterprise Quotes from Krista Tippett

“To be a radio show is also to be a podcast now.”

“Human beings can be placed in many circumstances, and those circumstances don’t define you; it’s the life you create out of whatever those raw materials are.”

“I was turning up at the radio station in the middle of the night, and the engineers on duty would let me in. I was learning to engineer it while I was producing it.”

“Over 90% of Americans say they sometimes pray. Over 70% affiliate with a religious tradition.”

“If this [faith] is the source, or at least an important source of moral imagination, we need to be able to talk about this in our public life as fluently as we talk about our economic imagination or our political imagination.”

“We felt like we had to get into a nimble, entrepreneurial structure.”

“No matter how beautiful the content is, or how timely the idea was, if I hadn’t have been good at raising money, this would not exist.”

On fundraising: “It’s all about relationships.”

“The work we do is something our funders themselves can partake in, weekly, as human beings.”

“All of us in this field, we are called to invent those metrics. We have to figure out how to do this.”

“The shadow side of social entrepreneurship can be an expression of this American drive of the self-made man, to have a vision that somehow you have to save the world with your project. It has perfectly good motivations, but what we’re learning in the 21st century is, in fact, the world does not work that way. And it’s never going to work that way again, even if we pretend it did.”

“We realized that this matter of talking about hard things, of taking up these great questions of our times, of doing that with different others, has civic and public implications as much as it has private implications.”

“I didn’t set out to write a book about wisdom.”

“What it means to be human, I think we have only begun to live into that question.”

“We have to help each other. We have to accompany each other.”

“It’s an incredibly exciting moment, and the stakes are high.”

“Get yourself some mentors; an ecosystem of mentors.”

“You learn when you have your own organization what a complex and perilous thing hiring is.”

“We now have as many people working on digital as people working on the weekly radio show.”

Social Enterprise Resources:


Dec 11, 2017
Educational Opportunities for All, with Maimuna Ahmad, Teach for Bangladesh

Nearly 60 million children in Bangladesh are denied high-quality education as a result of an inequitable system. Teach for Bangladesh is addressing this problem.


Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet a country of great opportunities. However, those opportunities are not evenly distributed across society.

Many children live on less than $2 per day. They go to school for as little 2-3 hours per day, often in classrooms that can swell to 120 students or more. Of the 17 million children who begin elementary school each year, only around 2 million will graduate from high school.

The teachers themselves are sometimes poorly educated, with most holding a high school diploma or a few years of college at most.

“The education that they’re able to deliver, despite their best intentions, doesn’t really serve the children that they’re trying to help,” says Maimuna Ahmad of Teach for Bangladesh. “This is in stark contrast to high-income schools that are offering a world-class education. We work to bridge this divide.”

Teach for Bangladesh is tackling this challenge through a program modeled after Teach for America. Young professionals are recruited to spend two years at a low-income school in Bangladesh and receive leadership development training along the way.

By taking this approach, Maimuna said Teach for Bangladesh is creating more than just skilled teachers. “They are changing the life trajectory of children in their classrooms while building their own skillsets. They can work as lifelong advocates for equity across Bangladesh,” she explains.

From Student to Teacher

Growing up, Maimuna split her time between Bangladesh and the suburbs of Washington, D.C. While she was in Bangladesh, she was able to attend private schools thanks to her family’s background.

Like many American children, Maimuna’s parents asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up — a question that is not often asked of children in Bangladesh.

“Every day on my way to school, I was passing children in the streets who were begging and selling trinkets,” Maimuna said. “I grew up with an acute understanding that I had been born lucky, and I felt a need to pay it forward.”

Maimuna studied international relations and political science at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She was on the path to law school when Teach for America approached her.

She met with a recruiter not much older than her who talked about the injustice that he witnessed in his classroom and realized the opportunity she had to take a stand against the injustice she had witnessed in the educational system.

“That opportunity to put my money where my mouth was and get involved and not just intellectualize about social justice but get in the trenches was really exciting to me.,” Maimuna said.

Maimuna was placed as a high school algebra teacher in Washington, D.C. She calls those two years in the classroom some of the toughest but most fulfilling that she could ask for. All the while, she couldn’t stop thinking about how the injustice she witnessed in the U.S. was similar to what she had seen growing up in Bangladesh.

She thought that the Teach for America might work in Bangladesh, but she wasn’t sure because she hadn’t lived there since was a child. She took some time off after finishing Teach for America to reconnect to her roots in Bangladesh.

While there, she began working for a legal aid organization, but couldn’t get her mind off of teaching.

“Somehow, I kept finding excuses to get back into schools and back into classrooms,” Maimuna said. “I began to realize that there was this incredible need and there was something that really spoke to me about addressing this issue.”

Becoming an Entrepreneur

Maimuna had the drive to become a social entrepreneur, but as a 20-something with a liberal arts education, she didn’t know if she had the skills to back it up. She began seeking advice from friends, family, and other entrepreneurs.

One of the key pieces of advice she heard was that she was never going to be the perfect leader at any given moment. Instead, she was the person who was showing up and choosing to take on the issue — something that mattered far more than management experience.

She also learned that several other countries had successfully adopted the Teach for America model, which gave her the confidence to know that it could succeed in Bangladesh.

Maimuna went to India at the end of 2011 to observe the Teach for India program, where she slept on couches and observed classrooms in Bombay. She realized that the problems she saw in India also existed in Bangladesh and she could play a role in solving them.

She moved to Bangladesh permanently in 2012 and began building Teach for Bangladesh in cafes that offered free Wi-Fi. One of her first realizations was that she couldn’t just lift the Teach for America (now called Teach for All)  model in its entirety; she needed to mold it to fit the situation in Bangladesh.

“The first few months of work was about emerging myself in the context and understanding what the problem was in Bangladesh,” Maimuna said.

She did that by reading, talking to experts, and gathering insight from teachers, students, and parents from throughout the country’s educational system. She also consulted with Teach for All colleagues from around the world to help provide structure to her thinking.

On the financial side, Maimuna started the business with her savings from her time as a high school teacher in the U.S. Teach for Bangladesh received its first grant from BRAC University, one of the largest NGOs in Bangladesh. It was one of the colleges Maimuna visited early on to gauge interest from students in participating in Teach for Bangladesh.

The university’s founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, asked to meet with Maimuna personally. She later found that he was the person who renamed Teach for America as Teach for All. The rest is what Maimuna describes as a “nice bit of serendipity.”

“He had a love and appreciation for the model already and was looking for someone to do this in Bangladesh,” Maimuna said.

In another bit of serendipity, Maimuna’s roommate from Teach for America (also a Bangladeshi-American) had just moved to Bangladesh. She became the program’s first employee in 2012.

The Takeaway

As she looks across the global social entrepreneur landscape, Maimuna said she sees a competition for who can say they are the most overworked and those struggles being praised on social media.

Her advice to young entrepreneurs is to take of yourself and not lose sight of the fact that life is more than work. Exercise, sleep, and healthy relationships are key to long-term success and avoiding burnout.

“In an entrepreneurial pursuit, you are your biggest asset,” Maimuna said. “If you don’t take care of that asset, you are actually shortchanging yourself and those you are trying to serve.”

Even if you never go to Bangladesh, you can still support the work that Maimuna and her colleagues are doing. Teach for Bangladesh is a registered 501c3 in the U.S. and accepts donations through its website at

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Maimuna Ahmad

“I grew up with an acute understanding that I had been born lucky.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“To really bring about a long-term sustainable change, we need to change the way leadership works.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“99 percent of students enter school in Bangladesh, but the education they receive is subpar.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“I realized the opportunities I took for granted were not there for children all around me.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“It was that theme of injustice that really spoke to me.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“Children are children no matter where in the world you are at.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“I began to realize that there was this incredible need.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“I had never fundraised before. I had never managed a team before.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“I was adapting this model in a way that felt really authentic to me as a leader.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“For decades, Bangladesh has been a hotbed of social entrepreneurship.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“We’re all competing to see who can be the most overworked among us.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

“In an entrepreneurial pursuit, you are your biggest asset.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh

Social Entrepreneurship Resources

Dec 04, 2017
From Iron Deficiency to Iron Man, with Gavin Armstrong, Lucky Iron Fish

Iron deficiency is a massive, but preventable condition. Lucky Iron Fish Enterprise is dedicated to reducing iron deficiency rates around the world.

In high school, Gavin Armstrong was bullied severely. “I took it that I needed to make lots of money to prove bullies wrong,” Gavin explains. “The image I had of bankers was, they were all successful, driving expensive cars. And, I thought if I could live that life, I would prove to bullies, and maybe even to myself that I had worth.”

Gavin attended the University of Guelph to study finance. However, he described his coursework as “miserable.” While at the university, he took a field trip to Botswana. While he enjoyed experiencing the culture and the people, it was the first time that he had a chance to see abject poverty up close.

After the trip, Gavin realized, “I was on such a selfish trajectory to prove someone wrong who I probably would never even see again.” He began to work with nonprofits related to hunger and malnutrition. He arranged conferences, helped his university get into Guinness Book of World Records three times for emergency meal packing. These activities introduced him to the World Food Programme.

His volunteer work took him to Dadaab in Northern Kenya, one of the largest refugee camps in the world. It was there that he began to question the sustainability of his work. “We were raising money, to give food, only to have to do the same thing over again,” he describes. “That’s when I became re-engaged with business. I thought business could be a sustainable solution…to this crisis.”

Lucky Iron Fish Enterprise is disrupting how the world is getting the iron that they need. Gavin states that “Iron deficiency is the world’s largest nutritional disorder.” In fact, this disorder affects about two billion people, almost one-third of the world’s population. Gavin shares that current solutions such as iron supplement pills are simply not working. In fact, “iron deficiency rates have gone up by 10% since the year 2000.”

Iron deficiency can impair cognitive development in children. It can lead to susceptibility to other diseases, and in extreme cases, can lead to death. The World Bank estimates that the iron deficiency removes $70 billion from the global economy each year.

Lucky Iron Fish provides a simple solution, small iron fish. “When boiled for ten minutes in one liter of water, it can provide a person with a significant proportion of their daily required iron intake.” The Lucky Iron Fish doesn’t change the smell, taste or color of the water. A family can use a single Lucky Iron Fish for up to 5 years.

Lucky Iron Fish started in Cambodia. Their first product was a simple iron disc. However, customers did not want it. “Women didn’t want to cook with it,” Gavin says. “They would laugh us out their household and say that looks like a piece of garbage, I am not putting that in my food.” In his research, Gavin found that a fish was a symbol of good luck in Cambodia. They changed the iron ingot to look like a fish, which increased customer acceptance.

Not only did Gavin have to change his product, but he also had to abandon his original business model. “I thought that we had a very clear value proposition, and so we could go door to door in Cambodia, sell the product for five dollars,” he admits. “Knowing how much iron supplements cost, we could say ‘this is better for you, it’s lucky, and you’re going to love it.’” However, the company lacked trust in the community, so sales were slow.

Gavin started sharing the story of the Lucky Iron Fish at conferences. He soon found that there was a demand for his product in industrialized countries. So, he changed his business model. “For every fish we sold; we would donate one for free in Cambodia.” The company continues to use the buy-one-give-one model today.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Gavin Armstrong

“Iron deficiency takes 70 billion US dollars out the global economy each year.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

“There is a big macro and micro impact of iron deficiency.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

“Social entrepreneurship is possible.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

“These challenges that seem very daunting can have solutions.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

“A little bit of success doesn’t equal a guaranteed success.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

“I think it’s important for everyone to be speaking the same language.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

“You can be a social entrepreneur in how you create your business.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

“I was on such a selfish trajectory to prove someone wrong who I probably would never even see again.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Dec 04, 2017
Improving Healthcare, One Story at a Time, with Jay Newton-Small, MemoryWell

MemoryWell is making lasting memories for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Jay Newton-Small knows a thing or two about storytelling. She’s worked as a journalist for more than 15 years, with her work appearing in Time and Bloomberg.

Jay’s father Graham was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Jay was in college. He became one of her first in-depth interview subjects. She spent many hours interviewing him and grew to become his voice. When her mother passed away in 2006, Jay became her father’s primary caregiver.

When Jay moved her father, Graham, into an Alzheimer’s assisted living facility, she knew that it was time to tell his story. Upon arriving at the facility, she was handed a 20-page questionnaire asking for details about her father’s life.

“I handed in the form blank and said I wanted to write a story that would be easier for me and easier for them,” Jay explains. “I wrote down his story and they absolutely loved. It completely transformed his care.”

Graham grew up in Australia, and that served as the basis for his story. As his Alzheimer’s progressed and he grew more violent, his caregivers knew to bring up kangaroos and other anecdotes to calm him down. “Knowing that life history and where he was from made his caregiving so much easier,” Jay explains.

That one story has grown into MemoryWell, a network of 350 journalists across the country who are capturing the lives of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients for their loved ones and caregivers. Jay said those writers are “giving voice to the voiceless” in Alzheimer’s communities, where staff turnover can be as much as 50 percent in a given year.

Making connections

Rather than having to introduce themselves to each new person, patients can present their MemoryWell story. Their story becomes a catalyst to warm a new relationship with each caregiver. The stories also help facility staff get to know each patient as a person, rather than as someone that they shuffle from place to place throughout the day.

The stories collected benefit three main groups:

  1. The Alzheimer’s or dementia patient. Research shows that storytelling can reduce depression and increase empathy and bonds with caregivers.
  2. Caregivers: “This is a miserable job, that’s why there’s so much turnover,” Jay said. “Taking someone to the bathroom five times per day who you don’t know and can’t really speak to isn’t very much fun. Anything that makes their jobs better also help the patients.”
  3. Families, who benefit from the legacy building that the stories cultivate. In some cases, they learn new things about their family member and are able to pass along those stories to future generations.

Assisted living facilities display the stories to help residents and staff get to know one another and form a sense of community in what can be a very isolated environment.

“Building those bonds is incredibly powerful,” Jay commented.

MemoryWell stories can be useful for anyone, not just Alzheimer’s or dementia patients. Jay said the company works with families who simply want to preserve stories from an older generation.

Turning stories into a business

Jay’s reporting has taken her to five continents. She has interviewed every living president. In 2016, Jay covered Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign for Time. She left the magazine in November 2016 to focus exclusively on MemoryWell.

Telling stories is one thing, but starting a business is something else entirely. Jay applied her journalism background to ask the right questions and understand the process of how businesses operate.

After Jay wrote her father’s story, she asked journalist friends to write stories about other families at the recommendation of caregivers. Over time, she learned that being able to print the stories was important because many assisted living facilities do not have Wi-Fi and that adding photos and videos helped create more compelling pieces than those with written words alone.

The company received its first paying clients in fall 2016 and incorporated shortly after. She was still covering politics at the time and decided that if she continued on the journalism path, she would regret not giving MemoryWell a shot.

Jay decided to pursue MemoryWell full-time in mid-October and resigned from her position at Time. She is still involved in politics as a contributor to CNN and MSNBC but says she’s happy to be away from Washington and focusing on more meaningful stories.

“It was so impactful to tell these stories and see the hands-on impact they have in ways that you don’t really get to see as a journalist when you’re writing for an audience of millions,” she said.

Jay did not have technical experience before starting MemoryWell and sought help from a hackathon at MIT to launch the MemoryWell website and app.

The company’s funding comes both from business-to-business and business-to-consumer sources. Thus far, the company has worked with nursing home companies in Chicago and Florida and is preparing to take on a few companies with facilities nationwide. Families can also buy a story, which is generating revenue from the business-to-consumer side.

Jay recently joined the board of Good Samaritan Society and is hoping to start a MemoryWell pilot with some of its 550 facilities across the country.

A growing need

The need for MemoryWell will only continue to grow. Jay said there are some 5.5 million people with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. and another 11 million with dementia. Many of those people do not remember recent events well, but can clearly recall stories and experiences from their childhood, early life, or middle age. Those anecdotes help inform the MemoryWell stories.

Jay said this work is also important because the generation battling Alzheimer’s and dementia right now is not as digital as their younger counterparts. They are less likely to be on social media or have other online accounts about their lives.

The company is currently only incorporated in the U.S. but is interested in expanding globally. Jay has received inquiries from clients around the world, including a large nursing home company in Australia. She is figuring out how to put the reporting infrastructure in place to bring those stories to life.

“I don’t think you would be successful if you used American journalists to tell Australian stories because there’s too much cultural difference,” Jay said. “Local voices and local perspectives are important.”

Jay is the author of Broad Influence: How Women are Changing the Way Washington Works. She explains that starting a business is a lot like writing a book. Both require the same amount of passion for an idea and the drive to turn it into reality.

“You’d better love your topic because you’ll spend so much time with it that if you don’t love it, you’ll hate it and hate yourself in the end,” she said. “It is so all-encompassing and requires a degree of passion that you really need.”

Jay encourages everyone to set aside some time to capture their loved ones’ stories before it’s too late. It’s an easy thing to push off given how busy everyone is, but should be prioritized to preserve those legacies for future generations, she said.

“If you keep pushing it off, one day you won’t have the option of telling that story. Find a way to ask your parents, grandparents, or other seniors around you about those stories and capture them because otherwise they’ll be lost forever.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jay Newton-Small

“We are giving voice to the voiceless.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“As a journalist, we love the idea that there are millions of stories out there” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“Stories have a lot of uses and we believe that at their core, they can form community.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“Storytelling comes naturally to me in many ways.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“I thought I would always regret not giving MemoryWell a shot.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“My Twitter feed is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it’s pretty funny.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“I have no technology background and am a complete luddite.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“You can buy a story and we will tell it right then and there.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

“Selling a book, you feel like you’ve personally sold every book and starting a company is very much like that too.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell

Social Entrepreneurship Resources


Nov 27, 2017
Global Competencies for High School Graduates, with Abby Falik, Global Citizen Year

Global Citizen Year is a program that offers a year of travel, discovery, and growth for high school graduates.

What does it take to succeed in a work world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous? How does a young person succeed as a citizen of an integrated global economy? While traditional, fundamental skills are still important, so are empathy, ease with ambiguity, resilience, grit, and global mindset. But how many high school graduates possess these skills?

Abby Falik describes her high school self as an “excellent sheep.” She remembers graduating from high school exhausted. “I had gotten into Stanford, which was very exciting, but I wasn’t super motivated to go,” she explains.

Abby looked for an opportunity for a year of service, similar to the Peace Corps, but she found none available to high school graduates. Abby went on to college, but by her second year of college, Abby found that she needed a break. She took a year off. She lived and worked in Latin America.

“Everything I have done since has been a response to how transformative that year was.”

Abby says she returned to college with confidence and a new sense of purpose. Upon graduation, Abby spent the next ten years apprenticing at various organizations, a period that she describes as a learning process. Eventually she ended up at Harvard Business School, which helped her solidify her plan for Global Citizen Year.

The defining moment for Abby and her dream was a talk she gave at PopTech in 2008.

“I recognized at some deeper level that this was the time. I had been cooking this up, incubating the idea since I was 18 in some form or another.”

However, she says she was still unprepared for what she was about to do.

“I had just graduated from business school. I had a business plan but no clue. No money. No team. No idea what to do next.”

It was the response to that talk that convinced her she was on the right path. Abby describes being overwhelmed by the reception as it seemed her idea had resonated with many, many people.

“I could never have imagined how right this idea would be and how timely.”

Abby says she was confident that they would have up to 10,000 students participating within two years but was surprised when that did not happen. One of the major challenges has been to change the mindset of parents and students, she says to me. 

“We are up against so much cultural inertia that says this is how we have always done it. So, the primary challenge that we have faced in growing as quickly as my ambitious, outlandish goals had suggested, is coming up against that fear.”

She says it is a fear that young people and parents have that the child will fall behind or damage their place in the world.

“High school has become a high-stakes game to get into college.”

The toll that the pressure of high school takes on students can be seen in the statistics, according to Abby. In a comprehensive study, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found about one-third of college students drop out after one term.

There is a question of how ready students are to enter the workforce. “There was a recent Gallup poll that said that 96% of college presidents think their graduates are ready for the work force. Eleven percent of employers agree.”

Abby says she feels students need to develop a more global view before they head to college. “Kids are being taught in a way that encourages them to follow a checklist and discourages risk-taking,” she explains. “Kids are not learning how to learn. They are moving along this conveyor belt that frankly will lead many of them to the edge of a cliff.”

Young people need to learn to be resourceful, gritty and resilient, she says, which is something her program teaches. The program is more than a gap year, which implies aimless wandering around the globe. Instead, the time is spent doing intentional, community work.

Following a rigorous admission policy, students undergo leadership training. The core part of the program has the student stay with a family in a different country for an entire school year. During that time, they work as an apprentice in a position that helps the local community.

Abby says that after the program students are excited to go back to school and more willing to learn. “We are sending kids to college burnt out and what we need to do is send them with burning questions.”

The measurements they use to gauge the program’s success include:

  • Foreign language fluency
  • Empathy
  • Ease with ambiguity
  • Resilience and grit

Global Citizen Year also tracks the students in college to see how their experience has impacted not only their academic success, but how it has helped them be more entrepreneurial.

The program has been designed to be accessible to students from all walks of life by offering scholarships to those in need.

“Think of us like a school. Kids who can are paying tuition,” she explains. “We provide need-based financial aid that we raise through philanthropic financial support.”

She says about 80 per cent of those in the program have received aid and one-third have had the whole program covered by the scholarship.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Abby Falik

“We are sending kids to college burnt out and what we need to do is send them with burning questions.”

“What if every college student had to declare a major and a mission?”

“Global Citizen Year is targeting the go-getters, not just the do-gooders.”

“It’s a launchpad to a life that can be exceptional and meaningful.”

“We’re focused on the real good, not just the feel good.”

“We’re everything but a gap year.”

“High school has become a high-stakes game to get into college.”

“One-third of college freshmen don’t come back for a second year.”

“On average, kids are taking six years to get through four-year colleges.”

“96% of college presidents think their graduates are ready for the workforce. 11% of employers agree.”

“Kids are not learning how to learn.”

“They are moving along this conveyor belt that frankly will lead many of them to the edge of a cliff.”

“In so many ways, [the path] chose me.”

“Everything I have done since has been a response to how transformative that year was.”

“I could never have imagined how right this idea would be and how timely.”

“High school has become a high-stakes game to get into college.”

“Kids are being taught in a way that encourages them to follow a checklist and discourages risk-taking.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Nov 27, 2017
The Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem Map with Susan Hammel, Cogent Consulting

The Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem Map documents impact investing activity in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

If you would have picked up a copy of the Financial Times last Saturday, you might have noticed a half-page ad asking readers to participate in the Investing for Global Impact research study. Two pages later, you may have also noticed a full-page ad for a report from Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI) on the relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals and investment opportunities. And, you may have caught this interview with Rehana Nathoo of The Case Foundation on their efforts to map this space.

Impact investing is a hot topic. According to the World Economic Forum, impact investing “intentionally seeks to create both financial return and positive social or environmental impact that is actively measured.”

But, what does impact investing look like in the Twin Cities? Last year, Susan Hammel set about to answer this question. Susan is the CEO of Cogent Consulting and Executive in Residence for impact investing for the Minnesota Council on Foundations. In 2016, Cogent Consulting partnered with the Bush Foundation, the Impact Hub Minneapolis – Saint Paul, and others in the community to map the impact investment space. The result is Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem map.

The map consists of three components: sources of capital, companies being funded and intermediaries. The map covers both debt and equity investments.

Work on the Twin Cities Impact Investment Ecosystem continues. Cogent Consulting is holding a meeting on November 28, 2017, “What's Next for Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem?” Click here for details.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Susan Hammel

“Entrepreneurs really need patient capital to fuel their great ideas.” @susan_hammel

“If it is intentional and measured, it is an impact investment.” @susan_hammel

“Where is all this money going? Could any of it being going to good purposes?” @susan_hammel

“We don’t think there is a deal flow problem we think there is a deal mismatch problem.” @susan_hammel

“The Investees sometimes go to the investors and ask them for things they will never do.” @susan_hammel

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Nov 20, 2017
Mapping the Trillion Dollar Impact Investing Sector, with Rehana Nathoo, The Case Foundation

The Impact Investing Network Map visually presents the best publicly available information on impact investments to better inform the sector.

Any good entrepreneur will tell you, problems are opportunities. People in a remote village don’t have access to electricity, and yet, they have funds for kerosene and to pay someone to charge their cell phone. Companies like d.light and Barefoot Power see a market opportunity. Consumers throw textile and garment waste into landfills, generating 14 million tons of waste per year in the United States. Stacy Flynn launches Evrnu, turning cotton waste into usable fabric.

Social Entrepreneurs turn global problems, including the Sustainable Development Goals, into sustainable businesses. But ideas like these need capital in order to launch and grow.

Impact investing is the simple idea that an investment can have a financial return while also having an environmental or social return. Some would argue that, in fact, all investments have a social return, whether positive or negative.

Impact investing can be a complex topic. Investors can have a wide range of impact objectives from education to healthcare. They may focus on specific industries or geographies. They may choose from a wide array of investment mechanisms from equity to grants. To really understand this landscape, one needs a reliable map. That is exactly what The Case Foundation has set out to do – to map the impact investment space.

The Case Foundation was created by digital pioneers Jean and Steve Case. Rehana Nathoo leads the impact investing effort at The Case Foundation.

“The core of Impact Investing is made up of three levels,” according to Rehana. The first is that the investment has to be intentional. The second aspect of Impact Investing is measuring results. The final factor of impact investing is transparency.

Initially, impact investing was led by pioneering foundations and families. However, within the last decade there has been a number of large-scale players jumping into the mix. New investment instruments have come into being, allowing anyone to direct their savings and investments toward social causes.

The Case Foundation, in partnership with ImpactSpace and Crunchbase, is developing the Impact Investing Network Map to show the connections between investors, companies and funds within Impact Investing. The map is a data driven visualization of all of the impact investing transactions to date. The map indicates who is investing, how they are doing it, and where their money is going.

Once you open the tool you are given the option to the explore the map as a company or as an investor. This allows you to see the world based on what you really care about. From here, you can see the connections being made between investors and businesses. Additionally, there are filters that can be used to narrow down the data and display it in a more digestible form. While this tool does not display performance of companies, it does show whom is connected to whom in the impact investing world.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Rehana Nathoo

“Impact Investing has to be intentional.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation

“We have a responsibility as a field to take the judgement out of impact investing.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation

“There is no hesitation about using the dollar and 140 twitter characters to make it clear what is okay.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation

“Putting education in the hands of every single part, there is real value in that.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation

“Be very clear on what your objectives are.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Nov 20, 2017
Hira Batool Rizvi: Transforming Transportation for Women in Pakistan

She`Kab is transforming how women travel to and from work.

When She`Kab Founder and CEO Hira Batool Rizvi started working in Pakistan, she realized just how much of a problem transportation was for working women. She estimates that about 90 percent of her colleagues felt unsafe going to and from work each day.

This led women to stay home or to pay four times as much as men for safer travel options. Public transportation options for women in Pakistan are limited, with one seat for women available for every 27 seats for men.

If they do manage to get a seat in a public van, about half of all women who use public transportation in Pakistan report cases of harassment, Hira said. Cabs and other types of private travel are overpriced, putting women in the tough place of choosing between safety and finances.

“This results in women losing their jobs or leaving their jobs or spending up to 40 percent of their income for safer travel,” Hira explains. “There was a huge problem that needed to be addressed and unfortunately no one was doing anything about it.” Hira is transforming the transportation system with She`Kab, a ridesharing service for women.

Hira originally hoped to create a network of all-female drivers but quickly realized that there were not enough female drivers to make that happen. So, she pivoted, using technology to optimize existing taxi resources. She knew that much of a cab drivers’ time was spent waiting around for passengers. By clustering women together for rides through a website, cab drivers could work more efficiently and lower their rates as a result.

Riders register on the She`Kab website with their pickup and drop-off location and time. Then they are clustered into groups of 3 or 4 for pickup. Ride fares are paid through a monthly subscription fee.

All of the drivers and their cars are thoroughly vetted to ensure that they provide safe rides to passengers. The process includes an in-person interview, background document check, and a ride in the car by a member of the She`Kab team.

“We make sure that each of us sits in the car and understands that it’s as good as a car we would like to ride in so we can maintain quality,” Hira said.

From Engineering to Business

Hira was not sure she would ever work as an entrepreneur. She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in science and technology from Georgia Tech. She was studying climate policy on a Fulbright Scholarship when she saw the impact that ridesharing services were having in the U.S.

She found herself wary of getting into cars with people she didn’t know, especially late at night, and thought that there had to be a way to make the process feel safer for women. She also knew that, for a ride-sharing company to be successful in Pakistan, they would need to be more culturally and religiously sensitive than they were in western countries.

Around the same time, Hira participated in a hackathon at Georgia Tech and pitched the idea that would become She`Kab. Her team took second place but received great feedback from investors who understood the need for the service in southeast Asia.

As she completed graduate school, Hira started receiving job offers but knew the time was right to pursue her business idea. Rather than accepting a job in the U.S., she moved back to Pakistan three days after graduating and started working on the business.

Upon returning home, Hira’s family was surprised to learn that she was launching a business, but were nonetheless supportive of her endeavor. She used that family support to come out of her shell and transform from an introverted engineer into an extroverted entrepreneur.

Building a Business

Hira connected with other entrepreneurs in Pakistan but did not wait until she had a full understanding of the marketplace before launching She`Kab. She already knew from her experience at Georgia Tech that the idea was viable and wanted to get it into the market as quickly as possible.

“One thing entrepreneurs need to understand is that there’s no right time to actually do something. It’s all about adaptive leadership,” Hira explained. “You prepare, you tweak, and the process keeps repeating itself.”

Hira learned the value of market research at Georgia Tech and used her time there to begin doing market research for She`Kab. She contacted friends in Pakistan to understand what the transportation system was like and where the pain points were. That lead to the decision to focus She`Kab on two cities: Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

She also contacted everyone she knew about the project and ended up bringing her brother on board as a technical co-founder. Bringing a male perspective to the company showed that it was possible for people from both genders to care about safe, reliable transportation for women.

Despite the fact that she had a solid business idea and a plan for making it happen, Hira said she still felt anxious about the prospect of failing. “I was that stupid girl who said no to a great many opportunities people could kill for,” she said. “That decision was very hard, and I knew that people had eyes on me because I was not thinking like normal people.”

Hira’s market research lead to her initial customer base. She reached out to those contacts and asked them to sign up for the service and slowly grew the network from there. That organic growth continues today. The company has not spent a dollar on marketing in its first year of operation.

She`Kab currently has about 900 riders and provides 4,500-5,000 rides per month. Hira is very careful to maintain a high standard of quality because she knows that one bad ride could tarnish the business’s reputation.

The business is currently in the Katapult Accelerator in Oslo. Hira was drawn to Katapult’s social entrepreneurship mission, which she called “business with purpose.”

“There’s a huge need for this service, and we want to make sure we are ready to meet it,” Hira said.

Doing Good in the World

Hira considers herself fortunate to be part of a family that was able to support her and shield her from some of the hardships that women in Pakistan face. Rather than becoming complacent in her status, Hira instead used it to give back and encourages others to do the same.

She said there are millions of problems out there waiting to be solved, and each of us has unique skills to bring to the table in solving them.

“Listen and observe and go look for problems you’re passionate about,” she said. “Then understand how you can solve them and why you can solve them.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Hira Batool-Rizvi

“We hope to transform how women travel to work and back.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“I saw what platforms like Uber and Lyft were doing in all corners of the world.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“I thought it was time to give it a shot. If not now, then when?” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“Understanding the entrepreneurial ecosystem was a huge challenge, but that’s what I did.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“There’s no right time to do something. It’s all about adaptive leadership.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“I realized it was very important to do market research before I could do anything.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“The first ten registration was the kick in the stomach that this might be something.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“There is good everywhere and take it from every place that you can get it.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

“Look for problems that you are passionate about and figure out how you can solve them.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk

Social Entrepreneurship Resources


Nov 13, 2017
Everyone Deserves Healthcare, with Grace Garey, Watsi [Encore Presentation]


NOTE: This is an encore presentation of an episode that first aired on March 6, 2017. Grace Garey and Watsi are featured in the book, Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. To hear the original, extended interview, go here:

Watsi is on a mission to provide healthcare for every person in the world.

A billion people around the world do not have access to basic healthcare. And, for those who are fortunate enough to have access, the cost of healthcare can create a life-crippling financial burden.

Watsi enables anyone to directly fund life-changing healthcare for people around the world. You can go to their website, see photos and read stories of patients. You can donate as little as five dollars. All the donated money goes directly to the patient.

Donors receive updates throughout the funding process. Once the patient’s healthcare is funded, donors receive updates from doctors and healthcare workers. Donors experience full transparency from the donation to the impact.

Since launching four years ago, visitors to the site have raised $7.5 million to provide healthcare for more than 10,000 patients in 24 countries.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Grace Garey

“We believe everyone deserves healthcare.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“A billion people around the world don’t have access to basic healthcare.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“It’s all through a network of local medical partners.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“When you support a patient, by default, 100% of your donation goes to support that patient’s care.”

“My parents are both progressive people who raised me and my sister to care about the rest of the world, outside of our bubble.”

“When people are safe and healthy and have access to the basic things they need, they make good decisions and they make the world around them better.”

“We started working on Watsi on nights and weekends.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“We just started.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“We employed the generosity of a lot of people who were excited about the idea.”

“We really didn’t know if it would work or not.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“We started with almost no systems.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“Our initial goal was that we would fund healthcare for ten patients in the first six months, and we did it in the first six hours.”

“I didn’t know what Y Combinator was.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“We were more like the for-profit startups than we were different.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“When we got to YC, everyone was thinking really big.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“We told them that we wanted to change global health and they did not blink an eye.”

“They assumed it was worth trying.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“There are now a dozen or so non-profits and social ventures who have gone through Y Combinator. They’ve all meshed this idea of making an impact with the idea of reaching scale.”

“Up to 40% of health funding is lost to inefficiency.” @gracegarey, @watsi

“The hardest part throughout this whole journey is just scaling as a person.”

“Everyone talks about what it takes to scale your startup, but you also have to scale.”

“You have to get used to being really bad at your job most of the time.” @gracegarey, @watsi

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Nov 13, 2017
Balancing Entrepreneurship with Family and Self-Care, with Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, Inc. Contributor and Author of "Start, Love, Repeat"

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is a columnist for focusing on startup life at the intersection of marriage, family, and personal well-being. She is also the author of Start, Love, Repeat: How to Stay in Love with Your Entrepreneur in a Crazy Startup World.

“We’re not fully acknowledging the reality of what it means to pursue a business,” Dorcas Cheng-Tozun begins. “There is so much excitement and goodness in it, and yet there is this other side to it that involves sacrifice and some measure of pain.”

d.light is a global solar energy company, delivering affordable solar solutions. When Dorcas’ husband Ned co-founded d.light in 2005, Dorcas was immediately pulled into the startup orbit. She did whatever was necessary to support her husband’s ambition to change the world. This included soldering circuit boards at four-o-clock in the morning.

In 2008, Dorcas and Ned moved to Shenzhen, China to build a manufacturing and operations office for d.light. Committed to the company’s mission, Dorcas served as full-time Communications and HR Director for the company. She quickly felt the pressure and significant personal cost associated with social entrepreneurship. After ten months of working 15-hour days, Dorcas fell into a deep depression. The lack of community and substantial sacrifice was taking its toll, and she knew that they had to make a change.

Dorcas and Ned are not alone in this experience. Entrepreneurs have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and mental illness than the general population. The consequences extend to their families as well, as higher rates of infidelity and divorce occur among entrepreneurs and their spouses.

Dorcas and Ned began instituting simple changes. They established a weekly date night, reached out to mentors for support, and prioritized finding community. Ultimately, they decided to move back to the States for the sake of their family.

Dorcas sought out sources to support her. She believed that her experience as the partner of a social entrepreneur was normal. She was looking for encouragement and a sense of hope that things would get better. Soon, she realized that, of all the books on entrepreneurship, there was almost nothing for family members.

Dorcas started writing Start, Love, Repeat: How to Stay in Love with Your Entrepreneur in a Crazy Startup World in response to that void: “I wanted to paint a really honest picture: There’s the excitement and the glamour, occasionally. Most of the time it’s just a lot of hard work.”

In addition to offering practical advice, Dorcas wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to be with an entrepreneur. She interviewed dozens of couples from the startup world. She wanted to give readers a sense of how “it really stretches us as individuals, stretches our relationships, and forces us to ask really hard questions.”

Start, Love, Repeat explores the realities of such relationships, discussing the added layer of pressure that comes with being a social entrepreneur: “It’s really easy to write off your own health, your own self-care, and your own family. It feels like, in the whole scheme of things, that’s not as important as the hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions of people I’m trying to serve.”

In the book, Dorcas examines how this idea extends to partners of social entrepreneurs, admitting that she used to feel a measure of guilt for asking her husband to spend time with her and their young son. In time, she came to understand that such requests were not selfish. In fact, putting the business first in every situation was not sustainable, and if Ned wanted to pursue his dreams long-term, prioritizing his well-being was necessary.

Start, Love, Repeat covers the concept of partnership, which is especially complicated within the context of a startup. Dorcas admits, “It can feel like the entrepreneur’s dreams are superseding that of everybody else in the family, and that can be very frustrating.” She suggests finding avenues that give the spouse or partner a voice in the decision-making process, and establishing priorities and goals together: “As much as you can, be on the same page because … there is so much chaos and uncertainty that comes from the business itself, as much clarity as the two of you can bring to the table...will only help.”

Dorcas equates relationship planning with strategic planning. “It has been very much about making concessions and compromises, and making sure we stay true to what’s most important to us as a family.”

Dorcas urges aspiring entrepreneurs to ask themselves, “How do I make space for my family, my marriage, and myself?” Putting off self-care and family has consequences, and waiting might mean it’s too late. As Dorcas explains, “Your chances of success are that much greater if you have a really good support team around you. They’re only able to support you if you are present to them as well.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

“Startups are gritty and exhausting. Anybody in the entrepreneur’s orbit gets sucked into it as well.” @dorcas_ct

“There’s so much pressure to succeed.” @dorcas_ct

“There is this other side to it that involves sacrifice.” @dorcas_ct

“Show your loved ones that you care about them.” @dorcas_ct

“Sometimes the passion can skew our sense of priorities.” @dorcas_ct

“There are other things in life besides trying to make your business succeed.” @dorcas_ct

“It’s really easy to write off your own self-care.” @dorcas_ct

“It can feel like the entrepreneur’s dreams are superseding that of everybody else in the family.” @dorcas_ct

“Sometimes the needs of the business push our family in a direction that I would not always want us to go.” @dorcas_ct

“It has been very much about making concessions and compromises.” @dorcas_ct

“How do I make space for family and marriage and myself?” @dorcas_ct

“If you keep putting off family and self-care, there are consequences.” @dorcas_ct

“Your chances of success are that much greater if you have a really good support team.” @dorcas_ct

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Nov 06, 2017
Live Your Mission, with Tyler Gage, Co-Founder of Runa, and Author of Fully Alive

Tyler Gage, Co-Founder of Runa, has a new book, Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life.


Tyler Gage was first introduced to Guayusa in his college years, during a soul-searching trip to the Amazon.

“I was struggling with anxiety and depression,” he explains. Gage experienced “existential anxiety,” even after achieving his life-long goal of being recruited to play soccer at Brown University.

Feeling lost, out of place and like there were deeper parts of himself that he could not understand, Gage embarked on an adventure to the Peruvian forest. He spent time with indigenous elders. He participated in fasting rituals and studied their beliefs.

“I felt like it cracked me open – fully cracked me open - and fully gave me strength, insight, and courage that I never experienced in my life,” says Gage.

Gage says the “insight, strength and connection” he unearthed in his time spent with the indigenous people, ultimately empowered him with the emotional tools to be a successful entrepreneur.

“Hardship is very eminent in every facet of life. I think being a vulnerable, open human, you reach those edges,” says Gage. “The traditions of the Amazon, I feel like, value what can be learned, and power that can come from touching those edges.”

The indigenous community also introduced Gage to Guayusa tea.

“Every morning they get up and the whole tribe sits around the fire and drinks Guayusa, and it’s really the lifeblood of their people.”

After returning to the US, Gage participated in a class where he and a team wrote a business plan for utilizing Guayusa to create livelihoods for native peoples.

Shortly after graduating, Gage and co-founder Dan MacCombie went to Ecuador to pursue their Guayusa-inspired company.

Neither of the graduates had business experience. Consequently, they solely relied on exhaustive community research, the advice of mentors experienced in the industry and their ability to foster relationships with partners and farmers.

In the end, they created a beverage company that utilizes the caffeinated leaves of the Guayusa tree. The company is called Runa.

Today, almost a decade after Gage and MacCombie initiated their startup; the social enterprise supports over 3,000 indigenous Quichua farming families across Ecuador. The US-based company sources all its Guayusa directly from the native farmers at fair trade prices.

When brewed, Guayusa leaves make an organic tea that’s high in antioxidants and offers a steady and invigorating release of caffeine. By utilizing the energizing properties of Guayusa, Runa offers the US market a range of revitalizing teas and natural, clean alternatives to energy drinks.

As a need for Runa’s products increase, so does the need for a flourishing rainforest, as Guayusa trees naturally thrive under the Amazon's canopy of hardwood trees.

“These communities really struggle with one foot in both worlds,” says Cage.

The name Runa means “fully alive” in the Quichua language. The word embodies the Quichua people’s connection to their forest and their ancestors; “an embracing of the fullness of how they can live as human beings.”

“When they see pictures of wholesale shelves with cans of Runa, it’s a very exciting opportunity for them to see part their culture being shared.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Tyler Gage:

“These communities really struggle with one foot in both worlds.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA ‏

“If you had a choice between cutting down a tree and not having to send your child to school, what kind of choice would you make?’”

“They don’t have many…means to interact with the globalized economy.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA

“Every morning they get up, and the whole tribe sits around the fire and drinks Guayusa.”

“Runa in the indigenous Quichua language means ‘fully alive.'” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA

“Being intuitive and being logical, drawing from inspiration from themselves and the community, really embodies the spirit of Runa.” 

“I felt…transformed by the traditions in the rainforest.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA

“Anyone who’s human…is going to experience some sort of anxiety and depression.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA

“Hardship is very eminent in every facet of life. I think being a vulnerable, open human, you reach those edges.”

“The traditions of the Amazon I feel like, value what can be learned, and power that can come from touching those edges.”

“I absolutely never would have started the business if it weren’t for the support and the tools that I learned down there.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Nov 06, 2017
Merging Business and Philanthropy through Trackable Giving, with Bryan Pape, MiiR

MiiR is the first ever Product to Project company, using revenue from the sales of their quality drinkware, journals, and bags to fund trackable philanthropic projects.

“I realized at that moment, sitting against this tree with my leg snapped in half, that nobody would have gotten up at my funeral and said, ‘…Bryan cared about his community. He cared about the people around him.’ It just wouldn’t have happened, and I wasn’t proud of that. I knew I wanted to live a life beyond just serving myself.”

On April 14, 2006, Bryan Pape was filming ski footage for Steven’s Pass when took a bad turn. His right ski hit a stump, and he got into some trees. Bryan knew that his femur was broken, and he knew that if the bone shards hit his femoral artery, he would bleed to death in under 15 minutes. In that clarifying moment, he realized that he wanted to use his life to help improve the world.

Fortunately, Bryan didn’t hit his artery, and he recovered quickly—though surgeons did have to install a stainless-steel rod in his leg. That summer, he started working at Little Hotties Warmers, running supply chain and marketing for the startup. He became the first employee and earned sweat equity, all the while learning the small business ropes from founder Rick Wood. When the opportunity to sell the business for premium came in 2009, they took advantage—and Bryan took that opening to start his own business.

MiiR began with water bottles: Bryan struggled to find one that was simple, functional and fit in a cup holder, so he set out to design one himself. He knew he ultimately wanted the company to be about more than that, but he also knew that the product needed to “stand on its own in the marketplace … and compete at the highest level,” so he set out to create a quality product first.

Then one night at a family friend’s house for dinner, Bryan was introduced to a new online platform called Hulu and invited to be a part of its beta test. It just so happened that Scott Harrison had ad space on the platform, and Bryan and his wife saw a spot for Charity: Water. Struck by the statistic that nearly a billion people lacked access to clean water, Bryan got an idea: “We’re selling water bottles. Let’s give back to clean water.”

With a quality product and a philanthropic mission, MiiR was nearly ready to launch in the summer of 2010. Bryan was working with a friend to photograph an ad campaign for the launch when one of the contributors mentioned that her brother-in-law runs a nonprofit—building wells in Liberia. The two met and developed a partnership, and Bryan was invited to travel overseas and see the experience firsthand the following February.

Bryan’s next lightbulb moment came in sharing the photos from his Liberia trip with a friend who said, “Wait, so the bottle that I bought from you went to this giving project? I have never heard of anything like that!” In that instant, Bryan knew he wanted to find a way to connect his customers to the philanthropic projects they were funding. Today, every MiiR product includes a Give Code that allows shoppers to become a part of the Product to Project movement and see the impact of their purchase.

MiiR has also expanded beyond drinkware to develop a first-class journal and bag line, and their list of giving partnerships has grown to include Seattle Bike Works, One Day’s Wages, and America SCORES Seattle, among others. In addition to the online retail business, the company also has a MiiR Flagship store in Seattle.

Grateful for the moments of synchronicity that led to the success of MiiR, Bryan challenges every individual to ask the transformative question: How can I help? “If everybody did that, the world would be a very different place.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Bryan Pape

“How do we merge business and philanthropy into something we’re doing day in and day out?” @bryanpape @MiiR

“Can this individual product stand on its own two feet in the marketplace and compete at the highest level?” @bryanpape @MiiR

“We’re price competitive; we’re better product quality, and then also we’re choosing to be generous... That’s a winning combination.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“It’s those days that are hard that makes it worth doing when you know you’re doing more than just making money.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“I was always entrepreneurial. I was the kid who was making origami paper cranes in 5th grade and hustling kids’ lunch money to buy them.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“Close to a billion people lack access to clean water… That’s three times the population of the US, and nobody’s talking about this.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“We’re selling water bottles. Let’s give back to clean water.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“Let’s start a company and do good, and that’s about the extent of the plan.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“Let’s connect all of our giving projects to the customers and invite them into this.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“[Success in business is] a balance of making sure you’re on the right track, and then absolutely just persisting.” @bryanpape @MiiR

“If you’re stuck in life … if you want to see change … bring it down to a micro level and ask one person every day, ‘How can I help you?’” @bryanpape @MiiR

“My challenge would be—go ask somebody today how you can help them, and then actually do it.” @bryanpape @MiiR

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Oct 30, 2017
Katrina Klett: Elevating Honey in China

Elevated Honey Co is dedicated to preserving traditional Himalayan beekeeping methods to produce the world’s purest honey.


Katrina Klett moved to China nearly a decade ago to study language, but ended up finding her true calling there as a beekeeper. She’s now turning that vision into a business as a social entrepreneur.

Klett is the CEO of Elevated Honey Co, a small honey company in southwest China that is passionate about helping farmers connect to better markets through supply chains.

The company works with a rare native Asian honeybee species that produces a smaller amount of honey than bees in the U.S. As such, the honey is rare and priced about eight times higher than honey that comes from bees in other parts of the world.

However, the honeybee farmers in China have a hard time cashing in on that profit because they do not have easy access to buyers. Farmers often live in remote mountain areas, where it’s difficult to connect with buyers, Klett said.

Happy Farmers, Better Honey

According to Klett, Elevated Honey Co has three main goals:

  1. Ensure that its beekeepers earn a living wage.
  2. Create opportunities for employment in remote areas of China that are not harmful to the environment.
  3. Combat the problem of fake and unsafe honey that exists throughout China and the rest of the world.

To achieve these goals, the company works with farmers to train them and provide equipment and eventually bring them in line with the its philosophy. Beekeepers can either stick to their traditional methods or transition to more modern processes in line with what’s done in the U.S.

“What we find is that our young, innovative guys want to learn new management techniques, but our older gentlemen want to stick with log hives,” Klett says. “We want both to be possible.”

While Elevated Honey Co. provides beekeeping best practices, Klett is quick to point out that she does not offer training on how to become an entrepreneur. While she considers herself a social entrepreneur, she does not feel she’s an expert in helping others do the same.

Regardless of which beekeeping method a farmer uses, Elevated Honey Co. works to make sure they receive a fair price for the final product. Middlemen take advantage of inexperienced farmers by offering low prices and then cashing in by selling it at a much higher price.

Elevated Honey Co. buys honey at higher prices but requires higher standards as a result. The financial motivation is often enough to bring in line those who might have cut corners or skimped on quality when selling to other buyers.

“That’s how we bring a lot of these guys into the fold and get them to come along with us on some of our quality control issues,” Klett said.

Honey is sold entirely online, mostly through WeChat, a Chinese social media site. The site also serves as a marketing platform for the company.

Moving to China

Working in China allows Klatt to combine her passion for beekeeping with her passion for language. Her parents are migratory beekeepers who produce honey in North Dakota and breed queen bees in Texas.

As she learned more about beekeeping, Klett discovered that China has one of the most diverse bee populations in the world and offers opportunities that are not available in the U.S.

“It’s just a really fascinating place to be involved in bees and beekeeping. I wanted to come and understand that,” Klett said.

Klett moved to China in 2008 to study language at Beijing Foreign Studies University. While there, she began interning in a honeybee research lab and learned the ins and outs of Chinese beekeeping.

She also learned about a research project in need of a beekeeping technician. A residential area was converted to a national park in the 1980s, which was making it difficult for residents there to prosper economically.

The park’s leaders thought beekeeping might be a way to boost the area’s economy without damaging the environment. They were looking for someone to help get a beekeeping program off the ground, a role Klett was happy to fulfill.

“Beekeeping doesn’t extract anything from the environment. In fact, having bees in a place improves the environment through pollination service,” Klett said.

Klett said she was blown away by the area’s beauty and knew that it would be perfect for honey production. In addition, the area had a long tradition of beekeeping and a population who was ready and willing to embrace new ideas.

“Every single person’s last name was honeybee in this village. It was a really fateful thing and I remember thinking ‘just go for it’,” Klett said.

Klett did not speak the region’s dialect when she first moved to the area and described the “crude” system of hand gestures and other nonverbal communication she used to fill the gap as she learned the language. Luckily, she said, beekeeping is very hands-on and has motions that are universally understood.

Technology and Business: Lessons Learned

Klett is working on an extractor for log beehives that would bring technology a traditional method of beekeeping. This would allow older generations to continue the practices they know while making extraction easier.

The extractor is based on a model used in the U.S. Klett developed it in collaboration with an engineer who worked with her pro bono. It’s made of bicycle parts and is very simple for people in the villages to make and install on the sides of mountains where the honey is collected.

“We shouldn’t focus on trying to move everyone away from this, we should create technology that works with them,” Klett said.

On the business side of things, Klett drew on her family’s experience from running a small business. She was familiar with concepts like risk but said she is still learning about marketing and building a brand.

One lesson she quickly learned was that, as a small business owner, it’s not wise to try and do everything yourself. She recalled buying design software and staying up all night before her first honey promotion show trying to make labels, only to end up with a product that looked like it was produced by an amateur.

“Slowly I figured out that if you hire a professional, they can do it in a couple of hours and the labels look great,” Klett said.

Beyond Honey

Klett’s goal is to turn Elevated Honey Co into a franchise model that will connect sparsely populated mountain communities across China while giving each office the freedom to adapt based on that area’s ecological and cultural environment.

She also hopes to expand into Laos and Vietnam — all while maintaining high standards of quality that will unite beekeepers across Asia.

Outside of earning revenue through honey sales, Elevated Honey Co is encouraging people around the world to contribute toward a healthy habitat for bees by planting things that encourage pollination in their area.

A list of plants is available from Xerces, along with recommendations on how to plant based on where you live. Klett said everyone can join this effort regardless of where they live.

“You can do this if you live in a high rise, if you’re in a small town, or if you’re in the countryside. The Xerces Society will help you figure out how to do this planting.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Katrina Klett

“Want to give them a solid wage where they can do something that’s positive for the environment, not harmful.” @elevatedhoneyco

“There’s a problem of fake honey in China and throughout the world. We’re trying to address that in our supply chain.” @elevatedhoneyco

“I’m a social entrepreneur and I have a company, but I don’t consider myself an expert in running a company.” @elevatedhoneyco

“We don’t have any stories. Our sales are all done throughout China online.” @elevatedhoneyco

“I don’t know that it’s a good idea to switch everyone over to outside technology.” @elevatedhoneyco

You’re far better off partnering with like-minded experts than trying to do everything yourself in a small business.” @elevatedhoneyco

Social Entrepreneurship Resources


Oct 30, 2017
Designing Functional Workwear for Women, with Sarah Calhoun, Red Ants Pants

Red Ants Pants is the pioneer in manufacturing functional women’s workwear that fits and flatters, and their products are all made in the USA.

In 2000, Sarah Calhoun was leading trail crews in the backcountry of Montana when she ran into a problem. The only pants available for the kind of rugged, physical work she was doing were made for men. As Sarah points out, “Curvy women don’t fit very well into square men’s pants.” She took her idea for a line of women’s workwear to several companies, but no one was interested.

Undaunted by a lack experience in business, textiles or manufacturing, Sarah bought a copy of Small Business for Dummies and set out to create the line on her own, thinking, “Start a business? How hard could that be?”

As luck would have it, a former designer for Patagonia noticed Sarah reading the …Dummies book in a Bozeman coffee shop, and soon became her mentor. He offered access to his contacts in the industry and invaluable advice, suggesting that she learn the ropes on the production floor. Sarah sewed backpacks to gain an understanding of how sewn goods come together. She took advantage of available resources, using US Small Business Administration tools to develop a business plan. She found a way to fund the venture through private loans.

At the end of a busy two years spent in a “tricky flow of research and homework,” Red Ants Pants was born. Sarah had a quality product that was made in the USA, a website and a storefront in White Sulfur Springs, Montana (population 900). To support the direct business model she had chosen, Sarah now needed a way to get the word out.

In a stroke of brilliance, Sarah conceived of the Tour de Pants, a road trip across the country to introduce female farmers, ranchers, landscapers, and tradeswomen to Red Ants. Along with a friend from the trail crew world who would serve as Tour Rep, Sarah packed an inventory of pants and beer donated by Big Sky Brewing into an Airstream trailer and hit the road. Taking predetermined regional routes based on interest, Sarah led house parties in barns and backyards to tell the Red Ants Pants story and introduce potential customers to the brand.

The tour’s grassroots marketing effort was wildly successful, and the word spread. The brand has since expanded to include complementary apparel like shorts, hats, work shirts, wool vests, and aprons. The culture and values of Red Ants Pants have created a loyal customer base and the brand has become more than just a product: One customer recently wore the pants into surgery for a boost of strength and confidence.

In 2011, Red Ants added a music festival to help connect its customers and continue to facilitate a personal experience with the brand. With headliners like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Lucinda Williams, the festival grew to an impressive 17,000 fans in 2017. A portion of the profits from the event goes to another of Sarah’s undertakings, the Red Ants Pants Foundation.

The foundation is a 501(c)(3) established with the purpose of fostering strength and self-reliance in women and in rural, agricultural communities. Through community grants, a women’s leadership retreat and the annual Timber Skills Workshop, the organization is on a mission to recognize and cultivate a strong work ethic and provide opportunities for people with different perspectives to connect and discover common ground.

Sarah encourages the Social Entrepreneur audience to spread the word about small businesses making an impact and to invest on a local level. Her advice for early-stage social entrepreneurs is to plan for both failure and success, reach out for help and get clear about purpose: “[Businesses] that come out of necessity, or when there’s a problem that has to be solved, those are the ones that end up working.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sarah Calhoun

“I was not looking to start a company, but it really came out of necessity.” @RedAntsPants

“At the age of 25, I very naively thought to myself, ‘Start a business? How hard could that be?’” @RedAntsPants

“When [the perfect mentor] falls in your lap, you know you’re heading in the right direction.” @RedAntsPants

“We got an old Airstream trailer and took it on the road … and we got to know our customers face to face.” @RedAntsPants

“[The Tour de Pants] was a really personal experience with these new customers … and from there the word spread like wildfire.” @RedAntsPants

“A customer wore her Red Ants Pants into surgery because they made her feel stronger … It’s becoming so much more than just a product.” @RedAntsPants

“Music is such an invaluable tool in connecting people … Especially these days, we need more things that are bringing us all together.” @RAPFestival

“[Businesses] that come out of necessity, or when there’s a problem that has to be solved, those are the ones that end up working.” @RedAntsPants

“People are really honored to be asked for help because their expertise is valued.” @RedAntsPants

“Spread the word about small businesses making an impact.” @RedAntsPants

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Oct 23, 2017
Advocacy Through Industry, with Raan and Shea Parton, Apolis Global

Apolis means “global citizen.” The company is a socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide via access to the global marketplace.

Brothers Shea and Raan Parton grew up privileged in Southern California. To ensure that the boys would have a better understanding of reality, their parents provided Raan and Shea with the opportunity to travel a great deal. Seeing how the rest of the world operates afforded the boys a perspective shift, and this early experience of diverse cultures made them comfortable enough to eventually move from the passive role of traveler or tourist to participant: “The most rich way to experience places or cultures is to be working there and to be part of it.”

The Parton brothers had already started shipping their first orders as a side project while Shea was still in high school and Raan in college. After graduation, they moved to Los Angeles and the business became their full-time endeavor. Raan and Shea created Apolis—meaning “global citizen”—with the notion that all people are created equal and should have equal access to the global market.

To explain this component of the business, Raan extends the “teach a man to fish” analogy. He explains that in third-world economies, there are plenty of well-trained fishermen who may not have “the right bait or a large enough pond.” Thus, Apolis seeks to empower these artisans with access to the supply chain.

The second piece of Apolis’ mission involves equipping global citizens with products that are travel-minded and well-designed. A socially motivated lifestyle brand, Apolis operates on the idea that we should have fewer, better products in our lives. As Creative Director, Raan’s focus is on design, while Shae’s efforts as CEO center around business operations and the supply network.

How do Raan and Shae ensure that their business doesn’t contribute to the exploitation of workers or environmental damage that makes textiles the “second dirtiest industry behind oil”? Apolis employs third-party accountability through B Corp, a certification program that holds companies to high environmental and social standards. Within the new culture of product with a purpose, B Corp scores that are visible and transparent function to hold the industry accountable.

Beyond the B Corp audit, Apolis is working to accelerate social change through free-market capitalism. Their model of “Advocacy Through Industry” reflects a revolutionary way to address worldwide epidemics like poverty and labor with job creation. For example, Apolis produces 200,000 units of its market bag. This allows them to provide fair trade wages, an annual profit dividend, as well as a retirement fund for the mothers in Bangladesh who handcraft the bags.

The market bag plant in Bangladesh has had an incredibly positive impact on its community of 200,000. In fact, the six-story studio is the top job creator for the garment industry in the Saidpur region, pumping out 10,000 units per month.

Though Apolis receives between one and three artisan opportunities per day, the company only chooses to move forward with about one in 100. Using job creation as their metric for success, Raan and Shae are realistic about what can be sustained for a long period of time. While other social enterprises simply try to import handicrafts into a first-world economy, Apolis selects projects that are scalable and products that are quality: “Design is everything.”

Apolis prides itself on having the vision to reinterpret a material story or skill set to a different product execution that will resonate with the global design community. The company’s strength lies in bringing momentum to a new product, releasing it with the support of the best retail stores and publications in hubs like Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.

Shea’s surprising advice to early stage entrepreneurs? “Don’t do too much good.” He argues that one must be shrewd about building a successful, sustainable businesses rather than trying to do too much, too soon. Raan suggests that new social entrepreneurs working with small cooperatives consider their own motives: “A lot of these places don’t have business experience, and they get very excited … to have first-world partners, [so taking] the lead on how to keep their best interests in mind is super-crucial.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Shea and Raan Parton

“There are plenty of well-trained fishermen. They often don’t have the right bait or a large enough pond in these third-world economies.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“We believe all people are created equal and should have equal access to the global market.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“[The textile industry] is the second dirtiest industry in the world behind the oil industry.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“[Our parents] saw travel as the ultimate education of perspective-building and real-world experience.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“[Travel] demystified these cultures … we thought instead of being just a spectator, we saw an opportunity to be a participant.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“The most rich way to experience places or cultures is to be working there and to be part of it.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“We were shipping our first orders when I was in high school and Raan was in college.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“Every social entrepreneur fantasizes about doing so much good that they’re out of business in the first year.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“Be shrewd about doing good versus being in business for a long period of time.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“Surround yourself with people that … believe more in your sanity than your creativity.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“A lot of these places don’t have business experience, [so taking] the lead on how to keep their best interests in mind is super-crucial.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“Look at your immediate skill sets, the things that you like to do, and figure out how to tactfully do them with some purpose—tomorrow.” @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

“[Don’t] make it seem so hard to make an impact in your community, specifically with the skill sets that are at your fingertips. @Apolis @sheaparton @raanparton

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Oct 23, 2017
Recognizing a Different Way of Doing Business, with Lucy Findlay, Social Enterprise Mark

Social Enterprise Mark provides accreditation for businesses that enhance the greater good.

Accreditation exists everywhere from higher education to medicine. So why should entrepreneurs be any different? Lucy Findlay, managing director at the Social Enterprise Mark Company, helps socially-focused businesses receive accreditation for the work — and the good — that they do.


“We recognize the type of business that is putting the money it makes back into society and the environment rather than using it for shareholder gain,” Findlay said. “Our mark helps them to prove that.”

Earning a Social Enterprise Mark

The Social Enterprise Mark is modeled after the Fair Trade Organization, Findlay said. The accreditation process begins by submitting an application on the Social Enterprise Mark website along with relevant governance and financial documents.


Applications are professionally assessed and any questions that arise are sent to an independent certification panel. Most businesses that apply receive a mark because those who do not qualify are taken out of the running through conversations with Social Enterprise Mark staff. Once approved, each business is re-evaluated annually.


Over the years, the company has developed what Findlay calls its own “case law” about questions that arise related to social enterprise. Marks are only given to true social enterprise organization, not solo entrepreneurs or companies run by one person.


In addition, the business must have a stated social or environmental objective. It must also generate revenue from trading or selling goods and services, which is what Findlay said separates a social enterprise from a nonprofit or NGO.

Findlay’s Journey to Social Enterprise

Findlay took an unusual path to arrive at Social Enterprise Mark. Her background is in geography and she initially worked in the field of land use and town planning.


“I soon got very fed up with that because it was all about land use and buildings rather than people,” Findlay said.


That frustration led her to do research on regeneration in urban and rural areas and the people who make it happen. As part of that work, she came across a woman who set up a business based on a town revitalization grant in a rural mining area in Wales. She used government redevelopment funds to buy properties that generated income to further fuel the regeneration — all in the mid-1990s.


Her story inspired Findlay to dig deeper into the area of rural regeneration and how it can be sustained after an initial grant or government funding source runs out.


“She had ensured that regeneration for that community was there in perpetuity and that’s what really inspired me,” Findlay said. “People were talking about the woman who had set up this trust and I thought, ‘What a great model.’”


Around the same time, Tony Blair’s Labor Party had just come into power in England and social enterprise came to the forefront as a business solution. Findlay realized the niche that needed to be filled in helping these businesses promote themselves and the Social Enterprise Mark business was born.


Findlay’s research background also gives her a unique perspective on the history of social enterprise, which she says dates back to the cooperative movement in the 1800s, when it was common for communities to own a stake in their local businesses. That model still exists around the world today.

Growing and Expanding

The Social Enterprise Mark is available to companies around the world, and Findlay said businesses from Spain to Dubai have already received certification. The company has also worked with China and Russia to set up their own versions of the certification process.


For businesses looking to take things to the next level, the company offers something called the Gold Mark. It moves beyond an online application process and includes an examination of ethics, social value, and stakeholder engagement in the business. This information is gathered through interviews and surveys conducted by Social Enterprise Mark staff.


Findlay sees this as an area for growth moving forward. The company recently launched a pilot for the Gold Mark certification program internationally.


“We’re interested in piloting our Gold Mark outside the UK because that’s something no one else is providing at the moment,” Findlay said. “It’s an onsite assessment we carry out and includes an action plan to help improve areas where there’s not such a high score to be even better.”


The Social Enterprise Mark exists alongside B Corp certification. Any type of business can apply for B Corp certification, but only those that focus on benefitting social or environmental good and direct profits in that direction can earn the Social Enterprise Mark.

The Takeaway

Findlay has worked with a lot of businesses over the years and has seen people who have great ideas and motivation but not a business model to support it. She now applies that philosophy to her own work as a social entrepreneur.


“You have to be sure that the business has a market and that you’re addressing a need from a customer perspective,” she said. “You might have a great idea but is there a market for that product and is it going to generate enough money to create a business?”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lucy Findlay

“The profit from the business must go back into the social or environmental objective.” @LucyFindlay @SE_Mark


“I applied the principles I’d learned about social enterprise and we generated quite a bit of money.” @LucyFindlay @SE_Mark


“I’ve learned so much along the way and am now running my own social enterprise so what goes around comes around.” @LucyFindlay @SE_Mark


“The social Enterprise movement really began in the 1800s with the cooperative movement.” @LucyFindlay @SE_Mark


“This is a movement that has spread around the world.” @LucyFindlay @SE_Mark


“Businesses that weren’t behaving so ethically before are now being challenged.” @LucyFindlay @SE_Mark


“If they can’t make a business out of it and it can’t make money then it can’t be a social enterprise.” @LucyFindlay @SE_Mark

Social Entrepreneurship Resources


Oct 16, 2017
Moving from Aid to Opportunity, with Jennifer Paige Holt, Building Markets

Building Markets’ mission is to reduce poverty in conflict-affected countries by creating jobs and encouraging sustainable economic growth.

Jennifer Holt grew up in Alabama, a place she says, “has a dark history of racial terrorism.” This history drove Jennifer’s sense of purpose. “I can be an idealist to a fault sometimes, but I’m also a realist,” she explains. Her early work was in direct service, working with adolescents. But it was when she worked in Kosovo with Andrew W. Mellon Foundation‘s Forced Migration Program that her focus began to shift. Jennifer began to see how the economic ecosystem can impact the population. "I decided that I wanted to look at some of the bigger issues that I had been seeing across our work."

While working at the UN in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, she met Scott Gilmore, the founder of Building Markets. Scott convinced Jennifer to spend go to Afghanistan. At the time, $2.1 Billion in aid was flowing into Afghanistan. And yet, very little of the goods and services were being sourced through local businesses. She describes her work this way: “We were measuring how much money was being spent by the international community in Afghanistan, versus outside of Afghanistan.” Over the next four or five months, Jennifer met with leaders and business owners. "Seeing these Afghan businesses so capable, so ready to work, yet being completely overlooked, I was infuriated, and I was really inspired."

Jennifer returned to the United States to launch the U.S. operations of Building Markets. Today, she is the Chief Executive Officer. Building Markets is disrupting how international aid is used in countries affected by issues such as war or natural disasters. Jennifer states that "there was massive amounts of money being spent by the international donors and aid community, but most of that money was being spent offshore." She says, "in these markets, local entrepreneurs, particularly ones that run SMEs, make up 90% of the businesses in these countries. They create up to 86% of the jobs. But because resources are scarce and there is competition, for them to be able to compete with larger companies is extremely difficult."

Procurement officers don’t always bypass local markets on purpose.  “Even though local entrepreneurs and SMEs make up the majority of businesses, the ability to access them is difficult. There are informational asymmetries. In other words, if you are a procurement officer or even an investor, you don’t know what businesses actually exist.”

Building Markets bridges the gap between local businesses and investors. “Building Markets has a very, very local approach. We literally go door to door. We collect around 150-200 data points on every business that we work with.” Using those data points, Building Markets can see the growth constraints that these businesses have and the capabilities of the businesses. Building Markets' data-driven approach allows them to understand the real issues and create solutions to those issues.

Building Markets uses a “bricks and clicks” approach. Since trust levels are low, relationships need to be built as much as possible offline. On the other hand, technology can provide a lot for the businesses that Building Markets helps. They can use technology to showcase the strengths of these businesses.

Jennifer believes that, if you want to succeed as a social entrepreneur, you have to be a good listener. Foreigners dominate many of the conversations, strategies, and programs happening in these countries. Jennifer reminds us that "The experts are actually the people that we are working to support."

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jennifer Holt

“Build Markets has a very, very local approach.”

“We literally go door-to-door.”

“We collect between 150 and 200 data points on every business that we work with.”

“The kinds of resources provided to these businesses is not always aligned with their needs.”

"Be a good listener."

"Do more listening and less talking."

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

“We’ve got to create jobs.”

“The experts are actually the people that we are working to support.”

"I wanted to look at some of the bigger issues that I had been seeing across our work."

"I knew at that moment if there was anything I could do to change that, I was all in."

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Oct 16, 2017
A Second Chance at Childhood, with Jenny Bowen, OneSky

One Sky is an international NGO that works with governments and communities to help the most disadvantaged and marginalized children.

Jenny Bowen is a storyteller. In this interview, she tells the story of OneSky. I would also suggest that you pick up Jenny’s book, Wish You Happy Forever: What China’s Children Taught Me About Moving Mountains. Because Jenny tells the story so well, I recommend the audiobook.

It seems like a simple concept. When children interact with loving parents, they learn…well, they learn everything. They learn a sense of self. They develop language and mobility and curiosity and so much more. But, not all children are so lucky as to have loving parents. In some extreme cases, children are neglected. They can wither and eventually die.

In 1996, Jenny Bowen and her husband Dick read an article about Children’s Welfare Institutions, or orphanages. They sat in stunned disbelief as they learned the mortality rate of children in these orphanages was upwards of 85%. They were moved to help, but they were not sure what exactly to do. It was Dick who first suggested that they could adopt one of the children and bring her home.

In 1997 Jenny and Dick adopted Maya from a Chinese orphanage. When they received their daughter, she suffered from parasites and dysentery. She was emotionally vacant.

Jenny says that she did what any mother would have done. She loved her daughter, interacted with her, read to her and paid attention to her. Maya’s development was subtle at first. But one year after adopting Maya, Jenny watched Maya play in the garden with other children. Jenny said to Dick, “It’s so easy…why don’t we do that for all the kids we can’t bring home?” She knew that she had to go back to China to help other vulnerable children like Maya.

Jenny’s story is one of incredible perseverance. She focused on solutions. She flowed like a river around immovable objects. When people did not say no, she took it as a yes. She transcended political, cultural and language barriers to find what was accessible to everyone: the love of children and the desire to see those children prosper.

Today, Jenny is the CEO and Founder of OneSky. She sees the problem of child development as a global problem. She says that about one-half of all children in the world will never reach their full potential because they don’t have access to the resources and love they need. OneSky for all children currently operates in China, Vietnam and soon, Myanmar.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jenny Bowen

“We focus on low resource communities.”

“It’s so easy why don’t we do that for all the kids we can’t bring home.”

“It wasn’t easy…Everyone told me that it would be impossible.”

“I couldn’t have done what I have done if I did not feel absolutely driven.”

“Our mission has grown to focus on what is universal in all children.”

“We were certainly living comfortable lives, and maybe we could save one life.”

“I knew what I had to do. I just knew it.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Oct 09, 2017
Liza Moiseeva: Empowering Artisans Around the World with GlobeIn

GlobeIn’s Artisan Box fights poverty through job creation and fair wages.

A hand-painted mug from Tunisia. A scarf from Thailand. Cocoa powder from Ghana.


You might not travel to any of those places, but thanks to GlobeIn, you can receive these handcrafted items in your home while empowering entrepreneurs in developing countries around the world.


GlobeIn Co-Founder Liza Moiseeva is an integral part of the company’s operations. While her current role is in marketing, she’s worn many hats over the years to get the business off the ground.


Moiseeva grew up in Moscow, where she says her access to information about nonprofits was limited. She did, however, read about Angelina Jolie’s humanitarian work in celebrity magazines. She originally wanted to work for the UN, but realized that she could have more of an impact as an entrepreneur.


She attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia on a swimming scholarship and earned both a bachelor’s degree in international relations and an MBA there. She was one of the first people to bring social entrepreneurship to Moscow when she hosted meetups during trips home on school breaks.


Moiseeva met GlobeIn’s founder Vladimir Ermakov at one of those meetings in December 2012. She was home in Moscow on winter break from her MBA studies at Old Dominion. She followed up with him after the event and worked her way into a role in marketing and social media at GlobeIn.


The company originally thought that it would be “Etsy for developing countries,” Moiseeva said, but the 1:1 customer to order ratio proved to be a logistical challenge and lead to long order delivery times.


“It was not a great experience in the age of Amazon when everyone wants instant gratification, Moiseeva said. “We started curating a themed experience with really highly curated products. We were really picky.”


Moving to a subscription box model allowed the company to scale more quickly and leverage marketing opportunities that come from the “unboxing” phenomenon on YouTube. Those influencers have helped to GlobeIn grow its customer base.


Moiseeva used her marketing expertise to help GlobeIn transform from “tchotchke” items to products that add value to their customers’ lives. Packing those items in a subscription format helped the company take off because it allowed for a curated experience and provided subscribers with the thrill of receiving new items each month.


GlobeIn’s subscribers also receive a brochure with every delivery that tells the story behind the artists who created the items in that box. They’ve found that customers enjoy these stories almost as much as the products themselves.


“It’s this really personal connection between you and the maker,” Moiseeva said.


GlobeIn works with the Fair Trade Federation to onboard new artisans and has established a base of operations in Oaxaca, Mexico. Moiseeva and her colleagues also keep on top of trends and identify areas where their artisans can fill gaps in the market.


One such example was a hanging wall organizer they saw on Pinterest. One of their artisans in Peru made a fair-trade version that’s now available on the site.


“The most interesting way for us to find artisans is to come up with an idea of a product and go back to our contacts and ask them ‘Can you artisan make this?’”


Beyond providing steady employment for artisans, GlobeIn works with communities around the world to improve access to everything from business training to healthcare. They track the social impact for every product they sell by asking partners questions about how many artisans they employ and how many family members each person has.


Looking forward, Moiseeva said GlobeIn hopes to continue growing its subscriber base so that the company can provide more opportunities for its artists around the world.


She also encourages consumers to educate themselves on fair trade and ethically sourced products, then pass that knowledge along to others.


“There are so many ethical fashion brands out there right now. Shop mindfully.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Liza Moiseeva

“This is the way to solve global issues — through successful businesses that are built not only for the sake of making money but also for the sake of solving any given social problem.”


“I was one of the first to do social entrepreneurship in Moscow.” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World


“If I just sat there in Norfolk enjoying myself and not trying any new things, nothing would have happened.” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World


“I never thought that I would be watching unboxing videos and sending boxes to YouTubers.” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World


“Exceptional customer service goes a long way.” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World


“It’s this really personal connection between you and the maker” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World


“Through the subscription box model, we are able to place really huge impactful orders with artisans.” @Lithaca


“I don’t feel bad about selling to people because every sale creates more jobs for the artisans.” @Lithaca


“Product first, mission second.” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World


“Our products have to be able to compete with traditional businesses. No one will buy our products just because they are fair trade.”


“Customers are extremely educated now so it’s better to be transparent and honest.” @Lithaca


“Establish your business model and your pricing right away..” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World


“Shop mindfully.” @Lithaca, @GlobeIn_World

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Oct 09, 2017
Making Technology Fun, Relevant, and Accessible for Girls, with Betty Gronneberg, uCodeGirl

uCodeGirl offers pathways to technology careers for teen girls by tapping into their curiosity, skills, and potential.

Betty Gronneberg grew up in Ethiopia. She attended Addis Ababa University where she majored in statistics. Betty recalls a day in college when she saw her name on a list of students who had been accepted into the new Computer Science track. She was one of two female students on the list. This was 1991. The “world wide web” had not yet been invented. Betty learned to write simple programs in BASIC, an early computer language.

Betty’s experience grew rapidly as the internet began to spread. She became a country-wide email administrator for Ethiopia. In 1995, she became the first webmaster for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. With each new assignment, Betty noticed that she was one of the few women in the room. In 1995, 37% of computing jobs went to women. Since women make up half of the population, that’s bad news. And, the news is getting worse. Today, according to Betty, “Nationally 18% of the technology sector is made up of women.”

Betty began to ask a fundamental question. “In this great United States, where everything is possible, why are there not many women?” According to Betty, girls begin to lose interest in technology around middle school, when the girls are around 12 or 13 years old. They don’t see the relevance of technology in their everyday lives. Betty began to imagine an organization that helps young girls to apply technology in a fun environment.

To help her work out the details of this new organization, Betty applied for and became a Bush Fellow with the Bush Foundation. From the beginning, as she was filling out her application for the Bush Fellowship, she began to refine her ideas. Through her experience with the Bush Foundation, she formed a new organization, uCodeGirl. uCodeGirl is a Fargo, North Dakota based nonprofit that focuses on building confidence and talent for young girls between the ages of 12 and 18, and to inspire them to pursue opportunities in technology.

uCodeGirl is making technology fun, relevant, and accessible. Girls learn leadership skills and an entrepreneurial mindset. Leading women in technology provide mentoring.

uCodeGirl also helps girls to learn hands-on skills. They provide a three-week summer camp where the girls can experiment with technology to solve their own problems. In the process, they help the girls to build a pathway to a career in technology.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Betty Gronneberg

“We want to go to the young girls where the divergence happens and cultivate their confidence.”

“Nationally 18% of the technology sector is made up of women.”

“It’s like nothing changed, but everything changed.”

“I have always been resourceful and resilient.”

“We want to help young girls to see technology as a solution for real-world problems.”

“We want to cultivate their confidence.”

“When you exude that passion, it’s easy for people to say, I’m here to help. What can I do?”

“Not everybody is an early adopter of your idea.”

“Be okay with no.”

“It takes all of us to be a tech savvy generation.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Oct 02, 2017
Connecting Buyers and Suppliers of Aid Supplies, with Stephanie Cox, The Level Market

The Level Market is the premier marketplace for aid and relief supplies.

Stephanie Cox grew up looking at National Geographic with her grandfather. “I knew I wanted to travel the world when I was 6, 7, 8 years old,” she explains. After graduating from college, she traveled the world as a freelance journalist. In 2004, she had a near death experience during the Boxing Day Tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people. She worked in Nepal and in Eastern Europe during times of conflict. But, she found it difficult to make a living. Her family encouraged her to return to the United States to find her way forward.

Stephanie moved to Colorado to attend graduate school. While there, she pitched an idea to iDE, a global organization that creates market-based solutions in agriculture, water, and sanitation. Stephanie offered to travel to Tanzania to document the impact of iDE’s efforts. Using her skills as a journalist, Stephanie says “I spent three months in the back of a pickup truck.” Her efforts paid off. She landed a full-time role with iDE, where she remained for 13 years.

In 2014, ten years after the Boxing Day tsunami, Stephanie received a call from a colleague in Sierra Leone. He shared how difficult it was to find aid and relief supplies. Stephanie offered to help. Although she had many connections in the aid and relief space, she also struggled to find supplies. She compared her experience with finding relief supplies with her experience shopping on Amazon or Alibaba. She knew that there had to be a better way. Stephanie thought, “If no one’s going to do it, a single mom in her PJs will do it.” That was the genesis of The Level Market.

The Level Market connect buyers and suppliers of products such as solar lights, shelter, and cooking stoves around the world. The Level Market’s site allows government agencies, relief agencies, and nonprofits groups to purchase goods for those on the front lines. According to Stephanie, “They can come to our site and find quality, top notch aid supplies.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Stephanie Cox

“Today, we’re in the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.”

“We were looking at the problem of discovery and distribution.”

“There was never a hub to connect buyers and suppliers of these products.”

“It was a fragmented and broken industry.”

“We were very specific as to who could sell their products on our marketplace.”

“I always wanted to be the first female president.”

“I knew I wanted to travel the world when I was 6, 7, 8 years old.”

“I was always interested in words, ideas, and communication.”

“I was in Eastern Europe during the time when it was very unstable.”

“I grew up in a family where my mom was a Democrat, and my dad was a Republican.”

“I spent three months in the back of a pickup truck.”

“They can come to our site and find good quality, top notch aid supplies.”

“I got to understand the pain of entrepreneurship.”

“If no one’s going to do it, a single mom in her PJs will do it.”

“Get your heels firmly in the mud.”

“If you do donate find out specifically what it is that they need.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Oct 02, 2017
One Million New Change Creators, with Adam Force, Change Creator Magazine

Change Creator is a platform for motivated social entrepreneurs who are ready to create solutions to the world’s problems.

What would it take to produce one million new change creators per year for the next 10 years? That’s the question that Adam Force, Amy Aitman, and Keisuke Kubota of Change Creator Magazine sat down to answer. The result of that question is a new strategy.

Change Creator Magazine is a multimedia platform empowering forward-thinking change creators and established enterprises to drive social progress. Their mission centers around three of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They focus on SDG 1, No Poverty; SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation; and SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy.

According to Adam, “People want to make a living doing something that matters, aligning their capital to values.” Adam thinks of Change Creator Magazine as an ongoing form of mentorship. They interview social entrepreneurs and global icons to learn about their strategies, how they get their ideas, and how are they scaling. Some examples of notable figures featured in the magazine are Tony Robbins, Dale Partridge, Ariana Huffington, and Guy Kawasaki.

Based on reader surveys, Change Creator Magazine is changing technology platforms, creating an improved reader experience. The magazine uses responsive text for mobile and desktop. Also based on this feedback, they are featuring more stories of every day social entrepreneurs.

“There is so much more we want to offer people in to help them along their journey,” Adam says. To take on additional changes, Change Creator is launching a crowd funding campaign. This will allow them to create new educational and consulting offerings. They will be able to offer virtual summits, speaker series, and online courses.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes

“They want to make a living doing something that matters to them.”

“One of our key values is collaboration.”

“The magazine is an ongoing form of mentorship.”

“We extract these insights and we put them in the magazine.”

“We’re doing the heavy lifting and saying, here are the strategies.”

“Our focus is listening to our audience and giving them the interviews they can’t anywhere else.” Amy

“We want to put out awesome content that has value.” Amy

“The more you dig through, the more value you find.” Amy

“What are we providing people to give them the outcomes they’re looking for?”

“We’ve developed a crisp vision called our brand network.”

“We have six new channels that we will be rolling out.”

“Phase one is crowdfunding to start development of the next program.”

“Our point is building a community.” Keisuke Kubota

“We want to create 1,000,000 change creators a year for the next 10 years.” Amy

“Really put yourself out there to build relationships.”

“Don’t think that just because you put a strategy together that if it doesn’t work your done.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Sep 25, 2017
Clean Water, Powered by Gravity, with May Sharif, AguaClara

AguaClara designs gravity-powered water treatment plants for low-income communities around the world.

According to May Sharif, Founder and Managing Director of AguaClara, “More than one in ten people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water on tap.” When people don’t have access to clean drinking water, adults lose time at work and children miss school. They suffer from illness and or even death. “Up to two million people die each year due to waterborne disease,” May explains. “Most of them are children under five.” By providing access to clean drinking water, people prosper and children learn.

Conventional water treatment plants typically do not last more than two years in rural and remote communities. They require skilled technicians and proprietary parts to run and to be maintained. AguaClara has a different approach. AguaClara develops community-scale, non-electric water treatment systems. The systems are designed to be operated by a person with a sixth-grade education and are powered entirely by gravity. They use local materials and local labor to build and maintain the systems, creating a sustainable solution.

AguaClara has its roots at Cornell University. In 2005, Dr. Monroe Weber-Shirk worked with Salvadoran refugees in Honduras. He noticed the lack of access to clean drinking water. He saw that there were water treatment plants, however the plants did not work. As he investigated the cause of widespread failure of water treatment systems in poor communities, he discovered that the systems built in these communities were not designed for the communities. Working with graduate students, he and the team designed a series of technologies for off-grid water treatment.

May Sharif became involved in AguaClara as a student. She joined the summer internship program and developed designs for the program. “That was my first exposure to the developing world and what water can mean to an entire community,” she says. May pursued a Master’s of Engineering degree and continued to work on AguaClara as her project. After graduation, Dr. Weber-Shirk asked her to continue to work on AguaClara. In 2013, May and fellow graduates of the Cornell AguaClara program formed AguaClara LLC, a social enterprise.

AguaClara currently has 14 systems in Honduras serving 65,000 people, four systems in India serving 2,000 people and a new plant is being built in Nicaragua.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Maysoon Sharif

“More than one in ten people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water on tap.”

“Conventional water treatment plants don’t last more than two years in remote and off-grid communities.”

“We put out designs that are open-source.”

“Me being there and working on designs wasn’t translating into new projects happening.”

“Gravity-powered water treatment works, and it works well.”

“Our partners worked on commercializing it for us.”

“It’s a certified BCorporation.”

“Yes, you can find people to trust but also learn to develop an eye for who you can trust.”

“When we leave, we want to make sure they’re taking care of it.”

“Fail fast.”

“You have no way of predicting what’s going to happen.”

“Put your plan in place and be ready to throw it out the window.”

“I make it a point not to get married to anything I create.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Sep 25, 2017
Joel Solomon, Author of The Clean Money Revolution

Joel Solomon reminds us, “There is $50 trillion that is going to pass hands in North America through death in the next 30 years.” It’s up to us what the impact of that transfer of wealth will be.

Joel Solomon is the chair and co-founder of Renewal Funds, a mission venture capital firm based in Vancouver, BC. He is also the board chair of Hollyhock, an educational retreat center and the author of the new book, The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism.  

Joel was born in Chattanooga Tennessee to a Jewish family. He grew up when segregation was the norm. There were different restrooms and water fountains for “whites” and “colored.” Joel recalls, “Those kinds of images and symbols were confusing to me as a kid. Why were people treated differently?” As a Jew in the south, Joel says it was “a similar situation. That was not the norm.”

The 1960s was a time of cultural unrest and change. Joel’s family began to experience commercial success. His father was a pioneer in building shopping malls. At the same time, Joel was caught up in the counter culture.

Joel left the south to attend college. While there, he heard about a single-term governor from Georgia who was going to run for president. Joel finished school early so that he could join Jimmy Carter’s campaign to become the president.

As the campaign wound down and Jimmy Carter entered the White House, Joel received some devastating news. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD). With PKD, clusters of cysts develop in the kidneys, causing the kidneys to lose function. PKD had claimed the lives of several of Joel’s relatives. The doctors told Joel that, without a kidney transplant, the symptoms would eventually be fatal.

This was a wake-up call for Joel. He began to ask himself questions about his contribution to the world. A few years later, Joel found himself running his family’s business. Joel began to work towards using his family wealth to make a difference. According to Joel, “We have a responsibility as elders to pass on what we can to the next generation. It is time now to take responsibility for where our money is and who and what it is affecting.”

Joel encourages people to think about where they work, where they invest and where they shop. “We have a lot more creative power and possibility then we are led to believe,” he reminds us.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Joel Solomon

“Humans have reached the point where we have the capacity to destroy too much.”

“We now need to wake up and look at our impact in the larger way.”

“It is time now to take responsibility for where our money is and who and what it is affecting.”

“Eight people own as much wealth as half the world’s population.”

“People in their 60s, 70s that are owning most of the wealth are passing it on to a generation that is thinking very differently.”

“There are many different ways that you can create a career these days.”

“I believe every one of us should take time to think back from the end.”

“What have we accomplished? What have we contributed?”

“We have a huge responsibility to consider what our contribution is going to be.”

“How are we going to leave the world better than we found it?”

“My primary work is as a mission-venture capitalist.”

“We have a responsibility as elders to pass on what we can to the next generation.”

“We have a lot more creative power and possibility then we are led to believe.”

“If we are given choices we will make better ones.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Sep 18, 2017
Work and Travel with Purpose, Ann Davis, Venture with Impact

Venture with Impact exposes professionals to new cultures, people, and ideas so that they may be more informed and emphatic world citizens, and in the process, provide a positive social impact.

There is a saying, often attributed to Saint Augustine[i]:

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

Ann Davis understands the value of travel. She traveled to Chile for a study abroad experience with Tulane University. She lived with a local family. “I fell in love with Latin America,” she recalls. She saw the cultural differences between her and the local community, but she also saw the commonalities that connected them.

After graduating from Tulane, Ann joined Teach for America and taught in New Orleans. About a year into her teaching assignment, Ann was out running with some friends when she experienced a jolting feeling in her leg. “I felt an electric shock run up the side of my leg,” she says, “kind of like I stuck my foot in a toaster.” She fell to the ground and had a grand mal seizure.

Ann was rushed to the hospital. Two weeks later, the doctor delivered the bad news. She had brain cancer. With this diagnosis, Ann says “There was a mind shift.” Her priorities shifted. She began to explore her passions.

For the next couple of years, Ann continued to explore her passions, while she continued teaching. She moved to New York and taught in PAVE Schools. She also completed her Master’s degree.

One of the ways that Ann explored possible paths forward was to explore Ann found an executive director role with an organization in Trujillo, Peru. She applied for the job and was accepted. “I just moved there on a whim, not knowing anyone there, and not knowing the organization as well,” she recalls.

Once in Trujillo, Ann began to connect with several nonprofits, all of whom needed volunteers and services. An idea began to develop. Ann imagined an organization where professionals could come to Peru to live, work and explore the culture. They could volunteer with a network of nonprofits. This would allow the individuals to experience personal growth and would provide help to the nonprofits.

From this idea, Ann launched Venture with Impact. Venture with Impact recruits professionals interested in working remotely and matches them with a nonprofit or social business in various regions of the world. The participants of the program use their unique skill sets to help these social businesses allowing them to make a difference while still working their career.

Professionals who sign up are given a place to stay, co working space if they are working remotely, and 24/7 support from Venture with Impact staff that are in the country. Additionally, weekend trips, day trips, and other cultural activities are offered throughout the stay. Once a week there is a general meeting with all the participants on the trip to discuss the culture, what is going on in their business, and in their volunteer opportunity. An explains, “It’s quite an experience because there is so much personal growth that takes place week to week.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Ann Davis

“It’s more of a learning experience and professional development experience from both ends.”

“There were so many cultural differences, but I also had a greater understanding of how similar we were.”

“I underestimated the importance of the needs of the partners and the skills of the participants.”

“I hard-core bootstrapped.”

“I have not done this alone.”

“I have received so much help from friends, family, and even strangers.”

“I think it’s important not to be afraid to ask for help and share your idea.”

“People want to help, and often they are gaining something as well.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


[i] This was probably not said by Saint Augustine. See

Sep 18, 2017
Unleashing $16 Billion for Social Good, with Stephen Garten, Charity Charge

Charity Charge is a social enterprise on a mission to empower people and corporations to fund the causes they care about simply by using a credit card.

Every year, 31% of all credit card holders don’t redeem their credit card reward points. That’s $16 billion per year in value. What if those dollars could be unleashed for social causes? That’s exactly what Stephen Garten and his company, Charity Charge does.

When Stephen was 19 years-old, his father passed away from cancer. His father was 53 years old when he passes away. “Life is short,” he realized.

Now, at age 31, Stephen sees a generational shift toward purpose and meaning. “How do we live a meaningful life? How do we find fulfillment in what we do?” He observed that many people wait until they are late in life before giving back. But with a sense of urgency, Stephen says, “It made an impression on me that I wanted to get started early. I was trying to integrate my work life with my philanthropic goals.”

After graduating from Washington University in Saint Louis, he made his way to Austin, TX. There, he landed a role with the Austin Technology Incubator, a lab at the University of Texas that helps entrepreneurs with their ideas through mentorship and consulting. Stephen became immersed in the startup world.

One startup that came through the incubator offered Stephen a role with their company. Stephen left the Austin Technology Incubator to take on this new role. But soon after arriving with his new company, he realized that he had made a mistake. The role and the company were not a good fit for him. After staying in the role for seven months, he made a fateful decision. He quit his job.

“It was like the Vikings that stormed the beach and burned the boats,” he told me. With his savings ticking down, he went immediately to work. He interviewed a great number of business leaders, searching for his startup idea. The idea came from an unusual source – his credit card bonus points.

After accumulating points, he was excited to redeem them for great products. However, he realized he didn’t need another briefcase or a pair of binoculars. “It finally hit me that I just didn’t want any of this stuff. I just didn’t need more things,” Stephen says. After spending many frustrating hours browsing the credit card site, he finally closed his browser and opened his email. In his inbox was an email from a charity asking for a donation. “That’s when I thought; I’ve got all these points. There’s nothing I want from them. What if, instead, I could support this nonprofit every time I make a purchase?”

Stephen began to investigate the possibilities. “It was one thing to have that idea, but it seemed so foreign to me. I knew nothing about the credit card industry. I didn’t know anyone who worked in the credit card industry.”

Stephen began reaching out to people on LinkedIn and through Google searches. The people he connected with were generous with their time, educating him on how co-branded credit cards work. One of the people Stephen reached out to took a job at Mastercard, running their co-brand business development team. This relationship was instrumental in allowing Stephen to launch Charity Charge.

Today, Stephen is the CEO of Charity Charge. Charity Charge is a public benefit corporation that has created a credit card that allows users to earn cash back towards the charity of their choice.

You may be out there as a consumer earning airline miles or cash back with your current credit cards. Charity Charge works in the same way as other co-branded credit cards, such as a Delta Airlines or Nordstrom’s credit card, except the cash back goes to the charity of your choice. It has no annual fee and is tax deductible.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Stephen Garten

“It’s a really easy way to give back simply by your everyday spending.”

“The problem I was trying to solve was for myself.”

“It finally hit me that I just didn’t want any more stuff. I just didn’t need more things.”

“31% of all credit card holders in the United States never redeem their reward points.”

“Charity charge was really created to generate more profits for nonprofits, not for the credit card companies.”

“Life is short.”

“I think there is a consciousness shift with my generation.”

“How do we live a meaningful life? How do we find fulfillment in what we do?”

“I was yearning for a way to create something meaningful in my life.”

“It made an impression on me that I wanted to get started early.”

“I was trying to integrate my work life with my philanthropic goals.”

“I really wanted to create a cool company.”

“The only way of getting out was going through.”

“Sometimes we need to think about, what’s the best-case scenario?”

“It’s only lonely if you make it that way.”

“Do not worry that anyone is going to steal your idea.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Sep 11, 2017
Closing the Opportunity Gap with Sondra Samuels, Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ)

The Northside Achievement Zone exists to permanently close the opportunity gap and end multi-generational poverty in North Minneapolis.

Sondra Samuels grew up in New Jersey. At an early age, she moved schools from Newark, where 52% of the population is African American, to Scotch Plains, NJ, where African Americans make up 11% of the population. As she integrated the new school, she said she “knew what it was like that nobody had an expectation that I was going to succeed.”

As a teen, she experienced the death of several young African American men. Sondra explained, “They were being murdered by other young African American men. Remember, I’m living in the suburbs, and I’m experiencing young black males being disproportionately murdered by other young black males.” She was not sure what was causing this violence, but she knew what it was not. “What I did not believe was that it was a black problem. What about my community? What factors led to the black-on-black violence? That was always an issue for me, the violence, and specifically the black-on-black violence.”

As an adult, Sondra worked for the Ford Motor Company. Her work brought her to the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Sondra and her husband moved to North Minneapolis. “We wanted to be part of the solution. And we wanted to understand why what was happening, was happening.”

Sondra eventually left her corporate role. She explains, “I didn’t feel like what I was doing in corporate was going to help me find a solution to this.” She joined the Peace Corps in Africa. “It helped me reconnect with who I am as a woman of African origin.” When Sondra returned home from the Peace Corps, her husband launched a nonprofit, The PEACE Foundation. PEACE is an acronym for Public Engagement for Community Empowerment. The purpose of the PEACE Foundation was to end local violence.

“We didn’t have the answer,” Sondra says. “And we would have been arrogant to assume that we did. But what we did know was that, if we stood in the problem long enough, the answers would come.” After participating in the PEACE Foundation for several years, Sondra says that it became clear that “Violence is not the problem, but a symptom of a deeper problem. And that was the opportunity gap.”

To close that gap, Sondra founded the Northside Achievement Zone, or NAZ. The Northside Achievement Zone is a collaborative effort of 40 organizations that have aligned their work to serve more than 1,000 families and 2,200 children in northern Minneapolis. Their goal is to end multi-generational poverty using education and whole family support. These organizations work together providing family support, health services, housing, and education programs.

The Northside Achievement Zone is the backbone of all these organizations and acts as the responsible entity to facilitate sharing of data and management of staff. According to Sondra, “One of the important things that we do is share what we are learning.” This allows for faster growth in organizations throughout the collaborative as they can learn from efforts of others. While this ultimate entity handles the collaborative efforts, it allows each nonprofit to focus on its missions and the communities that it serves.

The Northside Achievement Zone breaks down silos. They focus on the connectivity between organizations serving the north side of Minneapolis.

The group is based in north Minneapolis where there are concentrated areas of poverty. This area is plagued by lack of resources in housing and public transportation. There is an above average prevalence of violence which can be attributed to the lackluster economy. The North Size Achievement Zone focuses on improving school performance. “A real concentration of light needs to be focused here,” Sondra says.

The Northside Achievement Zone is working in schools and with schools and seeing amazing outcomes. Students who participate in Northside Achievement Zone programs have higher reading proficiency. Participants in NAZ early learning programs were 2.5 times more ready for kindergarten than their peers. In 2016, 303 children were supported through housing stabilization. Participants scored higher in reading and math proficiency.

The biggest thing Sondra has learned is that results matter. She encourages social entrepreneurs to measure their results at the level of population outcomes.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sondra Samuels

“You can’t run a collaborative collaboratively.”

“One of the important things that we do is share what we are learning.”

“We have everything we need, except each other.”

“Because we’ve been so separate, we’ve been siloed.”

“40% of the population are people of color, and 50% are below the poverty line.”

“We have the least transportation, although we have the highest transit ridership.”

“When there is no above-ground economy, you start getting an underground economy.”

“We have an opportunity gap in education.”

“A real concentration of light needs to be focused here.”

“We're focused on the whole family through a two-generation approach.”

“We’ve been succeeding as much as we’ve been failing.”

“We have layered our support for the same families and the same children.”

“There are models of success.”

“What I did not believe was that it was a black problem.”

“We wanted to be part of the solution.”

“We didn’t have the answers. We would have been arrogant to assume that we did.”

“We have to look at what parents need for knowledge and skills.”

“We knew that if we stood in the problem long enough, the answers would come.”

“Violence was not the problem but a symptom of a deeper problem.”

“Results matter.”

“What are the population-level outcomes?”

“The siloed approach has not worked.”

“Plug in!”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Sep 11, 2017
Schools Partnering with Schools for Clean Water, with Patty Hall, H2O for Life

H2O For Life provides a service learning opportunity to schools to raise awareness and take action in the global water crisis.

Patty Hall says that it was never her intention to be a nonprofit leader. She has always been passionate about education. Even as a child, she knew that she wanted to be a teacher. Patty journey to social entrepreneurship began with her mother. “My mom was a huge Tarzan buff when I was a child,” she explains. Her mother had always wanted to visit Africa but had never found the time. After Patty’s father passed away, Patty decided to take her mother on the trip of her dreams. She and her mother traveled to Kenya.

Patty’s mom struck up a conversation with a local man. The man invited them to come to his village 20 miles away. After spending the day with local families, Patty’s mom told her that she would like to return, but not as a tourist. She wanted to get to know the local people.

About a year later, Patty and her mom returned. Instead of touring, they worked to build a health center. On this trip, Patty noticed the amount of time spent by women and girls in fetching water. It seemed evident that these small villages were in desperate need of a water system.

After several more trips to Kenya, Patty received an email from a person she had met on her visits. He was asking for help to tackle their village’s critical water shortage.

Patty worked through the school where she taught. She started fundraising to help build a water system for the village in need. Their first project raised over $13,000 and provided the community with two sand dams that allowed them to gain access to clean water. “I was so overwhelmed to see how grateful his community was to have access to water,” says Patty. She also saw the impact that the project had on the students. “That was when it hit me how critical is for youth to see that their actions have an impact.”

She soon found additional projects within Africa that needed funding and matched more local schools to these causes. It was at this point that H2O for Life was born. H2O for Life helps match schools in the US with schools in Africa. Through this experience, students learn about the global water crisis. According to Patty, “We are hoping that when people think of the water crisis and they realize the magnitude of the problem, that they can solve the problem. H2O for Life has the solutions, and they need your help to do it.”

The goal of H2O for Life is to educate, inspire, and engage students to take action to provide water and sanitation to those in need. Students also learn about how they can conserve water resources in their communities.

H2O for Life will be hosting their annual Water Ball September 22nd. You can register here to help celebrate ten years of providing water, sanitation, and hygiene education to children around the world.

Also, join them for their Walk for Water event happening October 7th at the University of Minnesota campus. More details can be seen here for this event.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Patty Hall

“They can take action without ever leaving their seats to change the world. “

“Of the 17 goals, there is something everyone can be passionate about.”

“I have a real passion for teachers.”

“I call myself the accidental nonprofit person.”

“I was a teacher for over 30 years.”

“I was so overwhelmed to see how grateful his community was to have access to water.”

“Water really changed everything for those school communities.”

“Having access to water and sanitation at school really changes the lives of girls.”

“You have to find good people to surround yourself with.”

“Really seek advice when you are questioning a problem.”

“Always follow your gut.”

“It’s school-to-school partnerships.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Sep 04, 2017
The Importance of Human-Centered Design, with Wes Meier, EOS International

EOS International empowers rural families in Central America by providing simple, inexpensive solutions that improve health, generate income, and provide access to appropriate technology.

Wes Meir studied mechanical engineering at Iowa State University. In his junior year, he took a course with an international focus. He and his fellow students were challenged with creating a laptop that would work in Western Africa. To figure out the design criteria, Wes typed “What is West Africa like?” into Google.

In his senior year, he signed up for a second international design course. This time, he was assigned the role of designing a water valve. Unlike his junior year, he traveled to Mali where he spent several months on the ground learning about the specific needs of the local community. His first valve designs worked technically, but they did not fit the specific needs of the local community. “That’s where I learned, human-centered design is the most important component of the design process,” Wes says. “If you’re really going to design for the long term, you have to design with [customers].”

Wes also says of his time in Mali, “It gave me an opportunity to see that my engineering skills can go towards a greater good.” As Wes ended his senior year, he declined a job offer and joined the Peace Corps.

Before Wes joined the Peace Crops, he and some friends formed an organization. They thought that they would design new solutions for the people of rural Nicaragua. But, after living in Nicaragua for more than two years, Wes realized that solutions already exist for almost all the challenges he encountered.

Wes spent more than two years volunteering in Nicaragua in the agricultural sector. There, he applied human-centered design to solve problems for local families. “That is where I really learned that, I need to get the involvement of the consumer, and that was the most critical part.” He was practicing human-centered design. But it wasn’t until he returned to the United States and took courses from IDEO that he had language he could use and repeatable processes he could apply.

Water systems exist for problems with contaminated water. Cook stoves exist that make cooking more efficient and less polluting. And solar technology exists that provides electricity for off-grid communities. “So, we pivoted and focused on the distribution, of the promotion, and on implementation of these simple solutions.”

The opportunity at the Peace Corps allowed Wes to create the network he needed to start EOS International. EOS International targets rural families in countries like Nicaragua to improve lives through appropriate technologies.

They work to provide clean water. Wes says, “Here we see clean water as a normal way of life.” For the people of rural Nicaragua, running water is a luxury and is often is contaminated. EOS International installs simple water purifiers that can treat the water at the source and provide water for up to 1,000 people. A three-year study conducted with the Ministry of Health found a 61% decrease in diarrheal disease related to water.  

Another example of a core technology is cooking stoves. Many people in Nicaragua still use firewood as a cooking source. The firewood is burned in inefficient stoves. This results in time spent gathering more wood. It also results in indoor pollution. By installing more efficient stoves the people of rural Nicaragua are able to reduce the amount of smoke they breathe and reduce time gathering wood. The people who use these stoves have reduced their firewood consumption by 1 ½ million pounds. Wes and the team have also noticed a surprising side benefit. “Of all the ovens we have installed, we found that 42% of the people started businesses with them. Giving people the opportunity to start their own business and make their own money is really empowering.”

A third technology that is being implemented is solar panels. “The benefit to them is not the renewable component of the solar panel but the access to electricity,” Wes explains. The grid electricity may never reach many of these remote areas and these panels have been a huge benefit. Just allowing homes to have three to four hours of extra power each night is a game changer.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Wes Meir:

“We’re focusing on rural families.”

“We have a portfolio of six core solutions that we focus on.”

“Having those engineering skills has been critical.”

“It’s not something I had planned.”

“Human centered design is the most important component of the design process.”

“I need to get the involvement and the interaction with the consumer.”

“We want as many people to have access to these technologies as possible.”

“Two-thirds of the people are now not going to the hospital because they are sick.”

“We are focusing on rural families and needs that these rural families have.”

“We empower them for long-term sustainability.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Sep 04, 2017
The Future of Philanthropy, with Janet Mountain, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s mission is to transform the lives of children living in urban poverty through better education, health, and family economic stability.

Janet Mountain has been the executive director at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for the last 15 years. Their headquarter is in Austin, Texas, but their work spans the globe.

Their work focuses on making a meaningful difference for children and families in urban poverty. When you think about pathways out of poverty, the work includes areas such as education, college success, job placement, and financial coaching. Janet describes the work this way: “The work we do at the Foundation is about creating and accelerating human opportunity.” But, that’s a big task. According to Janet, “No matter how hard the work gets it is always worth it when it comes to children living in urban poverty.”

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is creative in using financial services such as grants, debt, and equity. But their work does not end there. They also provide hands-on services and consulting.

One of the foundation’s recent publications is A Philanthropist’s Guide to the Future. One important aspect is that it is important for foundations to constantly audit the work that they are doing to ensure that it is both achieving measurable results but also that the work is evolving with the environment. What the report revealed is that money is certainly an important component in making a difference. However, it ultimately doesn’t solve problems. It is the humans that are involved in applying those resources that change human lives.

The foundation uses eight social impact principles that guide their work.

  1. If it looks easy, look closer. The only way to solve the surface-level challenge is to address what’s happening underneath. Use your passion and skills to dig deep and find the roots of the problem.
  2. Take the risks your challenge deserves. Our greatest challenges require doing some things differently. Push the boundaries and be willing to take risks where others won’t.
  3. Stay the course. Behaviors change slowly. Time is often the most important investment you can make. It’s going to take more than one try to make an impact, and it’s going to take more than one success to make a difference.
  4. Money alone doesn’t solve problems. Money doesn’t solve problems, people do. A combination of talent, ideas, resources, and execution is the only way to create solutions that last.
  5. Invest in people. Collaboration among unlikely partners amplifies impact. Find people who challenge your thinking and invest in them.
  6. Measure mindfully. Evidence is the only way to know whether you’re making a difference, but not all data is created equal. Always measure, but be smart about what you measure, and how.
  7. If it doesn’t work, tell everyone. Your outcomes, both good and bad, are opportunities for others to learn and do better. We all win when we learn together.
  8. This is worth it. No one ever said that creating lasting change was easy. The work ahead is incredibly challenging. When you see the real-world impact your work has made, you’ll know the effort was worth it.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Janet Mountain

“No matter how hard the work gets, it really makes it worth it.”

“Our work is focused on making a meaningful difference in urban poverty.”

“The work we do at the Foundation is about creating and accelerating human opportunity.”

“Money doesn’t actually solve problems: humans do.”

“We, as a foundation, are very hands-on in our giving.”

“As long as you’re doing charitable work, the range of organizations can be very broad.”

“The report is an outcome we didn’t start with.”

“We have to make sure our work is achieving measurable results.”

“We all need partners in this work because it’s really, really hard.”

“When something doesn’t work that’s truly the most crushing part of this work.”

“Measurement is the only way to know if what you’re doing is making a difference.”

“If it doesn’t work it’s not something we should brush under the rug.”

“That change won’t happen in 5 or 10 years if we’re not doing things in the moment to push that change.”

“Remembering the fact that it is going to take more than one try to make an impact is an important mindset.”

“Activities don’t actually change lives. It’s the outcomes that change lives.”

“Be ready to stick with it and stay the course.”

“Time is often the most important investment that you can make.”

“It’s going to take more than one try to make an impact.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Book: Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs:

Aug 28, 2017
Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the Internet, with Jack Amend and Matthew Reid, Web Neutral Project

The Web Neutral Project is a comprehensive certification program that calculates, offsets and neutralizes the carbon footprint of websites and digital products.

Matt Reid and Jack Amend have known each other almost all of their lives. They grew up just down the street from one another. Matt attended the University of Minnesota where he studied Environmental Science.

Jack attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied Political Science. While in school, Jack ran a graphic design and web development company as a side-hustle. After school, Jack and some friends put together a creative agency with a focus on cause-driven organizations. Jack’s company used solar-powered servers to run their company. When some of their customers asked for a way to tell the story of solar-powered servers, Jack hit upon an idea. Could he provide a certification program for the internet, much like LEED certification for buildings? To figure this out, he reached out to Matt.

The IT sector consumes 10% of all global energy, and it’s growing. IT produces more greenhouse gasses than the entire global aviation industry. With an additional 3 billion people expected to come online, it is critical that we think of the carbon footprint of our global presence.

The Web Neutral Project offers a certification for carbon-neutral websites. They offer solar-powered web hosting. And, they can help you optimize your web page design, reducing energy consumption.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jack Amend and Matthew Reid

“It’s something that’s unknown to the general public.”

“The average person who uses the web isn’t aware of the effects it is having.”

“The footprint of the internet is about 50% larger than the global aviation industry.”

“The average website in a year produces about 4,700 lbs. of CO2.”

“The infrastructure of the internet is dependent on fossil fuels.”

“There is an issue with green washing.”

“Something I like about the entrepreneurial experience is getting to learn new things all of the time.” Matt Reid

“Echoing Green has been a huge validation of what we’re working on.”

“I didn’t know almost anything about entrepreneurship.” Matt Reid

“Try to manage your expectations.” Jack Amend

“Be ready for the long grinding days where you feel like you do so much, but not gotten too far.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 28, 2017
Style with a Purpose, with Hamilton Perkins, Hamilton Perkins Collection

Hamilton Perkins Collection is a certified B Corporation, offering designer travel bags at an affordable price. Each bag is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and lined with vinyl from repurposed billboards.

Hamilton Perkins found his niche early with retail sales. During university, he had a sneaker business on eBay. He made and sold leather bags. After college he entered financial services, rising through the ranks at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Yet, he had an entrepreneurial itch. So, he enrolled in an MBA program at William & Mary while working full-time.

Not only was Hamilton working full time while pursuing his MBA, but he also had a side-hustle business creating leather bags. To make sure he was creating something that customers would want, he conducted over 1,000 customer interviews. Hamilton describes his strategy, “I spent every break, and every lunch and every happy hour with a customer throughout business school.”

One of the key learnings was that consumers wanted their purchases to have a social impact. “A lot of people want more out of the companies they support,” Hamilton explains.

Hamilton consumed a lot of water from plastic bottles. “I saw what eight plastic water bottles every day for a week looked like,” he says. Hamilton researched and found a company, Thread, that makes material out of water bottles. He found a source of used billboard vinyl. He put them together into a prototype bag.

To test interest in the bag, they set up an event at a new art gallery and invited potential customers. That evening Hamilton gave a 90-second speech. That night they received a couple dozen orders. This gave them the confidence to move to a Kickstarter campaign. They launched the campaign with a goal of raising $10,000. They hit their goal in under a week.

With the upcycled billboard liner, each bag is unique. But, Hamilton says, “We’re not making a bag that is eco-friendly and crafty. It’s eco-friendly and stylish. It starts with style, then it’s quality, and then it’s impact.” For every Hamilton Perkins Collection bag, they use material from 17 plastic bottles. The inside is lined with one square yard of upcycled billboard vinyl.

Customers have responded. “We just need to make the product,” Hamilton says. “Once we make it, it sells out.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Hamilton Perkins

“Everything I was trying to do was pointing me in the direction of ‘Why don’t you go start a company?’”

 “A bag came to me because I needed it. I wanted to travel.”

“No two bags are ever exactly the same.”

“It’s cleaning up the environment. It’s also providing dignified income opportunities.”

“The real business plan was, would people buy it?”

“We wanted to make a product that mattered.”

“I learned a whole lot about patience in the first six months.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 21, 2017
Using Your Professional Skills to Volunteer, with Ann Herzog-Olson, Social Venture Partners, Minnesota

Social Venture Partners is a nonprofit that uses the venture capital model to help other nonprofits build capacity and grow.

Sometimes you want to do more. It might feel satisfying at the moment to march and chant. But does the impact last? You can donate money to social causes, and that’s important. But sometimes, it feels like you want to do even more.

One trend in philanthropy is engaged philanthropy. Engaged philanthropy recognizes that you have more than financial capital to give to a cause. You also have intellectual capital and social capital. You can use your skills and experience to help a nonprofit. You have a network of connections which can benefit a nonprofit. Social Venture Partners allows individuals and corporations to practice engaged philanthropy.

There are 42 Social Venture Partners affiliates around the globe. Social Venture Partners, Minnesota is one of them. They focus their efforts on serving youth.

The partners at Social Venture Partners identify potential nonprofits to target. They look for nonprofits that are emerging early stage, with some proof of concept. Ann Herzog-Olson, the Executive Director of Social Venture Partners Minnesota says, “We focus on nonprofits who have a vision of where they want to go and look like they’re emerging. Then we help them build a capacity building plan.” The individual and corporate partners at Social Venture Partners stick with the nonprofit for three years as they build their capacity.

In some cases, the nonprofit wants to serve more youth. In those cases, Social Venture Partners help them to scale. In other cases, the nonprofits want their existing programs to be more effective.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Ann Herzog-Olson

“Youth are kind of lost in the middle.”

“Social Venture Partners is focused on building capacity.”

“We look for nonprofits that are directly serving youth.”

“It’s what we call engaged philanthropy.”

“It’s skilled expertize, professional expertize, that we provide to the nonprofits.”

“We usually get about 30 to 50 applications, and we select just one nonprofit.”

“We walk alongside them.”

“It’s highly strategic skilled volunteers.”

“We use revenue as a proxy.”

“They double their revenue in three years.”

“We expect our partners to become involved and volunteer their time.”

“It’s sophisticated volunteering.”

“We train people to use their skills to help a nonprofit in a strategic way.”

“We are impacting more teens as we add more partners.”

“Development’s really about the donor.”

“They need to have a vision of where they want to take their organization.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 21, 2017
Product Packaging with a Purpose, with Lindsey McCoy, Plaine Products

Plaine Products helps reduce single-use plastics by producing natural, vegan shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in returnable, reusable containers.

In 2013, Lindsey McCoy was living in the Bahamas and running a non-profit called Save the Bays. “I had zero interest in going into business,” she told me. “I was going to save the world.”

As she explored the islands, she noticed the impact of single use plastics. “Without regular trash pick up, you see those water bottles, flip flops and plastic bags in the water and along the side of the road,” she explains. “To me, single-use plastics is one of those things that once you start to notice it, you realize it’s everywhere.”

Lindsey tried to reduce her personal use of plastic. But she found it difficult to find plastic-free alternatives to shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. “It began to occur to me that there was a way to solve this by going outside of the non-profit community Providing a product might be a better solution.”

When she returned to the United States in 2015, she and her sister, Alison Webster, went to work on the problem. Together, they formed Plane Products. Plaine Products produces natural, vegan shampoo, conditioner & body wash in returnable, refillable, reusable containers. When a customer empties a Plaine Products bottle, they order a replacement. They place the empty bottle into the box and return it to Plaine Products to be sanitized and refilled.

It took Lindsey and Alison almost two years from idea to product launch. They had to find a contract manufacturer who produces natural products. They needed to work with someone who would be willing to refill bottles. And, they had to figure out their non-plastic packaging. At first, they tried steel containers, but the containers rusted. When they switched to aluminum containers, they found that the packaging not only lasted, but it was lighter to ship, saving costs. And, they had to figure out how to explain the concept of reusable packaging.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lindsey McCoy

“Once you start to notice it, you realize it’s everywhere.”

“I’m lazy. I’m busy. Making shampoo in my tub was not going to work for me.”

“Our addiction to convenience and dispensability seems only to be growing.”

“There will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.”

“As far as we know, no one is doing this.”

“We were doing something totally different, and that made it even harder.”

“We tried some terrible products.”

“You can be small and still mighty.”

“Progress not perfection.”  

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 14, 2017
A Bicycle-Based Beekeeping Business, with Kristy Lynn Allen, The Beez Kneez

The Beez Kneez is a Minneapolis-based honey production, education and advocacy organization.

When Kristy Lynn Allen was in high school, her family moved to a new school districts during the school year. As a result, her grades suffered. She needed a boost to be ready for college. So, she enrolled in a college connection program. While there, she met a teacher who was planning a trip to China. As a 19-year-old, Kristy took out a loan and went to China with her teacher.

This wasn’t her last time to travel. She studied in England. She traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica. She traveled across Europe. She lived in Ecuador for a year.  “All the trips I took, all the exploring I did, shaped me into who I am,” she says.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Global Studies, she was left wondering what to do next. She explains, “I learned everything that was wrong with the world, but I didn’t know how to fix it.”

She signed up with AmeriCorps and traveled to Arkansas where she worked on a ranch that is associated with Heifer International. It was while working Heifer Ranch that she learned about colony collapse. She also discovered that she felt comfortable around agriculture. Kristy says “It seemed like a very simple, and yet impactful way to make change. Bees are responsible for the pollination of our food and a third of everything we eat.”

After leaving AmeriCorps, Kristy returned to rural Minnesota where she worked on her uncle’s bee ranch. “The first time he opened a hive with me, I just fell in love with bees.” At the end of a harvest season, Kristy’s aunt asked her if she would like to sell honey in Minneapolis. “That’s when my entrepreneur idea lightbulb went off,” she recalls. Since it was October and Halloween was near, Kristy decided to paint her bike like a bee, put pipe cleaners and ping pong balls on her helmet. She handed out honey samples with business cards. “I didn’t have any training in marketing. It was like ‘Huh, this would be a good way to get the word out.’”

This publicity stunt led to a business delivering honey door-to-door. Instinctively, Kristy understood the importance of face-to-face connection. “I had this nostalgia for a time when I wasn’t alive, when the milkman would come and bring you your milk, and you’d have a conversation.” The effect was immediate and profound. “I’d go to people’s door. I’m dressed like a bee. The kids got all excited. They’d take pictures. And then, it would immediately spark the question, ‘Hey, what’s going on with bees?’” This was the beginning of The Beez Kneez.

At The Beez Kneez, they keep bees and produce honey. They deliver the honey year-round in Minnesota on bicycle. They provide beekeeper support, supplies and training. They run a 14-week intensive training program for beekeepers called Camp Beez Kneez And they advocate on behalf of pollinators.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kristy Lynn Allen

“We have many species of native pollinators that are disappearing.”

“Honeybee colonies are sending a signal to us.”

“My role is telling the story.”

“I was a humble 30 year-old-woman dressing like a bee.”

“We were concerned for the future of our business, but also the future of our environment.”

“I always felt like there was more out there.”

“I was kind of addicted to other kinds of cultures.”

“It seemed like a very simple, and yet impactful way to make change.”

“That’s when my entrepreneur idea lightbulb went off.”

“We need to be connecting with people face-to-face.”

“I would question myself, but never my motivation.”

“It’s amazing how people react to your motivation, confidence and passion.”

“The biggest power we have in this country is where we spend our money.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Aug 14, 2017
Investing in, Connecting and Celebrating Social Entrepreneurs, with Sally Osberg, Skoll Foundation

The Skoll Foundation drives large-scale change for the world’s most pressing problems. They invest in, connect and celebrate social entrepreneurs.

Sally Osberg’s reading early in life shaped her outlook. “I was reading biographies of people like Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jane Adams, and people who convinced me that you could make a pretty powerful difference in the world. And somehow that seeped into my consciousness and gave me a real sense of agency, and I could be meaningful in the scheme of trying to make the world a better place.”

Sally is the President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. She describes what they’re looking for this way. “We look for the convergence of an innovative idea; a great innovator with the determination and wherewithal to stay at this work; and an inflection point where there is sufficient evidence that this idea works.”

 Jeff Skoll founded the Skoll Foundation in 1999. Jeff was the founding president of eBay. Jeff’s vision is a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. In 2001, he reached out the Sally to help him create a different kind of philanthropy.

Each year, the Skoll Foundation recognizes four to six changemakers who are ready to scale their impact. They invest in these changemakers through the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship. Awardees receive a $1.25 million investment over three years. They also gain access to a global community of innovative leaders and who are solving the world’s most pressing problems.

“We’re looking for a proven track record,” Sally explains. “We’re looking for a truly pressing global problem…And then this inflection point. Is the team in place? Is the evidence in place? Is there a discipline in place? Is there a great board?”

The Skoll Foundation connects social entrepreneurs through the annual Skoll World Forum. They video, document and share the stories of these changemakers.

Sally has announced that she will be soon stepping down from her role at the Skoll Foundation. As she looks back and forward at the same time, she reflects on the world as she sees it. “The challenges have never seemed so complex and massive in scale. And yet, the upwelling of talent and interest and goodness from people… I look at young people and see this incredible determination to tackle these problems and not make a choice between doing good, making a difference and a viable career. And I believe that holds so much promise.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sally Osberg

“We partner with social entrepreneurs and celebrate the impact of their great ideas.”

“I tried to channel his DNA, which is fundamentally entrepreneurial.”

“Our mission is our strategy: Invest, Connect and Celebrate.”

“There are great solutions out there. We just have to open our aperture to find them.”

“People think of social entrepreneurs as lone rangers. They are anything but.”

“We first and foremost are trying to be a good partner to the social entrepreneurs.”

“We can help to amplify, accelerate and strengthen, how all this comes together.”

“I plan to continue working with people who want to make a difference in the world.”

“I believe the empowerment of women and girls holds major promise for the world.”

“It is not a moment for us to descend into cynicism or despair.”

“I see this aspiration in young people around social entrepreneurship.”

“That combination of expertise and humility…is a critical piece.”

“Develop some area of expertise.”

“Think about social entrepreneurship different.”

“Learn about a social entrepreneur who is making a difference on an issue that they care about.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 07, 2017
An Ecosystem for Small Businesses, with Christopher Webley, New Rules

New Rules is a one-stop-shop for creatives and small businesses.

Christopher Webley has always known that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. At the age of 11, he started a lawn care business. He printed flyers on his home computer and handed them out to the neighbors. Soon, he was so busy, his father took notice and decided to help. His dad bought a truck and started transporting Christopher to his jobs on the weekend. In exchange, Christopher helped his dad with cleaning buildings during the week.

During college, Christopher started a men’s wear clothing line. After completing his degree in Textile Technology, Christopher went to work for Victoria ‘s Secrets. As his corporate pay began to roll in, he made a crucial decision. Instead of increasing his lifestyle to match his salary, he continued to live at the standard of a college student.  He saved over half of his paycheck. His savings gave him options. “I always wanted to give back,” he says. He wanted to make an impact.

One of the first social issues Christopher identified was housing. “If you don’t have a roof over your head, chances are you won’t be starting a business,” Christopher explains. With his savings, he started a development real estate company. He purchased and rehabbed several multi family buildings. “The whole idea was, I wanted to provide equitable housing for people living in subpar conditions.”

Christopher partnered with the YWCA to move homeless women into housing. However, the women he moved into his apartments were not able to pay rent, and in the long run, Christopher was forced to evict them. This sobering moment caused Christopher to take a longer view. “You can have housing,” he says, “but that does not mean you have a job. That does not mean you know how to manage your money.” He realized he would have to look more holistically at the problem.

Around this time, Christopher was recruited to Minnesota by the Target Corporation. As he disentangled himself from his properties in Ohio, Christopher had a chance to start fresh in Minnesota. He decided to focus on commercial instead of residential real estate. “We could have a place where we can bring people to influence the economic, education and health and wellness disparities.”

After only three years with the Target Corporation, Christopher was impacted by a layoff. “I thank God for that experience,” he told me. “I would have made the leap eventually to go into full-time entrepreneurship. That layoff was the push that got me started.” He started a new company, New Rules.

New Rules bought a building on Lowry Avenue in Minneapolis. They held a design thinking exercise, asking members of the local community what they needed. “There were a lot of overlaps in the needs,” Christopher told me. Based on this feedback, New Rules’ 4,000 sq. ft. facility opened in October 2016. It includes a Maker space, shared workspace, retail and event space. Their coworking model includes skills building. They host a series of Lunch & Learns and webinars.


Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Christopher Webley

“How do I empower other people to do what they are passionate about?”

“God put us on this earth and gave us a divine purpose.”

 “I’ve always known that I would eventually become a full-time entrepreneur.”

“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I started walking.”

“The biggest piece is just getting started.”

“There are inevitable barriers that lie ahead.”

“We’re in the business of being good, but also the business of being a business.”

“Relationships have really driven our business.”

“Everybody has to have skin in the game for this to work.”

“If the social enterprise community is liberated, we’re all liberated.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Aug 07, 2017
From Used Goods to the Greater Good, with Julie Kearns, Junket: Tossed & Found

Junket: Tossed & Found creates easy access to high-quality used goods.

Julie Kearns was the mother of a 3-month-old when her husband left. Julie describes the impact, “Between pregnancy weight, not eating, divorce diet, all of that stuff, I lost about 50 pounds in six months.” As the weight fell off, she needed clothing that she could wear to her corporate job. Her little girl was growing and needed new clothes. Not only had she lost weight, but she had also lost half of her household income.

Julie created multiple streams of income. She rented out a room in her home on Airbnb. She picked up her real estate license. She went to the Goodwill outlet and bought clothing by the pound. She took her old clothing to consignment. “It didn’t occur to me,” she says, “that this was the beginning of a business.” One of the shirts that sold at the consignment shop was an item she had purchased from Goodwill. The shirt sold for $10. Her share of the money was $5. Julie realized that, by buying used clothes by the pound, she had only paid 50 cents for the shirt. That was a profit of $4.50, or a 900% return. “That became a glimmer of hope for me. My goal was not to save the world. My goal was to be a mom first and not be working a 50 to 60 hour per week corporate job.”

That ah-ha moment led her to sell items on eBay, and from her garage. Julie eventually found a way to leave her job in a corporation and to resell used items full-time. This gave her the flexibility to focus on her daughter’s needs. However, about six months into her new life, she began to wonder if there weren’t a greater purpose to her work.

Julie’s work exposed her to the volumes of waste from our consumer economy, fueled by planned obsolescence. She saw how, as a society, we have a flawed understanding of secondhand goods. Julie had a moment when her understanding of her work shifted. “I found myself sitting on the floor of my basement, surrounded by all of these clothes. It was exhausting, and it felt stupid. It was what I thought I wanted. But, I realized, if I don’t find a way to make this meaningful, if I don’t find a way to add value, if all this is, is selling more crap, I can’t do it. I can’t run a business that doesn’t fit with my view of how things should be.”

Julie saw the opportunity to create ease of access for high-quality used goods. She knew that this would be a valuable service for conscious consumers. This work aligned with the greater need to reduce the voluminous waste stream and protect the earth’s precious resources. She committed to growing the business, aligned with a greater need. “I just didn’t realize what it was going to turn into.”

A little more than four years ago, Julie opened a shop, Junket: Tossed & Found. They carry secondhand and vintage items. They also sell unique art created by local artisans from a material that otherwise would have made its way to the landfill. Junket: Tossed & Found is a true social enterprise. They source from non-profits and community organizations. They donate excess inventory to charitable organizations. Julie was a founding member of the Impact Hub, Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP).

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Julie Kearns

“Choosing products that already exist, instead of buying new ones, is a legitimate, concrete solution to climate change.”

“We think of climate change as something that is happening to us. It’s the factories. It’s the trucks. It’s the airplanes. But we are the ones who are driving that demand.”

“I’m not a big fan of cheesy wall art.”

“Recycling is an industrial process.”

“I didn’t know social enterprise existed.”

“It was the gigantic funnel of crap we were throwing away.”

“As a society, we have a flawed understanding of secondhand goods.”

“What feeds you is this sense of purpose.”

“I’m living in alignment with the world I want to see.”

“I had a plan.”

“I got myself ready before the jumping-off point.”

“That made all the difference. That gave me my runway.”

“It has to be something you enjoy enough to start as a side gig.”

“Have a plan. Have a backup plan. And have a plan behind that.”  

“Be optimistic, but be prepared for worst-case scenarios.”

“Be prepared to hustle. Hustle, hustle, hustle.”

“Seriously consider reuse.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 31, 2017
Civic Engagement in a Digital World, with Damola Ogundipe, Civic Eagle

Civic Eagle is a technology startup that creates Software as a Service (SaaS) Consistent Relationship Management tools for local and state governments, and policy advocacy organizations.  

Damola Ogundipe says, “I’ve always kind of known that I wanted to take an entrepreneurship route.” During college, he ran a successful sneaker retail company on eBay. In 2011, Damola graduated from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management with a graduate degree in Finance.

In 2013, Damola was working as an independent consultant in the healthcare field. As the debate flared up over the Affordable Care Act, he realized that he did not know what was in the bill. “That was concerning for me,” he says. “Because that was the field I was working in.” He looked around for a reliable source of information about the bill and its impact.

When Damola could not find a reliable source of information, he realized that this was a problem that he needed to fix for himself. Damola says, “As an entrepreneur when you start out to solve a problem that’s important to you, you’re better off because you’re not the only person who is suffering from that problem.”

As Damola sought to solve his problem, that was the genesis of Civic Eagle. He wanted to make it easier for citizens to understand issues and legislation. He also wanted to make it easy for governments to understand their constituents. “Without both,” Damola explains, “there is no true solution.”

Damola used sketched out his idea in a notebook. He kept drawing and redrawing ideas across 150 pages of his notebook. He warns, perhaps he thought about it a little too much before starting. Once he was satisfied with his idea for an app, he paid someone to develop a prototype for him. “It was a horrible prototype,” he confessed. “The action of doing something was positive. The result of the action I took, wasn’t what I wanted it to be.”

The next action he took, was much more effective. He decided on the people and resources he needed to bring his vision to life. He recruited a technologist. He recruited someone who has over 20 years of government experience. He recruited another team member who had design experience.

The team tapped into their network to engage in a lean startup methodology. Damola says, “You do not want to build something for your customer. You’re better off building something with your customer.”

It is hard to imagine a time when civic engagement was more important. Civic Eagle sees civic engagement and constituent management as a marketplace problem. They create tools to help citizens to engage in civic discourse. Their tools allow constituents to learn about their civic leaders and issues. They can speak out about issues using Civic Eagle’s award-winning video debate tool. Citizens can act and advocate on behalf of the issues that matter to them. They can even register to vote.

Civic Eagle also creates tools to help local governments, state governments, and policy advocacy organizations to help them understand the needs to their constituents. Civic Eagle provides data analytics and data visualization tools. Government and advocacy organizations can engage their constituents, activating them around issues.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Damola Ogundipe

“Data aggregation is central to what we do.”

“We’ve got these products that come together for the greater good.”

“A one-stop shop for civic participation, civic engagement.”

“We believe in free speech and open dialogue.”

“It’s difficult to regulate a platform that is built around being heard.”

“It was a horrible prototype.”

“For the majority of startups, your first sale is going to be relationship-based.”

“We follow the lean startup methodology.”

“You’re better off building something with your customer.”

“You’ll go a lot further in business with a team.”

“If the team is stellar, the product will be successful.”

“Our ultimate outcome is for people to vote.”

“You’ve really got to pay attention at the local level.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 31, 2017
183, Lori Most, BinaryBridge | Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Humanitarian Missions

BinaryBridge creates software that helps humanitarians do their work effectively and efficiently.

Lori Most grew up seeing television commercials of humanitarian crises, especially in Africa. Lori recounted, “I always wanted to go to Africa and help…I thought ‘I’m going to grow up and go over there.” In college, she started as a pre-med student. Part way through she switched to engineering. “I changed directions a lot,” she laughed. When she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in mathematics, she was left with this sense that she still wanted to help.

After graduating, Lori quickly found work in the booming field of software development. She worked as a software developer, business analyst and product manager with well-known brands such as UnitedHealth Group, Target, and C.H. Robinson. She felt like the work she was doing was important, but she says, “It wasn’t quite the mission I was looking for.”

Lori thought about working with a nonprofit. She explored several opportunities. Eventually, her sister introduced her to a humanitarian medical mission working in Peru. Lori accompanied the mission to Peru where she observed organized chaos. The medical team saw between 80 and 100 patients per day. As the patients moved from the intake room to the exam room, to the checkout areas, the patients were tracked with paper records. Paper records are easily misplaced or mishandled. They lack instant access across a caregiving team. They can be illegible, causing medical errors and slowing down care. Medical professionals on humanitarian missions have had to rely on paper medical records, until now.

Walk into almost any medical clinic in an industrialized country, and you’re likely to be greeted by a person behind a computer screen. With a few key strokes, the receptionist can pull up your complete medical record. Modern clinics depend on electronic medical records or EMR. EMR provides many benefits. Records are instantly accurate and complete. Health workers can effectively diagnose patients, reduce medical errors, and provide safer care. EMR provides coordinated, efficient care, improving productivity.

backpackEMR allows medical professionals in the field to instantly input, update and share patient data. They use a custom-built peer-to-peer network to share data in remote areas where no internet access is available. backpackEMR works as an app on a tablet or with web-based access. BinaryBridge charges a minimal fee to keep the software running.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lori Most

“I changed directions a lot.”

“My philosophy on software…is get the best of the best and make sure it’s right the first time.”

“Get a technical co-founder.”

“Accept help from other people.”

“Support your local social entrepreneurs.”  

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Jul 24, 2017
182, Zach McGill, Perk Health | Improving the Health of People and Companies

Perk Health is a website and app that helps you pick up healthier habits in a way that is sustainable.

Zach McGill and Doug DeBold grew up playing sports. Games taught them so much: achievement, competition, leader boards, point scoring, rewards, rules of play, self-expression, socializing, mastery, and status. When it was time for college, Doug went off to college in Vermont while Zach attended the University of Minnesota.

Initially, Zach studied engineering. He wanted to invent things. But, he says, “I realized, with engineering, there would be less inventing and lot more equations.” So, he started studying entrepreneurship. “It became clear to me that my path was going to be to start and build companies.”

Zach built side businesses while he was in school. He became involved with the Acara Institute at the University of Minnesota. He traveled to New Delhi where he and a team developed a business plan to build a small biogas plant. The proposed plant would reduce greenhouse gasses while providing reliable access to electricity.

As Zach’s project in India came to a close, he had a decision to make. Did he want to move to Delhi and pursue his business idea, or did he want to grow another side project he had, Perk Health? He chose Perk Health. And to help him grow and scale it, he partnered with his childhood friend, Doug DeBold.

Perk Health helps individuals to develop healthy habits. If you look back 100 years ago, people in the United States died mainly of influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Today, Americans die primarily from lifestyle diseases including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 73% of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity. Inactivity, diet, and obesity kill more people in the US than any communicable disease. As a result, 86% of our healthcare spending can be traced back to these lifestyle factors.

Employers who use Perk Health can lower healthcare costs, increase productivity and decrease absenteeism. Perk health delivers their products through a virtual system, which can be cost effective. The Perk Health app retains over ten times the engagement of traditional wellness programs. Perk Health tailors the program to each individual, making it easy and fun to participate.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Zach McGill

“We looked at things that change people’s behavior in the real world.”

“How can we flip those mechanisms on their head and use them for good?”

“How do we get people to focus on small actions, and follow that up with rewards?”

“We looked at things that worked for us.”

“To get to the beginning, you have to go back to Junior High.”

“I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.”

“A business can be not only a vehicle for profit but a vehicle for good.”

“You can do good and do well.”

“It’s something we’re really passionate about.”

“I knew I wanted to do something that was impactful.”

“I realized that, if I wanted to do anything well, I needed to focus.”

“Just get started.”

“The reality is, there is no ah-ha moment.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Jul 24, 2017
181, Marcus Owens, NEON | Sustainable Community Development through Entrepreneurship

Northside Economic Opportunity Network, better known as NEON, provides entrepreneurs in North Minneapolis with business development services.

Marcus Owens is a product of North Minneapolis. He grew up there, graduating from North Community High School. He bought his first home there. Then his second. He says, “I always wanted to find a way to give back to this community.”

Marcus has long been an entrepreneur, operating real estate and financial services businesses. He also worked at a regional bank and a large retailer. He ran a small nonprofit. By 2012, he was looking for more ways to give back to the community. He found his way to the board of NEON. Two years later, he took over as the CEO.

NEON works with low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs to build wealth and develop a sustainable community. They offer training and coaching. They also provide access to capital and access to markets. Their coworking space is on West Broadway in North Minneapolis.

Marcus says that “We’re trying to revitalize [North Minneapolis] in a way that provides the people that are here with ways to bring themselves out of poverty.” Marcus and board developed innovative ways to fund NEON. Though NEON is a nonprofit, they have several streams of revenue. Marcus explains, “It’s not enough to just give services away. You’ve got to create affordable options for folks to work with you, and bridge the gap where the market does not exist today.”

To give small businesses access to the market, NEON has two incubator programs. One incubator is centered around the business of property maintenance. NEON owns a property maintenance business and aggregates smaller subcontract work. They develop these subcontractors with business development skills. They also have a partnership with Twin Cities RISE to provide personal development. NEON also runs a food business incubator program.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Marcus Owens

“We saw North Minneapolis as a key area to provide development services.”

“We saw that the way to develop assets was through small business ownership.”

“We wanted to give people a gateway to start a business.”

“We have about 42% of our residents in poverty.”

“We’re building a community of entrepreneurs together.”

“What problem are you solving and who are you solving it for?”

“We have a great partnership with Fredrikson & Byron.”

“I always wanted to find a way to give back to this community.”

“There is no difference in nonprofit and for-profit in how you should operate.”

“How do you innovate in a space that has not been innovated in a long time?”

“How can you start it today?”

“Think about how you’re spending money. Are you spending it in your community?”  

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 17, 2017
180, Michelle Horovitz, Appetite for Change | The Intersection of Food and Social Justice

Appetite for Change uses food as a tool for building health, wealth, and social change in North Minneapolis.

Michelle Horovitz grew up in the well-manicured suburbs of Minneapolis. If you ask her about the beginning of her journey to social change, she points to her Jewish upbringing. She says that her family made her aware of major injustices in the world. This gave her a sense of empathy for people who had been “othered.”

Throughout high school and college, Michelle waited tables. She had a keen interest in food and wanted to be a chef.

As an undergrad student living in West Philadelphia, she was exposed to a world that was very different than her suburban home. After she had graduated, Michelle wanted to go to New York for culinary school. Her friends and family were not supportive of the idea. “Oh, that’s a cute dream,” they told her dismissively. So, Michelle returned to Minneapolis to pursue a law degree from the University of Minnesota. In law school, she says she was “completely caught up in historical, systematic, and institutionalized oppression.”

In 2005, she joined the Public Defender’s office in Miami-Dade County. However, the call of the kitchen would not leave her alone. Michelle says “I knew if I did not try pursuing my passion for food in a serious way, I would regret that I never did.” She tried catering on the side while still working at the Public Defender’s office, but that did not quite scratch her itch. Michelle considered enrolling in culinary school, but after a chance meeting with award-winning chef, Michelle Bernstein, she decided to take a leave-of-absence to work in Michelle Bernstein’s restaurant, Michy’s.

After her son was born, Michelle returned to Minneapolis. Having been gone from Minneapolis for several years, she began to investigate a way to be involved in the community. “I wanted to find a way to combine my passion for food, and racial and social justice,” she told me. She became involved with a group called Gardening Matters, working for a just, diverse, and sustainable local food system. She volunteered to teach cooking classes through a program called Cooking Matters, at the University of Minnesota.

Michelle knew that she wanted to form an organization, but she was not quite clear on where to begin. At first, she did what she knew how to do. She taught cooking classes for new moms. Her work led her to meet Princess Titus and Latasha Powell. The three of them “decided to get the community together over a meal,” Michelle explains. At a series of meals and conversation, they listened carefully to the challenges of those in North Minneapolis related to food. This was the beginning of Appetite for Change.

Their offerings came out of these initial conversations with the community. Their flagship program is a workshop that brings people together around food. “The more you come together to cook, eat and talk, the more that comes out that people want to change and build.” Through these conversations, their urban agriculture program was born.

When people expressed concern for the lack of grocery shopping, Appetite for Change started working on the policy, advocacy and systems change work.

Young people gave input on the kind of programming they wanted. Based on this input, Appetite for Change offers a cooking group for young people that meets twice per month. From the conversations at these cooking workshops, a youth employment program emerged.

Appetite for Change operates Kindred Kitchen, where they provide high-quality kitchen space for local businesses. And, they run the Breaking Bread restaurant, bringing people together around real food.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Michelle Horovitz

“The response to the problem is multifaceted and holistic. That’s really a response to how multi-layered the problem is.”

“Food touches so many areas of our lives and our community.”

“I like to do lots of different things.”

“Culinary is an artform.”

“There is no ‘right path.’ There is no one way to do it.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 17, 2017
179, Junita Flowers, Favorable Treats | Clarity Comes While You Are Working

Favorable Treats is a cookie company and social impact venture.

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Forty-three percent of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive behaviors. Even in high school, nearly 1.5 million US students experience physical abuse from a dating partner every year.

Favorable Treats has a mission to let families across the country to enjoy warm cookies in safe homes.  They produce and sell pre-portioned cookie dough. A percentage of their profits goes towards dating and domestic violence awareness and prevention.

The founder of Favorable Treats, Junita Flowers grew up in a large family with seven brothers and sisters. Her mother and grandmother cooked and baked together. Junita says “The majority of my best childhood memories were spent in the kitchen.”

In 2006, while staying home with her two small children, she began to experiment with cookie recipes. It reconnected her to her youth where she had enjoyed helping her mother and grandmother bake cookies. Her friends started to ask for the cookies. Then friends of friends. Soon, she had an inkling that she could launch a cookie business.

She enrolled in a 16-week business development program at the Neighborhood Development Center. To test her business, she sold cookies at Farmers’ Markets. At first, she baked cookies in her home kitchen as her children took naps. It took a year before she rented space in a commercial kitchen. A short time later, she moved to a second kitchen that also provided a retails space. For all appearances, her business was well on its way. But that’s not the end of the story.

Junita married in 2001. By the time she started her business, Favorable Treats in 2006; she says that she was in a “toxic and abusive marriage.” Junita had worked for more than 20 years in nonprofits, including working in a shelter for women who had to flee domestic violence. She was very familiar with domestic violence and the steps to keep safe. And yet, she adapted to the situation. “There was this internal shame of ‘oh my gosh, how did I get here?’” In the chaos of her marriage, Junita ended her business. Still, she says that “I always knew I was going to come back to it.”

She re-started the business in 2012, but in the meantime, she also invited her former spouse back into her home. The abuse continued, and Junita struggled to keep the business going. At one point, as Junita was struggling to grow her business, she shared her struggles with her husband. He replied coldly, “Junita, I don’t believe in you. I don’t believe in your business. Nor do you have the skill talent or ability run your business.”

Instead of being defeated, Junita says, “I knew at that moment that I couldn’t quit. To get back the confidence I needed in myself, I needed a stretch goal.” Junita signed up for the 2013 New York City Marathon, even though she had never run more than three miles. And, to make the goal even harder, she ran the marathon as a fundraiser for a shelter.

It took her many, many weeks of training and fundraising to reach her goal. On the evening before the marathon, Junita was still short of her fundraising goal. As she sat in Olive Garden loading up on carbs, she received notification that a generous donor had pushed her across her goal. “In that moment, I realized that you’re always in a position to give. And if you work really hard, you will reach success.” She says of her business “That’s the moment when I knew I had to make it bigger than what it was.”

Favorable Treats started as a straightforward cookie company. The social mission came later. Junita says “That give-back piece, that part of making my community stronger, has always been part of who I am.” In 2016, they started “Project Home-Aid,” giving a portion of their profits to dating and domestic violence awareness and prevention. “It was a way for me to say, that not only are our cookies made, in the concept of homemade cookie dough, but our cookie dough is now providing aid to homes so that they can be safer.”

Junita summarizes what she has learned like this. “Purpose is who you are. Passion is what you do. Clarity is what you find, only through active pursuit. The only way you’ll figure out any of this, is by pursuing it.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Junita Flowers

“The majority of my best childhood memories were spent in the kitchen.”

“Baking cookies for me was an outlet.”

“I have known since I was 12 years old, that I would be an entrepreneur.”

“I did not start it as a business. I did it as an outlet.”

“Looking back, I’m like ‘What were you thinking?’”

“It’s amazing how you just adapt.”

“I knew my cookies were more than just a desert. I wanted to do more.”

“At that moment, I knew I had to fight through this.”

“I knew I needed a stretch goal.”

“That’s the moment when I knew I had to make it bigger than what it was.”

“I know it’s not just a cookie company producing cookies. There’s meaning behind it.”

“It was just sort of this epiphany. All of a sudden the pieces came together.”

“Clarity comes while you are actively working.”

“We have this limitless supply of goodness to give.”  

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 10, 2017
178, Kristen Womack, Hack the Gap | Hacking the Diversity Gap

Hack the Gap is a weekend event where women come together to build a project as a team.

Kristen Womack is a bona fide techy. She worked as a product manager for some well-known tech companies. She runs Night Sky Web Co. And she has been involved in the local tech scene from Geekettes to Mpls MadWomen. And yet, as she attended hackathons, she couldn’t help but notice the lack of women. “When I went to the bathroom, there was no line,” she told me.

The diversity gap in tech has been widely reported. The problem starts early in life. In a recent survey, only 0.4% of teenage girls plan to major in computer science. Only 6.7% of all women graduate with a STEM degree. According to a study by MIT, about 20% of undergraduate engineering degrees are awarded to women, and only 13% of the engineering workforce is female. According to Google’s annual report, only 31% of its employees are women. Worse still, Hispanic workers account for only 4% of their workforce, and black employees make up only 2%.

Kristen and Jenna Pederson of Hack the Gap believe that, while there is a problem with getting more women in the tech pipeline, the problem goes deeper. Tech has a culture problem. Kristen says that “We fundamentally believe that, if we increase the pipeline of women and girls who are interested in technology, they are going to enter a world where they could potentially drop about due to death by a thousand cuts.”

A recent New York Times article painfully documented the culture of sexual harassment in the tech industry. Male founders of tech companies have come to a slow realization that their practice of hiring from within their network has caused them to exclude talent from diverse backgrounds.

Kristen points out that the problem is multifaceted. “We have to fix every part of the journey from childhood to adulthood for women in technology.” That’s a big undertaking, Kristen acknowledges. “So, we decided to focus on this one particular segment of adult women.”

Hack the Gap is a weekend event where women come together to build a project as a team. During the weekend, women can become more confident in their skills, or learn a new skill. Not all the women who participate in Hack the Gap are coders. Some have skills in project management, marketing or other skillsets.

The Hack the Gap event strengthens the community of women business leaders. Kristen says, “We have seen several women come out of our hackathon and go on to continue with the business from what they built at Hack the Gap.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kristen Womack

“There is a need for everyone at the hackathon.”

“12% of all engineers are women.”

“The problem is multifaceted.”

“How do we show the rest of the community what these women are doing, and elevate them even more?”

“There are more men named John who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies than there are women CEOs.”

“We might have more diversity in technology if we had more women in hiring positions.”

“These women are bringing real-world problems into the hackathon, and building tech that will solve those problems.”

“Testing your idea in the smallest state possible is really key.”

“You start to see patterns when you start small.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 10, 2017
177, Katherine Milligan, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship | The World’s Largest Network of Late-Stage Social Entrepreneurs

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is the sister organization to the World Economic Forum. They manage the world’s largest network of late-stage social entrepreneurs.

Katherine Milligan says, “I have always been deeply touched by the inequities of the world.” She spent time in the Peace Corp. She lived in a village in Benin without running water or electricity for two years. While there, she saw first-hand how an international shift in the commodity price of cotton had a significant impact on local cotton farmers and their families. “It opened a deep curiosity in me to understand why the conventional ways of delivering solutions to these populations where failing.”

Her curiosity led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Trade and International Development. This was followed by two years as a Research Fellow, traveling the world and interviewing stakeholders from ambassadors and trade representatives to the WTO and farmers. She says that this study gave her an appreciation for how complex problems are. “When you know very little about a problem, it’s very easy to see it in a black and white way and to propose a simplistic solution. When you dig into it and you understand the complexities of it, that’s when you appreciate just how challenging and complex these problems are to solve.”

Katherine’s search for solutions to large, complex global problems led her to the World Economic Forum in 2005. In 2009, she took over the lead role for the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is the sister organization to the World Economic Forum. They manage the world’s largest network of late-stage social entrepreneurs. They elevate the work of late-stage social entrepreneurs on the platform of the World Economic Forum.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship was launched in 1998 by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum and his wife Hilde. Their initial goal was to introduce the work of social entrepreneurs on a global stage. At the time, the concept of social entrepreneurship was mostly unknown.

Each year the Schwab Foundation recognizes several social entrepreneurs through a “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” competition. This year they selected 17 social entrepreneurs from 13 organizations. These social entrepreneurs become part of the broader Schwab Foundation community of more than 300 entrepreneurs to exchange expertise and experiences. They are also fully integrated into the World Economic Forum’s events and initiatives, giving them a global presence and visibility.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Katherine Milligan

“When you get that kind of spotlight and exposure, it changes the dynamics and resources come to you.”

“I’ve always been deeply touched by the inequities in the world.”

“When you know very little about a problem, it’s easy to see it in a black and white way.”

“You have to log those hours.”

“We need a reality check on the problem spaces.”

“Know your strengths.”

“Surround yourself with people who compliment your skills.”

“This is a really challenging path.”

“Understand the role of self-care.”

“If you let the cause consume you, what good are you to the cause?”  

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 03, 2017
176, Tim O'Neil, Bunker Labs, Minneapolis | Start and Grow a Veteran-led Business

Bunker Labs, Minneapolis is a non-profit built by military veteran entrepreneurs to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation.

This year, 200,000 military veterans will leave the service. Twenty-five percent of them want to start a business. In 2013, Tim O’Neil was one of those people.

Tim is a native of the Midwest. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin. He was commissioned as an infantry officer in 2006. He spent seven years in the Marines. As he left the military, he entered the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business to pursue his MBA. As he graduated in 2015, he knew he wanted to start a business.

Tim started Fidelis Co manufactures carried goods: backpacks, duffle bags, cases for electronics. The company has a veteran’s thesis. Tim took components of what he was familiar with in the service and brought it to the urban professional. They launched the company in the Spring of 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign. When they reached their goal in the first 48 hours, they knew they were onto something.

About 12 months after the initial launch of his company, Tim had a chance to be in Chicago for a photo shoot for Fidelis Co. He was introduced to Todd Connor. Todd was running Bunker Labs. Bunker Labs is a national not-for-profit organization, built by military veteran entrepreneurs to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation. Because of their common background in the military and entrepreneurship, it made sense to both Tim and Todd that they should meet.

Tim was immediately taken with the idea of veterans helping veterans to start businesses. He had several follow-up conversations. Tim says, “Eventually, you sit in on enough conference calls, and you ask enough questions, and you own it.”

There are fifteen Bunker Labs chapters across the United States. They focus on educational programming, mentors, events. They are building a thriving local network to help veterans start and grow businesses.

For people who are still in the military but are planning on leaving the service in the next six months or so, Bunker Labs offers Bunker-in-a-Box, an online training course. The language of the course reflects the military. For example, instead of lessons, there are fourteen missions.

When a military veteran returns to their home community, they can connect through a fun, casual social event called Bunker Brews. “That’s where the catalytic collisions really start to occur,” Tim told me.

Once a veteran has an idea for a business, Bunker Labs provides a 14-week long program called EPIC. They meet one night per week for three hours. Tim explained, “That’s really, how you get from idea to invoice.” In the last cohort in Minneapolis, there were ten veteran-led companies.

By the time a veteran-led organization grows to $500,000 in recurring revenue, Bunker Labs provides a program called CEO Circle. This is a monthly, hosted breakfast.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Tim O’Neil

“I live in Minneapolis, and they were doing all this stuff in Chicago.”

“Timings not everything. It’s the only thing.”

“It was a lived experience.”

“We say we’re a community.”

“We are decidedly not an incubator or an accelerator.”

“Our only interest is the success of the companies that are inside of our community.”

“One in four military veterans leaving the service are interested in entrepreneurship or a small business.”

“We have something to help veteran entrepreneurs at each stage.”

“We’re only going to do things that we ourselves are excited about.”

“Learn how to listen, and talk strategically.”

“The veteran community is tight knit.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jul 03, 2017
175, Rose McGee, Sweet Potato Comfort Pies | A Catalyst for Caring and Building Community

Rose McGee reminds me of that quote from tennis legend Arthur Ashe. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

Rose calls sweet potato pie “the sacred desert of black culture.” She grew up with her grandmother and great-grandmother in Jackson, Tennessee. As an adult, Rose decided that she wanted to make sweet potato pie. She called her grandmother and got the recipe. “Nothing was written down,” she says. “It was a pinch of this and a handful of that.”

Rose’s first experiments with making sweet potato pie did not turn out. But she kept baking. Soon, friends were requesting her pies. And after a while, she had a small business. She would sell her pies at flea markets and other events. She soon learned just how important sweet potato pie can be. Some refused to try her pies. “No, I only eat my own pies.” While others would be drawn to the pies. “This reminds me of my grandmother,” they would tell her.

Rose realized, “I was getting more satisfaction out of how people were feeling, more so than selling the pies.” While she enjoyed the experience of baking pies, pie baking was not a sustainable business. “Lord knows I was not making money.” So, she shut down her pie-making business. But a couple of years later, an incident sent Rose back to the kitchen, baking sweet potato pies.

On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. This incident brought long-simmering issues to the surface. Protests broke out, some peaceful and some violent. Rose was at home watching the news of Ferguson from her home in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Rose thought, “This is awful. I have to do something.” Instinctively, she went into the kitchen and made sweet potato pies. She did not stop until she had 30 pies.

She called a church pastor in Ferguson and arranged to bring the pies. Rose and her son loaded the pies into the trunk of her car and drove to Ferguson. When they arrived, much of the initial turmoil had ended. They drove to the makeshift memorial for Michael Brown. There, Rose encountered a woman in her early twenties. Rose says that the woman was “fussing at” Michael. “Why would you do that?” the young woman cried out in grief.

Rose approached the young woman and asked if she would accept a sweet potato pie. “I just wanted to do something for her,” Rose recalls. Once the young woman realized that Rose had come all the way from Minnesota with the pies, she accepted. This was the pattern with Rose. She did not foist her pie on others. “I would ask if they would do me the honor of accepting it.”

Rose gave away all 30 pies. Each pie had a unique story. For example, one woman accepted the pie as a sign that her mother was watching over her. The woman cradled the pie and rocked back and forth, refusing to eat it.

Being in Ferguson brought a new sense of urgency to Rose to deal with the complex issues of culture and race relationships. These are not simple issue. They require nuanced conversations. “I recognize the complexity of creating the desert, which tends to run metaphorically with the complexity of the issues we’re dealing with in society,” she says. She began to think of sweet potato pie as “a catalyst for caring and building community.”

When Rose returned home to Golden Valley, Minnesota, she approached the mayor with an idea. She wanted to bring the community together to discuss culture and race. The mayor agreed. They held an event on Martin Luther King Day in January 2015.

This was not the last time that Rose would bake pies that facilitated dialog. She brought pies to Precinct 4 in North Minneapolis after the shooting of Jamar Clark. She took pies to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. She even took pies to Standing Rock.

By the summer of 2016, Rose realized that she needed to focus. So many tragedies happened back to back: Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando; flooding in Baton Rouge; and the shooting of a police officer in Dallas. She is currently planning how to take Sweet Potato Comfort Pie forward. If you want to learn more about Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, you can connect through their Facebook page.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Rose McGee

“We consider it to be a catalyst for caring and building community.”

“I consider it to be the sacred dessert of black culture.”

“I did not call myself into this thing. It called me.”

“People have to tell their stories. People have to be heard.”

“Our intent was to help people recognize the power of having conversation.”

“The more of us who try to bridge relationship gaps, the better.”

“Pay attention to who is hurting.”

“It’s healing and nurturing when people step up and respond to community.”

“Anyone can do it.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jun 26, 2017
174, Eric Sannerud, Mighty Axe Hops | Experimenting within an Ecosystem

Mighty Axe Hops is using experimentation to create an ecosystem within an ecosystem.

Eric Sannerud is an experimenter. He tries small experiments, gathers feedback and then adjusts. For example, in 2013, he was graduating from the University of Minnesota. At the same time, he had several irons in the fire.

He was part of a team that launched Twin Fin, an innovative urban farm start-up, growing fish and greens in a city warehouse. At the same time, he was involved with the Famers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG). He was also involved with Urban Oasis, the winner of a $1 million Forever Saint Paul Competition to create a sustainable food center on the East Side of Saint Paul. And, he cofounded the Sandbox Center for Regenerative Entrepreneurship. And, in his spare time, he managed to co-found Mighty Axe Hops, building and leading a new industry in Minnesota.

Eric explains, “There’s a sliver in your life where your commitments and your personal life might not be as stringent as they tend to grow to be, and I wanted to make full use of that time.” He talks about the importance of an experimental mindset. “They were all really low-risk. As they begin to grow, you try to commit more resources to the ones that look like they will bring better results.”

Eventually, Eric began to focus his efforts. “That time of being involved in many things, I’m really shrinking it down to just being involved in the things I want to be involved with.” Today, he spends his time growing Mighty Axe Hops. He and his co-founder Ben Boo have grown their operations from 20 plants to a new 80-acre farm.

Mighty Axe Hops is creating a hops-growing ecosystem in Minnesota. Where no hops industry existed before, a cottage industry of inputs, processors, marketers, farm implements is beginning to grow. The hops industry is an ecosystem within an ecosystem. The rise of craft beer and microbreweries gives rise to the need for local hops with unique flavor profiles.

Not only is Mighty Axe Hops creating an ecosystem, they are growing within the fertile ground of the Minnesota social good ecosystem. They started as a student-led start-up, launched during the Acara program at the University of Minnesota. Eric is also a member of the local Global Shapers Community and is an active member of the Impact Hub, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Eric Sannerud

“I was looking for something that would or could become a job.”

“I was involved in a number of startups through late college and just after college.”

“It boils down to, I want to make a difference with my life.”

“At that phase of my life, I was just saying yes.”

“I know what I want to do for the next five years.”

“That was the little money we needed to put more proof behind our concept.”

“Our main goal is to create a vibrant Minnesota hops industry.”

“It never felt sharky.”

“I think the reason I like entrepreneurship is because of how challenging it is.”

“We’re directly measuring water quality and soil health.”

“The thing that helped me the most was learning to just do it.”

“Start something and try something, but in a smart way.”

“I always approach it like a scientific hypothesis.”

“Test as many of your assumptions in your business plan as possible, with the least amount of risk.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Jun 26, 2017
173, Cheryl Dorsey, Echoing Green | How to Find Meaningful Work

Echoing Green identifies and invests in transformational leaders.

How we spend our time is how we spend our lives. Unless you’re independently wealthy, there’s a good chance that right now you’re getting ready for work, on your way to work, you’re already at work, or you’re thinking about work.

If we’re going to spend this much time at work, we might as well make that time count. But the path to meaningful work is not always a straight route. In fact, it might only make sense in hindsight. So, if meaningful work is so important, and the path is not always clearly marked, how do we find our way?

Cheryl Dorsey describes her path to her work as “fairly circuitous.” She even went so far as to say, “I’m the Forrest Gump careers. I had no clue most of the time what I was going to do, or where I was going to end up. I just stumbled into things.” But when pressed, you hear a slightly different story. She didn’t know where she was going exactly, but she figured out how to find what was right for her. The secret is being awake for the journey.  

As Cheryl looks behind her, the path makes sense in retrospect. What she can see is that, at each juncture, there was a sign pointing the direction. But, you must be alert to notice. “I think maybe there is a grand plan and there are signals and data that we receive all the time. Most of us ignore it and don’t pay attention to it. But I think if you’re open to it, and allow those experiences in, it really does lead you to your path.”

She sees a key characteristic in the many entrepreneurs she knows. “I think the most successful entrepreneurs are amazing, not necessarily because of their entrepreneurial effort. It’s because they figured out their passion and their purpose and they’re completely aligned. They’re doing something that is the physical manifestation, aligning their gifts, talents, and skills.”

Cheryl’s passion for social justice started early in life. She grew up in Baltimore, the daughter of two public school teachers. Her parents instilled in her a respect for education as a tool for upward mobility, especially in an African-American household. Cheryl was born with a sense of social justice. “My mom used to tell me that my most common refrain was ‘That’s not fair!’ It was a child’s expression of ‘Why are things the way they are?’”

When she arrived at college, even though she was premed, she spent a lot of time studying history, in particular, African-American history. This study provided a historical context for the structural inequities she saw around her. She could see both the existing inequities and the distance traveled by African-Americans.

As a medical student in 1990, Cheryl read a five-part series in the Boston Globe called “Birth in the Death Zone,” that documented racial distinctions in infant mortality in Boston. Cheryl told me, “At Echoing Green, we often talk about people’s “moments of obligations,’ when you are struck by something and a problem becomes yours to own.’” Cheryl asked herself, “Why does this problem exist, and what is my role as a citizen to do something about it?”

Cheryl went to work with Dr. Nancy Oriol to solve the problem of infant mortality in minority communities in Boston. Together, they developed the concept of The Family Van, a community-based mobile health unit.

As Cheryl was searching for funding and support for the project, she happened to see a flyer for a fairly new organization, Echoing Green. Echoing Green identifies and invests in transformational leaders with disruptive ideas.

In 1992, Cheryl received a fellowship from Echoing Green. The fellowship came with seed funding. But it also came with something just as important: a community of social justice leaders. Other Echoing Green fellows include Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America; Michael Brown and Alan Khazei, co-founders of City Year; and Maya Ajmera, founder of Global Fund for Children.

Cheryl and Dr. Oriol ran the Family Van for a couple of years, but Cheryl needed to complete her pediatrics residency, so they turned the operations over to a new team. About the time Cheryl’s residency completed, she was invited to join the board of Echoing Green.

Cheryl spent time in Washington working in the Department of Labor under Secretary Alexis Herman. This was a momentous time of digital transformation and disruption. And, under Secretary Herman, Cheryl had a chance to work on pay equity issues. However, Cheryl says “You go to Washington to see how the sausage is made. I recognized that it is not for me.”

Around the time that Cheryl was leaving her role in Washington, Echoing Green was in need of a new President. As a member of the board, Cheryl volunteered to step into the role for what was expected to be two months. That was 15 years ago.

Echoing Green identifies exceptional emerging leaders. They connect these leaders to a global network of more than 750 Echoing Green Fellows working in more than 70 countries. They accelerate the growth of these leaders in order to increase their impact.

A Call to Action from Cheryl Dorsey, Echoing Green

When I asked Cheryl for a call to action for listeners of Social Entrepreneur, she began with this: “Be less reactive and more reflective.”

Cheryl points out that, globally, we are in a time of transformation. This is a time of great challenges, but also of great opportunities. Therefore, it is critical that each of us tap into our inner wisdom to guide us in making a difference.

Cheryl says, “I think that each of us is uniquely suited to do something special and particular that is aligned with our gifts, passion, and purpose.” She encourages you to be still and reflective. Take the inner journey to discover not only your strengths but also your weaknesses. She encourages you to become familiar with your “core IP,” that part of you, that makes you unique. “Figure out how to best align your core to the problems in the world that you most care about.” That requires you to be very still and very honest. That is where you’ll find your path.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Cheryl Dorsey

“We talk about people’s moments of obligations.”  

“It just was not fair.”

“We were passionate and committed. We didn’t have much else.”

“What was supposed to be a two to three-month transition – here we are 15 years later.”

“We just have to be open to the universe.”

“In many ways, [Echoing Green] is an intermediary organization that stands between service and problem.”

“Echoing Green is in many ways a leadership development organization.”

“Leaders solve problems. Leaders are atop all great social movements.”

“Leaders mobilize communities and others around them to help solve problems.”

“Echoing Green provides the onramp for next generation talent.”

“We’re now getting close to 3,000 applications from over 160 countries.”

“We’re looking for a transformative social change leader who has a disruptive innovation that can lead to significant change.”

“Our relationship begins the moment someone thinks about applying to Echoing Green.”

“We are a community for Fellows, by Fellows, with Fellows.”

“It’s a very sticky network. Once a Fellow, always a Fellow.”

“The first piece of advice is, do not start something new.”

“You need to know your problem and own your issue better than anyone else.”

“What impresses me about social entrepreneurs is, they inhabit the issue.”

“Be an expert of your own issue, problem, and solution.”

“Have a couple of North Stars that are nonnegotiable, and nothing else matters.”

“The minute you write your business plan, it’s obsolete.”

“Be less reactive and more reflective.”

“This transformational moment is upon us.”

“It is a time of great challenge, but also opportunity.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Jun 19, 2017
172, Evva Kraikul, GLITCH | Equipping Emerging Game Makers with Tools for Success

GLITCH promotes the exploration of digital games as a culture, career and creative practice.

If I were to tell a joke about Evva Kraikul, it might go something like this “A game designer, a neuroscientist and an entrepreneur walk into a bar. She ordered herself a drink.” Evva brings her experience in game design and neuroscience to the startup world where she is the cofounder of GLITCH.

Evva was an extraordinarily early adopter of technology. At the age of four, she was interested in all things digital. She used a laptop to explore online. When she was ten-years-old, she set up a website and sold Beanie Babies. Her first online transaction was for $1,000. She built battle simulators in AOL chat rooms. She is a true digital native.

Evva’s parents encouraged her to be either a doctor or lawyer. “Those seemed to be my only two options,” she remembers. She pursued her degree in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, but her interests in all things digital would not let her go. She looked for local resources for emerging game makers but found none.

Evva and fellow student Nic VanMeerten set up programs and events. They invited gaming industry insiders to give lectures and workshops. Fellow students were enthusiastic, paying to attend these events. With this proof of concept under their belts, Evva and Nic were awarded a $45,000 grant to continue their work. This work eventually led to the startup, GLITCH.

GLITCH supports emerging game makers through a series of ongoing programs, events, and residencies. GLITCH recently began providing small grants to game makers who are doing interesting work.

By supporting emerging game makers, GLITCH is bringing a unique perspective to the gaming industry.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Evva Kraikul

“My parents didn’t believe me when the first sale was $1,000.”

“There was something missing.”

“There weren’t a lot of resources and support for emerging game makers.”

“We tested them. We did small programs.”

“That’s the most powerful thing – going in open minded.”

“My initial ideas change drastically. They aren’t the same as when they started.”

“How do we allow people to be vulnerable and talk about the issues they’re facing, in games?”

“All you can do is put your design in the world, let people use it, and iterate.”

“Everything you put into the world should be a living thing.”

“The thing that was the hardest and continues to be most difficult is learning how to lead.”

“I’ve been learning how to say yes, and more specifically how to say no.”

“I want to support emerging game makers who are doing interesting and innovative work.”

“I love games. I don’t love where games are right now.”

“Be bold. Be daring.”

“Find a community that you’re specifically passionate about.”

“Find a problem you’re itching to solve. Jump in and shut it down.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Jun 18, 2017
171, Mark Norbury, UnLtd | The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs

UnLtd is the UK’s largest supporter of early-stage social entrepreneurs.

Mark grew up in the time when Land-Aid, Band-Aid, and Live-Aid were popular. “The idea that you can be a rock star who saved the world was pretty damned compelling when you’re fourteen years old” he confesses. But, with a lack of musical talent, Mark decided to focus on changing the world.

As an 18-year-old, Mark volunteered on London’s east side, working with Father Duncan. “He was much more of a social activist than he was a priest,” Mark explains. “He was five-foot-nothing. He was a British-Asian guy who experienced a lot of racial abuse…He also fostered a young kid who had come from an abusive background. And he had a rare blood disorder that caused him to have to take whole body blood transfusions.”

During his work with Father Duncan, Mark experienced a world different from his own, from domestic abuse to illiteracy, to the lives of the elderly. “That was where I realized that what I needed to do was to try to make a difference.”

After university, Mark worked in non-profits but did not quite find the sustainable model he was looking for. He eventually enrolled at INSEAD where he encountered social entrepreneurship. With social entrepreneurship, he saw the bridge between service and economic sustainability.

Mark helped set up INSEAD’s Social Innovation Centre where they introduce and developed new business models that deliver sustainable economic, environmental and social prosperity. He also was a trustee at Bridges Ventures. It was while at Bridges Ventures that he first had contact with UnLtd. In 2016, he joined UnLtd as its Chief Executive Officer.

UnLtd has backed over 40,000 individuals over the last 15 years. They provide three levels of awards to early-stage social ventures:

  • Try it, which is £500
  • Do it, up to £5,000
  • Grow it, up to £15,000

These awards come with support such as business advice, coaching, mentoring, and peer-to-peer support.

UnLtd has also runs the Big Venture Challenge, an award program that provides match funding to help growing social enterprises to raise investment and deliver social impact at scale.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Mark Norbury

“Everything we do, the social entrepreneur is at the heart of it.”

“I grew up in the Land Aid, Live Aid, Band Aid era.”

“UnLtd is a gem, but it’s not realized its potential yet.”

“You’ll find social entrepreneurs in these communities making something with nothing.”

“They’re creating a micro-conglomerate of brilliance and hope, and it’s all self-sustaining.”

“Make it about the people and communities you’re serving.”

“Do it in a co-production model.”

“Social entrepreneurs don’t always ask for help enough.”

“I’m an idealistic optimist.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Jun 12, 2017
170, Elisa Birnbaum, SEE Change Magazine | A Storytelling Platform for Social Entrepreneurs

SEE Change Magazine is a global digital magazine focused on social entrepreneurship and social change.

Like most people I speak to, Elisa Birnbaum’s career path was circuitous. She studied political science and law. “I was going to save the world as a human rights lawyer, of course,” she says tongue-in-cheek. But along the way, she found that she had a gift for writing. When she graduated from law school, she told herself, “I’m going to take some time off to see what this thing called storytelling is all about.” That was more than 15 years ago.

Elisa honed her journalistic skills with several organizations. Her portfolio includes articles for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Profit, Zoomer, Elle Canada, iVillage, Microsoft Home, Lifestyles, Dreamscapes, and Via Destinations. She was a TV Producer for TV Ontario. She was a writer and producer for the CBC / Radio-Canada. And she is a regular contributor to the National Post.

In 2008, Elisa was a writer for CharityVillage. Nicole Zummach was her editor. At the time, the economy was taking a downturn. Philanthropic giving was down. The government was cutting back on funding. Charities were scrambling to find new business models. Elisa and Nicole found themselves writing about social entrepreneurship. “This was a nice alternative and a smart way to help [nonprofits] in their challenges.”

When Elisa pitched the stories of social entrepreneurs to several publications, the uptake was slow. “It was hard to get mainstream media to say ‘Hey, yeah that’s a good story. Let’s put that in.’ We just looked at each other one day and said, ‘We’ve got to get these stories out.’” So, in 2009, Elisa and Nicole launched SEE Change Magazine. Elisa is the publisher and Editor-in-Chief.

SEE Change Magazine is a global digital magazine focused on social entrepreneurship and social change. They provide content on issues affecting the world of social entrepreneurship. They profile inspiring individuals using business ventures to transform their communities and the world.

Elisa expanded their offerings through SEE Change Communications. They offer workshops, communications services and consulting services to help social enterprises to develop and tell their social change story. They host speaking events where social entrepreneurs can tell their stories.

Elisa also offers an excellent podcast called In the Business of Change. And, if that were not enough, Elisa is also working on a new book. “The book is not just going to highlight social entrepreneurs. But it’s going to focus on lessons learned.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Elisa Birnbaum

“A lot of people didn’t get it.”

“Business and tech stuff were never my things.”

“I got sidetracked. I really enjoyed writing.”

“I love storytelling in all its different forms.”

“I think I always had an ability to write.”

“What I always had was a curiosity for people.”

“Social enterprise became my strongest niche.”

“I try to keep opinions out of it.”

“Media can be a real force for good.”

“Storytelling is imperative to people meeting their mission.”

“If your story’s not getting out there, you’re not getting much done.”

“It all comes back to the same idea of helping social entrepreneurs to succeed.”

“A podcast is a different way of getting these stories out.”

“You want to feel relevant. You want to feel you’re making a difference.”

“Funding is incredibly difficult.”

“Passion is beautiful, but you need more than that.”

“It’s not enough to have a good story.”

“Do it. Because it’s worth it.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Jun 05, 2017
169, Ned Tozun, d.light | Find Your Funding

Ned Tozun talks about how to find your funding as you start and grow your social enterprise.

Social entrepreneurs take on intractable problems. To tackle global challenges, you’re going to need to find funding.

One such massive problem is global energy poverty. According to the International Energy Agency, globally 1.2 billion people are without access to electricity. To light their homes, they often depend on kerosene, which is expensive, consuming precious resources from those who can least afford it. Kerosene fumes are hazardous to breathe. When families gain access to solar lights, their expenses go down, their health improves, and often children in the home study later into the night, improving education.

d.light transforms how people use and pay for electricity. They make solar-powered products for people without access to electricity. Their work has impacted 71 million people worldwide.

Earlier this year, d.light raised $40 million in funding. They raised $20 million in equity, $10 million in debt and $10 million in grant funding. d.light co-founder Ned Tozun took the time in this interview to break down the funding process.

Ned has always had a wide variety of interests. While he was seeking his undergraduate degree, he switched degree tracks six times, ending up with a dual degree in computer science and earth systems.

While he was in college, he started a few small companies. He found that he was well-suited for entrepreneurship. “I found my jack-of-all-trades nature was well-suited for it,” he told me.

After college, he co-founded a couple of companies. And, because he is interested in so many things, he also found time to volunteer. He traveled to Africa and worked with people with HIV/AIDS. “I was really interested in the way technology can make a transformative impact for people’s lives, and where business can be a vehicle for disseminating that kind of technology.”

His interest in the intersection between technology, business and impact compelled him to return to Stanford for his MBA. Because of his interest in social entrepreneurship, Ned attempted to signed up for the Design for Extreme Affordability course, but the course was full. Design for Extreme Affordability is a project-based course where students work in teams, using design thinking methods, to develop products and services that serve the needs of the world's poor. Unfortunately, the course was full. Not to be deterred, Ned showed up for class. He showed up the next day and the day after. After a month of persistence, he was enrolled.

It was in this course that Ned met Sam Goldman. You may remember Sam’s story from episode 122 of Social Entrepreneur. Together, Sam and Ned created the business model that would eventually become d.light.

Seed Funding

Ned and Sam started with the concept of d.light but did not yet have a viable business model. They were students and needed funding to build prototypes, test proofs-of-concept in the market, fund trips to developing countries and to do research. They entered several pitch competitions. A pitch competition involves entrepreneurs competing for prize money by pitching their idea for a new business. The pitches are quick, often five or fifteen minutes.

As Ned and Sam participated in several competitions, they improved their pitching skills, winning $5,000 to $10,000 at a time. Ned recalls, “For us, that was a huge amount of money.”

With this money, Ned and Sam made progress with their prototypes. They attracted small investments from a couple of their professors in the range of $25,000 to $50,000. This early money attracted more investors. They could raise about $100k from angel investors.

Ned and Sam continued to participate in pitch competitions, honing their pitch with each event. They heard about an upcoming event being held by venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ). The prize money was $250,000. There was only one problem. The competition is open only to those who had one their school’s pitch competition. Though Ned and Sam were participating in Stanford’s pitch competition, they had not yet won. They contacted DFJ and boldly told them that, while they had not yet won, they were going to win. The organizers took them at their word and let them in.

d.light went on to win the Stanford pitch competition and the competition by DFJ, earning them $250,000. Ned remembers that the competition was not based on social needs, but on the business opportunity.

Ned explains, “We told a really compelling story. We presented what was clearly a big market opportunity, and also a market failure that was happening that we felt business could address – our company could address.”

Ned and Sam came to understand that, they had to start with the clear and compelling business case, and that was based on data from their field research. They knew how much families spent on kerosene or other fuels. They knew where they needed to be in a price point. They had prototypes that were well-received in the field.

But they also knew that stories sell. For example, while working in the field, they met a woman who lived on one-dollar per day. They left the prototype with her for two weeks. When they returned to collect the prototype and to gather data, Ned says, “Her life was totally transformed. She saved up money to buy this prototype.” The data was critical, but the stories made the difference, especially when the lives of the customers are so different from the lives of the investors.

One of Ned’s professors told him, “Once you raise your first $250k, the rest comes more easily.” Ned found that to be true. Early money attracts more money. The day after winning $250,000 from DFJ, an investor who knew Ned from his previous companies took him out for breakfast. After asking several questions, he offered to match the DFJ funding.

During this seed round of investing, d.light also attracted impact investors, those who want to make a social impact with their investments. Graymatters Capital and the Acumen Fund invested. Altogether, d.light raised $1.5 million in seed investment in nine months.

As Ned and Sam graduated from Stanford, they travelled to India. India was an interesting choice. Both Ned and Sam had lived in Africa. However, they chose India specifically because it was a tougher use case. There was a high level of demand for off-grid solar. And, it’s a very competitive market. They wanted to build d.light into a global organization with massive impact. Ned reasoned, “If we didn’t figure out India, we’d never succeed.”

Series A

About 15 months after their initial seed funding, Ned and Sam did a Series A round of funding. Series A is often the first significant round of venture capital financing. Series A is the name of the class of preferred stock sold to investors in exchange for their investment.

Nexus Venture Partners led the Series A. Nexus has a presence in Silicon Valley, but they also have a strong presence in India and understood the Indian context. In their A round, d.light raised $6 million.

Other equity investments followed. The Omidyar Network invested. Omidyar Network was started by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay.

Grant Funding

Interestingly, even though there are grants available for providing solar lighting to those living without access to electricity, d.light did not depend on grant funds to subsidize price. They let the market set the price. However, there are high-risk markets for which venture capital is not well suited. During their series D round of funding, d.light secured grant funding from Beyond the Grid, the Shell Foundation and others.

Funding through Debt

As d.light became sizeable and sustainable, they could access lines of credit to fund their growth. This debt financing was available from both impact-focused lenders and traditional commercial lenders.

Ned Tozun’s Advice on Finding Funding

After several rounds of funding, the latest raising $40 million, Ned Tozun has learned a great deal about how to find the right funding. Ned encourages aspiring and early-stage social entrepreneurs to think big but to start with small. And as you start, pick the right investors. Find investors who are aligned with your core mission. When investors come on board, they will want to place a representative on your board. Know who that person is before you accept the funding. Find someone who will help you work through the inevitable challenges of starting a company.

Ned encourages early-stage social entrepreneurs to find investors who have the capacity to continue to invest through several rounds. He also says that funding will take longer than you think, so start early. And, because opportunities will emerge, you will probably need to raise more money than you think.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Ned Tozun

“I love entrepreneurship.”

“I didn’t think of myself as a business school type.”

“Always have a prototype.”

“The overall case is data-based, and supplement that with stories.”

“We wanted to build a global organization with big impact.”

“Initially, we didn’t take any grants.”

“We never wanted to be reliant on grant funding.”

“Funding always takes longer than we predicted.”

“You’re probably going to have to raise more money than you think.”

“It’s important to pick the right investors.”

“You want investors who have the stamina for the long haul.”

“If we want to have a big impact, we’ve got to scale up.”

“Find out who at your investor is going to be on your board.”

“These are people you’re going to be working closely with for a long time.”

“Find investors who have the capacity to support through the long run.”

“Just go for it.”

“Think big.”

“Once you start and get into it, things will start happening.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

May 29, 2017
168, Lisa O'Donoghue-Lindy, She Inspires Her| Stories that Inspire African Women to Start and Grow Businesses

She Inspires Her is an online and mobile media platform that shares stories about women entrepreneurs in emerging African markets.

Lisa O’Donoghue-Lindy was born in Ireland. When she was 12 years-old, she moved to the United States with her family. After college, she went back to Europe working with major corporations in communications roles. Lisa and her husband have lived in South Africa, Greece and Finland. As we spoke, they are in the process of moving to Namibia. Because she has moved so often, she has done work that can be accomplished from anywhere in the world.

In 2014, Lisa and a friend launched a side project called Career 2.0. They wrote stories of women who had experience major mid-life shifts. They featured women, mainly from the US and Europe, who had found a way to live a fulfilling life.

It was through this work that Lisa wrote a story about Hyasintha Ntuyeko, and entrepreneur from Tanzania. After the story came out, Hyasintha applied for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) fellowship. She included the story in her application. When Hyasintha was accepted, she wrote an email to Lisa telling her about the difference that the story had made. This had a profound effect on Lisa. “I made a difference in someone’s life,” she realized. It was at this point in 2016, that Lisa pivoted away from Career 2.0 and to open She Inspires Her, focusing on women entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Women in Sub-Saharan African only own about 10% to 15% of formal businesses. They are stuck mostly in the informal economy. Their businesses are not sustainable. They do not create jobs. These businesses cannot scale and grown.

For many women in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are legal, cultural, financial and structural barriers that keep them from owning formal businesses. In some cases, local culture reinforces the idea that the woman’s place is in the home. Women often lack access to education. Women can lack access owning property, which can also block access to financing.

Highly successful African women entrepreneurs are often featured in Forbes or CNN Africa. And, there are other women who are incredibly savvy at social media who can tell their stories, However, Lisa says “There’s a real dearth of stories of everyday women in markets like Uganda, Rwanda or Tanzania who are not able to get their stories out. And these women are remarkable. My goal is to get these stories out there so that younger women, or even girls, can read them and see themselves in those stories.”

She Inspires Her provides role models, connects women to networks, promotes women-owned businesses and raises awareness to barriers to female entrepreneurs. Their main objective is to share relatable stories that get more women to start and grow businesses in Africa.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lisa O'Donoghue-Lindy

“You can’t be what you don’t see.”

“Small and Medium Enterprises are crucial drivers of job creation.”

“In countries like Cameroon and Ghana, SMEs are responsible for more than half of employment opportunities.”

“My objective is to get more women out of the informal sector and into formal business.”

“It was in working with her that I realized where I could really make a difference.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


May 22, 2017
167, Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK | Leading an Economic and Political Systems Shift

Social Enterprise UK is the membership and advocacy body for social enterprises in the United Kingdom.

Peter Holbrook started his career with the retailer Marks & Spencer. He also worked at The Body Shop. In both cases, he watched as values-based companies changed once they became shareholder-driven.

Peter wanted to have a social impact with his work, so worked for Oxfam and for Greenpeace. There, he found organizations that were working on purpose but were missing some of the innovation and drive of for-profit enterprises.

In 2001, he launched Sunlight Development Trust, a community owned and managed charity. They work in the Medway community in South East England to improve health and well-being. Sunlight Development takes an innovative approach. They house a community café, recording studio, and a community radio station, located next to health services.

Peter’s work with Sunlight Development attracted the attention of political parties from both sides of the aisle. Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Peter as a Social Enterprise Ambassador. David Cameron visited Sunlight Development on several occasions.

Peter was a member of Social Enterprise UK. When the Chief Executive, Jonathan Bland stepped down, Peter was encouraged by a board member to apply for the role. Peter had been at Sunlight Development for more than ten years. The opportunity at Social Enterprise UK seemed like a chance to get back to his entrepreneurial roots. It also gave him an opportunity to work at the system level to create an economic and political shift.

In the UK, there are around 80,000 social enterprises with a combined revenue of £27 billion per year. Social Enterprise UK is the national membership body for social enterprises. They conduct research. They run campaigns such as Buy Social and Social Saturday. They develop policy. And they lobby on behalf of their members.

One key piece of legislation that was passed with Social Enterprise UK support is Social Value Act. This law requires public authorities to consider the economic, social and environmental implications of contracts. Therefore, instead of only basis government contacts on price and quality, government organizations can look holistically at the impact of their spending. This single piece of legislation can unleash £300 billion in government spending for social good.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Peter Holbrook

“I wanted to bring those two worlds together – commercial thinking, to the world of social change.”

“I set up an organization without any knowledge of the term social enterprise.”

“I understand the value of networks.”

“Running a social enterprise can be a lonely experience.”

“I’ve always recognized the need for an economic and political shift.”

“Enthusiasm is a great substitute for talent.”

“Dare to dream.”

“You can genuinely achieve great things if you’re not bothered about who takes the credit.”

“We can only make the huge change the world desperately needs if we work together.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

May 15, 2017
166, Kari Enge, Rank and File Magazine | The Journey of a Social Entrepreneur

Rank & File is a values-based business magazine for purpose-driven entrepreneurs.

The process of becoming a social entrepreneur has often been described as a journey. And, as anyone who has traveled realizes, a journey changes you.

There is no one more qualified to talk about the impact of a journey than Kari Enge, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Rank & File magazine. She as a thing for travel. When Kari graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, she landed an internship at The World, the largest privately owned residential yacht on earth. Through her hustle and simply saying yes to opportunities, Kari was hired full-time. She quickly rose through the ranks from Hostess to Operations Coordinator. She became the Manager of Destination Programs where she set up custom tours for the ports the ship visited. It was through this experience that she began to meet several social entrepreneurs.

During her off-hours, Kari listened to podcasts. Though she had grown up in a family of entrepreneurs, it was by listening to podcasts that Kari began to see entrepreneurship as accessible to her. Kari became excited about the possibilities of using business to do social good. The more excited she grew, the more she talked about what she was learning. Eventually, her boyfriend encouraged her to start a blog.

Kari watched YouTube videos on how to find a web host, how to register a domain name, set up a WordPress website, create an opt-in form, write a newsletter and more. She launched The Global Commute as a side project in 2014. On the site, she described herself as “a travel junky in love with social entrepreneurship.” She interviewed social entrepreneurs from around the world. By speaking with so many social entrepreneurs, she began to understand the needs of the community.

During this time, Kari also watched the nature of the company she worked for begin to change. A new board was brought in. The board shifted the focus to maximizing profitability. Kari says “I saw the shift in the mentality of the board of directors. And then I saw it shift the leadership. And then I saw it affect the employees. It happened fast. Ultimately the product started suffering.”

Her experience helped her understand the power of leadership to shape a company. “This is the message that I want to bring to the social impact community: this lesson of strong core values and strong servant leadership.” 

The combination of meeting so many social entrepreneurs and watching the impact of leadership on a company spurred her to launch Rank & File Magazine. To fund her venture, Kari made some sacrifices. She sold her car and moved in with her parents. She ran a crowdfunding campaign on To gain early momentum in the campaign, she emailed everyone in her network and got them to commit to early funding. She even called the parents of her friend from high school. Kari says “Crowdfunding, like starting a business, is harder than you think. It’s going to take more hours, and it’s going to take more sweat equity than you think.”

Rank & File magazine supports people who want to make an impact on the world. They publish a beautiful online magazine filled with well-written articles. They also host events that allow social entrepreneurs to connect with one another.

With Issue 5 of Rank & File, Kari returns to her roots, examining the role travel plays in our lives and businesses. It is available right now, at

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kari Enge

“I’ve always had that entrepreneurial personality.”

“Podcasting opened my eyes to it.”

“I thought, this is so cool. We can use business to do good in the world.”

“My first idea was just a simple blog.”

“When I look back, that was the first step.”

“I just saw an entire company shift by a simple change in one or two people.”

“We have to act out those values.”

“It was the first time I said, OK, I’m going all in.”

“Entrepreneurship is an emotional roller coaster.”

“It doesn’t mean you’re a failure when you reach the part where you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s just all part of it.”

“Just cut yourself some slack.”

“Your first idea is not going to work.”

“No company has ever succeeded on Plan A.”

“Allow yourself the ability to breathe, move, and shift. Don’t hold on so tightly.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

May 08, 2017
165, Paul Polak | Be Curious, Leap In and Learn

Paul Polak is the founder of iDE. At the age of 80, he has launched three new social enterprises.

Paul was born in Czechoslovakia near Germany. His father watched as refugees began to pour across the border. Paul says, “The conventional wisdom in 1938 was that Hitler was a joke and all this stuff would blow over. If you accepted that conventional wisdom, you’re no longer around to talk about it.” One key to Paul’s success is, he is willing to leap into areas where he is ignorant. But, he emphasizes that forward motion is not enough. “Jumping in assumes an active curiosity and learning.”

Paul first job after graduating from psychiatry residency was Director of Research at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan. At the time, Fort Logan treated half of the people in Colorado who were hospitalized for serious mental illness. One of the first things that Paul did was to ask about the treatment goals of the patients. He quickly discovered that the staff was unaware of or disagreed with the treatment goals of the patients. By following his curiosity, Paul learned that two-thirds of the causes of hospitalization were social crises in the home.

Paul changed the practice for emergency admittance to the hospital. When a new patient arrived, they would take the patient back home to where the mental health crisis occurred. Paul said, “We started learning about the space and the people that were involved in the request for admission.” Paul even spent time with a homeless man in his home under a loading dock.

What he learned from these visits led to an innovative approach to treatment called social systems intervention. Through this system, they created alternatives to hospitals. “When someone needed a brief separation, we admitted them to a healthy home instead of to a hospital.”

Through this work, Paul saw how poverty contributed to mental illness and social disturbance. In an innovative move, Paul worked with the Mental Health Authority of Colorado to have them established as a public housing authority. This move allowed them to distribute 400 housing units. As a result, people who were living in slums or were homeless could move into an apartment, reducing both physical and mental illness. Paul told me, “Developing practical ways to address poverty is probably the most important basic science for health that you can think of.”  

Around 1981, Paul’s interest in the impact of poverty took a turn. His wife introduced him to the work of the Mennonite Central Committee, a relief organization. Paul accompanied them on a trip to Bangladesh to focus on basic human needs. Though he had met many relatively poor people in Colorado, in Bangladesh he met people who were living on less than one dollar per day.

Again, Paul let his curiosity guide him as he learned about their lives. As Paul asked questions about why they were living in such poverty, the people patiently explained that they were smallholder farmer. They depended on the rain to water their crops. With a little research, Paul found out about the treadle pump, which had just recently been invented by Gunnar Barnes. The treadle pump is a human-powered pump that allows farmers to extract ground water.

Once back in Denver, Paul founded iDE (International Development Enterprises), a nonprofit social enterprise. iDE improved the design of the treadle pump and began selling them. For a purchase price of around $25, a poor farmer could install a treadle pump. The profit from the extra crops netted the farmers around $100 per year. Some innovative farmers began growing off-season vegetables and increased their annual profit to $500 from their $25 investment. iDE has sold more than 3 million treadle pumps across the world. Through their work, iDE has helped more than 20 million people double their income.

After more than 30 years of running iDE, Paul thought about the impact that his company had been able to have. Though he is quite pleased to have impacted more than 20 million people, he knew that there were more than 2.6 billion people living in poverty. He wanted to do more. So, at the age of 80, Paul launched three new companies, each designed to impact more than 100 million poor people.

Paul has written two books describing his approach. In 2008, he published, Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail. And in 2013, he coauthored The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers with Mal Warwick.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Paul Polak

“We started doing poverty strategy as part of mental health interventions.”

“One of the basic tenants of a successful business is to know your customer.”

“Too often we think of the extremely poor people of the world as unfortunates.”

“To me, being an entrepreneur was natural.”

“The refugees were entrepreneurs.”

“Forward motion is useless unless you’re learning.”

“Be curious and learn all you can about the market you’re serving.”

“If you haven’t talked to at least 100 customers before you start, don’t bother.”

“If you can’t sell at least a million, don’t bother.”

“Go and do something.”

“The first step is to talk to the people who are experiencing the problem you’re interested in.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

May 01, 2017
164, Nausheena Hussain, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE) | Amplifying the Voices of Muslim Women

Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE) is amplifying the voice and power of Muslim women.

Nausheena Hussain was raised in a small town in the northern suburbs of Chicago. She grew up believing in the American dream – work hard, go to college and you’ll succeed. But she found that there are invisible barriers. She is a woman. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants. And, as a woman of color with a piece of cloth on her head, she says “People feel threatened by me, or fear me.” So, she asked herself an important question. “What can I do to break through these barriers, especially because I have a daughter myself?”

Nausheena was working in a corporate role with a major retailer. She says, “You look around and the economy is tanking, the housing bubble has burst, people are losing their jobs and their homes, and you’re sitting in corporate America in your cushy job, trying to sell a sixty-five-inch TV.” She began to ask herself “What is the purpose of my life? What am I here on this planet to do?” She recognized that she has skills, but was she really applying these skills in alignment with her values?

In 2011, Nausheena found a job at the civil rights organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She loved the work and found it to be important. But there was something that bothered her. Where were the women? Most of the leadership positions were filled by men. When press conferences were called, she had a tough time convincing women to step into the spotlight. And yet, women were donors. They were doing the work in the background. But their work was not always acknowledged.

As Nausheena was thinking about this challenge, she was accepted into a fellowship program at Studio E. The fellowship had her working in 90 day sprints to develop her idea. In September 2015, she began a series of conversations with Muslim women about their challenges. These women shared their challenges in finding others with similar aspirations. Nausheena began to see the need for a platform that would connect Islamic women and to help them tell their stories. By November 2015, Nausheena gave a talk at Ignite Minneapolis where she proposed the idea of Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE).

Nausheena says that “Often, when you think of a Muslim woman, a lot of negative things pop into your head. We realized that, that is because somebody else is always telling our story. So, how do we change that narrative, if we’re not the ones doing the storytelling? My hope is, the more Muslim women step up into spaces and places, and exercise their rights and power, I think that’s going to have a significant impact on public policy.”

RISE has three areas of focus: leadership, community engagement and philanthropy. Nausheena says “If we gain the necessary skills, and we show up, then we can create positive social change.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Nausheena Hussain

“We’re trying to get Muslim women to engage in their communities to make society a better place for all.”

“We think Muslim women are not engaged or not interested, but that’s not the truth at all.”

“How can I be what I cannot see?”

“It’s the public perception of Muslims that influences public policy.”

“I struggled to understand, what is the purpose of my life?”

“We are on this phenomenal growth trajectory.”

“Let’s listen to the women and ask them what types of workshops they want.”

“How do you tell your story that is authentic and genuine?”

“When I see her, I see me.”

“We were sold out weeks before the conference.”

“The very first conversation I had was with eight women.”

“You can’t do it alone.”

“This vision is not just mine. It is all of ours collectively.”

“Remember self-care.”

“When you’re at the table, think about who is missing.”

“Get to know your neighbor, even the 5 or 6 houses around your own.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Apr 24, 2017
163, Jen Boynton, Triple Pundit | Telling Stories at the Intersection of Business, Environment, and Society

Triple Pundit is a media company covering the conversation on sustainable business.

The argument for a triple bottom line of people, profit, and planet, has been going on for more than 100 years. In 1916, the Dodge brothers sued Henry Ford in Dodge v. Ford Motor Company. The courts ruled in favor of the Dodge brothers, stating that a:

“business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders.”

In 1970, economist Milton Friedman published his article “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” Friedman argues that any money spent by a company on “social responsibility” takes away from the benefit owed to the shareholders.

Progressive businesses have had to fight against this tide of short-term shareholder gains at the expense of other stakeholders. They argue that by focusing on a triple bottom line, people, profit, and planet, they are serving the need for sustainable returns over time.

One center of thought leadership on the triple bottom line is Presidio Graduate School. Presidio is one of the first graduate institutions to focus on sustainable management. Nick Aster was an early graduate of Presidio. During his graduate studies, he wrote for Gawker and As a capstone project for graduate school, Nick started At Triple Pundit, they tell stories about organizations that are making money through environmental and social initiatives.

The Editor in Chief of Triple Pundit is Jen Boynton. Jen describes her path to her role as Editor as “winding and unexpected.” Jen studied sociology as an undergrad. “When I went to college, I had no idea that one could have a values-based career in the business world. When you come out of undergrad with a sociology degree, there’s not much you’re qualified to do.”

She landed a job in the British consulate, working in science and technology. Her job coincided with the George W. Bush as the presidency. President Bush was a vocal denier of climate change. Because of her role in the British Consulate, she could see that the British were taking a more stringent, scientific approach to climate change. Her experience with climate science ignited a passion in her for environmental issues and their social impact. “Especially when it comes go global warming, environmental issues have a social component,” Jen told me.

She moved to San Francisco and took a job with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Though she loved the work, she was frustrated with the slow pace of change in the political realm. She started to become interested in the world of sustainable business. Therefore, she decided to pursue an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School. That is where she met Nick Aster.

Jen’s relationship with Triple Pundit started informally. Jen started as a blogger. She says “I was that person tapping his shoulder saying ‘Hey, it would work much better if we organized in this way,’ and “Why aren’t we covering this?’” Eventually, Nick gave Jen the job of Editor in Chief.

Triple Pundit has over half a million unique visitors to their website every month. They publish around eight articles per weekday, focusing on the intersection of business, the environment, and society. They also collaborate with other content producers through what Jen refers to as coopetition, cooperation with competing companies. “We’re competitors when it comes to advertising dollars, but we’re community members first and foremost. The more our field grows, there more there will be for everyone.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jen Boynton

“Triple Pundit is an outlet for the business side of environmental news.”

“When I’m assigning stories, I look for at least two of the three-legged stool: social or environmental plus the business.”

“It’s one part telling stories that need to be told, and one part helping passionate people to find these kinds of jobs and find ways to make their current jobs more sustainable.”

“Like many people in the sustainability field, we have a winding and unexpected paths to our roles.”

“You know quickly whether something is working or not because you have this financial component.”

“Looking back, it seems pretty clear that I was going to find this work.”

“If I could tell my younger self something, it would be that it will all work out.”

“I came to realize that the blogging medium was a natural fit for me.”

“Volunteer. Get involved in passion projects, art projects, activism projects in your community.”

“I’ve always been that person who did more than one thing at once.”

“It’s important to stay active and follow the threads that keep you excited.”

“We’re around half a million unique visitors per month.”

“Social media is, give love and you’ll get love back.”

“Corporate boards that have at least one woman on them have higher stock prices and better resilience”

“There’s an economic benefit to access to education and access to birth control.”

“What’s been most successful for me is doing the things that seem interesting and seem important.”

“For social entrepreneurs, the business angle has to work.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Apr 17, 2017
162, Sharon Rowe, Eco-Bags Products | A Pioneer Social Business

The company Eco-Bags Products produces ECOBAGS®, the original reusable bag. 

Eco-Bags Products is a woman-owned business. They pioneered many of the practices we associate today with social enterprises and, in the process, transformed how consumers think about plastic bags.

As an actress in New York City in the 1980’s, Sharon Rowe did not find it hard to land work. But she did find it difficult to both make a living and make a difference. There was plenty of work that did not pay well enough to make a living. And there was work that paid well, doing commercials for products that she did not support.

To make ends meet, Sharon had to take a “job-job,” the kind of work you do all day so that you can pursue your passion at night. However, once Sharon married John and had a child, her sense of conflict between purpose and commerce began to intensify.

Around the same time, Sharon was bothered by seeing plastic bags everywhere – blowing down the sidewalk, caught in trees, and washing down the gutters. She remembered a few years earlier, when she visited Europe, she had seen an elegant solution: the reusable string bag. The bag looked like a small, net for carrying groceries. Sharon wondered if she could find a way to acquire a few string bags to use in New York.

The solution presented itself at a dinner party where some friends told her that they were going to visit France. Sharon asked them to bring some string bags back. The friends agreed. Sharon started using the bags to solve her own problem.

People began to ask Sharon about her reusable bags. Eventually, Sharon told me, “I got enough looks, glances, and questions that in my naiveté, I thought ‘Oh, this is a business!’” She went home and talked to John about the idea. That conversation was the beginning of their company Eco-Bags Products and their ECOBAGS®.

Sharon and John had very little money, which is not unusual for an actress and her musician husband. But they knew that reusable bags were an innovative idea.

To find suppliers for her new business, Sharon began writing letters to the Consulates of European countries. Keep in mind that this was 1989 before the internet or email existed. Sharon remembers, “Germany responded first. France wouldn’t respond. Italy responded a year-and-a-half, almost two years later.”

Sharon began importing reusable bags from Germany in small batches. She had sales skills. She grew up working in her father’s Army-Navy store, and at the time she was an account executive for her day job. She would knock on doors at the small gift and miscellaneous retail stores in New York asking the store owners to carry the bags. It was slow-going.

In 1990, in anticipation of the Earth Day celebration, Sharon ordered a few thousand ECOBAGS® Brand Classic String Bags. On Earth Day, she set-up a booth on Sixth Avenue. She sold her entire inventory in four hours. “We made a huge amount of cash that day,” Sharon remembers. “That’s when we looked at each other and said ‘Hmm, we’re on to something.’”

Around this same time, John was at their local natural foods cooperative when he spotted a truck for a distributor. John approached the distributor and asked him if he would be interested in distributing Eco-Bags Products. The distributor said yes, and suddenly Eco-Bags had a distributor. Sharon also attended a natural foods expo, introducing the concept of reusable bags. Their product was picked up by several customers, many of whom are still customers today.

The company grew carefully and slowly. To manage cash flow, Sharon had a stack of credit cards with zero percent interest. She maintained a spreadsheet that reminded her when to contact the companies to extend their introductory rates or when it was time to transfer balances. Despite this creative credit scheme, Sharon still found a way to donate a portion of their profits to organizations such as the Sierra Club. The practice of giving continues today, though the stacks of credit cards have long-since been replaced with a line of credit.

Sharon’s company, Eco-Bags Products, has been a pioneer in social business. From the beginning, Eco-Bags was a holistically environmentally and socially progressive company. Sharon commented “We didn’t have to reconstruct or deconstruct to fit into that social responsibility piece. We had it from the beginning.” Their ECOBAGS are responsibly made with a clean supply chain. They practice fair wages and fair labor. They were one of the first certified Benefit Corporations. They have several times been declared a “Best for the World” company.

Because their products last for decades, they see themselves not as a company that provides consumables, but as a durable goods company. This presents unique challenges. “What I offer is not something that you purchase, consume and have to get again. I’m not toothpaste.”

2008 was a tipping point for Eco-Bags Products, Inc. Their products were featured on Oprah. They saw a massive uptick in demand. Sharon says that at the time, “You would go into a store and a few people would have their bags with them. Now, you see more people with their bags than not. It’s become the norm.” In a recent survey, 51% of people say that they either bring their own bags to the store, or they intend to do so.

It has not always been smooth sailing. In 2010, Eco-Bags was slapped down by the recession. “It’s a roller coaster ride,” she says. “You have to follow guidelines and guardrails. I like to work with the three-legged stool analogy. One for you, one for me and one for the reserve.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sharon Rowe

“I saw a problem: single-use plastic bags. And I thought I don’t like them.”

“I couldn’t commit myself to things I didn’t feel were right.”

“I started using them in the neighborhood, just to solve my own problem.”

“We started with our own money, which wasn’t very much.”

“We just decided to start.”

“This was all pre-Internet, pre-Google.”

“It’s a consumer product, but it’s a messaging consumer product.”

“We came up with an environmentally-focused, do no harm, approach to business.”

“I always took a percentage out of anything earned and put it in reserve.”

“We had an AOL store, a Yahoo store – we’ve been through the entire growth of the internet.”

“You have to trust and visit.”

“To see this go from nothing to something…it’s very cool.”

“We created a business and by example have nourished other businesses and movements.”

“You have to keep your cash flowing.”

“I understood how to make it up and then make it happen.”

“My business plan was on the back of a napkin.”

“Make two dollars, save one.”

“Go with your gut, but use the community that’s out there to figure out which model best fits your idea.”

“Don’t be shy. Copy.”

“Be very conservative with your cash flow.”

“I am in favor of and promote slow growth.”

“You have to be in a ready position at all times.”

“I like to work with the three-legged stool analogy. One for you, one for me and one for the reserve.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Apr 10, 2017