BIPOC Voices

Voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

When Sustainability Isn’t Enough, with Mary Jane Melendez, General Mills

Mary Jane Melendez, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer for General Mills; and President of the General Mills Foundation. General Mills is blending regeneration and philanthropy to create impact. How do you feed a hungry world without destroying the planet? And, how do you do so in a way that is just and equitable? Agriculture and forestry activities generate 24% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The world population will reach 9.7 billion in 2050. And, a growing middle class in emerging countries is straining our global food supply. Mary Jane Melendez is Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer for General Mills. She also serves as President of the General Mills…

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Comfortable, Efficient, and Healthy Buildings, with Deepinder Singh, 75F

Optimizing building energy efficiency can be complicated and expensive. According to Deepinder Singh, it doesn’t have to be. The world has more than 230 billion square meters of building space with another 65 billion square meters coming online in the next decade. Buildings account for 6% of global greenhouse gasses. With the ongoing global pandemic, the CDC has developed guidelines that encourage more fresh air circulation. The goal is to maintain lower viral load in the work atmosphere. Those guidelines could increase energy consumption. Improving energy efficiency could make a significant dent in climate change. It Started with His Daughter Deepinder Singh is a computer network engineer by training. He…

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Healing is in the Environment, with Robert Blake, Solar Bear

Solar Bear is a Native American owned solar installation company. Robert Blake of Solar Bear has a habit of mashing up two problems and coming up with a solution. His driving philosophy is “healing is in the environment.” Solar Bear is a Native American owned solar installation company. They train people on the Red Lake Indian Reservation to install solar power. “If we can do this in Red Lake, we can bring this out to other tribal nations,” Robert explains. “We’re going to see that solar energy can solve a human health crisis. On Native Nations and reservations, there is a high poverty rate, alcohol addiction, and drug addiction. What…

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Delivering Efficiency with Marc Kuo, Routific

Routific uses AI to cut mileage and drive time by 20%-40%. Marc Kuo is the Founder & CEO of Routific. He is a routing expert with nearly a decade of experience in last-mile logistics. But he didn’t always work in logistics. “Being a fresh grad out of school, I just wanted to get into either management consulting or investment banking, simply because of its prestige,” Marc told me. “I was ambitious. I wanted to aim for something challenging. “Once I was in finance, I was on the equity trading floor for one of the investment banks in Hong Kong. It was a glamorous dream job. I was sitting on the…

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Social Entrepreneur Live, Part 4 with Caroline Karanja, 26 Letters

26 Letters helps organizations put data and action behind their equity initiatives. A recruiter for a Fortune 500 company once told me, “Minnesota is one of the hardest places to recruit people to. It’s also one of the hardest places to recruit people from.” Once people experience Minnesota, it’s hard to leave. And no wonder. Nineteen Fortune 500 companies call Minnesota home. The startup scene is strong. The annual Twin Cities Startup Week attracts thousands of people. Look at almost any ranking of states and cities, and you’ll find Minnesota near the top. The Trust for Public Land ranked Minneapolis first in large city park systems. And in second place,…

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The Power of Telling Your Secret, with Aneela Idnani Kumar, HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet to help manage Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). For 20 years, Aneela Idnani Kumar had a secret. She spent her life in shame and embarrassment. One day, unexpectedly, her secret came to light. This moment transformed her life, and in the process, helped thousands of others. Aneela grew up in a somewhat atypical Indian American household. “My parents came to this country in the 1970s with $500 and one suitcase. They made their way to upper middle class. My mom broke away from tradition as a dentist with her professional practice. In contrast, my father worked primarily from a home office and was in charge…

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Social Entrepreneur Live, Part 1, Precious Drew, Perk: The Natural Beauty Lab

Perk: The Natural Beauty Lab upcycles fair-trade, used coffee grounds from local coffee shops to create natural skincare products. Precious Drew’s reserved, yet bubbly personality naturally attracts people to her. Yet, she has a bit of a contrarian streak. “I’ve always challenged the norm and enjoyed debates arguing the less-popular opinion, whether I agreed with it or not,” Precious says. “I liked the challenge of being able to fully understand and argue for opinions I don’t exactly agree with.” Precious likes to defy expectations. “I grew up in a household with seven siblings: six older brothers and one younger sister. I never really followed what my brothers did. From a…

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Developing Young Entrepreneurs, with Dario Otero, Youth Lens 360

Youth Lens 360 is a for-profit marketing company that works with youth. Youth Lens 360 provides visual communication, product marketing, and branding services through the lens of youth ages 14-24. Dario Otero, the founder of Youth Lens 360, has seen first-hand how the education system does not support, nurture or value entrepreneurial thinking. “I’ve found in my teaching and leadership experience that underrecognized youth of color have a naturally creative and resourceful entrepreneurial spirit. That gets ignored in traditional education settings,” he explains. “As a result, youth will eventually lose that capacity and enthusiasm for education. They don’t stay engaged when we don’t connect what they are learning to the real…

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The Empowerment Bag: A Bag to End Human Trafficking, with Vaishali Umrikar

The Empowerment Bag is an eco-friendly brand of bags, that employs women at risk of sex trafficking. Vaishali Umrikar is a passionate social entrepreneur who is committed to fighting human trafficking. While she was in high school, she read the book, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade by Victor Malarek. This book awakened her to the realities of modern-day human trafficking. She became involved in anti-trafficking advocacy groups throughout high school and college. Since then, Vaishali has worked with the Australian Government Office for Women, Chicago Probation Sex Offender Unit, and Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. After graduating from college and beginning her corporate career, Vaishali realized her…

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Five Steps to Easily Tell Your Story and Build Your Brand, with Matt Scott of 180⁰ of Impact

Matt Scott asks if there is an easier way to tell your story and build your brand. You have a message to share – a message that is as unique as you are. You want to tell the world, “This is who I am, and this is what I’m building.” You recognize the power of storytelling, but these things take a lot of time, right? And, there are so many options! Write a blog. Share a live video. Podcast. The choices of how and where to tell your story are limitless. Maybe you’re like Matt Scott. He wants to know if there is a way to easily and efficiently share…

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