social entrepreneurship

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, Author of Social Startup Success

Kathleen Kelly Janus, Author of Social Startup Success

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 co-founded 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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We were operating month-to-month, trying to make ends meet.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“In Silicon Valley, I saw these organizations that were taking off.” @kkellyjanus”]

“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?”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“That hump is something a lot of organizations are facing.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Of the 300,000 nonprofits in the United States, two-thirds of them are $500,000 and below in revenue.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“A lot of them have proven ideas that can work in communities around the world.” @kkellyjanus”]

“Every organization is going to have a different threshold.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“By sustainable I mean, are you able to operate in such a way that allows you to focus your energy on the impact?” @kkellyjanus”]

“Every one of these organizations had these very early periods of illumination before they went out to raise money.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“They were very careful about testing it early on.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The best social entrepreneurs fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Organizations that measured their impact from the start, tended to scale more quickly.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Always be thinking about the impact and measuring that.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The organizations that are most successful are the organizations that have a much more distributed leadership culture.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Go work for someone who has been successful before you.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“A lot of the best organizations have executive coaches.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We all have the capacity to make a difference in the world.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We all need to think about how we can support our nonprofits.” @kkellyjanus”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Pick a cause. Pick a nonprofit organization, and go out there and make a difference.” @kkellyjanus”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


From #MeToo to #HeForShe, with Julie Kratz, Pivot Point

Julie Kratz is the author of One: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality.

Julie Kratz, Pivot Point

Julie Kratz, Pivot Point

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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“An ally is somebody that is in it with you…side-by-side with you.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Ideally, you would look around the leadership table and see diversity.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

“When you have gender equality at the highest level of organizations, you have a much stronger profitability number.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“McKinsey cites a 16% higher profitability rate with gender equality organizations.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s not a zero-sum game.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The statistics aren’t really changing.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“What we’ve found is, it’s not blatant.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The world just has to be different for my daughters.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

“It’s not a line-item on your financials, which is why I think there is not a sense of urgency.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The power of the team is so much stronger because all voices are heard.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“80% of the buying decisions in our country are made by women.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Look around. Think about who is not here.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Women, on average, for the same work are paid 83% of what their male peers are paid.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

“There’s this unconscious bias, the subtle things we do every day with how we value women’s work.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“When you say it’s a priority, your behaviors match that it’s a priority.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There are a lot of men in the middle that I call men on the fringe.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Men are better suited to call out bad behavior from other men.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Men need to feel included. They need to feel a part of this.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Strong women leaders engage these men in their careers.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Ask a woman what it’s like to be her.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“People want to talk about it, but they don’t know how.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Think of one thing you can do to support this conversation.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We need men as allies.” Julie Kratz, @nextpivotpoint”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Create a Better World through…Paperwork? Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

Farm Commons empowers farmers to rewrite farm law by and for themselves.

Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It isn’t necessarily about the rules and regulations. It’s about our relationships.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“When farmers write good paperwork, they’re creating solutions that help them go forward.”

“Paperwork can be revolutionary.”

“Those leases matter.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Sustainable farmers need to protect themselves.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be an attorney.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“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.’”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The farming life is very difficult.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Rural people are disadvantaged in so many ways.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“How am I going to foster this community that I love so much?” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The very first money that I received was a fellowship from Echoing Green.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“We want to create a model for a legal commons that goes beyond just sustainable farming.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Everyone deserves the ability to shape their community’s legal destiny.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“89% of the farmers that we reach, make a change to their business within three months.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We reach about 2,000 farmers per year, and that’s growing.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Listen to the community that you serve.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The community knows what the community needs. We make it possible.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“My job as the Director of Farm Commons is to figure out how to meet the need in a way that they prefer.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You haven’t solved their problems, if you don’t listen to them.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Community Feasts for a Cause, with Emily Torgrimson, Eat for Equity

Eat for Equity is building a culture of generosity through sustainable community feasts.

Emily Torgrimson, Eat for Equity

Emily Torgrimson, Eat for Equity

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 into 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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You walk into abundance.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

“How do you use food to bring people together to support a great cause, to address inequities around us?” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I think of Eat for Equity as trying to create connections.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

“There are all these ways you can give that feed you and also create something bigger around you.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You can be generous with what you have.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You share a piece of yourself when you cook for people.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I wanted to be part of the story, as much as I wanted to tell it.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I fell in love with Minneapolis and the culture of collaboration.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Catering has basically doubled every year.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Just try something and see how it feels.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Everything happens around food.” Emily Torgrimson @eatforequity”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


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:


Lee Wallace, Peace Coffee, Fair Trade for Smallholder Farmers

Lee Wallace, Peace Coffee

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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Our customers named us.” Lee Wallace, @Peace_Coffee”]

“I was trying to find a career that made sense to me in terms of my passions.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“What I was trying to do was find places that sit at the nexus of mission and money.” Lee Wallace, @Peace_Coffee”]

“Pretty quickly I realized that this is a magical place for me.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I have always been interested in how organizations work.” Lee Wallace, @Peace_Coffee”]

“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“More than 50% of the world’s coffee farmers, farm coffee on very small parcels of land.” Lee Wallace, @Peace_Coffee”]

“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s livelihood, but its community development too.” Lee Wallace, @Peace_Coffee”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Co-ops are stepping in and playing the role of civil society in these communities.” Lee Wallace, @Peace_Coffee”]

“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:

Kate Goodall Explains Why Halcyon is Like the X-Men

Halcyon catalyzes emerging creatives who are striving for a better world.

Kate Goodall, Halcyon

Kate Goodall, Halcyon

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 cofounded 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

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘The core of Halcyon is the idea of helping someone find self-efficacy.’ Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There is this big myth around fail fast in this space.” Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The kinds of things our fellows are working on are not the kinds of things where failure is an option.” Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We set out intentionally to be diverse.” Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“About 5% of VC funding goes to women, 1% to African-Americans, and far less than that to women of color.” Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Focus on what is the core problem that you are trying to solve.” Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“In just over three years the fellows have impacted nearly half a million lives.” Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Think outside the box and consider slightly more risky propositions.” Kate Goodall, @HalcyonInspires”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

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: You can find a transcript of the conversation with Krista Tippett here


Social enterprise leader Krista Tippett

Krista Tippett, OnBeing

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.’ @kristatippett, @onbeing
Click to Tweet

“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.” @kristatippett, @onbeing
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“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.” @kristatippett, @onbeing
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“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.” @kristatippett, @onbeing
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“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.”

“What it means to be human, I think we have only begun to live into that question.” @kristatippett, @onbeing
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“We have to help each other. We have to accompany each other.” @kristatippett, @onbeing
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“It’s an incredibly exciting moment, and the stakes are high.” @kristatippett, @onbeing
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“Get yourself some mentors; an ecosystem of mentors.” @kristatippett, @onbeing
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“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:


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.

Maimuna Ahmad, Teach for Bangladesh

Maimuna Ahmad, Teach for Bangladesh

 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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I grew up with an acute understanding that I had been born lucky.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“To really bring about a long-term sustainable change, we need to change the way leadership works.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“99% of students enter school in Bangladesh, but the education they receive is subpar.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I realized the opportunities I took for granted were not there for children all around me.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It was that theme of injustice that really spoke to me.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Children are children no matter where in the world you are.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I began to realize that there was this incredible need.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I had never fundraised before. I had never managed a team before.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I was adapting this model in a way that felt really authentic to me as a leader.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“For decades, Bangladesh has been a hotbed of social entrepreneurship.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We’re all competing to see who can be the most overworked among us.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“In an entrepreneurial pursuit, you are your biggest asset.” Maimuna Ahmad, @TFBangladesh”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources

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.

Gavin Armstrong, Lucky Iron Fish

Gavin Armstrong, Lucky Iron Fish

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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Iron deficiency takes 70 billion US dollars out the global economy each year.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There is a big macro and micro impact of iron deficiency.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Social entrepreneurship is possible.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“These challenges that seem very daunting can have solutions.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“A little bit of success doesn’t equal a guaranteed success.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I think it’s important for everyone to be speaking the same language.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You can be a social entrepreneur in how you create your business.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I was on such a selfish trajectory to prove someone wrong who I probably would never even see again.” @GavinA09, @LuckyIronFish”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

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, MemoryWell

Jay Newton-Small, MemoryWell

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.

Jay and her father, Graham

“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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We are giving voice to the voiceless.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“As a journalist, we love the idea that there are millions of stories out there” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Stories have a lot of uses and we believe that at their core, they can form community.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Storytelling comes naturally to me in many ways.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I thought I would always regret not giving MemoryWell a shot.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“My Twitter feed is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it’s pretty funny.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I have no technology background and am a complete Luddite.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You can buy a story and we will tell it right then and there.” @JNSmall @MemoryWell”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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