social entrepreneurship

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.

Abby Falik, Global Citizen Year

Abby Falik, Global Citizen Year

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. She found her way to 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 theworkforcee. 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 percent 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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We are sending kids to college burnt out and what we need to do is send them with burning questions.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“What if every college student had to declare a major and a mission?” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Global Citizen Year is targeting the go-getters, not just the do-gooders.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s a launchpad to a life that can be exceptional and meaningful.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We’re focused on the real good, not just the feel good.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We’re everything but a gap year.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“High school has become a high-stakes game to get into college.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“One-third of college freshmen don’t come back for a second year.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“On average, kids are taking six years to get through four-year colleges.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Kids are not learning how to learn.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

“They are moving along this conveyor belt that frankly will lead many of them to the edge of a cliff.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“In so many ways, [the path] chose me.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

“Everything I have done since has been a response to how transformative that year was.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I could never have imagined how right this idea would be and how timely.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Kids are being taught in a way that encourages them to follow a checklist and discourages risk-taking.” @abbyfalik, @GlobalCitizenYr”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


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.

Rehana Nathoo, Case Foundation

Rehana Nathoo, Case Foundation

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. 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 a 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 who is connected to whom in the impact investing world.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Rehana Nathoo

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Impact Investing has to be intentional.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We have a responsibility as a field to take the judgment out of impact investing.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There is no hesitation about using the dollar and 140 twitter characters to make it clear what is okay.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Putting education in the hands of every single part, there is real value in that.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Be very clear on what your objectives are.” @rehananathoo @CaseFoundation”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Hira Batool Rizvi: Transforming Transportation for Women in Pakistan

She`Kab is transforming how women travel to and from work.

Hira Batool Rizvi, SheKab

Hira Batool Rizvi, She’Kab

When She`Kab Founder and CEO Hira Batool Rizvi started working in Pakistan, she quickly recognized a problem with transportation for working women. She estimates that about 90 percent of her colleagues feel unsafe going to and from work each day. And, like any good entrepreneur, she recognized this problem as an opportunity. 

The problem with transportation leads 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. A typical bus has one seat available for women and 27 seats for men.

If women 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 position 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 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.

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

Initially, Hira did not see herself 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.

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.

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.”

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.

Hira recently completed time at the Katapult Accelerator in Oslo, where the business idea has matured further. 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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We hope to transform how women travel to work and back.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I saw what platforms like Uber and Lyft were doing in all corners of the world.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.” 

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There’s no right time to do something. It’s all about adaptive leadership.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I realized it was very important to do market research before I could do anything.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The first ten registration was the kick in the stomach that this might be something.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There is good everywhere and take it from every place that you can get it.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Look for problems that you are passionate about and figure out how you can solve them.” @hirabatoolrizvi @SheKabpk”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources


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.

Grace Garey, Watsi

Grace Garey, Watsi

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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We believe everyone deserves healthcare.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“A billion people around the world don’t have access to basic healthcare.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We started working on Watsi on nights and weekends.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We just started.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

“We employed the generosity of a lot of people who were excited about the idea.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We really didn’t know if it would work or not.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I didn’t know what Y Combinator was.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We were more like the for-profit startups than we were different.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You have to get used to being really bad at your job most of the time.” @gracegarey, @watsi”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


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.

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, Author of Start, Love, Repeat

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, Author of Start, Love, Repeat

“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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Startups are gritty and exhausting. Anybody in the entrepreneur’s orbit gets sucked into it as well.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There’s so much pressure to succeed.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There is this other side to it that involves sacrifice.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Show your loved ones that you care about them.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Sometimes the passion can skew our sense of priorities.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There are other things in life besides trying to make your business succeed.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s really easy to write off your own self-care.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It can feel like the entrepreneur’s dreams are superseding that of everybody else in the family.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Sometimes the needs of the business push our family in a direction that I would not always want us to go.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It has been very much about making concessions and compromises.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“How do I make space for family and marriage and myself?” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“If you keep putting off family and self-care, there are consequences.” @dorcas_ct”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Your chances of success are that much greater if you have a really good support team.” @dorcas_ct”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Balancing Entrepreneurship with Family and Self-Care, with Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, Inc. Contributor and Author of “Start, Love, Repeat”

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, Author of Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life

Tyler Gage, Author of 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:

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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?’”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Runa in the indigenous Quichua language means ‘fully alive.’” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Drawing inspiration from themselves and the community really embodies the spirit of Runa.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I felt…transformed by the traditions in the rainforest.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Anyone who’s human…is going to experience some sort of anxiety and depression.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I think being a vulnerable, open human, you reach those edges.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

“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:


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.

Bryan Pape, MiiR

Bryan Pape, MiiR

“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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“How do we merge business and philanthropy into something we’re doing day in and day out?” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Can this individual product stand on its own two feet in the marketplace?” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Close to a billion people lack access to clean water.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We’re selling water bottles. Let’s give back to clean water.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Let’s start a company and do good, and that’s about the extent of the plan.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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.”

“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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Go ask somebody today how you can help them, and then actually do it.” @bryanpape @MiiR”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


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, Elevated Honey Co

Katrina Klett, Elevated Honey Co

Katrina Klett moved to China nearly a decade ago to study languages. While there, she found her true calling there as a beekeeper. She’s now turning that vision into a business as a social entrepreneur.

Katrina 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, Katrina said.

Happy Farmers, Better Honey

According to Katrina, 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 their 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,” Katrina says. “We want both to be possible.”

While Elevated Honey Co. provides beekeeping best practices, Katrina 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,” Katrina 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, Katrina 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,” Katrina said.

Katrina 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 Katrina 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,” Katrina said.

Katrina 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’,” Katrina said.

Katrina 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

Katrina 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. Katrina 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,” Katrina said.

On the business side of things, Katrina 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,” Katrina said.

Beyond Honey

Katrina’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. Katrina 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

[spp-tweet tweet=””Want to give them a solid wage where they can do something that’s positive for the environment.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There’s a problem of fake honey in China and throughout the world.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I don’t consider myself an expert in running a company.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We don’t have any stores. Our sales are all done throughout China online.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I don’t know that it’s a good idea to switch everyone to outside technology.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=””You’re far better off partnering with like-minded experts.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources


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.

Sarah Calhoun, Red Ants Pants

Sarah Calhoun, Red Ants Pants

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?”

In a moment of synchronicity, a former designer for Patagonia noticed Sarah reading the Small Business for Dummies book in a Bozeman coffee shop. He offered her 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, Sarah packed an inventory of pants and beer donated by Big Sky Brewing into an Airstream trailer and hit the road. 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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I was not looking to start a company, but it really came out of necessity.” @RedAntsPants”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I naively thought to myself, ‘Start a business? How hard could that be?’” @RedAntsPants”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“When the perfect mentor falls in your lap, you know you’re heading in the right direction.” @RedAntsPants”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“A customer wore her Red Ants Pants into surgery because they made her feel stronger.” @RedAntsPants”]

[spp-tweet tweet=””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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“People are honored to be asked for help because their expertise is valued.” @RedAntsPants”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Spread the word about small businesses making an impact.” @RedAntsPants”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources: