social impact

Top Twelve Popular Podcasts 2018, Meghan French Dunbar, Conscious Company Media

Join Conscious Company Media’s World-Changing Women’s Summit. Register today and save 10% when you use the code WCWS_TONY_10.

Note: Between now and the end of the year, we’re counting down the top twelve popular podcast episodes of 2018. It is a people’s choice award, determined by the number of downloads. This interview originally aired on April 28, 2018.

World-Changing Women's Summit, January 28 - 30

World-Changing Women’s Summit, January 28 – 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Meghan French Dunbar:

“The path was insane.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “This is what I was put here to do.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “I always wanted to help.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “They were telling us, don’t even think about going into magazines.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “I saw this collaboration between environmental groups and companies.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “I was hooked.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “I went in open and curious.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “It was one of those questions that change your life.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “Things unfold if you start taking steps in the right direction.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “At that moment, the sky was falling.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “It was the gut-check moment for me.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet “I viscerally remember walking into Whole Foods and seeing our magazine.” @MegFrenchDunbar, @ConsciousCoMag Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Top Twelve Popular Podcasts 2018, Jessica Jackley

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

Note: Between now and the end of the year, we’re counting down the top twelve popular podcast episodes of 2018. It is a people’s choice award, determined by the number of downloads. This interview originally aired on February 1, 2018.

Jessica Jackley

Jessica Jackley

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

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

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

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

A Strained Relationship with Poverty and Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Role of Faith in Jessica Jackley’s Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jessica Jackley

“It’s not as if a lot of folks don’t know how to lift themselves out of poverty.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “It made me feel distanced from people who are living in poverty.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “I thought ‘Business is bad. Business is about taking, and I want to be one of the givers.’” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “He talked about the poor in a way that didn’t make me feel terrible.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “I took too long waiting for the world to give me permission.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “I have always felt like my life was tied to something bigger than me.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “We have an interfaith marriage and an interfaith family” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “We’re learning as we go.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “The majority of new marriages are interfaith.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “Start doing something. There’s always a step that you can take.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “Pay attention to what is speaking to you.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “There are small things you can do every single day to start you on your journey.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “Don’t be embarrassed about those small beginnings. Just start doing something.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet “Pick your thing and commit.” @jessicajackley Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Top Twelve Popular Podcasts 2018, Lulu Cerone, LemonAID Warriors

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

Note: Between now and the end of the year, we’re counting down the top twelve popular podcast episodes of 2018. It is a people’s choice award, determined by the number of downloads. This interview originally aired on March 3, 2018.

Lulu Cerone, LemonAID Warriors

Lulu Cerone, LemonAID Warriors

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

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

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

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

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

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lulu Cerone

“Growing up, I had a passion for community service.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “Young people can get involved.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “They can do it in fun and simple ways that integrate social action into their social life.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “That’s when I had my first PhilanthroParty.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “It was the first time my friends and I felt like we could be agents of change.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “I did not set out to start a nonprofit organization.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “This is such a simple idea, but people latched onto it.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “There is power in simplicity.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “LemonAID Warriors is youth-driven and community-based.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “It was incredible being in eighth grade and having Mattel looking to me.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet “See yourself as an important agent of change.” @Lulucerone @lemonaidwarrior Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

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

26 Letters helps organizations put data and action behind their equity initiatives.

Caroline Karanja, 26 Letters at Social Entrepreneur Live

Caroline Karanja, 26 Letters at Social Entrepreneur Live

A recruiter for a Fortune 500 company once told me, “Minnesota is one of the hardest places to recruit people to. It’s also one of the hardest places to recruit people from.” Once people experience Minnesota, it’s hard to leave. And no wonder. Nineteen Fortune 500 companies call Minnesota home. The startup scene is strong. The annual Twin Cities Startup Week attracts thousands of people.

Look at almost any ranking of states and cities, and you’ll find Minnesota near the top. The Trust for Public Land ranked Minneapolis first in large city park systems. And in second place, just across the river is St. Paul. Minneapolis was ranked by Redfin as the best city for cycling.

US News & World Report has created a cottage industry of ranking lists. They rank Minnesota second overall among the 50 states. Minnesota is #2 in quality of life, #3 in opportunity, #6 in infrastructure, and #7 in Healthcare. Minnesota ranks #13 in education. 58 of America’s best high schools are in Minnesota.

And yet, women and people of color can have a much different experience in Minnesota. For example, the website 24/7 Wall Street produces an annual report on racial disparities. This year’s report ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul as the fourth worst metropolitan area for black people. According to the report:

While the 6.0% white poverty rate in Minneapolis is far lower than the comparable 10.6% national figure, the 32.0% black poverty rate is above the 26.2% national figure. Additionally, the typical black household in the area earns $31,653 a year, just 41.5% of the white median household income of $76,208. Disparity in homeownership is even more stark. The 24.6% black homeownership rate in the Twin Cities metro area is less than a third of the 75.8% white homeownership rate.

Closing the Equity Gap in Organizations

Most Minnesota business leaders I meet seem to be aware of this problem and want to do something about it. They realize the importance of creating an equitable, inclusive, engaging, and productive workplace. But that requires three things:

  1. Measurement of the current status of equity in the organization.
  2. A set of goals.
  3. Plans to get there.

That is where 26 Letters comes in. 26 Letters is a data insights and analytics startup that helps organizations recruit, retain, and grow top talent in today’s workforce. They provide education and training with a data-driven approach.

26 Letters Co-Founder Caroline Karanja explains, “A lot of times, we have these great panels and discussions. What are we going to do to narrow the education gap? What are we going to do to retain more professionals of color and women? What we do is come in and help you figure out what that means for your organization. What we want to do is help organizations put data and action behind their equity initiatives.”

“When we look at what our cities are going to look like in the next two years, and then the next twenty years, we’re talking about more people of color, more immigrant communities. More and more of those folks are walking into our workforce and our classrooms.”

To help organizations understand their current state of equity, 26 Letters provides an assessment. This helps organizations to find the key areas for improvement. 26 Letters provides Software as a Service with consulting.

26 Letters is part of the inaugural cohort of Lunar Startups.

Social Entrepreneur Live!

This interview is one of four conducted on the evening of October 10, 2018. The event was called Social Entrepreneur Live! It was hosted by Acara, a program of the Institute on the Environment and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The event was part of the Twin Cities Startup Week. Special thanks to our guests, Acara, the University of Minnesota, and those who came out to see us live.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Caroline Karanja:

“What we want to do is help organizations put data and action behind their equity initiatives.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “At an organization level, we’re able to help put together initiatives to address the systematic challenges.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I have the weirdest journey.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I ended up teaching myself to code to help destress.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I’ve always been interested in technology.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I wanted to work in the social justice space.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I got my first consulting gig working around Girls in STEM.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I started getting more coffee dates talking about employee inclusion, hiring, and diversity.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I ran Geekettes for a while.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I did Hack the Gap.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I had one person who had a three-page job description in ten-point font.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “One side of the plan is to help folks expand their network.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “The data will always tell you where you’re at.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “Those numbers don’t say anything positive, but then that gives you the opportunity to address it.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “Technology makes things scalable.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “I put myself in opportunities where I found myself trying new things and learning new things.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “If you start something, then you’re running it, and you have to figure out how to run it.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet “It is 100% bootstrapped.” @Caroline_Karanj @26LettersCo Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

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

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet to help manage Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs).

Aneela Idnani Kumar, HabitAware

Aneela Idnani Kumar, HabitAware at Social Entrepreneur Live, October 10

For 20 years, Aneela Idnani Kumar had a secret. She spent her life in shame and embarrassment. One day, unexpectedly, her secret came to light. This moment transformed her life, and in the process, helped thousands of others.

Aneela grew up in a somewhat atypical Indian American household. “My parents came to this country in the 1970s with $500 and one suitcase. They made their way to upper middle class. My mom broke away from tradition as a dentist with her professional practice. In contrast, my father worked primarily from a home office and was in charge of house cleaning. He also made a pretty mean chicken and rice. Both of my parents provided solid examples of making it together as self-made entrepreneurs.”

As a child, Aneela was often described as soft-spoken or shy. “Now I recognize I had anxiety,” she explains. “We just didn’t have the words for it back in the 80s.”

Aneela loved math, science, and art. She had a few close friends. However, she says “I never really felt like I fit in. I spent my alone time with the TV as my babysitter. I preferred the sidelines to the limelight.”

As an early teen, Aneela had a secret. She suffered from a debilitating mental health disorder that resulted in compulsive hair pulling. The condition is called trichotillomania, a mental health condition that fits into the general category of Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs).

Aneela Idnani Kumar, HabitAware, caused host Tony Loyd to laugh out loud.

Aneela Idnani Kumar, HabitAware, caused host Tony Loyd to laugh out loud.

BFRBs are a debilitating mental health disorder. Behaviors may also include skin picking (dermatillomania), and compulsive nail biting (onychophagia). These behaviors may result in baldness, skin lesions, and missing fingernails.

Shame, guilt, and fear of judgment prevent people from discussing BFRBs. Therefore, BFRBs share the odd combination of being common yet very misunderstood. This was Aneela’s experience for 20 years.

“I hid for a very long time,” Aneela says. “Some people think it’s a choice. It’s not. It’s automatic. It’s very trance-like.” In her third year of marriage, Aneela’s husband Sameer noticed that her eyebrows were missing. So, he asked her what had happened. “After what felt like hours of being like a deer in the headlights, I said, I have trichotillomania, which is the medical name for the hair-pulling disorder.” Sameer encouraged Aneela to see therapy, which she did. “It was super helpful,” she says.

“One day I was sitting on the couch watching TV and started pulling in my moments of boredom. He grabbed my hand to gently take it away. I just wanted to punch him,” she laughs. She turned to her husband and said, “I wish I had something that notified me, that wasn’t you.” As she said this to Sameer, “I put my fingers around my wrist. That was the ah-ha moment for this idea.”

Soon afterward, Aneela and Sameer connected with Kirk Klobe. “He tweeted about something,” Aneela says. “I looked at his profile, and it said Hopkins, MN.” Sameer and Aneela invited Kirk to join them at a hackathon put on by IoTFuse. It was there that they met John Pritchard. Together, the team developed a prototype. This prototype eventually led to the formation of their company, HabitAware, and their first product, Keen.

Keen allows users to retrain their brain by vibrating when it detects a specifically trained behavior. The vibration interrupts the behavior, brings the user into awareness, and allows them to make healthier choices.

At first, the team used 3D Printers and hand-soldered circuits to build prototypes. They found testers among their families and friends. The prototypes worked. “It gave us enough confidence, we decided to make a beta version,” Aneela says.

As they were gaining confidence, they attended an event at the University of Minnesota. The speaker was the Managing Director of HAX, the world’s first and largest hardware accelerator, based in Shenzhen, China. The Managing Director encouraged the team to apply for HAX. They did and were accepted. “That’s when we said, it’s time to quit jobs, and it’s time to move to China.” They were in China for four months.

Aneela Idnani, HabitAware

MN Cup prize winner, Aneela Idnani Kumar, HabitAware

“HAX provided us with mechanical engineering support, graphic design support, industrial design support…they were really an extension of the team.”

In another moment of serendipity, Aneela spoke at the Graveti Summit where the keynote speaker happened to be Arlan Hamilton, the Founder and Managing Partner at BackStage Capital, a VC fund investing in underestimated founders. After meeting Aneela, Arlan decided to invest in HabitAware.

More recently, HabitAware won a total of $100,000 in prizes at the MN Cup. They won $20,000 as the minority entrepreneur with an innovative business concept. This award was sponsored by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) and JP Morgan Chase. HabitAware also won $30,000 in the High-Tech division; and the $50,000 overall grand prize.

To sell their first products, HabitAware ran a pre-order campaign. They advertised through Facebook. “When people find out they’re not alone, they go searching for people like them,” Aneela explains. “They go to Doctor Google and Facebook, and they find one another.”

Today, people order the Keen device on the HabitAware website. They also have international distributors. HabitAware has been featured on TechCrunch, The Washington Post, Prevention Magazine and more.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Aneela Idnani Kumar:

“My parents moved to New York in 1975 with $500 and one suitcase.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “I used to play office instead of house.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “Now I recognize I had anxiety. We just didn't have the words for it back in the 80s.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “I hid for a very long time. Some people think it’s a choice. It’s not. It’s automatic. It’s very trance-like.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “After what felt like hours of being like a deer in the headlights, I said, I have trichotillomania, which is the medical name for the hair-pulling disorder.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “I learned by doing.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “We started nights and weekends. We invested in ourselves.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “How can we leverage our brand voice to make a change?” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “If you have an opportunity to work at an advertising agency, it is entrepreneurship.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “Mentorship is something that I don’t actually believe in. It’s about building relationships with people you trust.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “Fundraising is about the dollars, but it’s also about the emotion. We have friends and family who believe in what we’re doing.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “In Minneapolis and Minnesota, a lot of people have had a hand in it.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “Be open to learning. Be open to failing. Be open to finding the lesson in the mistake.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “Every closed chapter opens the next page.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “Sometimes you have to choose, which is the greater problem?” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “I was running myself into the ground.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet “Look around and see what problems are in the world and try to solve it.” @ak310i @HabitAware Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Celebrating the Gifts of Femininity, with Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors, The Feminine Revolution

The Feminine Revolution is a new book that boldly declares, feminine values are powerful.

Amy Stanton (L) and Catherine Connors, authors of The Feminine Revolution

Amy Stanton (L) and Catherine Connors, authors of The Feminine Revolution

Run like a girl. Fight like a girl. Throw like a girl. Author Catherine Connors notes, “If you finish any sentence with ‘like a girl,’ it’s rarely a positive one.” And yet, as she and co-author Amy Stanton have discovered, in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, feminine qualities can be superpowers.

Connors and Stanton explore the gifts of femininity in their new book, The Feminine Revolution: 21 Ways to Ignite the Power of Your Femininity for a Brighter Life and a Better World. Chapter by chapter, they dare women to be emotional, own their intuition, and show their weaknesses. As the title implies, “Tapping into your femininity in a meaningful way can truly change your life,” says Stanton.

This book guides women and men through an understanding of the power of feminine virtues. “It’s not just important for women and girls to be in touch with those values, but it is for boys and men as well,” explains Connors. “While writing this book, I had both my daughter and son in mind.”

The Feminine Revolution is about more than women’s equality. Equality starts with women recognizing their unique strengths. According to Connors, “If we want to get to an equal world, we have to start with ourselves.”

“Who thought that crying could be described as powerful?” Stanton adds. “Being mothering can be powerful.” Chapter by chapter the authors take on taboo topics such as being agreeable or being controlling. They show how, in a rapidly changing world, feminine traits are leadership traits.

A Unique Femininity

Amy Stanton’s journey to this book started several years ago. Stanton is a business leader who specializes in marketing to and building brand for women. She leads a woman-owned business. And yet, she was struggling with what it meant to be authentic and sensitive at work, while also being a powerful leader.

As her thoughts formed, she gave a TEDx talk. “I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go and watch it,” she laughs. Still, the seed of an idea was there. She knew she was on to something and she knew she was not alone.

A mutual friend introduced Stanton to Catherine Connors. Connors describes herself as a writer, an entrepreneur, an activist, and a mother. She blogs at the website Her Bad Mother. Her work includes leadership positions at Disney and Babble Media. She has also published academic research on the place of women and girls in the history of social thought.

When Stanton and Connors met, “We ended up talking for three and a half hours,” Connors recalls. They each had a passion for the power of femininity. They each had a unique, sometimes opposite viewpoint. Instead of being discouraged by their different perspectives, they saw it as a gift. Stanton explains, “We want to spark a conversation among women about what authentic femininity means to each of us.”

As they co-wrote the book, each author took a chapter that made them feel uncomfortable. They leaned hard into what it means to cry or to dance. It was in this discomfort that they learned the most.

That is what they encourage the readers to do. They challenge the readers, “Find the chapter that makes you feel the most resistant and start there.”

The Feminine Revolution is available today.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors:

“Tapping into your femininity in a meaningful way can truly change your life.” @amykstanton @femrevolutionbk #leadership #business #power Click To Tweet “I had both my daughter and son in mind.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #family #gender #leadership Click To Tweet “It’s not just important for women and girls to be in touch with those values, but it is for boys and men as well.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #book #author #amreading Click To Tweet “This is about celebrating our gifts.” @amykstanton @femrevolutionbk #gender #women #power Click To Tweet “If we want to get to a more equal world, we have to start with ourselves.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #selfworth #SDG5 #genderequality Click To Tweet “If you finish any sentence with ‘like a girl,’ it’s rarely a positive one.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #likeagirl #girlboss #ledership Click To Tweet “We ended up talking for 3 ½ hours.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #book #author #amreading Click To Tweet “Feminine values are powerful.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #femininity #newbook #women Click To Tweet “Who thought that crying could be described as powerful?” @amykstanton @femrevolutionbk #authenticity #vulnerability #leadership Click To Tweet “Being mothering can be powerful.” @amykstanton @femrevolutionbk #girlpower #bethechange #books Click To Tweet “Some people resist the idea of femininity because they think it’s a step backward.” @amykstanton @femrevolutionbk #genderequality #womenandgirls #womenrising Click To Tweet “We want to spark a conversation among women about what authentic femininity means to each of us.” @amykstanton @femrevolutionbk #book #author #quote Click To Tweet “I’ve asked myself, what’s the feminine approach? How can I bring grace to this situation?” @amykstanton @femrevolutionbk #strength #power #bethechange Click To Tweet “For me, it was me broadly understanding my own femininity.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #selfdiscovery #self #books Click To Tweet “Find the chapter that makes you feel the most resistant.” @herbadmother @femrevolutionbk #newbook #amreading #selfworth Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Social Entrepreneur Live, Part 2, Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa

Señoras de Salsa makes bold, authentic Mexican salsa that generates income for Latina women.

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

Latina women suffer from the largest pay gap of any group. According to the latest report from the US Department of Labor, the average median weekly earnings for a white man is $1,004. In that same period, white women earned $825, or 82% of a white man’s earnings. Latino men earned $722, or 72%, while Latina women earned $612, or 62%.

Danielle Wojdyla, Founder of Señoras de Salsa, cares deeply about this issue. “We don’t all have the same opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” she says. “Women get messages all the time, direct and indirect, of not being enough. Not strong enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not good enough, and on, and on.”

To help close the wage gap and empower Latina women, Danielle launched Señoras de Salsa in 2017. Señoras de Salsa generates profit through their fresh refrigerated salsas. According to Danielle, “We created a sustainable business model that can support fair wages for the work done.” But their impact goes beyond wages. Danielle says “We foster a positive and safe work environment. We use mindful leadership, positive reinforcement, and team building to support each other.”

Danielle’s Path to Purpose

Danielle’s family history shaped her sense of purpose. “My grandparents on my mom’s side moved to Minnesota after WWII. They came from Poland by way of Germany and concentration camps and forced labor camps. They survived some of the worst of humanity, only to come out with an amazing sense of compassion and love for their fellow

Department of Labor statistics on the wage gap, Q3, 2018

Department of Labor statistics on the wage gap, Q3, 2018

human.”

As a child, Danielle was immersed in a rich cultural experience. “I was born in Minneapolis. My dad joined the Navy after I was born, so we moved every three years. As a kid, I had the chance to live in Cuba, Texas, Chicago, and Puerto Rico. I learned to speak Spanish in Puerto Rico and certainly developed an affection for Latino culture.

“My neighborhood and friends were very diverse. I lived with black, Hispanic, Asian, East Indian people. Part of our parents’ jobs was being respectful to each person. If you or anyone in your family created problems, it could be directly reported to your parent’s job. It wasn’t until coming back to the civilian world for college, I slowly recognized with disillusionment that the world is not this way. I know that humanity has the potential to behave differently.”

Her experience in the Girl Scouts also influenced Danielle. “I am an only child. Without brothers or sisters to bond with and having to move every three years, Girl Scouts became a constant in my life. I think Girl Scouts strongly instilled in me a deep love for nature and the environment, respect for every living person, and a responsibility to make the world a better place than I found it.”

Food Finds a Way

As Danielle entered the University of Minnesota, her love of food led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in Agronomy and Food Science, followed by a master’s degree in Applied Plant Science.

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

After graduation, she went to work for General Mills. “For seven years, I was a food scientist,” Danielle explains. Though she learned a great deal, she says, “That didn’t fill me up. At the end of the day, I was working for the shareholder.”

She left her corporate job to go to work for a small nonprofit as their Director of Social Enterprise. “Being a new role, I had to help define what was in scope and out of scope. I developed some important relationships from my experience.” Danielle trained adults with barriers to employment. Through her work, she met Latina women who were struggling to make a living.

When Danielle was laid off from her non-profit job, she wanted to continue to work with three Latina women she had met. “I had heard about a new opportunity called Maker to Market,” Danielle recalls. Maker to Market is sponsored by Lakewinds Food Co-op and The Good Acre kitchen and wholesaler. “I told the other women about the opportunity and asked them if they were interested in giving a salsa business a chance. They said yes. We applied and were accepted!”

In the Maker to Market accelerator program, Danielle and her co-founders learned about the business of food from ingredient sourcing to sales forecasting. They learned from mentors and hands-on experience selling in stores.

To launch Señoras de Salsa, Danielle had to finance the business. “I sat down and had a discussion with my financial partner, my husband, about what starting a business could mean for us. He was very supportive of leaning on his income and benefits so that I could fund this opportunity.”

More Sales, More Impact

Señoras de Salsa has an impact by how they staff, empowering Latina women. They also create an impact by how they source ethical, organic, local, sustainable food.

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa

Their impact is only limited by how much they sell. “Sales power reinvestment and growth, which is slowly built. This limits our team size,” Danielle explains.

“We are working on growing our sales to be able to both grow our hours in the kitchen as well as pave the way for the potential to scale to larger methods of distribution and manufacturing.”

Danielle sees another challenge to growth. She understands the importance of storytelling, especially in a social business. “The challenge is, how do you share the story of the business and the women in a way that is respectful of their lives and privacy?”

Despite these challenges, Señoras de Salsa continues to grow in volume and recognition. This year they received a grant from the UN Global Shapers.

Benefiting from the Ecosystem

“The food ecosystem in Minnesota is awesome,” Danielle says. She received mentoring from Kelly McManus of Dumpling & Strand; Brenda Langton of SpoonRiver; Jill Holter at Lakewinds Co-op; and Emily Fortener at The Good Acre. She has also received coaching from other social entrepreneurs such as Amanda LaGrange of TechDump.

Danielle has been inspired by social enterprises such as Women’s Bean Project, Homeboy Industries, and Two Betty’s Green Clean. She is also encouraged by the success of food companies such as Seven Sundays, Dumpling & Strand, Mazaah, and Sin Fronteras.

And now, with the investment from Global Shapers, Danielle has discovered a new network of support.

The Reward is in the Journey

“On the days that we are all in the kitchen, making salsa together, this is pure enjoyment,” Danielle says. “Sure, it can be tough work. Picking up fifty-pound boxes of tomatillos, stirring big pots of simmering tomatoes, standing on our feet for hours at a time is not easy. But we get the chance to talk about our lives, to laugh, to feel the camaraderie. And at the end of the day, we feel proud of ourselves because we did all the hard work, a group of strong Señoras.”

Social Entrepreneur Live!

This interview is one of four conducted on the evening of October 10, 2018. The event was called Social Entrepreneur Live! It was hosted by Acara, a program of the Institute on the Environment and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The event was part of the Twin Cities Startup Week. Special thanks to our guests, Acara, the University of Minnesota, and those who came out to see us live.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Danielle Wojdyla:

“The pay gap for Latina women is the largest of any group.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #paygap #EqualPay #women Click To Tweet “We don't all have the same opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #equality #socialjustice #humanrights Click To Tweet “Women get messages all the time, direct and indirect, of not being enough.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #genderequality #women #selflove Click To Tweet “I wanted to create a business model where we could make a product and it would be able to pay a fair income.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #equalpay #SocEnt #startup Click To Tweet “I know that humanity has the potential to behave differently.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #BeTheChange #SocEnt #kindness Click To Tweet “Girl Scouts became a constant in my life.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa @girlscouts #values #respect Click To Tweet “We are enough. It’s really important to have that reminder.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #women #selfesteem #selflove Click To Tweet “It was a little bit of serendipity. The next week I heard about an incubator called Maker to Market.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #incubator #MSP #food Click To Tweet “The salsa we make is awesome.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #foodie #health #SocEnt Click To Tweet “Network, network, network.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #social #business #startup Click To Tweet “I walk around with a lot of privilege.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #inequality #SDG10 #opportunity Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

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

Perk: The Natural Beauty Lab upcycles fair-trade, used coffee grounds from local coffee shops to create natural skincare products.

Precious Drew and Tony Loyd at Social Entrepreneur Live!

Precious Drew and Tony Loyd at Social Entrepreneur Live!

Precious Drew’s reserved, yet bubbly personality naturally attracts people to her. Yet, she has a bit of a contrarian streak. “I’ve always challenged the norm and enjoyed debates arguing the less-popular opinion, whether I agreed with it or not,” Precious says. “I liked the challenge of being able to fully understand and argue for opinions I don’t exactly agree with.”

Precious likes to defy expectations. “I grew up in a household with seven siblings: six older brothers and one younger sister. I never really followed what my brothers did. From a young age, I knew that I had control over my destiny and that no one would do the work for me. I am the first of my siblings to attend and graduate from college.”

Precious Drew

Precious Drew, PERK: The Natural Beauty Lab

Precious does not allow others to define her. “Growing up in low-income, inner-city environments, I witnessed many of my peers fall behind and get left behind by the educational system, community, family, and friends. People gave up hope and deemed them less than, unworthy, and unable. I heard the negative statistics about the communities I come from. I knew that I didn’t want to be a part of those statistics.”

She points to her mother as a positive role model. “My mother inspires me. Despite our circumstances living in poverty, she always made a way and kept a smile on her children’s faces. Growing up, I would describe my family as highly mobile. Before moving back to Minnesota during the last two months of my freshmen year of high school, I had changed schools over 13 times. My single mother prioritized living in safer, less violent neighborhoods.”

Precious knew she was more than her environment. “I wanted to show my family, friends, and community that we could accomplish so much in life despite our circumstances. It would take a lot of hard work, self-advocacy, support, and determination. But I knew it was possible. Society often forgets, dismisses, and downplays the true potential of low income, inner-city black, and brown kids.”

Precious realized early on that others were looking to her to be an example. “With a younger sister looking up to me, I had no choice but to strive for nothing but the best. Between my hard working single mother, younger sister, and the negative statistics that indicate I shouldn’t have accomplished half the things I’ve done at 22, I found a lot of purpose throughout life.”

An Idea Begins to Percolate

It seems that Precious always had a side hustle. “In middle school, I established a revenue-generating partnership with YouTube, making videos for my favorite young musicians,” she says. In high school, she was deeply involved in the National Black MBA Association and Junior Achievement. Her LinkedIn profile is littered with achievements from Upward Bound to Enactus to Hip Hop LDN.

While she was a student at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Precious attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany. When she returned, she began spreading the message about climate change. She soon found that “Just talking about it was not enough.” She began to change her personal habits, but still, she wanted to do more.

In her junior year of college, Precious participated in a highly-selective entrepreneurship program, the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship. It was there that she met her classmate, Lucy Cervino. “We wanted to identify things around campus impacting students that we thought we could make better,” Precious explains. “Being college students, the answer was easy: coffee, a product that a majority of students consume. There were many efforts to recycle the container or use a reusable cup. However, we found that no one was putting efforts toward minimizing wastes from their morning cups of latte.”

Solving Two Big Problems

Americans love their coffee. According to The National Coffee Association, we consume 400 million cups of coffee per day or 146 billion cups per year. But what happens to the spent coffee grounds? The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 260 million metric tons of coffee waste are added to landfills every year. As coffee breaks down, it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 35 times as potent as CO2 as a contributor to global warming.

At the same time, Precious and Lucy worried about the disturbing number of chemicals used in skincare products. Reading the ingredients in beauty products was like a chemistry lesson. Ingredients like BHA, BHT, coal tar dyes, dibutyl phthalate, parabens, and triclosan were far too common.

Precious and Lucy wanted to take on these two big issues at the same time. They came up with a natural skincare product utilizing coffee waste. In 2017, they co-launched the for-profit venture, PERK: The Natural Beauty Lab.

“PERK aims to defer the amount of coffee grounds being sent to landfills while also addressing the growing concern among women about the alarming amount of chemicals in today’s skincare products,” Precious explains. PERK now sells an all-natural coffee body scrub through e-commerce and pop-up shops.

A Student-Led Startup

With guidance from the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship, the two cofounders followed a systematic process, yet they were flexible in how they applied it. “Early on, we conducted a feasibility analysis, concept tests, and sampling sessions with potential consumers. Additionally, we participated in pitch competitions on-campus and in Denver to spread the word. From there, we partnered with on-campus coffee shops to spread the word about our company. Once we launched, we began pushing those interested in our products to follow us on social media.”

Perk: The Natural Beauty Lab

Perk: The Natural Beauty Lab

As a Junior in college, it was not easy to launch a new venture. “As a college student, the biggest challenge was balancing schoolwork, an on-campus job, and dedicating the needed time, effort, and patience it takes to start a business. Each month, my co-founders and I would allocate a portion of our campus work-study paychecks to invest in starting the business.

“The hardest part was creating a skincare product that met the needs of many skin types but also producing a product that each of the co-founders agreed on. With different ideas of what the final formula should be for our first product, a body scrub, it was a challenge to find the magic product we all agreed on. Ultimately, we decided that we probably wouldn’t all agree to one formula, but we needed to put something on the market and to see what happens. We did just that, took customer feedback, and adjusted where needed.”

An Ecosystem of Support

Precious recognizes that she had a lot of support along the way. “From mentorship to networking opportunities, and speaking opportunities,” she recalls. She points to “the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship, Wallin Education Partners, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, City of Minneapolis’ Urban Scholars Program, Leaders of Tomorrow Program, and FINNOVATION Lab.”

Precious received mentoring from Paul Marsnik, Steve Schwarz, and Margrette Newhouse of the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship at Saint John’s University. She also says she had access to dozens of mentors the center provided.

The Journey Continues

Precious was recently selected as a FINNOVATION fellow. She received a living stipend, co-working space, and mentorship. She is using this time to explore the possibility of getting products into spas, retail location, and boutiques shops.

When asked to pass along a piece of advice for early-stage entrepreneurs, Precious responded “Don’t let your age be the obstacle that stops you from pursuing entrepreneurship. Whether you are 12 years old or 60, it’s never too late nor too early to make a difference in your community.”

Social Entrepreneur Live!

This interview is one of four concuted on the evening of October 10, 2018. The event was called Social Entrepreneur Live! It was hosted by Acara, a program of the Institute on the Environment and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The event was part of the Twin Cities Startup Week. Special thanks to our guests, Acara, the University of Minnesota, and those who came out to see us live.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Precious Drew:

“We bring that circular economic model from the beginning of the lifecycle of the coffee bean to the coffee grounds.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “In America alone, we consume over 450 million cups of coffee in one given day.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “You can only imagine how many coffee grounds are going to the landfill and contributing to global warming.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “No one was paying attention to the waste that came from simply making that cup of coffee.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “With my co-founder’s love for beauty and my passion for sustainability, we created PERK.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “It’s a year-and-a-half program, and you’re expected to launch a business.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “It started as four of us, but in the end, there were two.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “We realized that no one was capitalizing from the waste from the coffee.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “We’re getting ready to roll out new packaging and marketing.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “We started from the ground up. We did it ourselves.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “We have an all-natural face and body scrub on the market.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “As the true millennial that I am, I went to YouTube.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet “Don’t let age deter you from pursuing entrepreneurship.” @OnlyOnePDrew @perkbeautylab Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Software to Improve Recovery Outcomes, with Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, Recovree

Recovree’s technology-based platform is designed to increase engagement and improve outcomes for those with substance use disorder.

Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, Recovree

Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, Recovree, with Luke Kjolsing

When it comes to substance use disorder, it’s easy to focus on the negative. You’ve seen the headlines. Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Nearly 21 million Americans have a substance use problem. And more than 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. And, of course, the cost of abuse goes beyond the headlines. It is likely that you or someone in your extended family has suffered from the harmful effects of addiction.

But this story is not about substance use disorder, addiction, and destruction. This is a story about recovery. There are 23.5 million American adults who are overcoming a problematic involvement with drugs or alcohol. While recovery can be an uneven path, it can also be an inspirational, heroic journey. Those who take on the task of recovery need all the support that they can get.

One lesser known but highly effective role in the recovery movement is the peer support specialist. According to Melissa Kjolsing Lynch of Recovree, “A peer support specialist is a certified behavioral health professional who is using their lived experience with substance use disorder to help other people find recovery.”

Peer specialists are not prescriptive in their support. Melissa says “They’re not looking at a specific pathway. They’re open to all recovery pathways, whether that be a 12-step program, something more spiritually-based, or SMART Recovery. It’s all about walking side-by-side. These people are the untapped potential, and the glue that can help people stay more engaged in their health and wellness.”

Peer support specialists go through more than 40 hours of classroom training, as well as hands-on training. Treatment programs typically employ them.

Recovree has developed software for peer support specialists, the fastest-growing service for people in recovery. Their software helps peer support specialists to track workflow, track time, and log notes. This helps peer support specialists to stay more engaged with the people they are serving.

The person in recovery has an app that they use to log daily reflections and to catalog what they are doing for their recovery, health, and wellness. The information captured in the daily reflection is shared with the peer specialist. The peer specialist can access a web-based portal to see the journals that the clients are submitting. This might help the peer specialist to anticipate the resources and skills needed by the person in recovery.

“This is about engagement,” Melissa explains. “We see that more people can find recovery and stay in the community if the peer specialist is on hand.” When people are more engaged in their treatment, they are much more likely to have successful outcomes. Peer support specialists reduce costs on the system. They improve medication adherence. They reduce hospital admission rates.

This is Personal

Melissa’s journey to Recovree started almost two years ago when her brother Luke was in a treatment facility. “2016 was a tough year for me, for a variety of reasons,” Melissa says. “My brother’s disease was at its peak. He was at the verge of death. It was incredibly difficult to watch him go through this.”

Melissa and Luke were close as children. But as his disease progressed from high school through his 20s, they became distant from one another. “But once he was in a place where he could get help,” Melissa explains, “something clicked. When I saw him in his in-patient program, I said, ‘This is someone I want to help.’”

Through Luke, Melissa saw the treatment system. “I began to understand that this is a chronic disease. This was something he was going to need to manage for the rest of his life.” Melissa was shocked to see the lack of follow-up care. Luke was given a folder of resources and was encouraged to find a sponsor. “I was like, that’s it? You would never do that with someone who was just diagnosed with diabetes. You would never do that with somebody who has hypertension.”

Luke moved to Minnesota to complete an out-patient program. “That’s when we started connecting once a week. And we just started wrestling with this problem.” Luke and Melissa began to meet with other people who were in recovery. “We discovered that tools are absent out there.”

“All of these people we were connecting with, we heard themes. They were supposed to be journaling and looking at what was happening in their recovery. Those first few days are so important, and they’re so difficult.” Almost everyone that Melissa and Luke talked to said that they don’t journal.

So, in March 2017 they came up with a minimum viable product (MVP) using Google forms.

“Within a Google form, when you click through, on the other side, you can see graphs. They all liked that” 80% of those Melissa and Luke worked with journaled consistently for two weeks. They all reported that journaling had helped them in their recovery. They all said that they would continue to use the system.

Melissa and Luke decided to make a more polished version of their solution. At the time, Melissa was the Director of the Minnesota Cup (MN Cup), the largest statewide startup competition in the country. Through her work at MN Cup, she was familiar with Prime Digital Academy. Prime Digital Academy teaches people how to code. “As a capstone project, they’re always looking to work with nonprofits and startups on prototypes,” Melissa says. “We presented our findings to them and said, ‘This is what we’re looking for.’” By June 2017, Prime came up with a prototype.

Melissa and Luke began to think about a business model to sustain their solution. “We came from the perspective of; we have engagement. Now, how do we set up a business around it? Over the next couple of months, we spoke with anyone who would take a meeting with us.” It was through these meetings that they decided to focus on peer specialists.

In August 2017, Melissa and Luke were invited to present their solution to a meeting of treatment program leaders. Melissa offered a free 30-day trial of their new platform, Recovree to the treatment programs. “There are treatment programs who are trying to distinguish themselves by being more innovative.”

From that meeting, two treatment programs, one rural and urban, volunteered to try Recovree. They tested in November 2017. The pilot programs went well. With this experience, Melissa created a business model and began sharing their experience with angel investors. By April 2018, they received their first funding. By August 2018, the system went live.

And, in a full-circle moment, Recovree represented the Impact Division at this year’s Minnesota Cup Final Awards Event and won the Top Woman-Led Startup award.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Melissa Kjolsing Lynch:

“It’s all about walking side-by-side.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “Because they’re in the behavioral health field, they cover every aspect of both chemical and mental health.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “The VA is one of the largest employers of peer specialists for PTSD.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “There’s a lot that goes on between those meetings.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “This is about engagement.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “We see peer specialists as this glue and untapped resource in the behavioral health field.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “The things the peer specialists are doing need to be amplified.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “We want these peers to feel confident, efficient, and effective in their roles.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “The value proposition is in working with the treatment centers.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “This is incredibly personal for me.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “2016 was a really tough year for a variety of reasons.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “We just started wrestling with this problem.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “We discovered that there is an absence of tools out there.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “Those first few days of recovery are so important, and they’re so difficult.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “We had never heard of a peer specialist.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet “This is something that takes months and years, not days and weeks.” @mkjolsing @Recovree Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

How to Change the World, with Bethany Tran, The Root Collective

The Root Collective sells comfortable, handmade shoes and accessories that create jobs for people who need them.

Bethany Tran, The Root Collective

Bethany Tran (right), The Root Collective

Bethany Tran, the founder of The Root Collective, knows how hard it can be to start up a business. “Most businesses fail in the first 18 months,” she says. “I think it’s less about money, and more about how much it’s going to rip your guts out.”

Bethany knows something about perseverance. Five years ago, she started a business working with artisans in the poor neighborhood of Colonia La Limonada in Guatemala City. Starting out, she didn’t get it quite right. “When I first launched the business, I tried to do way too much way too soon,” she explains. “I launched with shoes, bags, scarves, jewelry… I was working in Guatemala and Africa.” It was a painful experience. The first 100 pairs of shoes she received did not meet her quality standards. She had to get on a flight and go to Guatemala to confront the artisans she was working with.

“The first 18 months in business showed me the value of the advice I received early on: Do one thing and do it well. I ended up scaling back on the products we sold and stuck with shoes because that’s what was working well for us.”

She continues to persevere through challenges even today. “We have struggled through the challenges of working with small artisan workshops. We’ve had the same quality issues over and over. We’ve had to let go of relationships that couldn’t grow. We’ve had an empty bank account. I’ve wanted to quit regularly. Setbacks are a part of growing a business, and I’ve learned so much about the value of perseverance. Remembering why you started, and why you’re struggling through every day is so important to be able to get out of bed each morning and keep going.”

Bethany shares the biggest insight from her business. “Hard is normal. Being able to perceiver through that, that’s how the world changes.”

“Hard is normal. Being able to perceiver through that, that’s how the world changes.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet

A Heart for Service

Bethany grew up in a lower-middle-class family in eastern Pennsylvania. “My parents instilled a strong Christian faith, where loving our neighbor was a key part of that,” she says. “I was very conscious of right and wrong from an early age. Ethics and morals were something that was instilled in me from birth. I equate my desire for justice in the world to that early sense that wrongs needed to be made right.”

Bethany Tran with shoe maker, Otto

Bethany Tran with shoe maker, Otto

Around the time Bethany was 30 years old, she had what she calls “my second quarter-life crisis.” She was a successful marketing executive working on the 40th floor of a building in downtown Philadelphia. “I was miserable,” she admits. When a friend of hers moved to Guatemala to work in La Limonada, Bethany spontaneously volunteered to visit her. “I’m a person who has to sit and process things,” she says. “I’m a processor. I don’t make snap decisions. And the second she told me she was moving to Guatemala, I said, ‘I’m coming to visit.’ It was immediate. I was supposed to go.”

This trip would change her “It was my first time to come face-to-face with extreme poverty,” she says. “When I made my first trip to La Limonada, I realized very quickly that the traditional model of focusing on education was only a part of the solution to poverty. You could educate a kid all day long, but if there were no job for them, nothing would change. The cycle of poverty continues over and over, from generation to generation, simply because if there’s no job… the problem hasn’t been solved.”

She decided to create jobs by employing artisans and selling products online. She admits that she did not know what she was doing. “I had no background in product development, product design, international development, business administration, or cross-cultural differences. 97% of what I needed to know I learned through doing. It’s still a struggle every day.”

To fund her business, Bethany and her husband drained their savings account. “I have a very supportive husband who allowed me to drain our savings account to get this business started. We’ve managed to stay self-funded for our entire existence, turning a profit every year.”

To get the word out for her new business, she turned to social media. “I looked for existing groups of people who I knew would be interested in our mission and want to be involved and I targeted them on social media through hashtags. This is still a key tactic for us.”

Conscious Consumers Lead the Way

Bethany has tapped into a growing trend in conscious consumption. “We gave a simple story for our customers to tell and share with their friends. Our family of customers love being able to talk about their shoes. They love having that story. They love inspiring other women to be world-changers. Our customers are the only reason we are still here.”

Bethany finds inspiration from her customers. “Watching the light bulb go on for so many women when they realize how much impact they can have with how they spend their money…I’ve watched families change their entire spending habits to be more conscious of where their money is going. I’ve watched women change the world. And that is incredible.”

Watching her customers gives her the inspiration she needs to persevere. “The world needs you to solve that problem that keeps you up at night. It won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Bethany Tran:

“We are a footwear company that is dedicated to providing jobs to people who need them.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “It was ten years ago this fall when the wheels started turning.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “The gangs were trying to recruit these kids because they were on their own.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “If there are no jobs for these kids after they graduate, nothing has changed.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “There’s this big hole, and it’s jobs.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “I came back from that week, a very different person.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “I had left so much of my heart there and just had to be there.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “I had made it, according to America’s standards. And I was miserable.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “I was sitting in my bed, bawling my eyes out, and thinking ‘I have no excuses anymore.’” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “I started working on the things I knew I could do from here.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “One of my biggest rookie mistakes was, I tried to do everything at the beginning.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “Social enterprise wasn’t a common term at the time.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “The shoes took off because they were unique.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “I had no idea how technically complicated shoes are.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “As consumers, we’re controlling the world.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “Trillions of dollars are controlled by women.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “Humanizing the fashion industry is so important.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “It’s easy to know how much something costs you, but do you know how much it cost the person who made it?” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “It’s less about money and more about how much it’s going to rip your guts out.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “For a year and a half, I went through my dark night of the soul.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “I’ve learned a lot about what it means to walk through hardship.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “In our age of Pinterest perfect, Instagram perfect, everything has to look beautiful and shiny all the time.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet “Nobody talks about how hard it is.” Bethany Tran, @IHeartTRC Click To Tweet

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