This fall I had the great honor of being selected as a Young Challenger at this year’s Global Social Business Summit. What’s a Young Challenger? Good question. What’s social business? Now that’s a great question.
Social business is a growing concept where basic for-profit business principles are used to solve social problems. Instead of simply donating money to charity to address an issue, social business involves building a sustainable business around the issue in an attempt to solve the problem in a lasting way. The person who coined this specific term and achieved widespread success is Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank, who developed the idea of microfinance to address poverty in Bangladesh. The Global Social Business Summit is the leading forum for social business worldwide, and brings together experts from corporations, civil society, governments, and academia. The day prior to the summit, selected Young Challengers – youth under 25 from around the world – meet to discuss the concept of social business. They then attend the main summit, armed with questions and perspectives aimed at challenging the political and corporate leaders in attendance, regarding their vision for the future. This year the event was held in Vienna, Austria. And it was amazing.
The Young Challengers’ meeting and the following summit were incredible. To paint a picture of this experience, I got to sit at a table with an investor from Luxembourg, a government professional from the UK, a microfinance manager from Norway, and a corporate executive from Paris, all there to discuss social business funding ideas during an exploratory workshop. I spoke to a social entrepreneur from Bosnia who is using a beekeeping organization to merge communities that are on opposing sides of the Bosnian war conflict from over 15 years ago. I got to know peers from several different countries who are already mobilizing movements to change the world. I presented in front of the Queen of Spain. And, I got to meet Professor Yunus, hear him speak in many sessions, and watch him perform the “Gangnam Style” dance. No joke.
As a humble guy from Renton, Washington, I was positively overwhelmed by my week in Vienna. But, as a recent graduate from Foster School of Business, I was hit with a serious call to action. All of these interactions with so many inspiring and influential professionals showed me that social entrepreneurship is no longer a topic meant to be studied, with only an aspiration of doing “something” in the future. The global stage welcomes entrepreneurs of generation Y to come forward with business ideas that disrupt the current way of doing things, now. I hope to mobilize a social business idea during 2013, and I hope that I am accompanied by other Foster graduates who do the same. Bringing social business into the mainstream of corporate America could define our generation, but not unless young entrepreneurs take action and start something now.
Judges were supposed to walk into the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall on March 29, pick up their folders and grab a seat. But the 23 prototypes were simply irresistible.
They caught your eye the minute you walked into the room for the 2012 University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge. A bicycle with the electric assist that could transport up to 200 pounds of cargo. Solar windows that would continue to operate even if cracked or broken. The new cooking surface that was nonstick and nontoxic with no coating at all. A tiny helicopter drone that could be used to inspect remote wind turbines. The highway jersey barrier made of recycled tires that were not only cheaper to produce but could also lessen the impact of a direct automotive hit. The earth-bag house that can be built quickly and safely after a natural disaster—and still withstand a category 4 hurricane.
The Environmental Innovation Challenge, managed by the Foster School Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (in partnership with the UW colleges of engineering and environment), is focused on student-led solutions to environmental problems. More than 120 judges from Seattle’s environmental and entrepreneurial communities evaluated student teams from colleges and universities across Washington on three criteria:
a working prototype, designed and built by the team
an investor pitch, paired with a solid understanding of the market opportunity
the solution’s potential for impact
Judge Kelly Ogilvie, former president and CEO of Blue Marble Energy, was impressed by the creativity. “People are worried about the economy, but look around. This is cool stuff, and a lot of these concepts have legs.” David Allen, executive VP of McKinstry, agreed. “Every one of these ideas is pushing the green innovation needle forward,” he said. Seattle entrepreneur and Concur CEO Steve Singh was more impressed by how robust the prototypes were. “This is amazing,” he said. “Not one of these teams spent more than $3,000.”
The $10,000 grand-prize-winning team was Green Innovation Safety Technologies (GIST), which has one goal in mind: to eliminate the vast number of auto and truck tires plugging up US landfills. GIST’s jersey barriers use the equivalent of 240 tires (5,000 pounds of rubber mulch) each and have the added benefit, in comparison with concrete barriers, of increasing safety, reducing noise and enhancing water run-off. The team is composed of UW business and engineering undergraduate and PhD students.
What do bee farmers, deaf people, jewelry artists, mature women and cataract sufferers have in common? Their lives will be improved by budding social entrepreneurs who traveled from as far away as Rwanda and Bangladesh to compete in the 2012 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition. Winners were announced at an award banquet on March 1, 2012.
Grand Prize $12,500 = Ruby Cup Copenhagen Business School’s team of graduate students created low-cost, medical-grade, long-lasting silicon cups for women and young girls who menstruate to combat an environmental problem and social stigma in the developing world. They field tested their product in Kenya and are expanding, offering a cup that is reusable and affordable to a community of women who lose out on economic and social opportunities due to existing, sub-par menstrual products or no products at all.
Veronica D’Souza, Ruby Cup general manager says, “When we read about the issues that girls go through in developing countries, it was new to us. We think about clean water and other issues. We couldn’t believe it, as women. We just thought why has no one taken this product to the developing countries? And why does it have to be so expensive? So we made our own product. We found one acceptability study testing the acceptability of menstrual cups in Kenya. There was 90% acceptability.
“We went to Kenya, spoke to women, started our production. We just knew this is where we can make a difference as women and as business students.”
Technology Prize $10,000 = SasaAfrica SasaAfrica empowers craftswomen in Africa to join the global ecommerce market. While working in the Nairobi slums for the past 2 years Ella Peinovich, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, witnessed the challenges women working at or near the poverty line face each day. She and Kate Mahugu, a computer science student at the University of Nairobi, joined forces to create a mobile business model that would provide greater economic opportunity for craftswomen, empowering them to become global entrepreneurs. This second plaze prize was sponsored by Microsoft.
Honorable Mention Prize $5,000 = Greenovation Technologies Greenovation, founded by Bangladesh students, offers affordable, long-lasting, locally-sourced, patent-pending housing material, called Jutin®, to shelter the vast number of homeless and people living in sub-par housing. They will also create job opportunities for Bangladesh residents to build homes and Greenovations will work with numerous microfinance, non-profit and government organizations to help market and deploy their product. This honorable mention prize was sponsored by the University of Washington Department of Global Health.
Two $2,500 National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance awards went to teams – Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering and SasaAfrica – that will use the prize money to attend a new venture workshop.
Seattle Rotary also gave $1,500 in prize money to Srujna, an Indian-based company that provides jewelry-making and entrepreneurship skills to women rescued from human trafficking in India.
Microsoft Senior Director of Global Community Affairs Akhtar Badshah served as a judge for the UW Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition and says, “We’ve been funding this competition since its inception. This is the only way we are able to learn and identify young innovators that we as a company can continue to invest in. This may not necessarily be financial investment, but there is a time investment, mentorship investment, technology investment. We are looking for innovative people and innovative ideas that are about to make change, and ways we can put them on an accelerated path.”
Starbucks VP of Global Responsibility Ben Packard (Foster MBA 1998) gave a keynote speech at the award banquet, emphasizing the significance of social justice, saying, “Social entrepreneurship is nothing more than the future of business. The purpose of business must be to provide shared value. This is the new norm. Consumers will punish brands perceived to be out of step with their world view.”
Who won the 2012 University of Washington Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition trade show prizes of people’s choice and investors’ choice awards? Take a look at the top solutions to lifing people out of poverty.
Investors’ Choice: Ruby Cup—empowering women
Copenhagen Business School’s team of graduate students created low-cost, sustainable silicon cups for women and young girls who menstruate to combat an environmental problem and social stigma in the third world. They have been in the field in Africa and launched their first business model in Kenya, offering a cup that is reusable and affordable to a community of women who lose out on economic and social opportunites due to existing, sub-par menstrual products or no products at all.
Ruby Cup was noted highly for showcasing their actual product during the trade show to demonstrate the effectiveness of this high quality, long lasting and affordable medical grade silicone.
The investors’ award was based on the decisions of all the “mock investors” (faculty, alumni, business professionals) who had the opportunity to hear each and every team’s one-minute “elevator pitch” as well as interact with the teams during the trade show event.
People’s Choice: EyeChina—giving sight to the blind
University of Oklahoma’s team combats blindness in China where there is a large backlog of cataract-ridden people awaiting surgery. They offer medical training to provide a much-needed service to people who need it through a multiple-tier approach of training doctors, educating patients and marketing.
The trade show of the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition gives an opportunity for global teams from countries such as Bangladesh and Rwanda to promote their ideas to the University of Washington and greater Seattle business communities. Teams and their business ideas were in the spotlight: impressing judges using posters, prototypes and videos. All the long hours of research, analysis and innovation of the teams were put on display, vetted and tested.
Other social entrepreneurship business ideas
Team SasaAfrica from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Nairobi and United States International University that strives to empower craftswomen through the use of ecommerce on mobile phones.
Kyambogo University (Uganda) and Amity University’s (India) Green Fuel Team revealing “green” charcoal made of disposed garbage to counter the health and environmental problems from heavy dependence on charcoal/wood fuel in Uganda.
India’s Srunja Team, where rescued victims of human trafficking are taught vocational talents of jewelry making and “soft” business skills.
GSEC 2012 welcomed 16 semi-finalist teams representing more than 10 countries to Seattle. Teams were selected from an applicant pool of 170 submissions from student teams in 49 countries. Learn about the winning teams from the 2012 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition.
Aashar Ful, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Aashar Ful provides an eco-friendly solution to extreme shoelessness by supplying poor children with shoes made from an abundant and underutilized plant, the water hyacinth, and engages poor rural women in supply chain and production process.
Astraz, University of Washington, USA
Astraz uses technology to optimize information flow within developing country supply chain and distribution systems. FoneAstra is a device that uses sensory and cellular technologies to monitor temperatures in the cold chain and diagnose problems in the system as they occur, enabling timely intervention to prevent the loss of vaccines due to temperature deviations, resulting in a higher number of vaccines available for administration to the 2.4 million children who die from preventable diseases each year.
Bloorx!, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
Bloorx seeks to expand the career and educational opportunities of Nigerian students by providing them with relevant and timely information about local and international opportunities that they are eligible for. By offering free services that meet the deepest needs of Nigerian students Bloorx will make significant social impact and by offering premium services to organizations Bloorx will be a profitable, scalable and sustainable venture.
Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering, Dartmouth College, USA
DHE brings renewable electricity to rural Rwanda with low-cost, small-scale hydro-power installations. DHE’s innovative battery-charging model allows it to reach scattered populations at an affordable price.
EYEChina, University of Oklahoma, USA
Solving the problem of curable blindness in Sichuan Province, China through affordable and accessible cataract surgery through an innovative network of provincial hospitals, global non-profits, and local surgeons. By incentivizing local physicians to focus their training and work on this important rural issue, it provides access to affordable care delivered by surgeons trained specifically to perform large quantities of quality cataract surgeries. Additionally, the EYEChina model treats many of the underlying causes of cataract blindness through patient-focused education combined with widespread marketing.
Green Fuel, Kyambogo University, Uganda
This business is about utilizing rubbish as an alternative to charcoal for sustainable energy, to save the forests in Uganda while enabling income generation for poor communities. The resources and money saved on deforestation for firewood will now be invested in training people on tree planting and conserving nature, allowing investments for citizens to work and earn income for their families instead of working cutting down trees for charcoal.
Greenovation Technologies, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
We provide the marginally poor and homeless with affordable, secured, eco-acceptable, and long-lasting housing because we believe that proper housing leads to better earning and education opportunities which lead to greater well-being. Our unique product has low production costs and superior properties compared to its nearest alternatives, making it the ideal candidate for solving the global issue of 3 billion people being homeless all around the world.
Hakizamungu, National University of Rwanda, Rwanda
The business promotes bee keeping and honey production in order to further honey for sustainable development in the rural areas of Eastern Rwanda. The company will help indigenous bee farmer by introducing a technological method of honey processing, and providing training about the honey processor and manufacturing process.
Jola Venture, Northeastern University, USA
Jola venture seeks to improve agriculture production in Cameroon through its patented solar food dehydrator innovation. Our solar food dehydrator is an effective, low-cost provider of a solution to food spoilage that is common among most developing nations. The Solar-POD extends the shelf lives of perishable food items, giving users a simple and cost effective means of food preservation. Our business model incorporates a sustainable and micro entrepreneurship empowerment act that will greatly improve the socioeconomic standards of the target population.
Project Akshar, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, India
Project Akshar provides deaf women with an entrepreneurial opportunity that enables them to generate income through book binding skills that are imparted to them. The business creates entrepreneurial opportunities for a community in need (currently hearing impaired women) by reusing paper to manufacture environment friendly notebooks and at the same time providing children in rural areas with affordable educational aides.
Ruby Cup, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Ruby Cup is a menstrual cup, which is an alternative menstrual hygiene product made of medical grade silicone that can be re-used up to 10 years. Rather than absorbing the menstrual fluid like disposable products, Ruby Cup collects it during the period. It is emptied, washed and boiled between periods. Ruby Cup will begin in Kenya.
SasaAfrica, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA & University of Nairobi, Kenya
SasaAfrica offers an innovative and independent platform for female artisans and entrepreneurs in Africa to create micro-enterprises, connecting developing world vendors to global e-commerce, even if they do not have access to the Internet, a computer, or a bank account, reaching even the most remote communities of entrepreneurs. Focused on promoting under-served communities, SasaAfrica aims to shorten the distance between vendors in developing nations and the global marketplace by integrating MMS uploads, SMS notifications, and mobile money payments with an e-commerce storefront.
Segito Technologies, Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (Victoria Jubilee Tech Inst.), India
The Segito business model provides assistive educational technologies for blind people which can reduce illiteracy rates, increase potential for employment and create employment opportunities for blind people. We have developed a patent-pending multifunctional educational device that enables blind people to educate themselves independently in absence of skilled teacher. It is an urgent need in developing countries due to decreasing number of Braille teachers.
Seraab, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan
Seraab sells cost-effective irrigation water to the small farmers of rural Punjab on an hourly basis through the existing water distribution system (the Wari system) using solar tube wells to extract the ground water. By installing and operating solar-powered tube wells to extract ground water and ensuring year round water availability, Seraab increases a small farmer’s revenue and reduces their water procurement cost.
Srujna, Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, India
Srujna creates sustainable social and financial impact in the lives of rescued victims of human trafficking though market-led vocational training programs, such as making jewelry, for rescued victims of human trafficking, thereby empowering them to be independent and self-reliant. Artisans will help in manufacturing jewelry.and the sale of this jewelry will ultimately help in making the organization sustainable.
Toilet+, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Toilet+ aims to bring poor villagers in Bangladesh safe sanitation coverage by availing microcredit assistance, and providing economic incentive to use toilets. It also creates local entrepreneurship by training local unemployed youth to produce organic fertilizer from waste. Simultaneously, by contributing to meet the high demand of fertilizer in the rural market, it will benefit the poor farmers and create a stable income source for the entrepreneurs.
Vela Chas Inc. (VCI), University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Vela Chas Inc. (VCI), aims to reduce the severe unemployment problem in the coastal areas of Bangladesh through engaging the poor people in cultivating vegetables in the floating farmland made with water-hyacinth. Making floating water-hyacinth farmland possesses some unique advantages: provides affordable fresh food in coastal regions; expands the market for selling the agricultural products in cities; uses no fertilizer; reduces the unemployment problem through engaging the poor people in cultivation and helping them become self-reliant.
Watch the slideshow for pictures of the 2012 Trade Show below:
*This post has been updated with information regarding the winners and a photo slideshow*
In this post, experienced entrepreneur Brian Glaister, President & CEO of Cadence Biomedical shares his 9 Principles for successful team building. We will also learn how to build your winning team with the best Leader, Culture, Teammates, and Advisors. We will finish off with Brian’s top book picks and Q&A from the session audience.
Brian came across as very genuine and humble. He definitely believes in his work that helps people with walking disabilities become more mobile.
Like many entrepreneurs, Brian hit speed bumps on his road to success. He failed two business plan competitions before winning the third. Brian enjoys sharing what he learned with others and provides coaching and mentoring to other business plan competition teams. He likes to joke “I got my PhD in mechanical engineering, but my MBA through business plan competitions.”
Winning Attributes of a Great Leader
Brian believes that a “giant chunk of success comes from how you operate together and a big chunk of that comes from the person at the top.” He referenced the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In the book, eleven top companies are described as having a level 5 leader. One of those was Ken Iverson of Nucor. Ken set the corporate example by fling coach. Another example from the book was George Cain CEO of Abbot Laboratories. It took George fourteen years to get rid of nepotism in the company.
Closer to home, Brian’s wife worked at for a CEO who took time out of his day to install a broken toilette. Another local star according to Brian is Steve Dimmer, CEO of Innovative Pulmonary Solutions. Steve went twenty months without a salary, leveraged grant money to get the company going and recently raised an eight 8 million dollar venture round.
As part of the discussion on social awareness, Brian admitted that “there are tons of reasons why you shouldn’t start a company because it is really, really hard. You have to be able to look past [the challenges] and believe that you can get there. ”
Winning Attributes of a Great Culture
The Cadence team looked long and hard at W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. one of the best places to work (Brian’s best friend’s Dad also works on the culture there). Brian then outlined the
9 Principles they want to follow at Cadence:
Distribute power (to accomplish, not dominate) and opportunity widely. That creates a whole team of problem solvers vs. just one or two people.
Maintain transparent communications (business plan and financials internally).
Encourage an environment of trust.
Encourage a high performance ethic and self-responsibility. The hard hat award for the hardest worker to wear for the day.
Live by contradictions. By combining big picture view with that from those closest to the problem, you can solve the problem fast.
Tackle the hardest problem first.
Don’t have too many meetings.
Work can and should be fun – “If you are going to hate your job every day, why come to work?”
Work hard, but take breaks when needed.
Winning Attributes of Great Teammates
Brian then listed the four key attributes they look for in employees – in order.
“We have a strict no jerks allowed policy,” he said.
According to Brian, advisors are great to have, but they are not part of your company, not really motivated to help you succeed. They may provide ideas, but not a lot of help
For Brian the Board of Directors is much more important. “They have a fiduciary responsibility for your company. They are there to provide accountability and make sure you stay on task,” he said. The board also provides relevant guidance and can provide critical help executing your business plan. Brian believes that “there are thousands of great ideas, but value is built on execution.”
In case you didn’t get the message, Brian finished with an emphatic statement that “I can’t overemphasize just how important a great board of directors is.” A good board will help you avoid rookie mistakes and “keep your feet to the fire,” he said.
Brian finished with his top four books for building your team and leadership culture:
Q: What happens if a jerk sneaks in? Brian was very clear that the rule is “fire fast and hire slowly”. Take the time to interview carefully to avoid mistakes.
Q: How did you find your teammates? “I hired my friends.” They are just now looking at hiring additional people outside of the core team.
Q: Sometimes you have a great team, but after a while the dynamics are not functioning. How do you fix that? “Laser tag!” Brian believes in company vacation. He emphasized that you should do team activities during work “so you don’t barge in on family time.”
Q: How do you convince people to come on board in the early stages? “We were all looking for this. We’ve all had jobs we didn’t like. We wanted our 40, 50, 60 hours per week to mean something. We are all working below market grade salaries. The purpose outweighs the risks and the hardships.”
Q: What are some of the lessons you have learned two years in? For Brian, the early struggle was “being the boss of friends. It is hard to do and still be best friends,” he admitted.
Q: what did you find was successful to ease that transition from friendship to management? Brian was lucky to have a strong mentor in the family. “I leaned on my dad a lot. He’s the COO of a billion dollar manufacturing company. There’s a bat phone signal going to Wisconsin.”
Q: what do you do when a key contributor is a jerk? Brian counseled that “problems won’t solve themselves.” There isn’t one solution for every situation. You have to face each issue individually.
Q: How democratic is the culture? “Business is not a democracy, nor is it a dictatorship,” he said. “For the most part we come to a consensus.”
Q: What do you provide for professional development? Cadence isn’t’ big enough for a HR department so they don’t have formal training. Brian indicated that they just “figure things out as they go.”
Q: When you come across a challenge with the team, whose advice do you rely on? For Brian, it is the whole team, his Dad and he “leans on the board a lot.”
Guest post by Sam Rosenbalm who fuels his passion for startups and social enterprise as a director in Microsoft’s BizSpark program and a GSEC advisory committee member and judge. Connect with Sam @rosenbalm
Three experienced social entrepreneurs share valuable insights – 3 steps to understand your business, 4 steps for success, and 5 steps to create sustainable ventures in a panel hosted by Suresh Kotha, Professor of Management and Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Director, University of Washington Foster School of Business.
Listen to leaders from Lumana, Village Reach and Nsansa as they discuss how they developed their good ideas into ventures that are changing the world!
In this first session of theGlobal Ventures Workshop, Samantha “Sammie” Rayner, Founder, Lumana (and GSEC 2009 participant) shares her life long journey towards social entrepreneurship and discusses the top challenges of institutional funding, nation perception and a lack of business distribution infrastructure for Ghana.
John Beale, Strategic Development Director, Head of Social Business at Village Reach has spent the last three years applying his extensive business background to solve social enterprise challenges such as access to capital, access to quality management and really understanding what the market needs and how you would get it there. He sees a bigopportunity to enhance the Sub Saharan Africa transportation systems to support public sector activity and better commerce.
Student teams from universities in 49 countries submitted a record number of applications for the 2012 Global Social Entrepreneur Competition (GSEC). If you were one of those teams, you might be thinking “what now?” You research, plan, build and practice your pitches so that you can become the next GSEC winner in 2012! Follow the next 12 blog posts in November and December to get expert advice on building your winning social venture.
Kohl Crecelius is a young man of many hats: a social entrepreneur, a dedicated practitioner of crocheting and CEO and co-founder of Krochet Kids, a company that sells “headwear.” He’s even somewhat of a media celebrity, appearing on a national TV ad for Bing that ran during the fall kick-off week on major networks.The concept for the company was an unlikely combination of activities. Kohl and his surfer, high school friends loved to crochet and enjoyed summers volunteering in developing countries. How to combine the two?
With a mission and the passion to empower people to rise above poverty and “stand on their own two feet,” Krochet Kids was born in 2007. The plan was to teach women to crochet hats and pay them a living wage for their work. While students at the University of Washington and Whitworth College, the three friends formed a non-profit organization and targeted a chronically poor, war-torn province in Northern Uganda. From a small group of workers they taught to crochet in 2008, the work force has expanded to 122 women today. Earning a sustainable wage means that these women can provide food, water, clothes and education for up to six dependents. Customer appeal is clear: “buy a hat, save a life.” Each hat comes with the personal story of the woman who crocheted it.
Since winning the “Best Social Idea” at the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition in 2008, the company has been growing to the healthy tune of about 250% a year. “The BPC instilled confidence in our model,” says Crecelius. “We had judges buying our hats during the event, and winning the competition gave us the validation and encouragement we needed.”
Since the competition, Krochet Kids has attracted the attention of Nordstrom which now carries their hats; partnered with Seattle’s One Day’s Wages, a group dedicated to alleviating extreme world-wide poverty; and won $2,000 in the Chase Community Giving Competition, a program where fans on Facebook vote for their favorite charities.
Company founders believe the model used in Uganda can be applied anywhere. Recently, they expanded to Lima, Peru, employing 10 women working with some “amazing yarns.” Introduced in mid-September, the Kids’ fall line of hats and the shirts they recently added sold out within a week.
One of Krochet Kids’ advisors, P. Scott Cummins, a Seattle-based social venture expert, recently made a bold prediction: “Kohl Crecelius is among the 100 most important graduates of UW Business School. But mark my words, even five years from now, that will be considered an understatement.”
– Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.