This post was originally produced for Forbes.
It used to be that everyone who saw Jason Hewlett perform asked, “Why isn’t this guy famous?” As his reputation grows, folks simply observe that he may be the funniest person ever to take a stage.
It turns out, however, that the answer to the initial question provides an important insight into who Hewlett really is. Years ago, he was performing in Las Vegas and was offered his own show. The deal was huge for young Hewlett as he’d be headlining in Vegas while his peers were still in college.
When it came time to sign contracts, he says, he found the terms unacceptable. In order to appeal to an adult audience he was to be required to use language and perform material that he personal found objectionable and had never wanted to perform.
Fame and fortune seemed to evaporate before his eyes.
Since then, he’s become one of the most sought after corporate entertainers in the business because his fall-off-your-chair funny material is absolutely safe for work. Check out his YouTube page.
In recent years, Hewlett has sought to incorporate more of a message into his material, working to become as sought after for keynote speaking as entertaining. His message is perfect for mission driven entrepreneurs.
“When we are willing to commit to something, to see it through, there is no greater joy,” he says. “What are you committed to?”
Always humble, Hewlett often reminds his audience, “You have talents I don’t have, and I have talents you don’t want!”
On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Hewlett will join me for a live discussion about his career and his insights for social entrepreneurs. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Jason Hewlett The Entertainer:
Jason Hewlett Entertainment’s mission is to provide world-class, family-friendly, G-larious entertainment, inspiration, and joy for major corporate events, youth education and religious forums, and public shows. In partnering with clients on their most important events, JHE provides recommendations of the best of the best in speakers, entertainers, masters of ceremonies, and many more.
Jason Hewlett The Entertainer has appeared at over 2,000 events and venues in the last decade as one of the country’s premiere corporate event Headliners. In 2014 he was awarded the Certified Speaking Professional by the National Speakers Association, as well as acting as Master of Ceremonies for the largest corporate events in the world. Jason has performed in every major casino in Las Vegas, appeared on the nationally televised Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, and received the “Best of State Entertainment Award” in his home state of Utah multiple times. He began his career with the Las Vegas “Legends in Concert”. His shows, speeches, and presentations are a combination of comedy, music, parody, and over-the-top hilarious impressions, stories, and lessons on commitment, embracing what makes us unique, and spreading JOY, received with standing ovations from audiences worldwide.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
“ It is a little known fact that cooking is the fourth biggest killer in the world ,” explains Judith Joan Walker, Director and COO of African Clean Energy.
“It’s this huge invisible elephant in the room because, in the western world, we are so used to being able to waltz into the kitchen and whip up a healthy meal. In fact, cooking indoors kills more people than Aids, Malaria and TB combined; over 4.3 million people,” she continues.
Last month, I had the opportunity to meet Walker, along with a dozen other social entrepreneurs, at Santa Clara University, as I reported here.
Walker seems to take this personally, “This fact is sickening enough without considering that the majority of these people are women and children, and that their health is not the only cost. A third of the world cooks in a way that it is slowly killing them and the fact that its very expensive to do so is mind-boggling. For me that’s the real problem, and I haven’t even gotten into the environmental cost.”
So, Walker got after it, creating a radical new cookstove, “We have started manufacturing and distributing a multifunctional cookstove, that doubles as an energy source.”
Anyone in the international development world has been hearing about cookstoves for years now, but many stoves have failed to deliver on their intended results once deployed in the field. For instance, in Sheryl WuDunnand Nicholas Kristoff’s book, A Path Appears, they note that some studies have shown that reducing indoor smoke by 80 percent doesn’t yield an 80% improvement in health. Apparently, even a little smoke is enough to create the health problems stoves are intended to prevent.
Walker’s African Clean Energy stove burns a variety of fuels, including wood and charcoal, but with no emissions. The stove also features a small solar panel that can be placed out a nearby window or on the roof, powering a small fan in the stove as well as a USB device charger and an LED light.
“The price isn’t even a problem when you include micro-financing as an option, especially as the vast majority of our customers are able to save so significantly on their fuel costs due to the significant reduction in fuel consumption of such an efficient stove,” she notes.
“Our main mission now is to scale up our sales teams in a replicable way in order to ensure the success of our future markets,” she adds. “Sharing our story and helping us access a network of new potential partners is really the best way to help, and of course we appreciate advice and stories from those that have experience in these markets.”
While ACE , as Walker calls her African Clean Energy in conversation, is operating as a for-profit business, the company has a genuine social purpose in mind. “We have also started a small project within our home market, in Lesotho, where we try to donate as many stoves as we can to orphaned children and their elderly carers. This is such a huge problem there that we could not turn a blind eye to their need and so far we have been able to donate to almost 200 families! I am very proud that we are able to help those most in need and if anyone wants to help they are able to donate through our website.”
On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Walker will join me for a live discussion about her efforts. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about African Clean Energy:
African Clean Energy manufactures and distributes the ACE 1 Solar Biomass Cookstove, a cookstove that has the power to save millions of lives, halt deforestation and help people break the cycle of poverty. All of this can be achieved with one multifunctional and aspirational tool, paid for through microfinancing; allowing all those who need it most to easily afford it. ACE is a family company manufacturing in Lesotho, a LDC, and is an equal opportunities hirer with a 50% gender split.
Judith Joan is no stranger to travel and had lived in an extensive list of major cities before joining ACE full time in Amsterdam in 2014. Her background in film and television gives her a unique perspective on working in teams, and her multi-cultural childhood gives her the distinct advantage of understanding cultural differences and how to best achieve success in a foreign environment. Recently, she has taken the lead on strategy and operations, aiming to prove the ACE distribution and impact models in Lesotho and South Africa in order to secure funding for an East African roll out.
Over three years ago, I launched the work of the Your Mark on the World Center with the publication of my book, Your Mark on the World. In the book, I profiled some wonderful people doing amazing things to make the world a better place.
One of the most fascinating people I profiled was Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, who had launched a program to provide spiritual help and support to at risk youth spending time in residential schools, including some who were there as an alternative to incarceration.
Three years later, I’m eager to catch up with Rabbi Zippel and his Project HEART.
“Thousands of precious young souls find themselves in Utah for 9-18 months at a time in a variety of residential treatment centers, to help them be able to better cope with their challenges in life. As one can understand, the challenges facing these young men and women are not limited to them themselves but can have a lasting impact on their families and loved ones as well,” he explains.
“As the Executive Director of Project HEART, my work focuses on providing a support system for these young people, based on the principles of Judaism and spirituality, helping each and every one of them discover how they truly are a gem, and all that is necessary is for them to uncover the beauty that exits within them,” he adds.
Operating and funding the program is a big challenge. Yesterday, Project HEART raised over $200,000 in 24 hours via Charidy in a one-day crowdfunding campaign. The success was driven in part by matches from Gail Miller, Scott Anderson and a group of other supporters so that every dollar donated became four.
Rabbi Zippel explains, “Project HEART is a non-profit organization that functions only through the generosity of the local community. We are hoping that by raising awareness of the help that our students need, people will get involved and do their part to help us change these lives.”
On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Rabbi Zippel will join me here for a live conversation about the work of Project HEART.
More about Project HEART:
Project HEART was founded in July of 1992, as one of the branches of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, the local branch of the world’s largest Jewish outreach organization. Project HEART focuses on providing love and unconditional support for young men and women who find themselves here in Utah in Residential Treatment Centers, as well as support for their families.
Rabbi Zippel’s bio:
- Born in Milan Italy, May 5, 1966
- July 1984 Oxford Institutes, Milan Italy: Advanced Degree Modern Languages
- June 1988: Rabbinical College of America, Morristown New Jersey: Bachelor Of Religious Studies
- September 1989: Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch, Brooklyn, New York: Rabbinical Ordination,
- Married Sharonne Schochet, February 13, 1990
- Moved to Salt Lake City, Utah in July 1992 to establish Chabad Lubavitch Of Utah (Utah branch of world’s largest Jewish Outreach Organization, Chabad Lubavitch)
- December 1992: Founded Project H.E.A.R.T. (Hebrew Education for At Risk Teens) – a weekly outreach endeavor to hundreds of Jewish teens throughout Utah with acute behavioral and life threatening issues.
- February 2002: official Salt Lake Olympic Chaplain Jewish chaplain for XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, UT
- August 2006: Gave Invocation at Luncheon at Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, hosted by US Senator Orrin G. Hatch welcoming US President George W. Bush.
- December 2007: Attended White House Chanukah Party in Washington D.C., as guest of US President George W. And First Lady Laura Bush.
- May 2009: Accompanied Governor Jon M. Huntsman on his 1st visit to Israel
- May 2012: Gave keynote address at National day of Prayer event at Utah Valley University
- June 2014: Received Bronze Minuteman Award by the Utah National Guard at Utah National Guard Fifty-Third Annual Dinner at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City in recognition for work with Project H.E.A.R.T. (Hebrew Education for At Risk Teens) throughout the State of Utah
- Father of 6 children (4 boys, 2 girls)
- Speaks: Italian, English, French, German, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Portuguese.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Sanberg told me about the start to his career, “I grew up in a middle class family and by the time I was leaving for college at Harvard, the house I had grown up in was being foreclosed. I’m sobered by the staggering amount of luck and chance that came together in my life. I never could have imagined it.”
This experience guided his philosophy on life and business. “I don’t think we should leave to luck and chance the kinds of opportunities in life that people get to enjoy. I’m determined to build companies and champion public policies that systematically create more opportunity for people because I can’t bear thinking that I didn’t do everything I could to ensure that the kid today who is like I was does not have to rely on luck and chance to have a full life.”
The challenges of his early life helped frame Sanberg’s thinking as well. “Like so many others in my generation, I was raised by my mother. The absence of an active father when I was a kid affected me like it has affected many others. You have to become more self-reliant at a younger age as you figure out how to be a responsible adult. Fortunately, my maternal grandfather was a very active presence in my life and was a great male role model.”
When I asked Sanberg the secret of his success, he responded, “I think success comes from being authentic so my answer involves revealing what constitutes my core as a person. My faith in God is the biggest factor in how I live my life and who I am. Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase that means to heal the world. I think we all have a responsibility to find our part in healing the world. Like all of us, I’ve often fallen short of my responsibility but my aspiration is to do my best to live up to Tikkun Olam.”
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Sanberg will join me for a live discussion about his work investing in social ventures. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
Joe Sanberg is a public and private-sector entrepreneur. He is Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Advisors of Aspiration — a digital financial services company for everyday Americans. He is also an active venture investor in a variety of fast growing companies that combine profit and purpose, such as Bright Funds and Blue Apron. Joe is a leader with several public sector initiatives, including the Jefferson Awards Foundation (Chair of its Board of Governors), the UC Riverside School of Public Policy (member of its Board of Advisors) and Co-Founder, Economic Innovation Group. Joe s also leading a public affairs campaign around the new California Earned Income Tax Credit to expand economic opportunity among working Californians.
Controlling interest in Gate Global Impact, a Your Mark on the World Center sponsor and an investment platform for impact investments and creating new market infrastructure, was recently acquired by Raptor Group via the formation of Constellation Fin Tech.
I’ve been following Gate Global Impact for years now and have had founder Vince Molinari on my show several times. Last year, we talked with Daniella Foster of the U.S. State Department about the role that crowdfunding is playing in international development. We had previously talked about the same topic, Vince’s passion.
Gate Global Impact is destined to become a major player in impact investing.
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Vince will join me for a live discussion about Gate Global Impact and Constellation Fin Tech, and their relationship to Raptor Group.
More about Constellation Fin Tech:
Constellation Fin Tech is an innovative and disruptive financial technology software platform company with focus platform launches on impact investing and family offices.
Vincent Molinari is the co-founder and CEO of GATE Global Impact, a leading electronic marketplace platform that’s helping the world’s leading organizations standardize and accelerate impact investing.
Vincent is an active speaker on issues related to capital markets and early-stage companies, and he regularly speaks at events around the world. He’s been invited to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services and the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises. Vincent has also testified before the Securities and Exchange Commission Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies regarding secondary market liquidity. He regularly consults with members of Congress and regulatory agencies on these issues.
Vincent is a managing partner at Constellation Fin Tech and a founding board member and former co-chair of the Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Advocates, a self-regulating association that works with governmental and quasi-governmental entities to establish crowdfunding industry standards and best practices. Vincent is also a co-founder of the Crowdfunding Professional Association, a leading trade organization for the crowdfunding industry, and sits on the board of CF50, a global think tank of 50 of the leading minds from academia, policy, and industry.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Carnival newest cruise line is sailing in a new direction; Fathom’s destination is social impact. Initially sailing with one vessel, the Adonia, Fathom passengers will visit the Dominican Republic and Cuba to work alongside locals as volunteers on water and other projects.
The brains behind Fathom, its President, Tara Russell, explained, “We didn’t want Fathom to be a ‘voluntourism’ company. We wanted Fathom to be so much more than that. So we found a way to leverage the resources of the world’s largest travel and leisure company (Carnival Corporation) to create a new kind of cruise that combines the love of travel with the desire to make a difference. Truly nothing like this exists today.”
“We created Fathom to give people an easy, safe and convenient way to make a social impact that is both meaningful to society and personally rewarding, ” she adds.
Russell describes the projects passengers will undertake, “In the Dominican Republic, for example, more than two million Dominicans do not have access to piped water. Fathom travelers will work with a local organization there to build water filters using clay and other natural resources to make healthy drinking water available to Dominican families.”
“Fathom will send thousands of travelers a year – more than 700 travelers on every trip – to Caribbean communities in need to work with our local partners and directly alongside local citizens on ongoing social impact programs in each community. This sustained and large-scale impact is what makes Fathom truly unique. Travelers will have the opportunity to make transformative societal contributions that will extend far beyond their individual involvement. It will be incredibly rewarding,” she concluded.
Fathom’s seven-day cruises to the Dominican Republic will start at $974 and those to Cuba will start at $1,800.
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Russell will join me for a live discussion about Fathom’s impact. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Fathom:
Fathom is a new kind of cruise that combines your love of travel with your desire to make a difference. Part of the Carnival Corporation (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK) family, Fathom is the pioneer of impact travel, a new category of travel that will offer consumers authentic, meaningful travel experiences to enrich the life of the traveler and work alongside locals as they tackle community needs. Fathom is unique in that it leverages Carnival Corporation’s expertise and scale for a one-of-a-kind business model to create long-term collaboration with its partner countries, allowing for sustained social impact and lasting development. Fathom will serve the sizable and growing market of potential social impact travel consumers – approximately one million North Americans – in addition to global travelers already pursuing service-oriented travel experiences worldwide.
Tara Russell is the president of fathom, a social impact company that offers a new category of travel, and global impact lead of Carnival Corporation & plc, the world’s largest travel and leisure company. Russell generated the idea for fathom in 2013, and led research, design and development of the brand, business model and experience from January 2014 to launch in June 2015. She now leads the fathom team as it offers a unique experience to purpose-driven travelers who desire authentic, meaningful social impact opportunities. fathom provides the opportunity to immerse in another culture and community, and systematically work alongside that community to make relevant contributions that endure. fathom is the newest addition to Carnival Corporation, which is also the world’s largest cruise company with nine global cruise lines providing extraordinary vacations at exceptional value for nearly 11 million people around the world every year. Russell has responsibility for fathom and the corporation’s global impact programs and reports to Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation.
Prior to Carnival Corporation, Russell was Founder and CEO of Create Common Good (CCG, www.createcommongood.org), a non-profit social enterprise that provides training and employment to refugees and a wide variety of other populations with barriers to employment. Russell created CCG in 2008 in order to use food to change lives by empowering for self-sufficiency through a creative food-production social enterprise production model. CCG has delivered more than 100,000 job training hours, with an average employment success outcome of more than 90 percent, and returned more than $18 million back into the community via graduate earned wages. The organization’s noteworthy work to promote healthy eating habits through snack and grab & go production recently earned grants from Newman’s Own Foundation and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. Russell is currently Chairman of the Board for CCG.
In 2007, Russell was part of the founding team of Jitasa, a for-profit social venture that provides affordable financial services to the non-profit industry and has become a profitable, global enterprise serving hundreds of global social sector enterprises, including Boy Scouts of America and many other large, scalable impact entities. Jitasa is a certified B-Corporation with offices in the US, Thailand and Bosnia.
Prior to this, Russell spent four years in Thailand, where she offered pro bono small business development training to nongovernmental organizations. Russell also co-founded NightLight, an international organization that addresses the complex issues surrounding trafficking and prostitution by offering alternative employment, vocational opportunities, life-skills training and physical, emotional and spiritual development to women seeking freedom from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Russell started her career with a number of Fortune 500 companies, including roles in product development with Nike; technical sales and marketing at Intel; and engineering and manufacturing with General Motors. While at Intel, she was selected for the Emerging Leaders program and had the opportunity to work with the executive team. During her four years with GM, she was chosen to represent Saturn Corporation in the Shanghai GM New Vehicle Build & Launch Project in 1999 in China. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with Highest Honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
This one is personal. I apologize now, but understand that I simply can’t be entirely objective about type 1 diabetes or T1D. My wife has had diabetes for over fifty years and my son has had it for nearly two decades.
Improved treatments have largely spared my son the sorts of debilitating consequences my wife has experienced, but hasn’t spared him from multiple daily injections, finger pricks, and the cumbersome tethers of insulin pumps and glucose monitors.
Derek Rapp, the CEO of JDRF, says that the organization dedicated to finding a cure for T1D is making progress.
Like me, he says, “JDRF was created—and is still led—by people with a personal connection to type 1 diabetes.”
Rapp adds, “It’s an exciting time for type 1 diabetes research, JDRF is on the verge of life changing breakthroughs that will fundamentally improve the way people live with type 1 diabetes. This progress isn’t by accident and, in fact, it directly reflects the vision, focus and investments of JDRF over the last decade.”
“Our work has led to new treatments for diabetic eye disease, the creation of first-generation artificial pancreas systems, and the first human clinical trial of encapsulated cell-replacement therapies that have the potential to replace insulin treatment,” he continues.
“Every dollar we direct toward our mission comes from our supporters and donors, who enable us to make real progress and propel us toward our goal of a world without type 1 diabetes,” he concludes.
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Rapp will join me for a live discussion about the JDRF’s progress toward finding a cure for T1D. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about JDRF:
JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested nearly $2 billion in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers in more than 100 locations throughout the United States and our six international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D.
Derek Rapp is President and Chief Executive Officer of JDRF. Prior to his appointment in 2014, Derek served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors for JDRF International and was formally JDRF Research Chair. He has been involved in the research funding and oversight activities of JDRF since 2005.
From early 2001 until February 2011, Derek was Chief Executive Officer of Divergence, Inc., a science-based company finding solutions in the prevention and control of pest infections. He led the successful sale of the company in February 2011. As CEO of Divergence, Derek’s main responsibilities included developing and implementing the company’s strategy, ensuring suitable financing of the company, implementing relationships with licensees and collaborators, and overseeing operations.
Derek has also been an active volunteer with numerous leadership roles in different organizations, including JDRF International.
Derek holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University with concentrations in Economics and German and a Master in Business Administration from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Derek is married to Emily Rapp, and they have three children (Helen – 23, Turner – 21, who was diagnosed with T1D in 2004, and William – 18).
The Your Mark on the World Center is partnering with Bright Funds to create the Your Mark on the World Fund. The fund supports the work of 16 nonprofits that are working to solve some of the Earth’s biggest problems.
Bright Funds CEO Ty Walrod said, “Bright Funds was built to address the needs of a new generation of donors who want to harness the power of strategic giving. The Your Mark on the World Fund is an extraordinary example of empowering donors to create impact in a variety of causes areas, ranging from environmental issues, human rights, disease research and prevention.”
“New technology and a more enriched global perspective are responsible for changing the way we view donating to causes. A generation ago, giving was somewhat reactive. Society did not have the tools or the access to causes or charities we have today, and it made giving feel very transactional,” Ty added.
“At Bright Funds, we enable donors to go beyond transactional giving by empowering them create funds and then track the impact of their donations,” Ty concluded.
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, Ty will join me for a live discussion about the new Your Mark on the World Fund hosted by Bright Funds and the work of the nonprofits it supports. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Bright Funds:
San Francisco-based Bright Funds helps leading companies and their employees change the world through impactful social good programs, and in doing so, make their businesses more successful. Bright Funds enables employee donors to choose their cause and give to individual non-profits or exclusively available “Funds” comprised of multiple nonprofits. In one platform, Bright Funds brings together the power of research, the reliability of a trusted financial service, and the convenience of centralized contributions and company reporting. Employees, recruits, customers, and investors and worthy causes appreciate companies that use Bright Funds for employee-empowered giving.
More about the Your Mark on the World Fund:
This fund is inspired by the Your Mark on the World Center, which is championing the work of people and organizations who are actually leading the charge to solve the world’s biggest problems. Ranging from environmental issues to human rights, poverty and disease prevention, this group of nonprofits has been identified by the Center for their work in scaling global solutions to match global problems. The Center is working to see many of these problems solved before 2045.
Ty is the co-founder and CEO of Bright Funds, the company that enables employee-empowered workplace giving. Prior to Bright Funds, Ty co-founded and built OutServe into a national organization supporting LGBT equality in the US military. He previously worked for Deloitte, with the partnership’s venture capital, private equity and technology clients, followed by his work as the lead business analyst for Coverity.
Ty is also the co-founder and a board member of Startup and Tech Mixer, a bay area professional networking organization, and a board member of Sustainable Silicon Valley, an organization dedicated to a healthy environment, a vibrant economy, and a socially equitable Silicon Valley community. He is an avid runner and mountaineer.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Ajaita Shah, founder of Frontier Markets, a retail distributor of solar powered products in rural India, was born in the United States to Indian immigrants; a part of who she is has always remained connected to her roots. Last year, she was recognized by Forbes as one of the 30 Under 30. Recently, she was recently recognized by Acumen as a world-class social entrepreneur, having been invited to join the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship.
Shah explained the challenges she faced trying to live in two communities at once. A member of the Jain Marawi religious community in New York City, Shah felt the extreme juxtaposition of her life. She lived in a close-knit religious community and at the same time in the larger, increasingly secular world.
“I realized I was meant to be an entrepreneur from college: my senior year of college (2005) was all about working on creating projects which brought me back to India regularly,” Shah said.
She goes on to explain the realities she faced when she started working on her business in earnest in 2009, “Initially, I did not understand what being a social entrepreneur was going to entail – I was merely focused on writing a business plan and then testing a pilot, and determining whether I was correct in my assumptions. I was lucky to have early mentors ready to help in the process and help me understand that in order to make FM work, I will need to invest my own money into the idea– and eventually Frontier Markets becomes my baby, my story, my future.”
The 2009 launch proved, however, to be a false start. In 2010 and 2011, she completely reinvented the business, moving from Andhra Pradesh to Rajasthan, a state with more sunlight and poverty–perfect for her solar power business.
About the same time, Shah’s cultural duality became a central part of her life. Agreeing to a traditional arranged marriage with a member of her Jain community, she began the next chapter of her life as a married woman.
Things improved and she made progress beginning in 2011. “Spending everyday in the field; trying to crack this model,” she says of 2011. “By 2012, I feel like I have achieved something. I grow the company, get more investors, [and] suddenly FM is on the radar of many social impact investors–what we’re doing works. Our philosophy of building last mile retail for solar is working. We start growing, and suddenly, I am no longer an entrepreneur, but a CEO.”
But the cultural duality of her life proved in some ways to be unsustainable. She explained, “2013-2014 was the toughest year for me as social entrepreneur, as a woman leader; managing a company in India is hard. Rules and regulations I do not understand; whom to hire, whom to trust? There are a lot of cultural barriers–though I am Indian, I can speak, read and write in Hindi–I am still very aware of not being a local. I make many mistakes, hire the wrong people, try things and fail – but with a supporting investor group, amazing advisors, and strong partners, I come on top.”
But success with Frontier Markets was balanced by the end of her marriage. She said her mother-in-law come “soap opera enemy” laid down the law. “At the end of the day, the message was clear: if I wanted to be married to him and his family, I would have to give up my dreams and stay at home with them; work as a hobby, not as a career. Speak when spoken to. Live the way you are expected to live, not desire.”
Last year, she notes, was a year of achievements, including the Forbes recognition and more recently the Acumen-SAP fellowship.
“Today, I am free. Today, I am empowered. Today, I have control. Frontier Markets is doing well; we have 225 retail points, have sold 50,000 solar solutions in Rajasthan, [and] I am leading a team of 40 people. FM and I have gotten a lot of recognition for our work. I have a loving and supportive family both in India and the US. I have set up a foundation in the US that allows me to share my experiences from the field, continue to bridge gaps in the energy access space, and also now think even bigger – global,” she concluded.
Frontier Markets received an investment from Acumen and Shah was named an entrepreneur in the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship.
On Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Shah will join me from India for a live discussion about her work of bringing solar power to the masses in rural India. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Frontier Markets:
Frontier Markets is a sales, marketing and after-sales service distribution company in Rajasthan. Founded in 2011, Frontier Markets works with local channel partners and field staff to educate, relate, and reach households providing them access to high quality and affordable clean energy solutions. We create solar retail points in the last mile and support them with service centers and after-sales. We work with manufacturers to get the right products to our rural customers. We create women entrepreneurs which is the solar saheli campaign; as well as working with local rural villagers to build presence of solar in Rajasthan. To date, we have sold over 90,000 solar solutions and have created 800 retail points and 500 solar sahelis. Frontier Markets has expanded access to clean energy products including solar and clean cook stoves to its partners on the ground in Rajasthan, primarily, Centre for Microfinance and their NGO partners. We have worked on creating a program to empower women through energy access called Solar Saheli.
More about the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship in collaboration with Acumen:
Acumen and SAP, global business software leader, have collaborated to create the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship to accelerate the growth of social enterprises serving the poor in East Africa and India. Leveraging Acumen’s 14 years of investing in early-stage social enterprises and SAP’s global business and innovation expertise, this unique collaboration will bring together emerging and established CEOs committed to building sustainable, socially driven businesses, creating a more inclusive global economy, and expanding opportunities for the poor to lead lives of dignity and possibility.
Ajaita is the Founder/CEO of Frontier Markets and the President of Frontier Innovations Foundation. Frontier Markets is a rural marketing, sales, and service distribution company providing access to affordable and quality solar solutions to low-income households in India. She has been working in India for 10 years in microfinance and clean energy distribution. She is a 2006 Clinton Service Corp Fellow, 2012 Echoing Green Fellow, 2013 Cordes Fellow, has been awarded the most influential award in Microfinance for people under 30, and Business Week’s 30 under 30 award, and most recently, Forbes Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year. Recently, she has been recognized as the #3 of top 40 women entrepreneurs of India in 2014, and Nasscom Foundation identified her as Women 2.0 of 2015. She actively speaks at conferences for the US Green Business Council, Universities, global forums. She has been an active educator, collaborator, and catalyst in helping scale clean energy access globally. Ajaita serves on the board of Frontier Innovations Foundation, a non-profit focused on last-mile distribution support for clean energy companies. As well as NASE, the National Association for Social Enterprises in India, a network for social enterprises. She is also an advisor to various social enterprises in India focusing on product development for the poor. She is an active member of the UN Practitioner’s Network, Asian Development Bank’s Energy For All Partnership. Ajaita Shah holds her B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University.
“Everyday 8,300 students drop out of high school, costing society $292,000 over the course of their lifetime because they are more likely to live in poverty, experience poor health, and be involved in crime,” explains Kip Kint, the Director of Training for School of Life Foundtion, an organization that aims to significantly reduce the rate at which students drop out of High School.
Jack Rolfe, the CEO and Founder of School of Life, notes, “The mission of the School of Life Foundation is to assist in reversing this trend and increase high school graduation rates. This is accomplished by teaching an afterschool program to at-risk students.”
Kip explains the program’s focus on teaching life skills, “Taking ownership of one’s own life is the key to success. The School of Life empowers students to take ownership, even if less-than-ideal circumstances remain in other parts of their lives. They come away knowing they have more power than they thought they did.”
Rolfe notes that the program is highly effective, “Of the Senior students dropping out of high school that complete the program 88% turn around and graduate on time. The success rate of underclassmen advancing to their next grade level is 98%.”
As a result of the program’s effectiveness, the program launched just four years ago will operate in 30 high schools across three states this fall.
On Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 5:00 Eastern, Jack and Kip will join me for a live discussion about the program and the data they use to track their impact. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about the School of Life Foundation:
The School of Life Foundation™ is a nonprofit organization that aims to disrupt troublesome high school dropout rates throughout the United States and is committed to the social, moral and character development of youth. We donate our workbook, Learn To “School” Your Toughest Opponent™, and accompanying training program to high schools. The book offers life-guiding principles and values to help youth achieve straight A’s in the school of life™. Many of our partner schools are implementing the School of Life program as Tier 2 of their Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) system to enhance their school culture.
Mr. Rolfe is a retired physical therapist and girls basketball coach. He is a past President of the Nevada State Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association and also past President of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassador group the Dixie Sunshiners. His coaching experiences consisted of little leagues, middle school, high school, college camps, WNBA camps, and traveling AAU clubs. From these life experiences Jack was inspired to write the book Learn to “School” Your Toughest Opponent which contains the Straight A’s in Life curriculum. To share the message of this workbook Mr. Rolfe created a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization the School of Life Foundation and now serves as CEO. In an effort to further the mission of the Foundation he attained a Masters of Nonprofit Administration Degree from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame graduating in 2013. Mr. Rolfe also authored the book 27 Seconds and coauthored Life Choices: It is Never Too Late and Heart of a Toastmaster. He enjoys speaking professionally and was honored to speak at the First Annual National Youth Mentoring Summit held at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Jack and his wife Lexie reside in St. George, Utah. They have five children and nine grandchildren. Jack’s cohort at Notre Dame named him the Silver Fox!
Kip Kint is the Director of Training for the School of Life Foundation. Kip is also the author of You Can If You Will: How to Succeed Through Commitment and Accountability. He has more than 20 years of business and leadership experience, having worked in leadership positions for large, successful companies such as WordPerfect, Novell, FranklinCovey and BNI. Kip has been an Executive Trainer and Success Coach for over 20 years. He is a Certified FranklinCovey Coach, an effectiveness expert and a professional speaker. Clients of note have come from prominent organizations such as the U.S. Department of Justice, The United Nations, Allied Waste/Republic Services, The New York Stock Exchange, Disney, Microsoft, BNI and many others.