This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Thirty days ago, when I scheduled this interview with Alan Monroe, the Interim Executive Director of ShelterBox USA, this was intended to be a standard profile of a social entrepreneur making a difference in the world. Then an earthquake hit in Nepal and changed everything.
Shelterbox is one of many organizations providing relieve to Nepal, where I happened to spend a week volunteering, just six weeks ago.
With millions displaced from their damaged or destroyed homes, shelter is an acute need in Nepal. With millions displaced from their damaged or destroyed homes, shelter is an acute need in Nepal.
Monroe explained, “On average, ShelterBox deploys to a country every other week. Many [deployments] never hit the news cycle. Whether it be the major disasters like the Haiti earthquake or the Indian Ocean Tsunami that capture America’s attention or the flooding in small villages on the banks of the Amazon, ShelterBox is there.”
Alan Monroe, ShelterBox
“Our primary focus is the beneficiary and their needs during an incredibly trying time of their life. I was in Indonesia after a volcano eruption and we had just set up an aid camp for 100 families who had no place to go. As I was checking the lines and the setup of the tents, I looked inside and saw the families looking through the box. I can remember one child picking up the stuffed bear and smiling. About that time, the father came out and grabbed me by my arm and said ‘Thank you, Thank you’ in Indonesian. It hit me, that this piece of equipment had already become their home–just like that,” he concluded.
On Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at noon Eastern, Monroe will join me for a live discussion about ShelterBox and its relief efforts in Nepal. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Tweet questions in advance to @devindthorpe.
More about ShelterBox:
ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity that provides emergency shelter and supplies to families made homeless as a result of disaster and humanitarian crises. Since ShelterBox was founded, we have responded to over 240 disasters and humanitarian crises in more than 90 different countries and provided emergency aid for well over one million people. ShelterBox aid is tailored to a disaster but typically includes a disaster relief tent for a family, thermal blankets and groundsheets, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, mosquito nets and children’s activity pack.
Alan Monroe is the Interim Executive Director of ShelterBox USA, Inc., providing leadership to the U.S. affiliate of the rapidly growing international disaster relief organization.
Alan first discovered ShelterBox at the International Rotary Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2007. Drawn to ShelterBox’s mission of providing shelter, warmth and dignity to people impacted by disasters, Alan immediately recognized that his Eagle Scout and other life experiences had groomed him to become a ShelterBox Response Team TISI -4.13% member. As a response team member, Alan delivers aid to families in need and has deployed following disasters in the U.S., Peru, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Taiwan, Haiti, Guatemala and Indonesia.
Alan’s prior experience includes serving as a Marketing Director for a large heating and air company, Online Sales Manager for a daily newspaper and partner in a company that built aerial maps of state forests.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Spanish Language from Flagler College and his Master of Arts in International Affairs from Florida State University. Monroe lives in Sarasota, Florida with his wife, Casey.
This is a guest post from Amy Wendel, Founder & Director of Project MEMA
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” – Dr. Suess
It was November 2009 and I was packing my bags for a return flight to Boston after completing a month-long volunteer stretch teaching English and math at Magereza Nursery School in Karanga Village, Moshi, Tanzania. The afternoon was warm. It followed a rainy, mud-filled morning at Magereza, and I had everything packed in my bags except my brown leather sandals that had accumulated more mud than one can imagine. East African mud is like the clay you would find being turned on a pottery wheel – dense, rich in color and ever so sticky. Many of my co-volunteers opted to pitch their muddy shoes in the trash. They seemed ready to move on, stash their memories in a journal and return to their lives back home. Sitting on the porch for the last time, looking at my sandals, I felt the weight of a difficult decision – I could simply toss my sandals in the garbage as many others had done, or I could spend my last free hour in Moshi cleaning out each crevasse of each sole with a stick from the nearby garden.
I realized in that moment that something was different about me. I wasn’t ready to move past my experience. I envisioned myself returning to help the students I’d come to love. My time with them had changed me. I knew I would need those sandals again, and what may seem like a simple decision to clean a pair of shoes altered my life forever. Inspired by the dedication of local teachers and students, I sought to find a solution to improve student educational experiences and outcomes while strengthening the local community in Moshi.
Soon after I returned to the United States I conceptualized a non-profit organization that would assist the students in Moshi by providing basic supplies, money for school fees, and nutritional supplements. In 2010 I founded Project MEMA (Making Education in Moshi Accessible), a Boston-based 501©(3) registered public charity, which seeks to enrich the lives of children by promoting education and healthy living in Moshi, Tanzania, East Africa.
Project MEMA believes that education can change the face of Tanzania and lift children and their families out of poverty. There are many conditions affecting the ability of children to attend school. Poor nutrition, inadequate and poorly supplied schools, and lack of funding for primary and secondary education are a few of the obstacles faced by children and families. Project MEMA targets these issues by providing sponsorships to primary and secondary students, and school lunches, classroom supplies, uniforms, and school enhancement projects to nursery schools in Moshi.
May 5, 2015 marks Project MEMA’s 5th anniversary and as of this date we have raised $100,000 allowing our Boston and Tanzania teams to improve the lives of over 650 healthy, bright children in East Africa.
My brown sandals have accompanied me on 8 trips to Tanzania. The children I hold so dear to my heart have taught me to care for them as if they were the only pair I would ever wear. These sandals helped steer me toward a life of giving in Tanzania. Project MEMA now supplies a pair of shoes annually to all of our nursery school students. With just this little bit of help, and access to education, they have a much better chance at a future in which they too can “decide where to go.” Join us at www.projectmema.org.
Amy Wendel’s bio:
Amy Wendel founded Project MEMA in 2010 after spending October 2009 in Tanzania volunteering with the U.N. affiliated organization Cross-Cultural Solutions. She currently serves as Managing Director of Project MEMA – overseeing operations in Boston, MA and making regular trips to Tanzania. Wendel is also currently Program Manager, Customer Engagement Marketing at LogMeIn located in Boston’s Innovation District. Wendel holds a Bachelor of Arts from Northeastern University and a Master of Liberal Arts from Harvard University.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Filmmaker Casey Allred was working on his film Stolen Innocence in India when the earthquake struck Nepal. The next day he landed in Kathmandu and began providing relief.
His organization, Effect.org, set up a website at NepalRises.com to search Twitter TWTR -2.87% in real time looking for available volunteers and needs, working to match them up.
Using resources already in their coffers, Effect.org began immediately to gather and deploy aid. Allred reported yesterday, “We have over 100 volunteers, 20 motorbikes and 4 cars importing and exporting supplies. We’ve purchased 410 kg of food and 4,147 pieces of medical supplies and 250 tents… Just today! HQ inventories all supplies and is delivered the same day. We have two film crews documenting everything and 6 Engineers building software. We built NepalRises.com in 8 hours and a bot scanning Twitter to understand who needs help and act immediately. We are coordinating with a lot of local aid groups to triple our efforts. Today we had 22 teams deliver supplies outside of Kathmandu to those in need. For many we are the FIRST aid they’ve received. We are hoping to double and triple our impact in the next few days.”
Allred and his crew have been filming some of the devastation. Here’s some raw footage from shot with a drone.
On Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, we will visit with Allred’s communications manager, Nicole Allen in London. Allen has been coordinating closely with Allred, who doesn’t have an internet connection capable of doing a live stream interview at midnight in Nepal. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Tweet your questions for Allen before the interview to @devindthorpe.
Effect.org is accepting donations here.
More about Effect.org:
Effect was founded in 2010 by Casey Allred and Bushra Zaman, with passion to make education accessible for all of India’s underprivileged children. Between college semesters, they travelled back and forth to India to open a school in rural Bihar, India. In 2011, Casey received the Utah Campus Compact award for his work, Effect was awarded the Bill E Robins; Organization of the Year, and Effect brought on a new key team member, Moline Dastrup.
Using research collected from that pilot school, Effect uncovered high demand in the educational market where parents, especially those from the bottom of the pyramid, are willing to spend up to 13% of their income on education. With full enrollment in three months, low start-up costs, and a successful teacher training program, the Effect team quickly turned to researching a reformed view of private schools that met the global demands of an illiterate population without the short-term reliance on foreign aid or philanthropy.
Transpiring from that research was the foundation for a streamlined system of high-impact schools that return a profit and maximize reach. Effect has developed a lean chain of private schools that will educate the world’s poorest children. Unlike failing government schools and ill-equipped private schools, Effect’s model provides the highest quality education available to the poor. Effect offers a market-based approach to solving the education achievement gap in low-income communities.
This is a guest post from Ms. Jessie Jones. (http://www.jessieljones.com/)
Paraphrasing the HEARTH1/ Act of 2009, “homelessness is a condition in which an individual lacks resources or support networks needed to obtain permanent housing.”
Homelessness is rampant across our cities; our country; and the entire world. There are many reasons why people become homeless. Some are homeless because of circumstances that they’ve created, such as committing crimes or using drugs. Others are homeless due to circumstances that happened to them that are beyond their control such as losing a job due to budget cuts, illness, or a host of other reasons.
Regardless of the circumstances, the condition of homelessness exists and something needs to be done to eliminate it. During my time as a Federal Government worker in D.C., I became more aware of homelessness within my city. I am an average citizen who has a burden on her heart.
Ms. Jessie Jones
I wrote a fictional book with hopes that it will change the hearts and minds of people so that they will become more sensitive to the plight of the homelessness population. The goal is to move people within so that they can take action without. The book is about a well-educated middle-aged, middle-class man, who lost his job, his home, and everything that he owned.
Eventually this man became homeless, living out on the streets, eating out of trash cans trying to survive day-by-day. This books talks about the lifestyle that this man endured while living as a homeless man. He tried to get a job, but over and over again he was told that someone else was selected for the position.
I chose to profile this man this way, because I want to let people know that to some extent all of us, or at least most of us are only one paycheck away from being homeless. Homelessness can happen to any one of us at any time within our life. Homelessness is not just an individual problem; it ultimately impacts an entire community; an entire society if you will.
“Who Turned The Lights Off?” is a spiritually focused and dramatic look at an all too common problem, declaring a message of reconciliation and revitalization between citizens of a broken city.
There are three main characters in the book. The first main character is Dr. Dan Johnson, a psychologist. Dan lost his job after being gainfully employed, for over twenty years. He becomes homeless. The second main character in the book is Attorney and Councilman Marc Parker.The third main character in the book is Reverend Stephen Young. Stephen is an engineer who became a minister after having a personal encounter with God.
Unlike Attorney Marc Parker, Reverend Stephen Young uses the Word of God to prick the hearts and minds of people so that they will become sensitive the plight of homelessness.
A riveting encounter between Dr. Dan Johnson, Attorney Marc Parker, and Reverend Stephen Young, changes the hearts and minds of an entire city.Could this message also change the hearts and mind of an entire nation; or an entire world?
About the author
During her time as a Federal Government worker, Jessie Jones became more aware of homelessness within her city. After prayerful consideration she wrote, “Who Turned the Lights Off,”with hopes of stirring the hearts of others.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
The current record for a single day crowdfunding event was set on May 6, 2014 at $53 million. On May 5th, 2015, nonprofit organizations across the country will work to break that record using the online platform Kimbia for the second annual Give Local America event.
The remarkable program will involve thousands of nonprofits, each promoting its own cause. Some community foundations organized nonprofits in their respective communities for a collaborative effort, like the Seattle Foundation, which raised over $12 million with the nonprofits in its community.
On Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Kimbia’s Managing Director for the Give Local America initiative Lori Finch will join me for a live discussion about the prospect’s for this year’s effort to set a new record for a single day crowdfunding event. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Tweet questions beforehand to @devindthorpe.
More about Kimbia:
Kimbia is a flexible, best-of-breed, online fundraising and crowdfunding platform that enables nonprofits to create deeper and more valuable donor relationships. It does this by helping nonprofits to engage more omni-channel supporters, who give to and share the mission across many channels. In other words, it’s a fundraising platform and campaigns optimized for the Internet and the age of mobile, putting donors at the center of all development activities. Ultimately this approach results in greater brand awareness, giving and lifelong loyalty.
With an extensive background working with nonprofit organizations, Lori is uniquely suited in her role of managing relationships with Kimbia’s community partners, helping to ensure their success. Lori serves as the Managing Director of Give Local America coordinating the strategy behind the largest single day, online crowdfunding event in history, raising $53 million in 2014. Prior to Kimbia, Lori spent six years at The San Diego Foundation where she served as Director of Nonprofit Programs, developing education resources and tools for hundreds of local nonprofits. She holds an MBA from The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and a B.S.B.A in Finance from Georgetown University.
By: Brian D’Arcy, Co-Chair of Working Californians and Business Manager for IBEW Local 18, and Marvin Kropke, Co-Chair of Working Californians and Business Manager for IBEW Local 11
Leaders from across California and across the country are coming together to share ideas about how to build the next generation of American cities.
Today’s urban revitalization projects are driven by a new spirit driven by a new generational consciousness and complex new realities. We live in a world where poverty and income inequality threaten American upward mobility. We are more ethnically diverse than ever, and it is important to ensure that the core American value of opportunity remains open to our future generations.
We also face challenges from climate change. Sustainability and environmental awareness and sensitivity must be incorporated into our planning and urban design.
Left to right: Brian D’Arcy, Marvin Kropke
We have seen past generations of urban construction and design lead to unintended consequences in our past – inadvertently exacerbating problems of poverty, crime and other urban ills. Equipped with that knowledge and through sharing ideas from leaders from diverse backgrounds, we believe we can build and plan for a better urban future for all.
That is the goal of the 2nd Annual Social Innovation Summit.
Hosted by Working Californians, the conference will host leaders from government, business, technology and academia, and work toward a shared vision to jump-start small business creation in South Los Angeles and Los Angeles’ urban corridors. The event will feature some of the state’s most prominent elected leaders, including Secretary of State Alex Padilla and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as CEOs, academic leaders and members of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.
The one-day summit begins Saturday, April 11 at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Downtown Los Angeles.
The challenge of revitalizing America’s cities is taking on new dimensions in the 21st Century. Today’s cities must cater to growing and increasingly diverse populations.
With good jobs still at a premium, even amidst a broad economic recovery, public and private investment in our cities will be key to putting California and America back to work.
But it will take more than just brawn to get our cities back on track. Unprecedented partnerships between the public and private sectors, and new types of innovation in everything from urban planning to structural engineering will be needed to set us on a prosperous and sustainable course for the 21st Century. The government, technology and business sectors must work together to create a long-term plan for the future of our urban centers.
The Summit will feature the Innovations Director of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, leaders from New Orleans and Detroit’s top entrepreneurial incubation hubs and regional academic experts in the fields of entrepreneurship with the goal of building the entrepreneurial and start-up spirit seen in LA’s Silicon Beach and bringing that spirit and the necessary tools to LA’s urban corridors.
More than ever, we need to come together to share ideas across many different sectors about how to rebuild our state and our country to ensure vibrant and dynamic cities for our future.
Working Californian’s social innovation is kicking-off that conversation in Los Angeles, and we invite you to join in to better not only Los Angeles, but cities across the country.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
The SEC recently issued new rules for offerings under Regulations A, creating a two tier system that allows issuers to raise up to $50 million without facing all of the requirements of a public offering but potentially providing some of the benefits.
To help readers understand the nuances of the new regulations, I’ve assembled three experts to explain the issues and implications of the new regulations.
Sara Hanks, CEO of CrowdCheck, says, “Regulation A is going to be an effective way for early-stage companies to raise funds from a wide variety of investors.”
“Reg A can’t be done without experienced lawyers, but they don’t have to be expensive,” she adds.
Highlighting the complexities of the law, Hanks notes, “The issuer’s ability to ‘test the waters’ and find out whether there will be any interest in its offering before it spends money on advisors is one of the most helpful aspects of Tier 2 of Reg A. Too bad it doesn’t work for Tier 1.”
“Issuers have to understand the audit requirements for Tier 2. It’s not just the need for audited financials, but they have to be in the format required by Regulation S-X. And the SEC only accepts ‘clean’ audit reports,” she concludes.
Richard has emerged as the global expert in developments in crowdfunding. As a research scholar in the Institute for Business & Social Innovation in the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, he is the University’s resident expert on crowdfunding and evolving models of alternative finance. He also organizes the Annual Academic Symposium on Crowdfunding Research. He currently advises the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and works with several other prominent foundations, think tanks, funds and corporations. He is co-author of the forthcoming book Crowdfunding: The Corporate Era, being published in June 2015.
Samuel S. Guzik has more than 35 years of experience as a corporate and securities attorney and business advisor in private practice in New York and Los Angeles, including as an associate at Willkie Farr and Gallagher, a major New York based international law firm, a partner at the law firm of Ervin, Cohen and Jessup, in Los Angeles, and in the firm he founded in 1993, Guzik & Associates. Mr. Guzik has represented public and privately held companies and entrepreneurs on a broad range of business and financing transactions, both public and private. Guzik has represented businesses in a diverse range of industries, including digital media, apparel, health care and numerous high technology based businesses. He is a recognized authority and thought leader on matters relating to the JOBS Act of 2012 and the ongoing SEC rulemaking, including Regulation D Rule 506 private placements, Regulation A+, and investment crowdfinance. He has been consulted by Congressional members, state legislators and the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy on matters relating to the JOBS Act and state securities matters. He has also been cited by SEC Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher on two occasions in public statements, both for his advocacy on behalf of SME’s and his thought leadership on SEC rulemaking and post-JOBS Act reforms.
Mr. Guzik is also a prolific writer on JOBS Act issues affecting entrepreneurs, small and emerging companies, investors and Internet-based funding portals. He is a frequent blogger on his blog, The Corporate Securities Lawyer Blog, addressing developing corporate and securities laws issues. In 2014 he published two major commentaries on JOBS Act rulemaking in The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation: the first article, entitled “Regulation A+ Offerings – a New Era at the SEC,” discussing the SEC’s proposed regulations implementing JOBS Act Title IV Regulation A+; the second article entitled “SEC Crowdfunding Rulemaking under the JOBS Act – An Opportunity Lost?” addressing deficiencies in the SEC’s proposed Title III investment crowdfunding regulations. His articles have also been cited in national business publications on issues relating to federal securities regulation, including, The Economist, Forbes, Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek, Compliance Weekly and Equities.com. Mr. Guzik is also a regular speaker on federal securities matters.
Mr. Guzik is also a founding member of The Heritage Foundation Securities Regulation Working Group, focusing on federal regulatory issues affecting small businesses and emerging growth companies, including ongoing JOBS Act and Dodd-Frank SEC rulemaking. He also served as a member of the Advisory Council of the Crowdfunding Professional Association before being appointed to their Board of Directors in March 2015. He received a B.S. degree in Industrial and Labor relations from Cornell University and is a graduate of Stanford University Law School, and is admitted to practice in both New York and California.
Sara Hanks, co-founder and CEO of CrowdCheck, is an attorney with over 30 years of experience in the corporate and securities field. CrowdCheck provides due diligence and compliance services for online alternative securities offerings. Its services help entrepreneurs and project sponsors through the disclosure and due diligence process, give investors the information they need to make an informed investment decision and avoid fraud and help intermediaries avoid liability.
Sara’s prior position was General Counsel of the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Panel, the overseer of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Prior to that, Sara spent many years as a partner of Clifford Chance, one of the world’s largest law firms. While at Clifford Chance, she advised on capital markets transactions and corporate matters for companies throughout the world. Sara began her career with the London law firm Norton Rose. She later joined the Securities and Exchange Commission and as Chief of the Office of International Corporate Finance led the team drafting regulations that put into place a new generation of rules governing the capital-raising process.
Sara received her law degree from Oxford University and is a member of the New York and DC bars and a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. She serves on the SEC’s Advisory Council on Small and Emerging Companies. She holds a Series 65 securities license as a registered investment advisor. Sara is an aunt, Army wife, skier, cyclist, gardener and animal lover.
More about UC Berkeley:
We at CrowdBerkeley believe that fundamental changes in the finance landscape are just beginning to take root. Our goal as an interdisciplinary partnership between the Fung Institute of Engineering, the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas, the Finance Group at the Haas School of Business, and the Kauffman Foundation are to deepen the thought leadership, education, and outreach around all things crowdfunding. Our agenda is simple: to learn, educate, and inform in a way that reflects the long-standing tradition of the University of California at Berkeley as a university of innovation.
With the support of the Kauffman Foundation, we are building an extensive repository of crowdfunding data to support research and to inform innovation and policy. Each year, we host the leading academic symposium on the latest research in crowdfunding. And the symposium is just the beginning. Across campus, leaders in business, law, development, innovation and policy are constantly on campus, furthering our education and outreach.
More about Guzik & Associates:
Guzik & Associates, founded by Samuel S. Guzik in 1993 and located in Los Angeles, is a law firm providing a broad spectrum of legal representation in the areas of business, corporate, and securities law. We provide representation to a variety of businesses and individuals in the U.S. and abroad, including start-ups, emerging and established companies, and publicly held NYSE, Nasdaq and OTC listed companies. We also serve as legal counsel to other law firms from time to time on a project or “of counsel” basis.
More about CrowdCheck:
CrowdCheck provides disclosure, due diligence and compliance services for companies and intermediaries making online alternative investment offerings.
This is a guest post from Steve Scheier who is the CEO and Founder of Scheier+Group and author of Do More Good. Better. Using the Power of Decision Clarity™ to Mobilize the Power of Your Nonprofit Team.
In the aggregate, nonprofit organizations are staffed by people from diverse backgrounds. But if we take a closer look at who runs and makes the key decisions in these nonprofits we see patterns that are reflective of the larger society: the leaders of many nonprofits are white and the people implementing the decisions of these leaders are diverse.
This realization caused the respected NPQ to assert in its December, 2014 edition that “The Nonprofit Sector Has a Ferguson Problem.”
Why did the NPQ come to this conclusion? Because a number of studies have shown that whites lead 9.5 out of 10 philanthropic organizations. Only 7 percent of nonprofit chief executives and 18 percent of nonprofit employees are people of color.
So even though most nonprofit advocacy is targeted at diverse communities the people leading these efforts are usually white. They are likely very committed and well intentioned and committed to advancing the social needs they’ve vowed to take on but the preponderance of white leaders means that there is comparatively little opportunity for more diverse leaders to emerge.
That’s because whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not, we are all affected at some level by inherent biases that impact our choices. This extends to our choices of colleagues, and to our choice of who among us has the potential to lead and who among us will be allowed to make substantive decisions.
At every step of the way, people’s ability or inability to make the decisions that affect their job will drive their job performance and their ability to advance. But in most nonprofits it’s often unclear which decisions it’s acceptable – or not – for a particular individual to make, and which decisions he or she is unable to make. The result? Reticence, a reluctance to make even small decisions, a tendency to defer to existing leaders and therefore a general lack of decision-making skills at all but the highest echelons of power.
If we don’t take steps to actively build a more diverse base of talent prepared to move into leadership positions, nothing will change. The nonprofit world’s so-called “Ferguson problem” will perpetuate and we’ll not only let opportunities to tap valuable talent slip by, but we’ll also miss out on the potential for a badly-needed diversification of the sector’s leadership.
Over time, organizations will find it harder than ever to live up to their full potential and create the social impact they envision.
There is a way forward, though. Quite simply, organizations need to start at the bottom and give individuals of all backgrounds the tools to become decision-makers within their jobs.
There are five steps that can make this a reality:
By taking these steps you’ll build an organization with increased leadership and decision-making capabilities and you’ll be far better off.
This is a guest post from Max Ash, 10-year old Creator of MAX’IS Creations with help from his Mom, Jennifer.
Hi, my name is Max Ash and I am an inventor and entrepreneur. I am in 4th grade and I go to The Carroll School in Waltham, Massachusetts. I have dyslexia, a language-based learning disability, and so do a lot of people at my school. Dyslexia makes it hard for me to understand what I read and to find the words in my head when I am talking.
But dyslexia is also a gift that got me to think of putting a basketball hoop on a mug for throwing marshmallows into hot chocolate. I like sports and hot chocolate and that’s why I did it.
I was invited to present my idea at The Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College.
And then my parents helped me submit my idea to The Product Pitch at Fenway product innovation contest. I was one of ten finalists and winner of the community vote. And it wasn’t even a contest for kids!
They wrote about me and my mugs in places like the Boston Business Journal and the Boston Herald.
As a follow-up to the contest I got to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. My Indiegogo campaign helped raise over $900 for dyslexia research at my school as well as about $5000 to start my business, MAX’IS Creations (spelling is mine).
With help from my mom and dad and a team of 3D designers and manufacturers in the US and Thailand, I was able to bring The Mug With A HoopTM to market.
My first container arrived in September of 2014 and I sold 18,000 mugs (over $400,000 in retail sales) before New Years! My mugs are sold at places like UncommonGoods, Nordstrom, The Grommet and Hammacher Schlemmer. Even the Basketball Hall of Fame contacted me to sell my mugs!
I just got a patent for my basketball mug and I have a full line of patent pending sports mugs coming to market. My mugs are not just for throwing marshmallows into hot chocolate. You can toss cereal into milk, pitch crackers into soup, or flick toppings onto ice cream! My vision is that the world would be better if we could play with our food!
There is a banner at my school that says: Kids with dyslexia see the world differently. Isn’t the world lucky that they do? My parents say that my idea to put a basketball hoop on a mug shows the world the upside of dyslexia and the importance of celebrating neurodiversity the same way we celebrate other kinds of diversity.
Photo Credit: Cindy Ord, Getty Images for Reimagine Learning
Five percent of the profits from the sale of my mugs go to charities that support dyslexia and other learning differences. I am proud to support organizations such as The Reimagine Learning Initiative, Understood.org and The National Center for Learning Disabilities who are helping to raise awareness and support for the 1 in 5 kids with learning and attention issues.
I recently got to share the stage at the WME/IMG New Profit Reimagine Learning Initiative launch with another successful entrepreneur who happens to have dyslexia: Shark Tank star and Understood.org Board of Advocates member Daymond John.
This is an excerpt from my speech at the event:
My parents and teachers understand how my brain learns. I am understood.
Every kid deserves to be understood.
I dare you to imagine what other good ideas our world will have when ALL kids who think and learn differently are understood?
If you want to buy one of my mugs or learn more about my story you can go on my website www.maxiscreations.com. If you are a mom or dad of a child who is struggling with learning and attention issues check out www.understood.org. You’ll find personalized recommendations, daily access to experts, a safe community of parents, and more. And it’s completely free!
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Cristi Hegranes is out to change the world using journalism as a development tool.
After being assigned as a foreign correspondent and seeing editorial decisions being made on the other side of the world by editors who thought they understood better than she just what the story actually was when she was on the ground seeing the story unfold, she decided not only that there had to be a better way but that she’d create it.
On Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at noon Eastern, Hegranes will join me for a live discussion about her innovative work in journalism. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.
More about Global Press Institute:
GPI is an award-winning, high-impact social venture that uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ, and empower women in developing media markets to produce professional local news coverage that elevates global awareness and catalyzes social change. GPI operates a unique training-to-employment program that teaches the principles and practice of journalism and builds the skills necessary for local women to become successful professional journalists.
Every woman who completes the training program is offered long-term employment at a living wage to become a reporter for Global Press Journal, the cutting-edge online home of GPI news coverage. The Journal is the premier publication specializing in news from developing media markets, and features unique stories on local issues overlooked by mainstream media.
Through Global Press News Service, GPI’s pioneering news syndication platform, the Journal’s content is shared with media partners and NGOs around the globe, including Al Jazeera America, the BBC Online, Reuters, and UPI, and is seen by more than 15 million readers each month. The News Service enables GPI to derive revenue from the sale of our sought-after news content and to accelerate our social impact by dramatically expanding our readership.
Three links for reference:
Cristi Hegranes is the Founder and Executive Director of Global Press Institute (GPI) and the Publisher and Executive Editor of Global Press Journal (GPJ). A 2013 Ashoka Fellow, Cristi is an experienced social entrepreneur, a media innovation pioneer, and a renowned international journalism trainer. GPI is an award-winning, high-impact social venture that uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ, and empower women in developing media markets to produce professional local news coverage that elevates global awareness and catalyzes social change. GPI has trained and employed 159 journalists across 26 developing countries, including Guatemala, Cameroon, India, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, and Sri Lanka. After serving as a foreign correspondent in Nepal, Cristi founded GPI in 2006 to demonstrate a new way forward for the field of international journalism. Cognizant of the gender disparity in media and the one-dimensional portrait of developing communities often painted by Western news outlets, Cristi created GPI to provide a professional training opportunity and a global platform for local people to report on their communities for a global audience .Cristi has also developed a dynamic new business model for international journalism through Global Press News Service (GPNS), a state-of-the-art syndication service that enables GPI to magnify its social impact and drive revenue from the sale of GPJ news content to media organizations, corporations, and NGOs. GPNS meets a market need by providing professional, diverse, affordable international news content to its partners. All of the revenue from GPNS is reinvested into GPI trainings and GPJ content creation in order to create a holistic social enterprise.Previously, Cristi had a successful career as a journalist for Village Voice Media in New York and San Francisco. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Cristi also served as a fellow-in-residence at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg and has taught courses in entrepreneurship and journalism at San Francisco State University and California State University, East Bay.Recognized for developing a high-quality, sustainable model of international journalism that is rooted in the perspective of local communities, Cristi has received a wide range of prestigious social entrepreneurship and journalism accolades. She is the recipient of the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Society of Professional Journalists Journalism Innovation Prize, a New Media Web Award, a Clarion Award for Investigative Journalism, and a Lifestyle Journalism Prize. She will also be recognized as the 2015 Distinguished Young Alumni of New York University next April. Cristi lives and works in San Francisco with her new baby bulldog, Louise.