The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs

Shin Fujiyama is a CNN Hero and the Executive Director of Students Helping Honduras. He lives with 30 former street children in Honduras where he runs a school and international NGO out of a tree house. In each episode Shin will be interviewing a proven social entrepreneur or NGO leader in the nonprofit or international development aid industry-- including several CNN Heroes and bestselling authors. They’re going to deconstruct their journey to explain HOW they built up their organizations. They’ll also tell us about their greatest failures, lessons, regrets, and behind-the-scenes realities. We’ll talk about their tactics, philosophies, principles, tools, and motivations to give you inspiration and actionable advice. 1) Subscribe to this podcast. 2) Turn on automatic downloads. 3) Leave me a review. 4.) Enjoy every new interview for FREE during your commute or workout.
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The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs



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May 23, 2018

While traveling in Liberia as an undergraduate research student, William Smith played in 7am pickup soccer games. As the captain of the varsity team at the College of William & Mary (‘14), he needed to stay in shape. Little did he know what would happen next.

William’s foot skills impressed Sekou “Georgie” Manubah, a former national team player. A few days later, Georgie invited William to play a friendly game at the national stadium. But it was no ordinary game. It was the Liberian Peace and Reconciliation match where JJ Okocha, Samuel Eto’o, Patrick Mboma, and Roger Milla had been invited. The organizer of the event was the legendary George Weah, Africa’s only FIFA World Player of the Year (and Liberia’s soon-to-be-President).

35,000 fans—including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—came out to watch the game. William was the only non-African player on the field. Though he lost the match that day, William gained an important insight that summer: The potential of football to change Liberia’s failing education system and gender inequality.

Liberia’s challenges were staggering. A devastating civil war had killed 250,000 people of its 3.5 million population. The GDP per capita was $455 (compared to $2,300 in Honduras). It was the least electrified country in the world. In 2013, 25,000 high school graduates in Liberia took the university entrance exam and every single one failedThen Ebola broke out in 2014.

In November 2014, William asked himself a simple question: “What about a football academy? What if we use this passion and energy that young people have for football as an incentive for kids to improve in the classroom, to break down gender barriers, and to ultimately prepare students to lead positive change?”

He reached out to Georgie and together they wrote out a plan for Monrovia Football Academy.

He began raising money in London while pondering their next steps: “What does the concept actually look like? How many students do we start with? What ages? How many boys? How many girls? Where do we do this?”

There was no time to waste. 58% of 15-24 year olds in Liberia were not completing primary education. “We jump in when ebola finishes,” they said to each other. It was a tough time to start an NGO. People couldn’t shake hands, hug each other, go to school, or play soccer for an entire year because of ebola. In 2015 when ebola subsided, they opened MFA—the first football academy in Africa with a principle of 50/50 gender equity.

William was full of self-doubts. “I had no idea how I was doing any of it,” he said. “You’d be a fool to think you have all the answers.” He tried to convince himself to try and be okay with the prospect of failure while being obsessive about not letting it fail. He woke up early each morning asking himself, what was next? How do we get better? How do we improve?

He gave a fundraising pitch at Saracens Rugby Club but that was not enough. He was asked to do a second and then a third presentation. Finally, they awarded MFA $45,000 for seed funding. Crowdfunding campaigns, meetings with potential donors, and events followed. Like pre-season training at an elite soccer camp, the pace was grueling. But his persistence began to pay off.

Now in its third year, Monrovia Football Academy is showing great promise. President Sirleaf visited, as well as US Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Results from preliminary impact studies demonstrated academic and athletic improvements. Word began to spread. In 2017, 1,062 students applied for the 21 spots available at the academy. “We’re trying to be the best school in Liberia,” said William. “That’s our goal.”

William Smith Reading List

William Smith Show Notes

  • Will grew up in Connecticut and played soccer his whole life
  • He studied political science at the College of William & Mary and worked at Capital Hill during a summer but did not enjoy the experience
  • William took a course on African Studies which fascinated him
  • He went to Liberia for three months to do a research project with the US Embassy during his final summer as a college student
  • Liberia’s history is intertwined with the US
  • In the early 1800s, the US had The American Colonization Society which identified freed black Americans and slaves to see what to do with them. They decided to send them to Africa.
  • In 1821, the first ship of these former slaves arrived in Liberia
  • In 1847, Liberia became the first free republic in the African continent
  • Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, was named after James Monroe
  • The Liberian flag is very similar to the American flag
  • The country was named Liberia because liberty is an important value for the US
  • Liberia has the fourth lowest GDP in the world, $455/year
  • Honduras’ GDP is $2,300/year
  • Liberia has been unstable for the last 38 years, since the coup d’etat in 1980
  • In 1989 a devastating civil war broke out that killed 250,000 people out of a total population of 3.5 million
  • In 2003 a ceasefire was put into place and the former President Charles Taylor stepped down
  • In 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first female President in Africa after an election
  • Ebola in Liberia was at its height in 2014-15
  • Liberians on the ground were vital to stopping ebola
  • The Monrovia Football Academy started in 2015 when Liberia was not ebola free
  • William was not able to shake hands with anyone because of the ebola threat
  • While preparing for his final season of college soccer in Liberia, William was playing pickup games at 7am
  • William met Sekou Dgeorges Manubah “Georgie”, a former Liberian national team player, during one of those pickup games
  • They had a similar philosophy around how the game should be played so they exchanged numbers
  • William was an intern for the State Department at the time
  • “Will, do you want to play with George Weah’s team against the Liberian national team right now?”
  • George Weah is the only African ever named Fifa World Player of the Year. He was essentially in 1995 Leo Messi.
  • Will played the game at the national stadium. Though they lost, “it wasn’t bad.”
  • Former players who played at Arsenal and Monaco were on Will’s team that day. Though still had the game in them despite being in their 40s
  • At the time Weah was the Peace Ambassador for Liberia and so he organized a Peace & Reconciliation Match where he invited legends from the African continent like JJ Okocha, Samuel Eto’o, Patrick Mboma, Roger Milla
  • Will, a center back, was invited to play in the game as the only non-African
  • 35,000 fans attended the game as well as President Sirleaf
  • 25,000 high school graduates in Liberia took the university entrance exam and every single one failed. The education system in Liberia was a mess
  • Will took back three important lessons: The transformative potential of football, the failing education in Liberia, and gender inequality (he never saw girls play)
  • “At the time I was a kid who had been studying this stuff for less than a year. I had no idea what to do. So I started reading as much as I could.”
  • Jonny Steinberg taught African Studies at Oxford
  • William wanted to study under Steinberg so he applied and got into Oxford’s Masters program in 2014
  • There was so much football talent in Liberia but not enough coaching
  • William was the only foreigner who had such an extensive network with Liberian footballers
  • “What about a football academy? What if we use this passion and energy that young people have for football as an incentive for kids to improve in the classroom, to break down gender barriers, and to ultimately prepare our students to lead positive change?”
  • The idea was born in November, 2014
  • William reached out to Georgie to turn the idea into an organization despite the ebola breakout
  • “What does the concept actually look like? How many students do we start with? What ages? How many boys? How many girls? Where do we do this?”
  • William moves quickly. He began raising money in 2015 in London
  • “We jump in when ebola finishes.”
  • Kids missed an entire year of school during the outbreak
  • People could not hug each other, shake hands, nor play soccer
  • It was more difficult for NGOs already operating to continue, whereas those who hadn’t started (like Monrovia Football Academy) could wait things out
  • Monrovia Football Academy was the first football academy in Africa with a principle of 50/50 gender equity
  • In 2015, less than 37% of Liberian girls ages 15-24 were literate vs. 62% of boys were literate
  • There is a gender disparity in most indicators
  • William’s mission has been: to help Liberian children thrive and reshape/redefine the relationship between US and Liberia to make it more just, equitable, and rooted in collaboration
  • Of 18 staff members, William is the only non-Liberian. He hopes to one day make it 100% Liberian.
  • They started with 16 boys and 11 girls
  • The kids are with them from 8am-6pm five days per week
  • The academy has a holistic approach
  • They get breakfast (8am), life skills lessons, computer literacy courses, meditation, yoga, football class (9:30-10am), 10-11:30 professional football practice
  • They have 5 coaches at the moment
  • Liberia is still discovering the type of football it wants to play
  • In the afternoon, they shower, have lunch, and return to classes
  • They still operate in rented facilities, including the fields and classroom space
  • They hope to build their own facility soon
  • President Sirleaf came to visit the academy at the end of the first year
  • 700 students applied the second year and they grew to 47 students
  • The US women’s national team coach (Jill Ellis) and goalkeeper (Ashlyn Harris) visited Monrovia Football Academy in 2016.
  • 1,062 students applied in 2017 for 21 spots
  • They now have 68 students from grades 3-6. They are adding one grade each year
  • They are not a football factory that measures success by the number of professional football players produced
  • The kids have health insurance and medics at Monrovia Football Academy
  • Many sport academies look for football talent more than anything else
  • At Monrovia Football Academy, applicants take an entrance exam and has a football tryout
  • “School first, football second.”
  • They must pass the written test
  • They interview the top 75 students (along with their parents)
  • They invite the top 50 applicants to summer camp where they are carefully observed for football talent, character, academic excellence, commitment, “it” factor
  • They then choose the 5 best footballers, 5 best students, and 10 best student athletes
  • The school community that way becomes well rounded
  • 14 of Liberia’s 16 ethnic groups are represented at Monrovia Football Academy
  • 85% of Liberians are Christian, 15% Muslim. The academy sees similar percentages in their student body
  • The household income of the students are diverse, 70%+ come from poverty.
  • Early on, they did not have enough policies, structure, procedures in place
  • It took at least 18 months of iterating to develop a strong structure
  • They had decided to start with ages 9-11
  • They had no way to see if a child cheated during the entrance exam. They did it at a school cafeteria but were short on staff
  • “The key for our success was our willingness to adapt, adjust, and take chances.”
  • Instead of failing out the lower-performing students during the first year, they created a lower grade to keep them in school
  • 9 out of the 11 low performing students are now excelling academically
  • “We’re trying to be the best school in Liberia. That’s our goal.”
  • Less than 5% of teachers in Liberia have bachelor’s degrees. 100% at Monrovia Football Academy have a bachelor’s degree
  • Average salary in Liberia is $180/month. The teachers at Monrovia Football Academy make at least $300/month
  • “I had no idea how I was doing any of it. You’d be a fool to think you have all the answers.”
  • Humility and bringing in experts
  • They have pro-bono experts from all over the world who offer advice and support
  • “It’s been so much fun. Waking up everyday, it doesn’t feel like work.”
  • “You wake up in the morning and ask what’s next? How do we get better? How do we improve?”
  • Saracens Rugby Club from London was one of the first major donors
  • William has many relatives from the UK
  • William needed to do three, different pitches to get the $45,000 seed funding from Saracens
  • They then raised $12,000 through crowdfunding and did several fundraising events
  • Board members help make introductions for Will to meet potential donors
  • Their donor base is increasing steadily
  • William spends half of his time in Liberia and the other half fundraising in the US and UK
  • They use Quickbooks for their accounting
  • They have a development and evaluation officer who is a Liberian studying at Princeton
  • It cost $99,000 to run the academy its first year. The second year, it was $124,000. The third year, it will be around $170,000.
  • It costs $2,500 to sponsor one child per year
  • Liberia has the lowest level of public electrification in the world
  • The biggest budget item is salaries for their incredible staff members
  • Their staff get health insurance, good pay, vacation days, paid maternity leave, etc.
  • “On our website, you will see my face very little. We want this to be a Liberian initiative.”
  • They try to show an authentic image and accurate representation of Liberia’s true realities
  • They break down the sponsorship program if people cannot give the full $2,500
  • They write for each month
  • Their meals are very nutritious and often include Power Gari for breakfast
  • They get a snack after practice, usually fruit
  • They eat a lot of (red) rice in Liberia
  • The Liberian cuisine is heavy on the starch, maybe 80% rice-based
  • The students also have classes on Saturdays from 9am-1pm
  • Blessing is a six grader at the academy. Only 8 girls showed up on the first day of school.
  • Of 1,000+ applicants, only 60 of them were girls!
  • They went to West Point, the poorest community in the area, too look for girls who played soccer to enroll more girl
  • BBC did a story on Jessica, one of the students at Monrovia Football Academy
  • Blessing is the second best student in the 6th grade and typically starts on the team with the boys
  • “The sport-for-development sector is full of this romanticized rhetoric about how sport has the power to change the world. But there is very little statistical evidence.”
  • It is very important for us to show impact, in things like academic proficiency, their attitudes toward gender & violence, their pride in Liberian identity, potential for leadership
  • They designed a quantitative analysis study
  • 4 students from William & Mary came down to do the pilot study
  • Their students performed 12% better academically than a control group after the first year
  • Professors from William & Mary and Oxford are helping carry out the evaluation
  • The impact studies have cost very little for Monrovia Football Academy
  • They evaluate soccer metrics mostly based on passing and decision making
  • They want to improve on their tactical awareness
  • “I see myself as the entrepreneur in the background.”
  • William currently manages the fundraising, accounting, legal work, marketing, public relations, background administrative work, etc.
  • He juggles two different worlds: one in Liberia where he’s having one-on-one meetings with his students to resolve typical 8-year-old problems and then meeting with wealthy, potential donors in New York the following week
  • To cut travel costs, William stays with family and friends when he can
  • “If there’s one time in my life where I have no responsibilities, I don’t have a family, if I fail it’s okay? It’s right now. So why not give it a go?”
  • “The worst case scenario? We put in a lot of work for 10 months and it doesn’t work and then I find another job.”
  • “It was about being okay with the prospect of failure, but being obsessive about not letting it fail.”
  • William has been on a plane every six days
  • “You’re constantly on the move and there isn’t much time for family, friends, or a significant other.”
  • It’s been difficult for Will to find work life balance
  • Will has fused his two passions: soccer and academia
Apr 17, 2018

During his senior year at the University of Kentucky, Jacob Dietz made it his mission to raise $25,000 for Students Helping Honduras. He and his classmates wanted to build a school in La Lima, Honduras, where 400 children lacked a middle school building.

Jacob asked himself: “Do I have the ability and time and self-discipline to do this?” It all seemed daunting. The previous year, they had raised $11,000—less than half of what they hoped to raise this year.

He called up his SHH chapter at the university for a meeting. For him, the group was “a team in the utmost sense.” They studied and discussed how other chapters had succeeded in different cities. A few days later, they decided on an event that had been carried out in New York and Maryland. They were going to organize a gala to raise $25,000 in one night. It would be called Brick By Brick, Kentucky.

Jessica Schilling, a fellow student at Kentucky, worked alongside Jacob as the co-organizer. The two had gone to school together since kindergarten. But for Jacob, he would have never imagined such a partnership with Jess. In fact, he never talked to her when they were kids. “Jess was always the smartest student in the grade. I failed 4th grade math,” he said. A shared mission turned them into an unstoppable duo.

The two of them spent hours handwriting invitation letters. They drove around endlessly, talking to businesses to find sponsors. They faced one rejection after another. They created videos for social media but they kept stumbling over their words in front of the camera. When things felt overwhelming, Jacob closed his eyes and imagined the night of the event where all his friends would be there. His parents who planned on missing work to be there. His brother Josh who had tirelessly helped him that semester.

When they paid the down payment to reserve the venue, they knew there was no turning back. One challenge after another awaited Jacob and his team. Guests waited until the last minute to register. They found typos in the posters they had printed at Staples. A video Jacob had spent hours on crashed on the morning of the event. He had to decide, “Do I put the work back in? Or do I scrap it?”

Did Jacob and his team prevail? Find out how the night unfolded by listening to this unbelievable podcast episode.

Apr 4, 2018

Rich Johnson is the co-founder of Spark Ventures, a nonprofit focused on international community development in Zambia, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Along the way, Spark Ventures began to facilitate engagement trips for the mutual benefit of supporters and partner communities abroad.

In this episode, Rich discusses his past challenges, fundraising, creating a separate business venture called Ignite, Board development, trends in impact travel, voluntourism, and more.

Rich Johnson Reading List

The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change The World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan

Rich Johnson Show Notes

  • In 2006 Rich Johnson was hanging out with two friends when they decided to go to Africa
  • They went to Zambia and found a community organization there called HOPE that was helping children affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis
  • Previously, Rich had been doing marketing consulting with Fortune 500 companies
  • Shortly after, Rich returned to Zambia with 16 students at the university where he worked
  • HOPE lacked resources so Spark began to raise funds back in the US
  • “What is it do you need? How can we support you?” they asked HOPE
  • Spark Ventures helped HOPE with strategic planning, leadership development, and capacity building
  • A friend become a major donor
  • They organized a fundraising bar night where 300 friends showed up
  • They raised $25,000 at the event
  • “What systems and process can we put into place?” They started with weekly calls, monthly reports, quarterly visits, annual audits with their community partners
  • In Nicaragua, they spent too much money on buying land that they ran out of money to start the farm project they had intended to start. They struggled because they lacked expertise in agriculture
  • The farm in Nicaragua now has 70,000 plantain trees and 40,000 cacao trees. Disease has been a problem
  • Rich was running Spark Ventures part-time for four years before it became full time
  • In Nicaragua, many children were devastated during the civil war. Las Tias was an organization that helped them in the city of Leon.
  • Las Tias didn’t have just one leader. They used a co-leadership model with 3 leaders.
  • During their ten year anniversary, Rich did an internal asset audit and re-examined trends in the social impact industry
  • Over 500 people had traveled with Spark during its first 10 years
  • Companies and friends wanted to participate in impact travel, adventure, and cultural exchange
  • Rich Johnson created Ignite, a separate business that specializes in impact travel.
  • The separation prevents mission creep and also allowed him to invest more into marketing and sales
  • A portion of the trip fees for Ignite go to support the partner organizations
  • 60% of the trip fees are poured into the local economy
  • Ignite raised money in the beginning to make the initial hires
  • Some nonprofits are better geared for grant fundings. Others are more geared towards corporate funding or government funding.
  • Many grassroots organizations working in international development aid, like Spark, focus on individual donations
  • Spark has learned to focus on their major donors
  • More than 50% of the funding for Spark comes from events and individual donations
  • Spark supports students in Zambia who can’t even afford the “free” government schools
  • Ezran, a child in Zambia, walked two miles to school every day and passed a cemetery where his relatives who had died of AIDS were buried. Spark recreated that 2-mile journey in a warehouse in Chicago using images and provisional buildings
  • The event raised $40,000 through ticket sales and donations
  • The Board of Directors at Spark has played a critical role
  • Many Board members want to be engaged with the mission and not only in the fundraising. The challenge is, the work is being done in another country. Spark encourages Board members to travel to partner countries.
  • Spark has a Board job description that requires attendance to three meetings and one major event. They also have fundraising expectations
  • What started as a “friends and family” Board evolved over the years
  • Rich Johnson was reluctant to use the word “volunteer” because it is loaded. There has been a backlash against volunteering and voluntourism. Some of it is well deserved.
  • Spark doesn’t try to go in as western saviors. It’s always been about partnerships and learning as much as giving
  • Rich’s preferred word is “community engagement.” It’s more about joining and learning.
  • He uses the word "traveler" instead of "volunteer."
  • Volunteering can sometimes disrupt a partner organization
  • Rich mediates each morning and exercises. He goes on retreats to the ocean or for hiking
  • Rich Johnson uses Insight Timer for his meditation
Feb 12, 2018

Alex Altman and Zeke Copic are longtime supporters of Students Helping Honduras. They have been organizing a charity gala each year in NYC called Brick By Brick to benefit SHH. In this episode, we discuss what it takes—step-by-step—to organize a gala that can raise $25,000+ for your favorite nonprofit organization.

Show Notes

  • The first thing to do is to understand the audience
  • One of the biggest costs is the event venue
  • They wanted to make sure the cost was as low as possible
  • A friend of Zeke organized a charity casino night but ended up spending way too much for the overhead cost
  • Brick By Brick has gotten the event venue spaces donated
  • Sesame Corporation donated the space in 2016 and 2017
  • Venues need to be reserved months in ahead
  • They had a leadership council made up of 6 volunteers who had been down to Honduras and were dedicated
  • Alex Altman and Zeke Copic did the first Bricky By Brick without much help
  • It’s hard to hit a broad social network if all the organizers come from the same place
  • The marketing happened mostly via email
  • The invitation email was sent out 30 days before the event. They have done it 60 days in advance in the past
  • They created a Facebook and LinkedIn event
  • Zeke emailed all of his friends directly with a personal note
  • Zeke was obsessed with checking Classy
  • About 90 people showed up to the event
  • Most people waited until the very last week to buy tickets. It was “harrowing”
  • They charged $75 per ticket for presales and $100 at the door
  • Only 3 people bought at the door
  • The event space had a cap of 100 people
  • Almost all of the guests were colleagues from work
  • Many relatives donated auction items
  • Many people have come to the event three years in a row
  • There is a short presentation about the cause during the event
  • It’s important to keep the email lists from each year
  • The first Brick By Brick sold tickets at $50 but people had to pay for drinks
  • They had food and an open bar at the event. The food was donated
  • “Do your silent auctions yourselves.”
  • It’s not a good idea to have a company run the silent auction because they take the vast majority of the profits and will likely have items that won’t sell
  • There was a diverse price range for the silent auction items ($20-$300)
  • They bought 40 cardboard bricks from the internet and sold them. 20 of them had a prize hidden inside. They had come up with the idea just a few days before the event. The bricks sold for $20 each
  • Someone from the leadership committee walked around selling bricks
  • Alex was focused on the logistics during the event, like making sure there was a coat check and making sure the food was changed, video was prepared, etc.
  • Zeke went around spending time with as many people as possible even though it is hard for an introvert like him
  • $7,000 came from ticket sales, $14,000 came from a few large donations, and the rest came from item sales
  • Corporate matching grants were important
  • People don’t realize that the companies they work for may give match grants
  • They used to find out if their companies gave match grants
  • Getting corporate sponsorships can take a lot longer than you think
  • Sending thank you cards after the event is important
  • Donors love seeing update photos from Honduras, which sets them up to donate for the next year
  • The organizers can expect to absorb some of the costs to run a gala
Jan 10, 2018

Countless nonprofit organizations are stuck on the treadmill of financial survival. Most of their energy is spent trying to make payroll at the end of each month—which means less time is spent maximizing their impact. Does that sound familiar to you?

For five years Kathleen Janus traveled the country to find out how successful organizations like Teach for America, City Year, and Charity: Water broke through their barriers. She conducted studies and interviewed 200 social entrepreneurs.

She documented their secrets to success and wrote down the five patterns that got them there. Soon, a playbook was created. In this episode, Kathleen talks about her new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference. She is a lawyer, lecturer at Stanford, and founder of Spark.

Kathleen Janus Reading List

The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman

Kathleen Janus Show Notes

  • Kathleen Janus grew up in Napa, California and began volunteering at a very early age
  • Her parents sat on many nonprofit Boards
  • She noticed early on how nonprofits struggled to survive financially
  • Kathleen in her twenties got together with her college friends and started SPARK to support gender equality
  • They organized a fundraising event in San Francisco and raised $5,000 to help women in Rwanda
  • $5,000 seemed like a lot of money at the time
  • SPARK doubled its revenue every few months
  • Kathleen was a practicing lawyer at the time
  • They were able to hire an executive director when they hit a certain size
  • The organization hit a wall
  • When Kiva went on Oprah, they raised $11 million overnight
  • Of the 300,000 nonprofits in the US, ⅔ of them raise less than $500,000 per year
  • There is a desert of failed pilot nonprofits because they were unable to sustain themselves
  • A nonprofit that raises $2 million per year has likely hit financial sustainability
  • Organizations that scaled quickly first went into a quiet phase where they tested different strategies to get proof of concept
  • “It’s about improving the model as you grow.”
  • “Innovation becomes a part of your organization’s DNA.”
  • Wishbone was started by a school teacher who asked her low-income students to write essays about their passions. She forwarded those essays to family and friends to raise a few thousand dollars to give these kids summer experiences. She updated the donors and decided to scale.
  • Wishbone now allows students to raise money on their online platform
  • “Impact measurement is absolutely critical.”
  • Measuring impact allows an organization to collect data and figure out if a program is working
  • “It’s not just about proving your program is working. It’s about improving the program.
  • 75% of the nonprofits surveyed collected data. But only 6% of them felt they made “good use” of their data.
  • An organization needs to figure out what indicators to measure, such as attendance rates of a scholarship recipient; feedback from students’ mentors, etc.
  • Such data gave confidence to donors and can lead to seed capital
  • Some randomized control trials can cost six figures
  • Very few nonprofits carry out randomized control trials early on
  • You can give incentives to survey participants (including control participants), like gift cards
  • Many nonprofits test earned income programs.
  • Hot Bread Kitchen provides job training for low-income women looking to enter the food industry. They created a cafe and also sold their produce to local markets
  • Hot Bread Kitchen started to provide childcare to their participants by raising funds. They now operate on 65% earned income and 35% philanthropy capital
  • “We tend to revere celebrity heroes. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Mohamad Yunus.”
  • “It’s actually not about the leader at the top.”
  • “Senior leadership was really critical for them.”
  • Only 15% of Boards are involved in fundraising for their nonprofits!
  • Many nonprofits complain about their Boards not doing enough.
  • Nonprofits should examine the written expectations of Board members and modify them if needed. And then hold Board members accountable.
  • Some organizations create Board engagement plans for each Board member
  • Some Board members have great connections with foundations. Others have great connections with wealthy individuals. They all bring different things to the table
  • One Board member sets up 12 coffee meetings per year for their Executive Director
  • “Great storytelling comes with practice.”
  • “You will never create a movement without a great story.”
  • Some TED speakers prepare for six months
  • Some organizations have storytelling roulettes and staff had to tell stories. Or they practice telling their story to groups of ordinary people.
  • Very few social entrepreneurs have books out
  • Op-eds and speaking opportunities add up
  • Having kids helps you set boundaries for your personal life
  • Kathleen Janus does yoga and meditation. She prioritizes spending time with her kids so she doesn’t work around the clock
Dec 27, 2017

"Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong," said Steve Sexton. His first major fundraising event as the chapter president of Students Helping Honduras at UMD—a 5K— was a, "disaster that barely broke even."

“I wanted to deflect the blame at first," he said, "But I took a long look in the mirror and said it is my fault. I can’t let this happen again.”

He dusted off and said to himself, “You can’t let some naysayers put you down. You gotta keep going!”

Steve wanted to improve the team's unity and morale. Soon, barbecues, rollerblading nights, and paintball outings were organized.  His biggest focus as the leader was simple: “to look out for my friends in the chapter.”

In this episode, Steve deconstructs how they raised $1,500-$2,100 per day selling Krispy Kreme donuts at metro stations and through their campus thrift shop. “Every waking moment I had to do something," he said, "Planning, organizing, talking to somebody.”

During the spring semester of 2017, the UMD chapter raised $45,000 to build two schools in Honduras. In this episode, Steve Sexton explains step-by-step how it was done.

Steve Sexton Show Notes

  • Steven Sexton found out about Students Helping Honduras at UMD’s First Look Fair
  • Students Helping Honduras was Steve’s first experience volunteering abroad
  • Steve got many of his friends to join SHH
  • When Steve was elected, he asked himself, “can I do this?”
  • “I have a lot to do,” he said to himself and got to work
  • “We had to plan ahead and be prepared,” he said at the beginning of the year
  • The UMD team created a calendar of events, deadlines for tasks, and small milestones
  • “What would differentiate our table?” he asked for the First Look Fair
  • They gave out juice bags at the First Look Fair
  • When they organized a 5K, “everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong.” They had problems with the t-shirt orders, signups, and delays. “It was a disaster and we barely broke even.”
  • He realized that a lot more planning had to happen
  • Upon returning from Honduras, the UMD team started fundraising immediately
  • Steve spent many hours organizing weekly meetings for the general body and for the exec committee. He also held many one-on-one meetings with his officers.
  • The team organized barbecues, parties, rollerblading nights, and paintball outings to keep the group united and engaged
  • He mixed down-to-business meetings with fun activities
  • The Students Helping Honduras chapter focused on selling Krispy Kreme donuts at metro stations each week. They started with four stops but eventually were selling in ten stops simultaneously
  • A box of 12 donuts cost the chapter $4. They sold each box for $8-$10
  • The first Krispy Kremes sales day was “chaotic”
  • They bought $1,000 worth of donuts
  • They woke up at 5am to start selling. They need supplies like tape, tables, Square credit card readers, etc.
  • The chapter organized one, large event per month like a thrift shop, gaming tournament, soccer tournament, Easter egg hunt
  • They chose the metro stations through trial and error
  • The best stops had the best foot traffic
  • They always went in the mornings. They would meet up at 5:30am and drive to their respective stops. They were out selling by 7am and be back on campus by 11am
  • Friday was the best because members had less classes
  • Thursdays were the best selling days since on Fridays some people don’t work
  • The chapter made $1,500-$2,100 per day selling donuts
  • At the height, they had 17-18 people participating per day
  • “You can’t be afraid to get a no.”
  • Many people ignored them but others are super friendly and ask about the cause
  • “You can’t let some naysayers put you down. You gotta keep going!”
  • Sometimes after the Krispy Kremes sales, the team went out to celebrate at the local Denny’s for a family brunch
  • Steve helped set up fundraising pages for his members and held letter writing workshops.
  • During one week, the UMD-SHH chapter had the campus-wide easter egg hunt AND the thrift shop during the same week
  • For the thrift shop, the chapter gathered clothes and random stuff (snowboard, telescope, toys, etc.) and spent four days organizing them
  • They took the items to the Student Union and set up the thrift store for three days
  • Steve needed to coordinate the event, making sure the event was well staffed and organized
  • The easter egg hunt was done in honor of Kayla Libby, a former Students Helping Honduras volunteer who passed away a few years ago. Participants had to look for clues and find the eggs.
  • “I was constantly thinking I was forgetting something.”
  • “Every waking moment I had to do something. Planning, organizing, talking to somebody.”
  • The chapter raised $500 from the easter egg hunt and $2,500-$3,000 from the thrift shop
  • The other members kept Steve motivated
  • At one point, Steve wanted to do the thrift store outside. But one of his members, Taylor, wanted to do it indoors. The team got into a healthy debate and ultimately decided on doing it indoors. Steve was convinced by the long pros and cons list.
  • “I wanted to deflect the blame at first. But I took a long look in the mirror and said it is my fault. I can’t let this happen again.”
  • Some people have a hard time thinking for themselves, solving problems on their own
  • When giving instructions, you have to be very specific
  • Steve gave a short speech to his church and raised $2,000
  • “Try new fundraisers. Branch out.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to ask for a donation.”
  • “Look out for your friends in your chapter.”
  • Steve wants to thank Max and Taylor Judge for their hard work last year
Oct 5, 2017

While studying at the College of William & Mary, Sam Pressler learned about the post-traumatic stress disorder war veterans were facing as they reintegrated into civilian life. 

So in 2015, he started Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) to help them re-enter and thrive in their communities. ASAP, based out of Washington DC and Hampton Roads, VA gives veterans a voice by doing something completely unconventional… By offering them free classes and workshops in stand-up comedy, improv, storytelling, and creative writing.

But the entrepreneurial journey for Sam Pressler was no joke. He bootstrapped with just two other employees—and during the same week, they both quit. “That was rock bottom for us. I thought we were going to implode,” he said.  “How the heck am I going to do this?” he asked himself. Yet instead of quitting, Sam kept pushing forward. “Time stopped and I immediately went into survival mode."

He asked himself one question, "What is the first step to take to get out of this?” and then created an insane schedule for himself—4:30 am workouts at the gym and 6-10 am focused solo time at the desk. “I ruthlessly prioritized my time, segmenting every minute of my day,” he said. Sam's hard work paid off and ASAP was asked to organize a show at the White House. "It was surreal," he said.

Since 2015, more than 450 students have taken classes, and there have been over 700 performances in front of an estimated 40,000 audience members.

Sam is an Echoing Green Fellow and was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Social Entrepreneurship.

Sam Pressler Reading List

Sam Pressler Show Notes

Sam Pressler studied political science at the College of William & Mary

Back in high school, Sam lost a close family member to suicide

Humor and laughter are universal languages that can connect us

Growing up, Sam’s passions were service and comedy

Sam read Jerry Seinfeld’s biography

Sam’s father went to the same gym as Tina Fey. Tina Fey agreed to have an hour-long lunch with Sam!

20 military veterans commit suicide each day in the US

Suicide rates in the US are rising

Older veterans are seeing the higher rates of suicides

Less than 1% of the population has served in combat, so veterans have very few people who understand them when they return home

Veterans can face identity issues when returning to civilian life

Identity and purpose are important

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

The military gives soldiers a strong sense of community. When they go home, they are abruptly stripped of this community and social bonds.

Social clubs and community groups are on the decline

At William & Mary, Sam started a writing group and comedy club for 65 veterans from Williamsburg

Sam got help from George Srour and Cosmo Fujiyama (my sister) and received a prestigious Echoing Green grant.

For Sam, the very first comedy boot camp workshop was terrifying

Seven veterans showed up to the first boot camp

Two of those original participants now hold positions for Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)

Many participants become best friends and even invite each other to their evenings

Sam doggedly reached out to veteran service organizations, veteran clinics, student veterans, local military bases, etc. to find participants

The very first performance was held at William & Mary

World War II veteran Joe Bruni read a poem about a friend who was killed at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He expressed survival guilt in the poem.

One participant shared his story of being homeless as a veteran and then eventually going to college

The stories are full of tragedy, triumph, and humor

Sam moved to Washington DC upon graduation

Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is not an art therapy program, though some of their art programs can be therapeutic

“Don’t ever say I, say we.”

Hundreds of people are behind Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)

“A village of people were supporting us. Teachers, administrators, students.”

Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) has three staff members and 30 instructors

Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) generate funds from ticket sales from their performances, corporate sponsorships of their shows, fundraising performances at conferences, grants, private donations

Standup comedy generates the most revenue for Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP). Improv shows are mostly given for free

They can reinvest the revenue generated to expanding their programs

In October 2016 Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) carried out the first ever veteran’s comedy show at the White House

“It was surreal.”

People are interested in the comedic process and behind-the-scenes knowledge

Sam’s family was at the crowd in the White House, along with family members of the participants

Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) was overextended during the first months.

One week, his only other employee suddenly and the volunteer CFO quit. Simultaneously, a good friend became suicidal. Deadlines were missed.

He saw immense operational difficulties of the startup phase

“That was rock bottom for us. I thought we were going to implode.”

“How the heck am I going to do this?”

“Time stopped and I immediately went into survival mode. What is the first step to take to get out of this?”

He felt the imposter syndrome

The difficulty forced Sam Pressler to think more deeply about his work and his deficiencies

“It was terrifying and very difficult.”

“I ruthlessly prioritized my time, segmenting every minute of my day.”

“It taught me to rely on other people.”

The co-founder, Ryan, volunteered for three months to help Sam rebuild

Identifying the right people at the right time is the key

“It’s about building the personal and organizational resilience.”

Many veterans didn’t commit suicide because of Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)

“The shiny end-state that you see with the awards and all, those are just snapshots in time and things can change very quickly.”

Sam Pressler still has a flip phone!

He listens to NPR and complains about the weather like an old man, lol

Quarterly and monthly meetings to set the north star with staff are key

He uses a composition notebook to write down his priorities and tasks

Sam Pressler “calendarizes” his time around his peak periods

Sam Pressler wakes up at 4:30 am every day and works out

6am-10am is quiet work time for Sam where he does uninterrupted work.

Sam does meetings during the day when he is a bit more tired

Sam gets 7 hours of sleep, going to bed around 9:30 pm every night

Sam reflected on the question, “What is your life task?” upon reading Mastery by Robert Greene

Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is now working with the Veterans Affairs office

Joe Bruni was one of the first participants and joined near the 70th anniversary of Iwo Jima. He was 92 at the time. He wanted to simply survive until the anniversary.

Joe Bruni wrote “Ode to Joe” about his friend Joe Esposito who fought alongside him

CNN sent a film crew to cover the ceremony that Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) organized to honor Joe Bruni. The segment was released on Memorial Day, 2015

Joe Esposito’s nephew saw the segment and called Sam.

Joe did another reading of Ode to Joe in Norfolk. Sam didn’t tell Joe that Joe Esposito’s family was going to be there.

The family left a scrapbook with letters and photos from Joe and Joe. Joe Bruni realized that he had written some of those letters 70 years prior. He started crying. Everyone started crying. “They’re here?”

Joe Esposito’s nephew gives Joe Bruni a huge hug and they start talking.

“If nothing else happens through our programs, that alone was worth it.”

Sep 26, 2017

Today’s guest is Noam Angrist, the founder of Young 1ove, an NGO providing sex education to 35,000+ young people in Botswana. Sex-ed is a complicated issue, and over the decades it’s been hard to tell what worked and what didn’t. In Botswana, where 22% of the population has HIV, much of it hadn’t worked.

But when Noam used a tool from the scientific community, he could actually tell what interventions worked. Like a scientist, Noam discarded the interventions that didn’t work and focused on the ones that did. Soon, teenage pregnancy dropped by 28% in the communities he worked with, and he had the evidence to prove it. The tool that Noam used was the randomized control trial (RCT).

In this episode, Noam talks about his experience carrying out RCTs and discusses their limitations, challenges, and financial costs. He faced countless personal struggles along the way, like using his personal savings to fund the startup years, not having funding as launch day neared, government officials obstructing the program, and having to make 11-hour drives through the dirt roads of Africa.

When things got tough, Noam reminded himself to, “stay fiercely optimistic,” and “push through even when things are collapsing around you.”

Noam’s goal is to provide sex-ed to a million youth in southern Africa in the coming years. For his work, Noam Angrist has been named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Social Entrepreneurship.

Noam Angrist's Reading List

Noam Angrist Show Notes

Noam Angrist studied math and economics at MIT

He took a class at MIT with Esther Duflo, one of the founders of The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). The Poverty Action Lab popularized the Randomized Control Trials.

Randomized control trials have revealed that most interventions don’t work

Noam Angrist was influenced by an article he read in Esther Duflo’s class: Do Teenagers Respond to HIV Risk Information? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya By Pascaline Dupas

Noam worked for the World Bank and J-PAL upon graduation and realized that many research studies produce papers but not programs

Noam did a project at the World Bank about Botswana. He went to the University of Botswana to better understand the situation.

The university students give free tuition and provides student stipends. But when stipends run out at the end of the month, they become sugar babies.

According to the study by Dupas, the unprotected sex with sugar daddies was infecting many young people with HIV, but the research paper was not being turned into a program

Noam went out into the field with a team and turned the research into an actual program

Doers need plans that are simple, clear, and actionable but research papers are usually complicated and long.

The topics of sex and sugar babies are taboo

Noam and his team organized sex-ed workshops with the college students and found out that what the facilitators did or said affected the results greatly

Small, five-minute ice breakers at the beginning of the session changes the whole dynamic of the workshop and people talk more. Or when someone contributes a comment, everyone snaps and creates an environment of positivity and enthusiasm

The workshops are more effective when the facilitator is also a youth. It is truly a youth-to-youth model

Young 1ove now focus on girls ages 12-16

Women in areas with high HIV rates tend to have multiple, concurrent sexual partners

Due to the nature of the HIV virus, the disease is easier spread when less time has passed between sexual intercourse with different partners. That is why having concurrent partners is so dangerous.

45% of 40-year-old men in Botswana have HIV. 5% of young people have HIV. So the inter-generational sexual partnerships is infecting the younger generation.

Noam Angrist won $20,000 from D-Prize, a foundation that funds new entrepreneurs who increase access to proven poverty interventions.

Young 1ove carried out a second program (that had been proven to work in Kenya ten years prior) in Botswana, funded by J-PAL, Baylor HIV Clinic, and the Ministry of Education

Noam wanted to know if what worked in Kenya would work in Botswana

Noam thought he would become a development economics professor before the opportunity to run Young 1ove had came up

He had been offered a full ride to go to graduate school in the US but instead became a social entrepreneur

“Why do research when you can use it to make a difference?”

There was a gap... the good research was not being used

“It’s not the lack of good research. That exists. It’s the using and adapting of it that interested me.”

J-PAL and World Bank have hundreds of studies showing what works and what doesn’t, but the studies are not being used enough

NGOs should ask themselves, what do you need to do an RCT for? Is it to demonstrate impact to get more funding or is it to understand if an intervention is actually working to adjust or scale your programs?

If you want to do the RCT to give you more credibility and better branding, then you should hire an expensive, credible third party like J-PAL to do it for you

But if you want to do the RCT just as a learning tool for your own organization’s internal purposes, you don’t need to spend much money

Currently, kids are being told to abstain, which has not been very helpful.

Simply encouraging young people to date other young people leads to safer sex

Mechanism matters

90% of girls think younger men have a higher HIV rate than older men. But when you reveal the truth, it changes the cost-benefit-analysis for the girls

Botswana is really good about distributing HIV medication. So now the cost of having HIV is lower. So the messaging for sex-ed has to evolve with the changes of cost-benefit-analysis of the situation

A lot of universities now have centers that perform RCT.

Reliable organizations that do RCTs: J-PALInnovations for Poverty Action (IPA)World BankID InsightThe Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Nairobi, Kenya

You should build into your organization’s fiber to always look to improve and constantly iterate

The original studies in Botswana produced ambiguous results. They measured more factors than the study from Kenya and had three groups instead of two that they studied

They were not ready to scale at that point

They tried different strategies, like instead of focusing on talking about the risk of HIV (now that the cost of having it is less), they experimented by focusing on the risk of pregnancy. Or by providing follow-up meetings to remind people

There is the temptation to do more and more research and not take a stance/position or move forward until one is 100% sure. But we are never 100% sure!

There is less evidence as to what works across countries and over time

MTV, The Ministry of Youth, and The Global Innovation Fund started to help

They delivered their programs to one third of the country in forty days

Young 1ove’s commitment to evidence-based interventions has attracted many donors

Most of the original staff members were volunteers

They applied for funding from Evidence Action and many other groups to find funding

Noam Angrist used his personal savings to withdraw cash out of ATMs in Botswana to fund the beginnings of Young 1ove

Everything was bootstrapped in the beginning. They operated lean, and shared computers at the university

During one 11-hour drive, Noam received a phone call from J-PAL about funding for a quarter million dollar RCT. They awarded the money and Noam was ecstatic and called his staff immediately. They received the funding one month before everything needed to start

They needed to get permission from the Ministries of the Botswana government. When ministers advocating for Young 1ove change jobs, it can complicate matters

They learned to get buy-in from EVERYONE in the government and so called and updated the stakeholders so much that they were told not to call so much

The marginal cost of changing what the workshop facilitators say is very low. The benefits could be huge.

Young 1ove is now working on a remedial education program

One of the best ways to prevent HIV is to keep kids in school

Noam describes his team as fiercely optimistic

“Push through even when things are collapsing around you. Stay fiercely optimistic.”

“You should be able to do good and do well.”

Salaries for nonprofit workers should be competitive

“What a pleasure it is wake up and want to go to work.”

The documentary, Broken for Good talks about the poor salaries in the nonprofit industry

Big Bang Philanthropy is a foundation that funds big but meddles/dictate little. They trust the organizations to make the right decisions. Getting donors like that is key.

“Stay crisp and simple, but internally brace for a lot more complexity. Juggle that tension and be aware of it.”

Jun 7, 2017
Katy Ashe is the co-founder of Noora Health, a tech NGO in India. When she visited the hospitals of Bangalore as a graduate student, she saw a sea of people sitting around in the hallways. Who were they? They were family members of the patients—and they were scared, bored, and lacked basic health information. Many slept outside the hospitals, waiting for days. They had nothing to do but wait.

The incredible waste of time was tragic. But Katy and her cofounders saw opportunity amidst the tragedy.

The cofounders asked themselves, what if these people sitting around in the hallways spent those hours learning about health, physical therapy, and disease prevention? After all, some people didn't even know what a pulse was, and at least 40% of the patients had diabetes.

Noora Health began by showing one health video that they filmed in a parking lot. To the surprise of the founders, patients and their families loved the video. They wanted more. But there was a problem: the founders had no money. Yet something inside Katy kept saying, “We need to go all in and become an organization and throw our lives into this.” 

For months, Katy lived in garages, attics and tents to make ends meet. She worked part time bartending and babysitting while she built up Noora Health with her professional soulmate, Edith.

The founders grew the nonprofit organization and created countless health workshops. Now Noora Health operates in 16 cities in India. They have provided training to 90,000 people and impact studies have shown a 36% reduction in post-surgical complications.

Fast Company rated Noora Health as one of the most innovative companies in 2016. They've been recognized by Y-Combinator, Echoing Green, and Ashoka. Katy Ashe was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for social entrepreneurship.

Katy Ashe's Reading List

Katy Ashe Show Notes

Katy Ashe did an undergraduate thesis project in the Amazon rainforest in Peru

She accidentally began studying environmental contamination for mercury in the illegal gold mining industry

Noora Health started out as a class project for a at Stanford’s School of Design

They utilized the Human Centered Design Practice for their project to find out what was happening in the hospitals of India

Katy Ashe discovered that the patients and their family members were not ready to go home after they were treated due to uncertainty

In India, many family members accompany a patient to the hospital. They wait and camp out outside the hospital for days

Communication between patients, family members, and medical personnel was lacking

Medical personnel rarely explain to the patients and family members follow up procedures

Katy Ashe and her team decided to train and educate the family members who were waiting around and bored

40% of the patients going to the hospital had been diagnosed with diabetes; many others probably had it but were undiagnosed

The majority of the people Katy worked with had never been to a hospital or a health class

Some people didn’t even know what a pulse was

Katy Ashe and her team were actually determined NOT to start an organization through the class project

Then they used a point and shoot camera to make a video. A nurse in India showed the video to teach a class to the bored family members

A huge line of people showed up to watch

The video showed people how to walk after surgery, physical therapy techniques, basic diet advice

The impact numbers were surprisingly positive; infection rates were lowered, satisfaction levels for the hospital increased, people didn’t need to go to the hospital as much afterwards

The Amazon rainforest project had gotten too dangerous for Katy Ashe. The gold mining mafia wanted to kill Katy

Two of the co-founders had moved onto medical school

Katy Ashe went to India for a couple of weeks but ended up staying for nearly a year

Living in India is very affordable, but Bangalore is a tech city and costs are increasing quickly. A ramen at a ramen bar in Bangalore can cost $15!

The hospital asked Noora Health to do their programs in their other hospitals

“We need to go all in and become an organization and throw our lives into this.”

The founders did not want the project to fade away

They gave themselves three months to get things going

Katy Ashe was living in a friend’s garage to make ends meet

Edith, the other co-founder, was job searching

Katy nor Edith could find jobs that were as impactful to the world, and they are impact-aligned people

They wanted to turn the dial using their lives

Katy Ashe was looking at IDEO, getting a PhD, becoming a researcher

Katy Ashe and Edith consider themselves “professional soul mates”

They started Noora Health without any money or funding

They made pitches about Noora Health everywhere they went

In the beginning, the founders didn’t know how to tell a story

At the tail end of the three month deadline, they were accepted by Y-Combinator, an accelerator for tech startups (Air B&B, Dropbox, etc.). They create a community for the entrepreneurs and create a space for accelerated growth

Katy had part-time jobs (bartending, babysitting, odd jobs) while starting Noora Health, just getting by

Katy had unusual housing arrangements to make ends meet, such as attics connected with ladders, tents, garages

At Y-Combinator, nonprofits are treated the same way as everyone else

Noora Health was the second nonprofit ever to be accepted by Y-Combinator

Y-Combinator lasts 3-4 months but you become part of the community forever

Katy Ashe went into Y-Combinator without knowing too much about it, without expectations

Noora Health shot out of Y-Combinator “like a cannon ball”

“We’ve been trying to keep the cannon ball in the air.”

Katy had to learn how to hire people, create a team, create a culture

The four founders had started the class project without naming a leader or CEO

“Every couple of months I rewrite my job description.”

Katy Ashe is currently focusing on external communication, such as writing articles and sharing their impact study data sets

Katy Ashe loves to travel, kind of like Dr. Who, to go to conferences and make pitches

She was rarely in one place for longer than two weeks

Noora Health now works in 16 different cities in India

Excessive traveling can make you confused and lose your center

The original nurse in India that helped show the first video is now Noora’s Director of Training!

Noora Health now sets up schools inside the hospitals and provide the staff with videos, flip charts, take home materials, everything they need

Their material is largely visual since many of the beneficiaries are illiterate

Noora Health has more than 30 employees now in the team

Noora Health has filmmakers and designers on the team and they create the curriculum

They are currently trying to change 5-10 behaviors

Noora Health has trained more than 90,000 family members

“You should be paying competitive wages.”

Noora Health sometimes give full time jobs to their volunteers

Being indispensable and adding value are keys to finding jobs

Katy Ashe considers herself a messy person

She is always starting new projects, reading more books, adding more tasks onto her already busy life

She considers herself “too curious”

Noora Health wants to take their model to all of India and eventually to other countries

The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to be advocates for world peace while working on ourselves

Apr 27, 2017

While volunteering in India as an undergraduate student, Annie Ryu fell in love at first sight. What she saw at the market wasn't tall, dark, and handsome. It was a spiky, green fruit she had never seen. The huge fruit she was looking at was the jackfruit, the largest tree born fruit in the world. 

Fascinated, she researched the fruit and ate them. Many of them. So much so that she'd soon be known "The Jackfruit Lady." The jackfruit, which tastes different in its various stages, has many nutritional benefits. It's high in vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, potassium, and manganese.

It also tastes great! The jackfruit is incredibly fibrous and has a meaty texture similar to pulled pork. When ripe, Annie describes it as, "a combination of pineapple, banana, and mango." That sounds delicious!

The meat industry is the second largest contributor to global warming. The problem is, many meat alternatives don't taste too great. But what if someone could create something that did?

Annie Ryu had an epiphany shortly after: by marketing the jackfruit all over the US as a meat-alternative main dish, she could create jobs, fight global warming, and improve human health. When she returned to campus, she said no to a Fulbright scholarship and no to medical school. Instead, Annie created The Jackfruit Company

She figured out how to start a company in India, though she had zero knowledge of the food industry. She contacted farmers, local providers, and vendors to create a supply chain for the jackfruit. She bootstrapped the operation for years, concocting flavors in her own kitchen. The flavors that Annie now offers includes: Teriyaki, Curry, Tex-Mex, and BBQ. More are on their way.

But it hasn't been easy for Annie. "I was working all hours of the day,” she said, describing her early days. "Initially, you're doing everything," she expressed. Her first three shipments were disastrous and had to be dumped. As she hired people, she realized how little experience she had as a manager. “Becoming a good manager was a whole new learning curve,” she said.

Yet Annie Ryu kept pushing her limits. “I had the conviction that what I was doing was the right thing to do, even though there was so much more to learn," she said as she thought about all the benefits the jackfruit would bring to the world.

The company grew and grew, and they now run a factory in India and is generating jobs for 50+ locals.

Annie was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for social entrepreneurship. In this episode, she also talks about her relationship with her Korean father, her aspirations, personal struggles, personality test results, and why she decided to start a social enterprise instead of a traditional nonprofit organization.

You can buy The Jackfruit Company's products online or near the tofu and meat-alternative sections in Whole Foods, Wegmans, Safeway, and other supermarkets.

This episode is sponsored by Tikker, the death watch that counts down your life (and tells the time). Use the promo code SHIN at the checkout to get a 10% discount on your purchase.
Apr 17, 2017

When Robbie was 12 and his sister Brittany was 13, they heard the story of a soldier returning from Iraq with a near $8,000 phone bill. They couldn’t believe that a man serving his country was unable to call his family for free. So they decided to do something about it. In 2004 with just $21 and some help from their parents, Cell Phones for Soldiers was born.

Today the nonprofit organization provides cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans. They've provided more than 300 million minutes of free talk time and have recycled 15 million cell phones for the cause. Robbie, now age 25, is the recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service and was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. 

Donate your used cell phone to Cell Phones for Soldiers here

This episode is sponsored by the Tikker, the death watch that counts down your life (and tells the time). Use the promo code SHIN at the checkout to get a 10% discount on your purchase.

Robbie Bergquist's Reading List

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Robbie Bergquist Show Notes

Robbie Bergquist and his sister heard about a soldier who had an $8,000 phone bill he racked up while calling home while deployed.

They had two cousins in the armed services and so the issue touched their young hearts

Back in 2004-05, Cell Phones for Soldiers raised money to pay off cell phone bills for soldiers. One bill was $15,000!

Shortly after, Cell Phones for Soldiers began to raise awareness within the armed forces in Afghanistan about the different cell phone towers and the different costs associated with them

When Robbie and Brittany got distracted, their parents encouraged them to keep going

Robbie and Brittany missed a lot of school. They missed out on soccer and cheerleading practices because of all their traveling on behalf of Cell Phones for Soldiers

They were getting a lot of media coverage and attention and were going on speaking tours at age 12 and 13.

By 2006, they had collected tens of thousands of old cell phones and they didn’t know what to do with them

They wanted to send the cell phones overseas to the soldiers but after a media appearance announcing the plan, they were asked to cease and desist by the State Department because insurgents could triangulate the calls

“The Department of State told us to cease and desist our original plan. We were very discouraged.”

Instead, they decided to recycle and sell the cell phones to purchase calling cards that they could send to soldiers

Calling from landlines using calling cards is better for security purposes

Cell Phones for Soldiers has a facility in Alpharetta, Georgia where they collect and refurbish used cell phones

They determine the value of the used phones and resell them

Unusable phones will be scrapped for basic materials and recycled properly to reduce the impact on landfills

An ex-Verizon executive came on board to work for the charity.

Five volunteers work at the facility

“You’re supposed to create a business plan, a roadmap, and benchmarks. But for us, it was a lot of trial and error.”

Robbie’s uncles were in the telecommunications business and came to help, providing the idea to recycle and sell cell phones

“Our meetings took place at the kitchen table.”

“You don’t need a board room or wear suits and ties.”

“My parents were a little naive as to how much traction we were going to get. They did not know we would be in all 50 states, collecting millions of phones.”

Cell Phones for Soldiers has 4,000 dropoff locations

Supporters hold collection drives where they spread awareness

Lake Orion High School in Michigan has a dropoff location and the student body turned in used cell phones and the SGA donated $1 per cell phone collected. They raised a total of $5,000 total!

Most of Robbie Bergquist’s arguments happened with his mother over the direction of the nonprofit organization

During one interview, his sister Brittany answered a question for Robbie and the rest of the interview went poorly. Robbie got upset at his sister and they started arguing in front of other people

“We were your average college students.”

Robbie was a NCAA D1 soccer player so he hired a PR company to support Cell Phones for Soldiers

His parents were full-time teachers

“We realized we couldn’t do everything. We were burning candles at both ends.”

They researched 5-6 different PR companies to pick the best one possible. The company specialized in nonprofit public relations and handling daily donor requests

Aspire Communications from North Carolina was the boutique PR agency that helped

36creative created the website for Cell Phones for Soldiers which has a zip code locator feature for drop off locations

“I worked on Cell Phones for Soldiers in between classes, after classes, before classes. There were a lot of weekends I spent in the library working on the charity. I missed a lot of classes in college because of the work.”

After Robbie Bergquist graduated from college, he started to handle the PR and marketing initiatives himself

Robbie reaches out to military news outlets because he wants to get in front of an audience associated with the military

Cell Phones for Soldiers became a full-time endeavor for Robbie Bergquist after college because he wanted to continue the momentum and the family’s legacy

“I was not as confident as I am today.”

Robbie Bergquist still wants to get into the sports industry one day

Veterans come home with many challenges, especially with assimilating, paying bills, or getting jobs

Cell Phones for Soldiers gives emergency funding or cell phones to those veterans in need

It’s important to make the cause valuable to the supporter

Cell Phones for Soldiers has to compete with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other cell phone companies that buy back old cell phones. They also have to compete with online marketplaces like eBay

Robbie Bergquist went into his work with the understanding that he was going to make less financially going into the nonprofit world, compared with investment banking for example

“It was more valuable for me to support the military than have more money in my pocket.”

Sometimes Robbie forgets to tell a story because he’s told the story so many times he gets them all mixed up in his head

It’s important to stay passionate about telling the story. He stays motivated by calling the soldiers that his nonprofit organization benefits

Robbie Bergquist stayed in touch with a sailor who received a calling card from Cell Phones for Soldiers. The sailor called Robbie in the middle of the night. He told Robbie that he had heard about where the phone cards came from watching one of Robbie’s interview on TV. He had to remove himself from the room to go outside onto the deck to cry from gratitude. There were three other guys who were also crying. Robbie was a senior in high school then.

Forbes was quiet about naming Robbie in the 30 Under 30 List until the big announcement

“We don’t do this for the recognition. But when we get it, it brings so much value to our mission.”

Robbie Bergquist is starting an initiative that will give handsets and cell phones to low-income veterans. Cell phones are important for employment and medical reasons

Robbie Bergquist is passionate about self improvement. He stays in touch with the news

He tries to stay physically active at least one hour each day

Robbie says a heartfelt thanks to his family at the end of the interview

Apr 11, 2017

Most foreigners who visit Indonesia end up at the beaches of Bali. But not Adam Miller, a young conservationist from St. Louis. While volunteering at a pet shop at age 10, he came up with the vision of one day working in Indonesia to help the animals there. His vision quickly became an obsession. Many years later, Adam found himself in a remote village in Borneo, Indonesia. It’s a part of southeast Asia facing the fastest rate of deforestation in the world and the second highest number of endangered species in the world.

He lived there for six months on a total budget of $1,000 and built up a nonprofit organization called Planet Indonesia.

In this podcast episode, Adam discusses the challenges of working in a country with a culture that is vastly different. When he goes running, random fathers in the community might stop to offer their daughters as wives. And you will find out what Adam means when he says that in Indonesia, "host families will love you so much they might kill you in the process."

Adam also talks about grant writing, donor relations, using behavioral economics and incentives to promote conversation, and overcoming serious differences in the way people communicate in Indonesia.

This episode is sponsored by the Tikker, the death watch that counts down your life (and tells the time). Use the promo code SHIN at the checkout to get a 10% discount on your purchase.

Show Links for Adam Miller

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary

Mulago Foundation

Dan Pallotta’s TED talk: The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

Poverty Inc. Documentary

Show Summary for Adam Miller

Adam was volunteering at a pet shop at age 10 in St. Louis, Missouri

He saw a bird from Indonesia that sparked his interest

Adam Miller was known as a “bird nerd” growing up

Adam Miller’s dream was to become a conservationist researcher

He began to feel inadequate just doing research, as just publishing articles didn’t feel like it was making enough of an impact

Adam Miller had an early life crisis and so jumped on a plane  to Indonesia

He ended up in Indonesia teaching English as a Fulbright Scholar

Learning about the culture, language, and the people led to him starting Planet Indonesia

Indonesian culture is very difficult to adapt to for a westerner

Conversations are much more indirect, longer-winded, and unclear in Indonesia

A donor foundation had a very strict reporting requirement and the finance team for Planet Indonesia kept assuring Adam that things were being done properly. Adam later found out that the team wasn’t doing the job as required by the foundation. They were not being honest and direct about their inadequacy

The Indonesian government is very unclear about requirements and permits for NGOs

When Adam first moved to Indonesia, there were very few foreign NGOs present

The Indonesians watch western TV and movies and romanticize the culture

The local Indonesians love to follow and take photos of foreigners

When Adam goes for jogs, fathers in the area ask him to marry their daughters

Indonesian cuisine is one of the best in the world. Especially lactose intolerant people like Adam and me!

Host families in Indonesia won’t let their guests do anything or go anywhere alone, especially for female guests

“Indonesians will love you so much that they’ll kill you in the process.” - Adam Miller

People live with their families and don’t go off to live independently as much as in the western culture

Now there are more nonprofit organizations in Indonesia

There are more than 85 nonprofit organizations in the area in Borneo where Adam Miller works

Indonesia food is usually rice, tempeh, chicken, vegetables, curries

Sambal is Indonesia’s popular hot chili sauce

Adam had dinner with a good expat friend in Borneo and in the conversation realized that it has been so hard for him to have long-term friends because expats come and go so frequently

Working for an NGO in Indonesia is not for everyone, according to Adam Miller

Meals in Indonesia cost $1.50-$2.00

Adam once lived for six months in Indonesia on a total budget of $1,000

Adam is a minimalist kind of guy and lived in a remote village

In Jakarta you can find anything you can do and buy in Europe

Very few cities have a bar or alcohol scene

Karaoke is a popular weekend activity

Men play a lot of indoor soccer (futsal) in Indonesia, Adam plays 3 times per week

Much of Planet Indonesia’s work is done on the weekends because that’s when community members (farmers and fishermen) are finally home

Dating in Indonesia is difficult and intense. By week two, marriage is already on the table. People have a lot of lovers on the side in Indonesia, before marriage.

Adam’s Fulbright proposal did not feel realistic on the ground

Adam met Novia Sagita, the co-founder of Planet Indonesia

Before starting Planet Indonesia, Adam had been offered other job options

A lot of the nonprofit work being done was not making a real impact because there was a disconnect between the NGO offices and the on the ground communities

Novia Sagita has worked in the NGO industry for 15 years and studied in Denver, Colorado. She has lived extensively abroad and can juggle different cultures

Novia Sagita started this weaving cooperative to empower village women

The weaving cooperative started with 21 weavers and now has 1,500 weavers

With four people (a conservationist, an NGO worker, a teacher, a fiction writer), Planet Indonesia began

A lot of people criticized Adam Miller for starting an NGO with people who didn’t necessarily have the “right” experience or resumes

Planet Indonesia starts communal business groups and trains them and invests in assets to kickstart the businesses of the business groups

For people to join the business groups, they are required to sign and follow conservation policies

Planet Indonesia provides the services and loans to encourage conservation practices by their nearly 24,000 participants

Another organization provides healthcare in exchange for the community members cutting back on their logging. The less loggers a community has, the bigger discounts the community gets in the health clinic

It’s important to listen to the communities

Planet Indonesia uses behavioral economics and incentives to change community behaviors

During year one when funding was low, Adam Miller had to spend $600 getting the 501 c 3 IRS status and then $1,200 to get the equivalent in Indonesia

Adam Miller only had a $500 limit on his credit card so he couldn’t even use it

Adam’s Fulbright cohort organized a secret fundraiser and raised $3,000 to help Adam start Planet Indonesia!!!

Novia Sagita said they needed $12,000 for the first year. Adam went back to the US and raised nearly $30,000!!

The help from The Franciscan Sisters of Mary has been critical for Planet Indonesia

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary was involved in stopping the Dakota pipeline case. They were the first Catholic organization to completely divest in fossil fuel

Adam was giving a talk at a Rotary Club and someone in the audience put him in touch with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary causes little hassle for Planet Indonesia in terms of reporting requirements. Not every foundation is the same!

Mulago Foundation

Running a nonprofit organization in the developing world is VERY challenging and when a donor is trying to control you on top of everything, it can be heartbreaking for the staff

Out of the last four years, the past month has been the HARDEST, all time low for Adam…!

Novia Sagita and Adam kept fighting together despite all of the hard moments. They are so united.

They all work 20 hour days sometimes

The energy level of the staff dropped when the donor tried to control them so much

Adam and Novia gave a speech to the staff during that all time low to give them inspiration and to stay true to their vision despite the periodic lows

Adam hopes that other NGOs can one day adopt Planet Indonesia’s model in other countries

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary sent 90 personal letters thanking the Planet Indonesia staff, miraculously when they were at their all time moral low

The people in Adam’s office go through ups and downs in their morale. They are humans!

1-2 staff members move in to live in the communities Planet Indonesia begins to work with

Adam Miller encourages nonprofit organizations to be honest with their donors, with their successes and failures

80% of Planet Indonesia’s funding comes from foundation grants. 20% comes from peer to peer

Adam Miller is the primary grant writer for Planet Indonesia, especially because he is the only English speaker in his staff

Many people in the nonprofit and development aid industry is scared to talk about their failures

Once, the seedlings that Planet Indonesia bought were bad and a bunch of trees died

At first, they didn’t understand why the locals were capturing and selling the threatened and endangered animals

Dan Pallotta’s TED talk: The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

An expat could live comfortably in Indonesia for $15,000 and $25,000 for a family

Many of the best people in the grassroots nonprofit industry get poached by the larger organizations because of the better pay

Poverty Inc. Documentary

It took Novia Sagita 2-3 years just to convince the women to start weaving again, a tradition that had largely disappeared in the area

Novia Sagita identified a local market to sell the textile to. 70-80% of the sales are domestic

Novia Sagita built a textile museum in the area to explain the cultural importance of the textile

There were many risks involved, going for an unexpected market and building a museum, etc.

Now they are starting the textile products in Australia

There are many unexpected challenges in the NGO nonprofit world

Adam Miller gets stage fright before his public speeches and almost went down cold recently

Planet Indonesia offers internship positions to college students

Adam gives out a heartfelt shoutout to Novia Sagita and then to his family

Apr 3, 2017

How did Rachel Sumekh (founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger) respond when she was told "you're just too nice to be a leader"? In this episode, Rachel Sumekh talks openly about her inner doubts, challenges as a Persian-American social entrepreneur, how she responded to opposition from campus administrators.

Swipe Out Hunger is a nonprofit organization that is working to end hunger by activating college students to donate their unused meal points. Since Swipe Out Hunger began in 2009 as a college pet project, the NGO has served 1.3 million meals. Rachel Sumekh was recently awarded Champion of Change by The White House and named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Social Entrepreneurship.

This episode is sponsored by the Tikker, the death watch that counts down your life (and tells the time). Use the promo code SHIN at the checkout to get a 10% discount on your purchase.

Memorable Quotes:

“When you have opposition, you grow stronger.”

“Every college student is insecure. We believe that food shouldn’t be one of the things they are insecure about.”

“I didn’t go on a single date in a year. In L.A..”

“How do I progress this conversation or better understand the other person?”

“Have people who will keep you accountable for a BIG vision.”

Rachel Sumekh Reading List

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky

Rachel Sumekh Show Notes

Students were accumulating hundreds of dollars of meal credits by the end of each semester and they were expiring

Instead of letting the meal dollars expire, Rachel convinced her classmates to buy food to-go at the end of the semester using the leftover meal credits and gave them out to the hungry in the city

Before Swipeout Hunger, students were using the extra dollars to buy a bunch of water bottles they didn’t need

“When you have opposition, you grow stronger.”

The administration didn’t like the initiative at first, due to liability issues and losing control

Instead of giving up, Swipe Out Hunger got the SGA and key faculty members involved

Swipe Out Hunger provides food closets for students who are hungry and are at risk of dropping out

Many students that Swipe Out Hunger serves are homeless

Swipe Out Hunger gives out dining vouchers to students and also supplies food pantries on 400 campuses

Swipe Out Hunger is operating chapters in 26 universities

Sometimes they work with the universities to get them to buy and donate food to a local homeless shelter or food bank. Universities get bulk prices

Swipe Out Hunger relies on the honor code, given the fact that students can abuse the system and take more food than they need

“Every college student is insecure. We believe that food shouldn’t be one of the things they are insecure about.”

14% of students in community colleges are homeless. In California, 1 in 10 students are homeless in the state school system.

33% of college students skip meals because of finances

These students were likely getting free or subsidized breakfasts/lunches during grade school

Many of the beneficiaries are former foster youth, undocumented students, immigrants, students who don’t have access to financial aid

When Rachel Sumekh graduated in 2012, she felt like she wanted to change the world

She spent a year working in the trenches with the homeless through AmeriCorps

At nighttime, she worked on Swipe Out Hunger

“What gets you excited? What gives you energy in life?”

Because Rachel is Persian-American, everyone in her ethnic community asked her what the heck she was doing as they expected her to become a doctor, lawyer, or get married

Minority or immigrant communities usually don’t see social entrepreneurship as a career option

“It takes a lot of explaining to do. Especially to grandma.”

The opposition gives Rachel Sumekh more motivation

The chapters maintain relationships with the dining company, administration, and beneficiaries. Students donate their swipes to the chapter at the Swipe Out Hunger tables

A freshman, Shannon, started a chapter at UC-Santa Barbara and became an outstanding leader for the organization, getting 3,000 meals donated per year

It’s challenging to work with college students that are so busy. Building personal relationships is key

Addressing turnover is key when seniors graduate

4-5 universities reach out to Swipe Out Hunger each month organically

Rachel Sumekh is always speaking at conferences to get the word out

The effort to start a chapter at a particular campus doesn’t always work out

The university bureaucracy is a big challenge

At age 21, Rachel Sumekh was told by her colleagues, “You are too nice to be a leader” because she was very appeasing, submissive, passive, and a crowd pleaser

She changed her leadership style

“I don’t care what title you give me. I’m going to focus on this full time.”

Rachel Sumekh moved back in with her parents in California and started her first day as Executive Director at a Starbucks

She worked 60-80 hours per week, networking with as many people as possible and even learning to code websites

She had believed in the myth that entrepreneurs have to slave away their lives to succeed

“You don’t need to work ALL the time.”

Rachel Sumekh participated in every pitch contest there was

“I didn’t go on a single date in a year. In L.A..”

Rachel Sumekh listens to The Tim Ferriss Show :)

Tim Ferriss sayid that we often mas fear as stress. Being stressed out usually means we’re fearful of something. That resonated with Rachel

She works on accomplishing just 2-3 important tasks each day that she writes down

Rachel’s biggest fear is disappointing her supporters and Board members

Rachel read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People back in high school and listens to the audiobook in the car even today

She uses the techniques in the book to prioritize her tasks

Reacting vs. Responding. Reacting usually comes from ego or wanting to be defensive

“How do I progress this conversation or better understand the other person?”

Rachel Sumekh has to juggle herself between her startup community and nonprofit community

Rachel met with a friend’s uncle and met up at the local Cheesecake Factory. At the end, he wrote a check out for $10,000 because he believed in Rachel’s vision.

“Have people who will keep you accountable for a BIG vision.”

Swipe Out Hunger won several online voting competitions early on for funding

Grant writing became a big part of the fundraising strategy

“Call the foundation and introduce yourself.” The person on the other end will remember you and you will gain insight as to what they are looking for?

The state of California will have a bill presented on the floor soon that will allow Swipe Out Hunger to scale their program

Rachel Sumekh learned to say no thanks to the book, Essentialism

Look for people who will give you critical questions to your ideas instead of empty praise

Listening to critical feedback and being coachable are difficult

Rachel reminds herself that she is valuable and that her work matters during her moments of doubt.

Mar 20, 2017
Every morning for nearly a decade, CNN Hero Razia Jan drank a cup of water from her school's well to make sure it hadn’t been poisoned overnight by the Taliban.
She works in a part of Afghanistan where girls face unimaginable obstacles just to attend school. They must face the threat of getting acid thrown onto their faces, risk buying snacks with grenades hidden inside them, and make sure nobody has sprayed poisoned gas into their classrooms.

Razia Jan worked as a tailor and dry cleaner before starting Razia's Ray of Hope Foundation in 2008, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in Afghanistan through education. She operates the Zabuli Education Center, a school that she founded in rural Afghanistan that provides a free education to 625 girls. 

Please leave a review of the episode on iTunes and/or Stitcher.

Show Notes for Razia Jan

  • Razia was a single mother when she started her own tailoring and dry cleaning shop
  • Even as a tailor, Razia was involved in community volunteering
  • Razia was the only Afghani in her entire town during 9/11
  • After 9/11, Razia sent blankets and quilts to the Ground Zero rescue mission
  • Razia sent care packages and 30,000 shoes to the US Army during the war in Afghanistan
  • Razia returned to Afghanistan after 9/11, 38 years after she had moved to the US.
  • During that visit, she could not find her old home as everything had been destroyed
  • When Razia opened the Zabuli Education Center, they started with just 100 girls
  • The students at the Zabuli Education Center learn both Arabic and English
  • When Razia Jan joined the local Rotary Club, she was the only woman, and the only Muslim
  • She simply tried to blend in at the Rotary Club and eventually became the President
  • “Service Above Self” -Rotary International
  • Razia has been a part of Rotary International for 20 years
  • “You can’t do things on your own.”
  • All the houses in the village are mud houses and the roads are unpaved.
  • There are no trees in the village
  • Drought has affected Razia’s village where many families depend on their grape orchards to make a living
  • Razia Jan lived in Afghanistan for eight years (2007-2015) so she could be present 24/7 at the project
  • In 1920, the king of Afghanistan had built a boy’s school that was later destroyed. It was on that land that Razia Jan began building the Zabuli Education Center for girls
  • The land, by then a garbage dump, was given to Razia by the Ministry of Education
  • The community wanted a boys school at first, and not a girls school
  • The community members said that the boys were the backbone of Afghanistan and they needed to improve their future.
  • Razia answered: “The girls are the eyes of Afghanistan. And unfortunately, you all are blind.”
  • The community members did not like Razia’s vision at first, but ten years later, they finally understand the importance of girls education
  • “If you educate a boy, you educate a boy. If you educate a girl, you educate the whole family.”
  • In the community, it is common for girls to get married as young as age ten
  • A family can get a dowry payment by marrying off their daughters
  • A mayor in the village decided to marry a 16-year-old girl. In exchange, he wanted to marry off his daughter (in the 10th grade) to the 70 year old father of the bride. After the marriage, the daughter of the mayor was beaten repeatedly, her ribs and nose were broken, and she was burned by the new family. She refused to stay in the marriage and in the end, her father supported her and brought her back. That girl just graduated from school and is going to a midwife college.
  • The documentary about Razia’s work, What Tomorrow Brings, took seven years to create
  • In the trailer, Razia Jan is deciding where the blackboard should go during the construction of the third story of the school building. I asked her what was going through her head at that very moment.
  • “Each brick was set in front of me. I just wanted to make sure.”
  • Razia Jan hired an engineer and countless villagers to build the Zabuli Education Center, which provided steady employment to many men
  • The construction workers who work for Razia’s Ray of Hope make about $20/day in a place where most people make about $30/month.
  • Providing jobs improves the support the Zabuli Education Center gets from the community
  • The four-year-old students in kindergarten write their fathers’ names in Arabic and in English and they give these letters to their fathers. The fathers get ecstatic and become supportive of the school
  • Only about 0.7% of the community supported the Zabuli Education Center when they first started. Now, about 99% of the community members are in support
  • Zabuli Education Center offers classes that other schools in Afghanistan don’t offer, such as international social studies, English, and computer literacy.
  • The families are excited about their daughters learning English
  • 14 students in Zabuli Education Center are engaged but they won’t get married until they graduate
  • A 7th grader and a 9th grader are already married.
  • A 12-year-old girl in the 7th grade lived with a father who was addicted to drugs and two sisters. An uncle took them in and eventually decided to marry the three sisters off to his three sons who were much older. The oldest daughter tried to commit suicide because she didn’t want to marry her cousin and getting married would be ending her education. She traded in a bar of soap to buy rat poison at the corner shop. When the uncle said she was no longer going to school, the girl drank the rat poison. The following day, Razia took her to the hospital and she survived. The uncle felt bad and allowed the girl to go back to school and postponed the wedding. But shortly after, the uncle married off the three sisters and they left the village
  • “Each drop of water delivers, and we are each a drop of water and one day there will be a massive waterfall of educated girls in the developing world.” -Razia Jan
  • Someone was against the Zabuli Education Center building a three story building because having windows so high up would meant the girls could look at the homes in the village. So Razia Jan put the windows a little higher as a compromise
  • Razia Jan focuses on the girls and not as much on the community
  • The Zabuli Education Center provides bus transportation to their students as a security measure
  • Every morning, Razia Jan drank a cup of water from the school well to make sure it hadn’t been poisoned
  • Every morning, Razia and her staff make sure that the Taliban hasn’t sprayed the classrooms with poison gas
  • Once, a suspicious car (possibly Taliban) drove towards the Zabuli Education Center and five vigilant men from the nearby shop chased them away
  • Razia Jan keeps a low profile in Afghanistan for herself and for the school, which is necessary for their safety
  • Only a few people came to the opening day of the school. One guy wanted to obstruct the construction of the Zabuli Education Center by lying down in front of the bulldozer
  • Razia Jan’s response: “I’ll be very happy if you come lie down. I will bury you here and put a flag that says, ‘this guy never wanted a school here.’”
  • People make all kinds of empty threats and bluffs
  • 9 of Razia Jan’s graduates are hoping to attend American University at Kabul
  • The first year, Razia Jan raised just $5,000, mostly through her Rotary Club and friends
  • Public speaking engagements are the organization’s best fundraising strategy
  • The Zabuli Education Center has a child sponsorship program where donors give $300/year
  • A sponsor receives a letter and photo from the child, and frequent updates
  • Razia Jan answers the critics who criticize NGOs that utilize child sponsorship programs
  • Razia’s Ray of Hope has only three staff members in the US
  • Razia Jan doesn’t get stressed out from all the speaking engagements she has
  • Razia Jan always had self confidence
  • The Zabuli Education Center now offers courses on midwifery, computer science, and accounting
  • Razia is upset with the controversy in the book, Three Cups of Tea  
  • Razia had no idea what CNN Heroes was about. And they did two years of research on Razia’s Ray of Hope to verify everything. The phone call came as a surprise and honor to Razia Jan
  • Razia Jan recently received the Rotary International Women in Action Award
  • The girls at the Zabuli Education Center are so excited that one girl said she wanted to be an engineer but she had no idea what it meant to be an engineer and said she would find out very soon what it meant.
Mar 6, 2017

As an investment banker, Andy Stein never imagined that a visit to an orphanage in Chile would change his life, and the life of thousands of others. In 2001, after 25 years on Wall Street, Andy Stein left everything behind to start the Orphaned Starfish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with orphaned, trafficked, and at-risk youth around the world. The NGO has built 50 vocational centers and computer labs in 25 countries.

I first read about Andy Stein on The CNN Freedom Project, a TV show highlighting projects around the world that are fighting modern-day slavery. I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to interview Andy to learn about his work, travels, and why he loves to do magic tricks during his spare time.

Reading List

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace - One School At A Time by Greg Mortenson

Show Notes for Andy Stein

Andy was an investment banker and is now a “recovering banker”

He flew around so much that he was the #1 flyer for Continental Airlines in New Jersey

He was only home for one month out of the year and flew 400,000 miles

Andy learned how to make balloon animals, so he could share a skill with the kids

Despite his busy business schedule, he spent 2 hours at an orphanage in every country that he visited

He began to spend more and more of his time helping children, instead of in investment banking

Soon, Andy made it a full-time endeavor

His children were very supportive of his career change

Andy went through a divorce but is remarried now. His new wife travels with him 80% of the time

Andy was very used to money and living a large lifestyle

“I knew this was what I was put on the planet to do.”

“The environment I was in was one that was only based on who had more.”

“Money is overrated.”

Andy was inspired by the starfish parable and named his nonprofit organization the Orphaned Starfish

The Orphaned Starfish has now helped 10,000 children

“Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for others.”

Orphaned Starfish funds itself almost exclusively from an annual gala

Many girls who had to leave these orphanages at age 18 faced a grim future

Andy Stein raised $40,000 during his first fundraiser

Now Orphaned Starfish raises $1.3 million per year

Too many galas are about the show and not about the cause, the bottomline

Andy Stein sent a shipment of computers to an orphanage in Chile but the shipment got stuck at customs in Chile and was never released!

Orphaned Starfish now buy their computers in-country

“Shit happens in life.”

In the business world, you face so many obstacles and learn to problem solve, instead of dwelling on them

In 2016 Andy Stein was on the road all but 39 days of the year!

“I call my apartment a storage facility with a bed.”

The process of fundraising and administration is the “grind” for Andy Stein

He is able to do most of his administrative work online, while traveling

The Orphaned Starfish has only 2 paid employees

Andy was featured on CNN’s Freedom Project, which covered stories of people fighting sex slavery around the world

CNN filmed Andy and his work in Medellin, Colombia

CNN did a full, three-segment piece on Orphaned Starfish

Orphaned Starfish raised a few thousand dollars due to the coverage, but less than expected

However, the prestige that Andy gained from being on the program opened up new doors of opportunities

Marisol was the first orphaned girl that Andy met in Chile. Despite the childhood abuse she had suffered, Marisol studied hard and graduated a university. She works at a bank and is getting ready for a wedding

Andy has been friends with Marisol for 15 years. She now mentors the children in the orphanage that she grew up in

Marisol is the inspiration for Andy and thousands of other girls

Andy had been to Tegucigalpa at least 10 times, initially for business

Orphaned Starfish supports an orphanage in Cali, Colombia, for children with HIV/AIDS

Andy is living mostly off of the savings that he had from his previous career

Andy’s wealthy friends from his banking career have all kinds of “toys” but they aren’t necessarily happy

Andy believes that children should be brought up by a regular family, but there are many cases where children are better off growing up in a group home.

Andy’s goal is to double his impact in the next five years

Success in family and relationship comes with sharing the same vision and passions

Andy eats a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches

Andy enjoys going for walks and staying active

For Andy, Medellin is one of his favorite cities in the world

Andy recommends Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, though he says we should learn from the lessons taught but not take it as a nonfiction book

Andy is most grateful for his wife and soulmate

Andy met his soulmate at age 47

“Focus on and follow your passion.”

Feb 22, 2017

WARNING: If you are involved or will be involved in the medical field, this episode may alter your future aspirations...

CNN Hero Dr. Ben LaBrot began working on fishing boats in California at age 11 and always knew that he was destined to live at sea. In 2009, he began refurbishing a 76-foot-long fishing boat and named it The Southern Wind. A year later, Dr. Ben and his penniless team left EVERYTHING behind and set sail to Haiti to cure the poor. “My high school counselor never told me that these kinds of jobs and solutions existed,” he said. So he created a nonprofit organization and called it the Floating Doctors

“I pushed all my chips in the center of the table. I was all in,” he said. Upon arrival, Dr. Ben LaBrot said to himself, “I’m about to find out if this works or if I just wasted a whole lot of everyone’s time, money, and resources.”

For years, they endured endless delays, storms, 18-hour workdays, not being able to afford the light bills, and living in poverty (eating baked bread was the highlight of their week) as they provided free healthcare for people in remote coastal regions. “I never envisioned that I’d be this poor for this long," he said. Yet for Dr. Ben, “if you do what you love and you have enough to eat and a roof over your head, you’ll be happy even if you’re poor. I’ve since tested that for the last ten years and found it to be true.”

Dr. Benjamin LaBrot is a physician, social entrepreneur, and true inspiration. He is a man who is living out his dream and destiny, each and every day of his life. When reflecting back on the experience, he says, “When you’re choosing your work, don’t think about what you’re going to get paid for it. Think about what you’re going to become because of it. And choose accordingly. Because remember, we only get one lifetime. Make it count.”

The Floating Doctors have treated more than 60,000 patients in Haiti and Central America. 

Best quotes:

“Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering about challenges and future. But I never worry about the big questions. I’ve never woken up to wonder if I’m just wasting my time. I’ve never had to ask myself, should I be doing something more meaningful? Should I follow my dream and get out of this cubicle instead?”

“Our lights are going to be turned off tomorrow because we don’t have any money.”

“It was a continual emergency. Day after day after day.”

“There is something to be said for doing your watch from 2-4am when it’s just you and a sleeping boat… and hopefully a calm ocean.”

“You have to maintain a culture aboard your ship of IF ONE OF US GOES DOWN, WE ALL GO DOWN.”

“The ocean doesn’t care what you WANT or INTENDED to do. The only thing the ocean respects is what you DID do.”

“I could be a plastic surgeon or be making more money doing general practice. But my commute even on a bad day is still better than sitting in traffic.”

“When was the last time you went on a giant, hollowed out tree to work?”

“Unfortunately, they say to themselves, I’ll do the dream later. Then they look back and realize they blew it. Their one chance. We get one lifetime. No more. No less. Just one.”

“If you do what you love and you have enough to eat and a roof over your head, you’ll be happy even if you’re poor. I’ve since tested that for the last ten years and found it to be true.”

“It sometimes turns out to have been a mistake to climb the mountain. But it is always a mistake to have never made the attempt.”

“My high school counselor never told me that these kinds of jobs and solutions existed.”

“Almost anything can be done in a way that allows you to still have a family and a life, even if it means you have to work very hard to figure out how to do that.”

Reading List by Dr. Ben LaBrot

Anything written by Neil Gaiman

Anything written by Paul Farmer

Dr. Tom Dooley's Three Great Books 

Show Notes for Dr. Ben LaBrot

For Dr. Ben Labrot, getting stuck in a life-threatening storm at sea is “just another day.”

“It’s still better than getting stuck in traffic in L.A.”

Running into Hurricane Richard in Honduras was the scariest moment for Dr. Ben

Dr. Ben’s boat has also gotten stuck in the reefs

Having a strong team allows the organization to handle crazy situations, like hurricanes

Medical training in Ireland is different and more practical to use in developing countries where doctors have less access to technology and resources

Dr. Ben visited a small Masai village in rural Tanzania and the everyone in the entire village asked him to help with their medical needs

He ran out of supplies very quickly and had to work with the little he had

The experience in the village sparked his passion to provide medical care in the developing world, though he realized he needed a bigger backpack and more supplies

For an entire year, Dr. Ben couldn’t think of anything else except for his dream to create an organization

On his honeymoon, Dr. Ben and his wife went back to the exact same Masai village but with a larger backpack

The villagers couldn’t believe Dr. Ben came back

Dr. Ben and his wife treated 140 people together and dewormed the entire village

The villagers married the two in a Masai celebration where the families gave their rings to the couple and even sacrificed a goat--Dr. Ben’s highlight in his honeymoon

Dr. Ben stays in touch through phone calls to provide medical advice to the same village

The first step towards the vision was to design a boat that would be used for something that has never been done before

During the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Dr. Ben noticed that recreational sailing cruisers were of significant help in the humanitarian aid

Dr. Ben wanted to be a doctor and a marine biologist since his early childhood

The “sea mist” that comes in the from ocean in California has a strong, salty smell. The sound and the smell of the sea perhaps shaped Dr. Ben’s future at sea

Dr. Ben loved going to aquariums as a child

At age 11 he began working on fishing boats and continued to work on boats throughout his youth

Sail boats are more cost-efficient than fuel-powered boats

Dr. Ben found an old boat for sale in Florida that hadn’t been used for 8 years

It took over a year to repair the boat, and the help of many friends who learned on the fly

His friends who joined had different expectations. Some wanted to heal through the process. Everyone bonded. Their destinies changed.

“Everyone changed through the process of rebuilding the ship.”

Some people got married to someone they met in the project or changed careers

They worked 18-hour days, seven days a week

“It was an endurance match. We kept pushing back our leaving date.”

“Our lights are going to be turned off tomorrow because we don’t have any money.”

The amount of stress Dr. Ben was going through during that first year was enough to kill the average human

The day before their final departure, they had no money and owed the marine yard $1,100 for the yard fee

Suddenly, a random guy hands them a gallon of Red Bull and $1,100 so they could go!!

A lot of retired boat experts volunteered their time for free

“We arrived at Haiti without a penny. And the next day we started working.”

Upon arrival at Haiti, Dr. Ben thinks to himself: “I’m about to find out if this works or if I just wasted a whole lot of everyone’s time, money, and resources.”

Dr. Ben spent hours fixing the boat’s engine

“It was a continual emergency. Day after day after day.”

The boat could fit 14-15 people

Floating Doctors built a facility in the jungles of Panama to serve as a base. They are able to provide permanent health care. They want to replicate this project in other countries.

“If you can actually stay longer or set up something ongoing, you can achieve so much more.”

You’re working all day at the clinic and work 2-4am night shifts on the boat

“There is something to be said for doing your watch from 2-4am when it’s just you and a sleeping boat… and hopefully a calm ocean.”

“I would often volunteer for the 2-4am shift because I loved that private time with the ocean.”

People can get hurt feelings, feel overworked, if you don’t look out for everyone

“You have to maintain a culture aboard your ship of IF ONE OF US GOES DOWN, WE ALL GO DOWN.”

Dr. Ben once received a strange piece of advice: “When people are having a shitty week, BAKE BREAD. The smell will make everyone feel better.”

“I worked my crew very hard. But I always give them context. The why.”

Dr. Ben is always thinking of and organizing experiences for his team that would boost morale, like seeing dolphins. He does this all on a shoestring budget.

“My crew really looks out for me.”

Floating Doctors has had thousands of volunteers

Dr. Ben chokes up when he thinks of the group cohesion and bonding of his team. They have survived it all together.

“The ocean doesn’t care what you WANT or INTENDED to do. The only thing the ocean respects is what you DID do.”

The sea demands professionalism. You have to be on top of your game, all the time

“I could be a plastic surgeon or be making more money doing general practice. But my commute even on a bad day is still better than sitting in traffic.”

“I’m in awe and admire every single one of my co-workers. Most people don’t get to say that.”

A World War II veteran was once asked by his granddaughter if he was a hero in the world. He said, “No. But I served in the company of heroes.” Dr. Ben feels the same about his work where he watches daily acts of heroism, of people rising above what they even knew what they had in them, to deliver something for someone else. That’s a special thing to be able to experience day after day after day.”

“Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering about challenges and future. But I never worry about the big questions. I’ve never woken up to wonder if I’m just wasting my time. I’ve never had to ask myself, should I be doing something more meaningful? Should I follow my dream and get out of this cubicle instead?”

“I pushed all my chips in the center of the table. I was all in.”

Floating Doctors spent 10 months in Honduras, working near Roatan with Clinica Esperanza

The Floating Doctors are planning to expand to Haiti next, then maybe at 57 countries by the time Dr. Ben dies

The Floating Doctors retired the Southern Wind in 2016 and now travel in smaller boats, including a 47-foot, wooden canoe

“When was the last time you went on a giant, hollowed out tree to work?”

In Honduras, Dr. Ben saw drug-related crime and the child sex trade. A lot of darkness.

Dr. Ben also saw a lot of acts of extraordinary courage and humanity, which gives him hope and faith in humanity

“Some of the things you see can really make you want to throw up your hands and put your head under the pillow and not get out of bed ever again.”

Dr. Ben was a high school biology teacher in his early twenties

“Most people have dreams. And most people end up not following that with all of their heart. They end up following something that seems more sure and maybe fulfilling, but not necessarily what their dream was.”

“Unfortunately, they say to themselves, I’ll do the dream later. Then they look back and realize they blew it. Their one chance. We get one lifetime. No more. No less. Just one.”

“If you do what you love and you have enough to eat and a roof over your head, you’ll be happy even if you’re poor. I’ve since tested that for the last ten years and found it to be true.”

“I never envisioned that I’d be this poor for this long.”

“I had faith that I’d find a way.”

Dr. Ben teaches part-time for the USC School for Global Health in Panama

“By not making security the focus of my search, I’m now in a position that I’ll have security. Opportunities were created because of what I did.”

“You might be worried about the lighting bill, but you won’t worry about the big stuff, like am I wasting my life?”

In their 40s, people go through a midlife crisis because they realize they didn’t follow their dream

Dr. Ben recommends Neil Gaiman’s books

“It sometimes turns out to have been a mistake to climb the mountain. But it is always a mistake to have never made the attempt.”

“Is it that bad to fall? To fail? Is it really that bad?”

“Millennials are usually told what is not possible.”

Floating Doctors used to get hate mails in the beginning, doubting their project. Those messages stopped when they actually did it.

Chinese proverb: “Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”

Dr. Ben’s wife is the Director of Operations for Floating Doctors

“My high school counselor never told me that these kinds of jobs and solutions existed.”

“Almost anything can be done in a way that allows you to still have a family and a life, even if it means you have to work very hard to figure out how to do that.”

Dr. Ben LaBrot can’t remember a time where he had a big fight with his sister, one of the founding members. They have been a united fight the entire time.

“Working with family and friends is a double edged sword.”

He’s very fortunate for his sister and his wife. He calls them the “heroes I get to work with every day.”

“Everything that is valuable in medicine can be found inside a primary care consult.”

Dr. Ben’s favorite part of his work is going on a house call to treat patients

“You don’t save anyone as a doctor but by just doing your job, you get to be the instrument by which someone’s life can be changed forever.”

Dr. Ben LaBrot was told that “I cannot do everything, but I will do something.”

“When you’re choosing your work, don’t think about what you’re going to get paid for it. Think about what you’re going to become because of it. And choose accordingly. Because remember, we only get one lifetime. Make it count.”

Dr. Ben LaBrot is most grateful for a 22-year-old staff member, Kira, this week

Feb 16, 2017

Social entrepreneur Henry May is the founder of CoSchool, a B-Corp* that's worked with 5,000 youth in Bogota, Colombia. CoSchool works to build emotional, social, and leadership skills through extracurricular programs. In this episode, Henry May speaks about his journey of self discovery, hardest moments, greatest lessons, and why he decided to make CoSchool a B-Corp instead of a nonprofit organization.

Henry May is a young teacher from England and a huge soccer fanatic. His work has been recognized by Ashoka, the world’s leading social entrepreneurship agency and by Unreasonable Institute. He is also the founder of The Huracan Foundation, a global soccer movement.

Top quotes:

“The self-doubt never goes away, it’s part of being human.”

"I saved up by eating rice and lentils every day and as I watched my friends go out on weekends."

“Without that driving force, you’ll just step aside when the hardship comes.”

“When I’m not having difficult conversations, problems start to appear.”

“If it’s going to be successful, it’s going to take a long time. 10, 20, 50 years. Let’s not try and run too fast because this is a marathon.”

*B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,600 Certified B Corps from 42 countries and over 120 industries working together toward 1 unifying goal: to redefine success in business.

Reading List from Henry May

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough

Show Notes for Henry May

Henry May visited Colombia as a backpacker in 2009

He returned to live there in 2012 and has been living there since

Henry did Teach First in London, UK

He then worked for Teach for Colombia through the Teach for All networkthen worked for Proctor and Gamble, and then worked for a private school in Colombia

Starting an organization is like “being born” because when you’re a baby, you don’t know what is going on around you and need help from everyone around you.

“The self-doubt never goes away, but it’s part of being human.”

To find time and money to start CoSchool, Henry cut back on on rent by moving back in with his parents. He worked part-time and worked on the weekends to save up for his big idea.

During the early years, Henry ate rice and lentils every day and watched friends go out on the weekends as he counted pennies. He started to think the decision was a big mistake

The co-founder’s mother loaned $1,200 to keep CoSchool going

As a social entrepreneur, you have to be convinced that your work matters

One of his former, at-risk students in the UK who was into philosophy was convicted of murder. Events like that give Henry the conviction that he needs to improve the education system in the world’s vulnerable neighborhoods

“Without that driving force, you’ll just step aside when the hardship comes.”

CoSchool went through a lot of iteration in the early days

The first pilot program was a 10-week sports program for public and private schools

But after observing and listening, Henry realized that the program needed to be different

The overall vision is the same, but the “how” has changed a lot

The co-founder suddenly left because he got an offer to work for another organization

Henry got overly ambitious and projected to triple in growth but when the revenue was less than expected, he had to let three employees go

“It’s all about people, nurturing relationships, having difficult conversations.”

Henry regrets micro-managing his staff and not believing in his teammates during the early days

During one team meeting, Henry confesses to having “lost it” because of his emotions. So walking out without shaking hands or storming out means that we weren’t taking ownership of our internal suffering.

The most important thing for a founder is to have those difficult conversations

We have not worked out the brain muscle that allows us to have those difficult conversations, and social entrepreneurs need to train themselves there

“When I’m not having difficult conversations, problems start to appear.”

Henry May learned those skills through experience, self awareness, and a coach

Henry May was part of Unreasonable Institute where he formed a community of like-minded people that he can go to

A retreat with Reboot was helpful for Henry May

Sebastian was one of the first participants in CoSchool’s program. He wanted to become a soccer coach. He is now coaching a women’s university team in the UK. He is getting ready for an internship at Fulham FC, Henry’s favorite Premier League team.

CoSchool sells their programs to schools and parents to generate revenue

CoSchool now makes revenue through foundations and private businesses that want to invest in Colombia’s education

CoSchool projects to break even this year

Many people have left CoSchool because they wanted a higher salary

The whole team is living close to their financial limits

There have been months where CoSchool couldn’t make payroll. Giving employees some warning can help them prepare financially and mentally

When times got tough, CoSchool found loans from Board Members and friends. Other employees helped by delaying paychecks

“Everyone goes in thinking they’re going to be the exception.”

“It’s very unlikely that the path will be smooth.”

“If it’s going to be successful, it’s going to take a long time. 10, 20, 50 years. Let’s not try and run too fast because this is a marathon.”

For Henry May, the social and emotional development of a child is just as important as academic development

Working with the public sector in Colombia is challenging due to the corruption and dark forces

One potential risk is growing/scaling too quickly at the sacrifice of program quality

The stakes are high when they only have 2-3 months of funding left in the bank

Henry stays mentally healthy by running and eating healthy. He also has a lovely, Colombian girlfriend who is very supportive

Henry started an amateur soccer team in England and named it Huracán, after a famous club soccer team in Argentina. Suddenly, the actual team in Argentina found out about the story and the club team gave publicity to Henry’s team. They played in the actual Huracán stadium and was publicized on the Fifa website!

Soon the Huracán program spread to multiple countries where teachers from Teach for All network started soccer teams. Henry used the profits from selling team t-shirts to support these teams. The program grew into its own nonprofit organization in India called Just for Kicks and works with 5,000 youth.

Feb 9, 2017

Today’s guest is social entrepreneur Doug Bunch, a full-time attorney from DC and the co-founder of Global Playground. It’s a nonprofit organization providing educational opportunities around the world. They’ve built schools, computer labs, and libraries in eight different countries (Uganda, Cambodia, Thailand, Honduras, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Kenya). In 2010, they partnered with us here at the Villa Soleada Bilingual School in Honduras to fund the technology lab in the school. Thanks to Doug Bunch and his team, our kids now have access to a computer lab full of laptops. 

You can now work for Global Playground as a GP Fellow in one of their project sites. Expenses are paid for in these fellowships! They are also accepting applications for a position where you'll get to travel to ALL of their project sites around the world in a span of two years.

Show Links for Doug Bunch

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure The World by Tracy Kidder


Show Notes for Doug Bunch

In 2006 Doug founded Global Playground with his friend, Edward Branagan

Global Playground’s first project was in Uganda

Doug recruited Board Members who had specific skills, like graphic designers

The initial Board Members were personal friends

At one point, Board Members strongly disagreed on the pace of growth of Global Playground

Ultimately, Doug Bunch decided to aim for a moderate, controlled growth rate to prevent burnout

Doug had a “moment” while visiting a project site in Thailand. He found himself on the phone dealing with a court case back at home, stressed out. He looked around in the village, the sunrise, the people growing tea, and thought about the meaning of his life.

Creating balance in life is important for Doug Bunch. He is intentional about it.

Doug is now a Board Member for the College of William & Mary

Many volunteers, supporters, and volunteers for Global Playground were from the College of William & Mary network

Global Playground organizes an annual gala in DC called An Evening Under the Stars where they raise around $25,000

They get many in-kind donations for the event, such as drinks, food, and staff to minimize costs and maximize profit

They maximize the “fun” parts of the event and have cut back on the boring parts, not bombarding them with information about the organization. They keep the speech part to 10-15 minutes total.

Such events should be a celebration, time to thank donors

Doug Bunch learned that you don’t have to be overly formal or litigious with small nonprofit organizations

An SHH Board Member found out about Global Playground while interning at the mail office for Doug’s law firm

Global Playground was worried that Students Helping Honduras was too unfocused during its early years

Through Global Playground, Doug Bunch has the plan to connect people who come from different backgrounds to erode ill-informed stereotypes

Jan 31, 2017

Today's episode is the opposite of what I usually do. I’m actually crossposting a podcast episode where I’m the guest answering questions. So the tables have turned. In this episode, I’m on the show, Failures From the Field with Jordan Levy of the Ubuntu Education Fund, and I talk about my biggest failures while working in Honduras. Definitely subscribe to their show on iTunes if you get the chance.

It was surreal to be on the show with the Ubuntu guys, as they’ve been a source of inspiration for me for many years. Their founder, Jacob Lief, was actually guest number 11 on my show. He cursed more than anyone else I’ve had on the show, so you know the episode was a good one. Lastly, check out the book about their work in South Africa, I Am, Because You Are.
Ubuntu Education Fund:
Failures from the Field podcast:
I Am Because You Are: How the Spirit of Ubuntu Inspired an Unlikely Friendship and Transformed a Community
Dec 28, 2016

Social Entrepreneur Seth Maxwell has the goal of providing clean water to every single community in Swaziland. And at age 28, he is on his way of doing it. A few years ago, Seth founded Thirst Project with his friends from college. Together, they set out to end the number one global killer of children: the world’s water crisis.

Since raising $1,700 at their very first fundraising event, Thirst Project has worked with students from over 400 schools to raise 8 million dollars. They've provided 300,000 people with safe drinking water around the world. Seth Maxwell is the recipient of VH1’s Do Something Award and was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Social Entrepreneurship.

Text THIRST to 97779 to get connected to a staff person from Thirst Project.


Show Links for Seth Maxwell

Gary V

Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins

How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins


Show Notes for Seth Maxwell

While living in Los Angeles, Seth Maxwell learned about the global water crisis at age 19.

According to Seth Maxwell, 1.1 billion people lacked access to safe drinking water at the time

Women and children will spend hours each day to find water, which adds up to thousands of hours per year

Animals defecate into the same water source, causing water-borne illnesses

Drinking contaminated water kills more children under the age of five than AIDS and malaria combined

“Clean water impacts everything.”

Without safe water, other development aid initiatives loses effectiveness

Seth started a club with seven friends on campus to raise awareness about the global water crisis around LA.

Seth and his friends spent $70 to buy bottles of water. They gave out the bottled water on Hollywood Boulevard so they could talk about the crisis.

People began to ask them to speak about the crisis at their schools

Within one month, they fundraised $12,000, which sparked Seth to create the Thirst Project

They started off by sending their funding to partner organizations

Soon, they started to implement the water projects themselves after forming a technical team made up of water experts

Swaziland is small, with 1.4 million people and is known as the country with the highest AIDS density in the world

For people with AIDS, drinking contaminated water is a serious issue due to their weakened immune system

In order to provide running water to the entire country of Swaziland (100% national coverage), Thirst Project needs to raise $40 million

As a youth, Seth Maxwell was passionate about theater and telling stories on stage

Seth admits that he was arguably the most selfish, introspectively-focused human being on the planet at age 19

Learning about the water crisis shattered his world view

“There was a lot of doubt. Could I do this? How do I lead a team? How do I fundraise?”

Seth focused on finding experts who would join his team and Board

Seth faced great self doubts as he started as a young person with a background in theater

Seth no longer speaks at school assemblies anymore, as he feels his shelf life has passed

The Thirst Project presentations tell the story of the global water crisis

During the first 2-3 years, Seth focused on making the presentations himself

Soon, Seth realized that speaking so much was not a sustainable model for the organization

Thirst Project now find students who get trained and give the presentations on behalf of the organization where they speak at at least one school a day

Seth feels that now at age 28, he doesn’t resonate with high school students compared to when he was 19

About 2.5 years into the organization, Seth went on a 3-month speaking tour where he spoke at 80 schools all over the country. He never stayed in a city more than 3-4 days. It was emotionally draining because he didn’t have a sense of community being such a traveling nomad

In the last year, Seth started to work out 3 times per week to better take care of himself

Seth is protective of his weekend so he can make time for himself as a person

At age 25, Seth was overly consumed with his work and had very little going on in his personal life

Our generation is making an impact in the world but it often means sacrificing personal time or fun activities

Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are not necessarily big risk takers. They take calculated risks.

“Now is the time. Take risks. Build something. Break it down. Rebuild it. Figure out what works.”

“You have to try.”

Every high school or university that works with Thirst Project does it differently.

Their 45 minute presentations have lots of media, photos, videos

The students start fundraisers for Thirst Project, like basketball tournaments, video game tournaments, dances, walks, etc.

100% of these donations go to the water projects, as the Board pays for administrative expenses

Donors get personalized thank you videos from the project sites

The team making the content for the Thirst Project presentations is very young in age, allowing them to know what will grab the attention of their peers

The Thirst Project breaks down their content into three parts: 1.) The Problem, 2.) The Solution, 3.) The Call-To-Action  

“Storytelling is powerful.”

People expect high quality content

It’s all about building relationships

Too often nonprofits look at donors as ATMS and volunteers as work horses

It’s about genuinely caring about the people behind the organization

Thirst Project communities have water committees and a strong sense of ownership

Seth breaks down the White Savior Complex issue

Seth reads business books

Thirst Project is creating a team called G20 that will support the cause in a huge manner

Thirst Project is partnering up with Key Club

“There was something exciting about that hustle.”

Dec 20, 2016

Imagine working out of a coffee shop to start an online movement for social good that gets shared by the World Bank, William Easterly, Kiva, Grameen America, Oxfam, Finca, BRAC, and Opportunity International. According to Dr. Shawn Humphrey (AKA The Blue Collar Professor), you can do it by following his four-step-plan. And for $50 or less.

Dr. Shawn Humphrey is the founder of La Ceiba Microfinance Institute, The Two Dollar Challenge, The Month of Microfinance, and The Sidekick Manifesto.

In this episode, Shawn deconstructs how he starts online movements for social good and makes them go viral.

He also talks about his favorite books, how he responds to criticism, how to connect with influencers (like Seth Godin, William Easterly, and Jacqueline Novogratz), narrative humility, his “unusual” morning routine, his inner chatter, personal finance for social entrepreneurs, and tribal teaching.

Shawn Humphrey is a Board member for Students Helping Honduras and is an economics professor at the University of Mary Washington. Check out his blog at and his top posts: Pumping People Up About Poverty, Packaging Poverty, Making the Poor Pay.


Show Links for Shawn Humphrey

To Hell With Good Intentions

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki  (Author), Peg Fitzpatrick

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer

Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor by Hugh Sinclair

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz


Show Notes for Shawn Humphrey

60 groups participated in the $2 Challenge around the world in 2016

The Month of Microfinance struck up a partnership with groups like Kiva, FINCA, BRAC, Opportunity International, Grameen America

The Sidekick Manifesto went viral and got posted by World Bank, Oxfam, and William Easterly

These movements had cost Shawn about $50 each (domain hosting)

Shawn uses Wordpress for his campaign websites

Running a traditional nonprofit organization is much harder than running an online movement

You need to “start too soon”

Shawn Humphrey emphasizes the process of: learn, make changes, iterate

It takes Shawn Humphrey about half a day to start an online movement

The four components of an online movement: 1.) platform, 2.) social media infrastructure, 3.) power network, 4.) content

The content in the online movement is the most important. What does it put on the table? An experience? Useful information?

The $2 Challenge has three levels: Beginner (3 days), Intermediate (5 days), Difficult (5 days plus randomized daily income)

For the “Difficult” level, there are also “shocks” like unexpected expenses

The $2 Challenge pulls participants out of their comfort zone

The $2 Challenge creates empathy in participants

The Sidekick Curriculum accompanies the $2 Challenge, which includes daily reading material and short films.

At the end of each evening, there is a group meeting and reading

Participants read Ivan Illich’s To Hell With Good Intentions

During the first year of the $2 Challenge, about 10 students participated and called their tent a “shantytown” which he is now embarrassed about. He later decided on the term, “makeshift shelter.”

“The first year, there were doubts everywhere.”

Shawn experienced poverty during his childhood in Ohio

Shawn describes his impression of me when I was a college student

Shawn dropped his research project to work on development aid in Honduras

Bragging and promoting oneself was not something Shawn was used to when he started the Blue Collar Professor

Shawn started attracting online trolls who criticized him for misspelled words, etc.

Several people were offended by his post, The Do-Gooder Industrial Complex

In the article, Shawn criticized the idea of in-kind donations as a solution to poverty, specifically with shoe donations. An online debate ensued.

A well-known blogger criticized the $2 Challenge and her audience rallied behind her.

Shawn has a rule: Wait 24 hours before sending an emotional email

Shawn responded to the criticism to start a conversation. That conversation turned into a friendship. Her community began to understand Shawn’s point of view.

Shawn welcomes criticism because it allows us to clarify, reflect, and question our own thoughts and methods. But it’s not easy to take emotionally.

Shawn’s PhD advisor, Douglas C. North, won the Nobel Prize in Economics through his research on economic development. Shawn applied what he learned in his programs in Honduras

Through the Sidekick Manifesto, Shawn practices Narrative Humility. How do you handle and share someone’s story? What biases do we have? How can we be their sidekicks and not their heroes?

For the Sidekick Manifesto, the Sidekick Manifesto itself was the Content. It had taken Shawn 10 years to write it.

Shawn released the Sidekick Manifesto on The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty to get maximum exposure

Shawn purchased the domain name on Godaddy for ~$10.

He hosted the site on Reclaim Hosting at no additional cost

He used Wordpress to build the site

He started the hashtag #sidekickmanifesto

Shawn already had 5 of his own social media handles pushing out the Sidekick Manifesto simultaneously

He then reached out to his power networks, including Students Helping Honduras, to build an audience

He simply asked, “will you Tweet this out?”

Who are your top 5, top 50, top 100 people in your network?

Shawn and William Easterly follow each other on Twitter and they had talked about Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance so he had been developing that relationship before the ask for a Re-Tweet

You need to give, give, give before making the ask

The homepage got 2,000 unique visits in two weeks

The total cost to run The Sidekick Manifesto was $40-$50

“I’ve been cold-calling and cold-emailing people since 2007. That’s how we got started.”

Shawn even emailed the marketing guru, Seth Godin. He replied back within 5 minutes.

Shawn cold emailed the founder of Kiva and started a conversation with her on the $2 Challenge. She shared Shawn’s content.

Shawn cold emailed Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of Acumen Fund and author of The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

Each year, Shawn will create a list and reach out to 10 influencers

It took 10 years of relationship building for Shawn to get the influencers to share his content

“It is a long, slow, patient process. One grain of sand at a time. But it does pay off.”

Shawn gets up at around 4:50am. He goes to Starbucks on his bicycle as he fights his inner doubts and chatter. He orders his tall, black coffee without sugar, no cream. He starts typing away on his laptop and works away for one hour. He rides back home as he again fights his inner doubts and chatter.

“It’s every moment.”

Shawn is constantly criticizing himself inside his head.

Shawn is now 45 years old and is asking himself: “Is this it?”

Shawn allows himself two existential crises per year

Being married and having a child gave him constraints that have helped Shawn

Shawn does not work after 5pm so he can focus on his life outside of work. He rarely works on weekends

Shawn is very protective of his time so he can stay productive

Though Shawn puts Tim Ferriss’s teachings from The Four Hour Workweek into practice, he cautions himself to not get caught up with the idea of working less and building wealth to accumulate material things or go on exotic vacations. For the social entrepreneur, doing the work (and doing it better) is the reward.

If you want to be in the social impact space, you have to be counter-cultural and accept the fact that you won’t be wealthy and find the value in the work itself. You won’t have the traditional, American lifestyle.

Shawn is getting ready to launch Tribal Teaching where he will teach students to stop seeking perfection, to re-wild themselves, to tear down the status quo, to ask why.  

Dec 7, 2016

Social entrepreneur Brandon Chrostowski was arrested in Detroit at the age of 18 and faced a long jail sentence. Instead, he received a second chance and was sentenced to just one year in probation. That was when he decided to turn his life around. He finished high school and went to a culinary institute where he peeled carrots. His relentless work ethic found him restaurant jobs in New York City, Chicago, and then Paris. It was there that he began telling himself to "quit screwing around, quit making excuses, quit overthinking things. Just do it.” In Paris, Brandon realized that "hard work doesn't have a language."

Yet becoming a successful chef was not enough for Brandon Chrostowski. He thought to himself, “I’ve got to do something even bigger with my life. It may take a long time, but I’m going to start today.” His dream was to give a second chance to ex-convicts. During his time off from his 80hr/week restaurant work, Brandon began teaching culinary skills in a local prison. He spent $2,000 of his life savings to buy all the equipment.

As his project grew, he built Edwin's Restaurant and Leadership Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. Not only is it a top rated restaurant, the staff who work at Edwin's Restaurant are ex-convicts who receive training and housing. Brandon attributes the success to his work ethic and trust in his instincts: “People think you have to rest one day. You don’t have to. You can work on a project. You can work 100 hours per week. You just do that seven days a week. When you hit it like this for a decade, things start to happen. You really chip away at what needs to get done and built.”

Brandon was recently named a CNN Hero.


Show Links for Brandon Chrostowski

Show Notes for Brandon Chrostowski

Brandon Chrostowski began working in the restaurant industry in Detroit before he was 18

Brandon Chrostowski got arrested at age 18 and faced a 5-10 year jail sentence. Instead, he received a second chance and was sentenced to just one year in probation.

He was a high energy child who loved to push the limits

He started working in the restaurant industry in New York, Paris, and Chicago

Back in Detroit, friends were getting killed or going to jail

The idea of race was a big issue for Brandon

“I’ve got to do something bigger with my life. It may take a long time, but I’m going to start today.”

When Brandon started Edwin’s Restaurant, he was still paying off school loans

“You can work 100 hours per week.”

Edwin’s schedule when starting Edwin’s Restaurant: 8am-10am Edwin’s Restaurant, 10am-midnight work at a restaurant, midnight-2am Edwin’s Restaurant

“You just do that seven days a week.”

“People think you have to rest one day. You don’t have to. You can work on a project.”

Brandon works from 8am until 1am six days a week currently, and 10-12 hours on a Sunday

“When you hit it like this for a decade, things start to happen. You really chip away at what needs to get done and built.”

Brandon had to figure out how to start and run a nonprofit organization

While Brandon worked as a full-time chef, he started small, by teaching culinary skills in prison. That’s how he started

A documentary about Edwin’s Restaurant will be coming out in early 2017, with 4 years of footage

“Nobody’s going to invest in you if you don’t invest in yourself.”

Brandon invested $1,000-$2,000 to purchase the startup equipment like knives

Small family foundations began supporting Brandon

One in three people have been involved with the justice system in the US

Stigma makes it hard for people with criminal records to find jobs

Yet it’s a crutch. If you have a special skill and the desire to work, there is no trouble finding a job, even with a felony. It’s hard, but that’s if you don’t have a skill.

“Hard work doesn’t have a language.” About succeeding in France

50% of people who leave prisons go back to prison eventually

In the prison program, a typical student will get trained for four hours each Saturday on the fundamentals of cooking

At the restaurant, students get interviewed and join the training academy

The first three weeks of the academy is extremely challenging. Students memorize many facts and get tested.

Half of the students quit during the training

Applicants are not judged based on previous offenses or education level

Edwin’s Restaurant will help students get licenses, bank accounts, insurance, and other life basics

Students go through an additional 5.5 month training program where they rotate through all the different positions: host, server, bartender, food runner, pastries, cold food, fish, meat, prep working, business management, etc.

The days are 10-12 hours each day of class, setup, restaurant work, meetings, etc.

Case managers help the students in their lives

“You need a MAKE IT HAPPEN kind of approach no matter what.”

Building up the self-esteem of the students is a high priority for Brandon Chrostowski. He does so by giving bigger challenges and helping them overcome those challenges, day after day

“It’s about coming together as a family.”

If a student is having problems with drug addiction, Edwin’s Restaurant will help them through rehab, sponsor programs, strengthen their network, uphold them to high standards

Before, drugs affected 30% of the students at the academy. It has been reduced to about 10% now.

“Everyone here has a life plan. And as they are succeeding in their life plan, they’re winning. And that winning is addictive... And anything that might make you lose… you’re more apt to say no.”

Some of his students were homeless and slept on couches.

In three months, Edwin’s Restaurant raised $1.3 million to build a campus with free housing, 25 beds for his students, including a fitness center, library, and basketball court.

Brandon’s mentor used to challenge Brandon to do more, teaching him the MAKE IT HAPPEN attitude

“Continue trusting your instincts.”

Brandon does not own a TV to avoid the fear-driven media

Brandon had no doubt that the project was going to work. It was simply about building it.

Brandon felt thankful everyday, and very little fear

Being a social entrepreneur is tough. Brandon went through a divorce because he wife thought he was too obsessed with the project. Twice he was left without a home.

Brandon Chrostowski feels grateful for life and for being alive

Brandon Chrostowski is hoping to add a butcher shop

“It’s a day at a time.”

The first days of Edwin’s Restaurant was like the “Wild West.”

Alvin was one of the first students. He was sent to jail mid-way through the training but he kept studying in jail. He persevered and is now running a restaurant in Detroit.

95% of the customers know what the restaurant is about when they come.

Edwin’s Restaurant is rated as the #1 restaurant in Cleveland

A hamburger at Edwin’s Restaurant costs $33!!

The cost to run the academy is offset by the profits made through the restaurant

“People will come for the mission maybe once. But they’re not coming back unless the experience is stellar.”

According toBrandon Chrostowski, the potato-wrapped grouper in a red wine butter sauce is the best meal at the restaurant

“Quit thinking about it. Just do it.”

“Shoot, aim, fire.”

“Quit screwing around, quit making excuses, quit overthinking things. Just do it.”

You don’t have to be in New York City to start an innovative program

“Sometimes the right place is where you’re at.”

Nov 29, 2016

Social entrepreneur Gavin Armstrong is the founder of Lucky Iron Fish, a social business and B-Corp aiming to combat iron deficiency. Nearly 3.5 billion people around the world suffer from iron deficiency or anemia, resulting in constant fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating at school or at work. The Iron Lucky Fish is a piece of iron cast in the shape of a fish. When boiled with food or broth, it releases enough iron to provide up to 90% of the daily necessary intake.

Turning this simple idea into reality was no easy task. Gavin started the B-Corp in Cambodia while simultaneously pursuing a PhD. He went for years without a salary. He made mistake after mistake and things didn't work out as planned. Yet Gavin kept tinkering and iterating.

The Lucky Iron Fish is a global phenomena now. Gavin was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for social entrepreneurship.

Many people in the developed world also suffer from iron deficiency. You can buy a Lucky Iron Fish ($25) for yourself and the company will give one to a person in need. The Lucky Iron Fish is a great holiday gift for friends and family.


Show Links for Gavin Armstrong

Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus

Gavin’s experience during college volunteering at a refugee camp in Kenya made him want to fight world hunger

Researcher Christopher Charles had a project called Happy Fish that sparked Gavin’s interest. The original thesis paper can be found here.

Chris abandoned the research project

Gavin continued Chris’s research in Cambodia

Cambodia has an extremely high level of iron deficiency due to nutritional and genetic factors

Iron deficiency is the world’s most common micro-nutrient challenge

Half of the world’s population suffers from this preventable condition

Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and even death

Iron deficiency leads to a loss of $70 billion to the world’s GDP

Women, especially, suffer from iron deficiency

Iron deficiency does not discriminate between the poor and the rich

Iron supplements have negative side effects and are expensive

Gavin pursued a PhD in Canada revolving around this project while starting the company in Cambodia

He spent many days on airplanes

The lucky iron fish is a simple health innovation product

You boil the piece of iron with the food for 10 minutes, which releases iron into the meal

The iron is reusable for 5 years

The lucky iron fish doesn’t change the food’s color or taste

The product is in the shape of a fish because the fish is the symbol of luck in Cambodia

The Lucky Iron Fish received $180,000 from the university to start the company

“We were very lean in the beginning.”

Gavin worked with a foundry in Cambodia to make cast iron material that met international specifications

Gavin made sure the iron was safe, bio-available, and contaminate-free

Much of the iron in Cambodia was contaminated by arsenic

They made the prototypes out of wood and approach local focus groups in rural communities to get their feedback

Rapid prototyping was key

Gavin went to all the focus group meetings

He observed people’s facial expressions

The fish’s surface area was important to be able to release the right quantity of iron per use

The Cambodians called the prototype models the “Heavy Black Fish”

Gavin wanted to brand the product better so he stamped the front of the face with the Cambodian symbol that means “good” and people began calling it the “Good Fish”

The smile of the fish is designed so that after five years, it fades away… so when the smile fades away, the families know they need to trade it in

Lucky Iron Fish is a top ranked B-Corps and not a nonprofit organization

B-Corps (Benefit Corporations) is an international certification given to social enterprises that make a social impact

Gavin was frustrated by the sustainability of nonprofit organizations, which are unable to get investments like for-profit companies

Understanding the distribution model was a major challenge

There was no established trust with the communities in the beginning

They tried a travelling road show, which didn’t work

They pivoted their model to sell the product to NGOs in the area that already had built up trust with the target communities

The NGOs are the front-line workers for the Lucky Iron Fish

These NGOs were already buying iron supplement pills, and these pills were much more expensive than the pills

The purchase price of the Lucky Iron Fish ranges from $5-$10 for NGOs

The iron pills can cost $30 per person per year

The NGOs are in charge of the distribution

They use a tuk tuk

Lucky Iron Fish has an eight-person team

Cash flow becomes critical so you can pay your staff members each month

Two big challenges Gavin had to overcome were obstacles with the Cambodian government and funding

During a low point with his work, the BBC ran a story on Lucky Iron Fish that went viral

Oprah said that Lucky Iron Fish was “off the hook”

“Success can be temporary. Failure can last a lot longer” Gavin’s outlook on humility

The families are usually concerned whether Lucky Iron Fish will affect the taste of the food

Gavin has faced criticism because of his age or sexual orientation

“The only thing you can do is to prove them wrong.” Gavin on critics

People can buy a Lucky Iron Fish and give one in the Buy One Give One model

Gavin feels very well-versed at trial and error and especially the error part

Gavin though the travelling road show was going to be a huge hit but it did not work out because he didn’t understand the market at the time

Lucky Iron Fish is expanding to India

Gavin loves going back out into the field in Cambodia to get reinvigorated and not get caught up in the mundane tasks ahead

Gavin’s favorite Cambodian food is spicy peanut chicken curry

Gavin takes time for himself to unwind. Exercising, cooking.

Gavin loved his mother’s cooking and he often helped out

Gavin didn’t earn a salary during the first few years of starting Lucky Iron Fish

“Never forget the power of one person and their ripple effect.”

Gavin feels a bit of imposter syndrome despite all of his success

He remembers the times that haven’t been easy and so is mindful of the importance of the team

Gavin is grateful for his entire team and recently he hosted a team retreat

Nov 22, 2016

Growing up as a child of Korean immigrant parents, Robert Lee experienced hunger first hand. There were times where all his family could afford was instant ramen.

While studying at NYU's Stern School of Business, he joined a campus organization that delivered leftover cafeteria food to local homeless shelters. It was there that Robert learned that one in six Americans struggle with food insecurity. Yet strangely, 40% of food in the US goes to waste.

After graduating, he worked for JP Morgan where the pay was high. Simultaneously, he started the nonprofit organization Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and ran it during the weekends and evenings. As a social entrepreneur, Robert worked doggedly. “If something is important to you, you make time. And you do it," he said.

Eventually, he quit JP Morgan so he could work for Rescuing Leftover Cuisine full time. People discouraged him, thinking he would regret leaving such a lucrative job. Yet he persisted: “I had this crazy belief that I was right and everyone else was wrong.”

At first, the NGO had very little resources and faced rejection after rejection when speaking to the local restaurants.  Robert was full of self-doubt. “I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to be leading the organization,” he said of his early days. Only five out of a hundred restaurants were willing to donate their leftover food. Yet after each rejection, Robert Lee repeated a mantra to himself: "For every no that you get, you’re one step closer to a yes.”

Robert Lee's original vision was to end food waste in New York City. Soon, the movement spread to 12 cities and the NGO is on track to deliver its millionth pound of leftover food to the hungry. Rescuing Leftover Cuisine works with partner food providers and matches them with local volunteers that carry leftover food to local homeless shelters and food kitchens. Nearly 200 cities want to start a chapter of the organization, and it's only a matter of time that Robert Lee will accomplish that.

In 2015, Robert Lee was named a CNN Hero.


Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children by John Wood

Show Notes

Robert Lee’s parents immigrated to the US from South Korea

They grew up poor and sometimes could only afford to eat ramen

His family never tolerated food waste

Robert went to NYU on a full scholarship

At NYU he joined a club (Two Birds With One Stone) that delivered leftover food from the cafeteria to a local homeless shelter

When he joined the club, Robert entered with curiosity

As a freshman he wanted to expand the outreach for the club

40% of the food we produce in the US goes to waste!

We produce enough food to feed everyone in the world

Global hunger is a matter of distribution

Much of land and water is used to produce food, so all that is going to waste

Food waste produces methane gas

Food waste ranks third globally in terms of carbon emissions from food waste

Restaurants are concerned about getting sued for donating food that gets people sick

Research shows that it is extremely unlikely for a business to get sued for donating food

Robert Lee worked for JP Morgan for about a year after graduating from NYU

He wanted financial stability

Robert worked on Rescuing Leftover Cuisine part-time while working at JP Morgan

Robert figured out a way to automate a lot of the delivery process through technology

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine has a tiered volunteer model

In 2013 they won $1,000 in seed money on campus to start Rescuing Leftover Cuisine

“You never have time. You make time.”

“If something is important to you, you make time. And you do it.”

200 cities wanted to start a chapter of Rescuing Leftover Cuising after the CNN Heroes coverage

They have chapters in 12 cities at the moment

Sustainable and organic growth is more important

Food waste and hunger are caused by distribution problems

Initially, they had too many restaurants partnering and not enough volunteers to transport the food

Robert Lee helped hand deliver the food himself during the startup phase

A trained lead rescuer leads the volunteer groups

A corp rescuer with a license manages all of the trained leaders

Volunteers are ordinary citizens wanting to make a difference

During Thanksgiving in 2015, they brought turkeys to a homeless shelter that had ran out of food

“There should be more individualized definitions of success.”

People told Robert that he was throwing out his degree from NYU Stern for entering the nonprofit world

He was gung-ho and according to Robert himself, somewhat delusional when he started

“I had this crazy belief that I was right and everyone else was wrong.”

“I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to be leading the organization.”
Robert lacked confidence, charisma, and persona when he first started

In the beginning, only 5% of the restaurants he approached to seek out partnerships accepted

Robert talks about his mistakes in the past, like being too aggressive and outright rude to some of the restaurants that rejected a partnership.

“My passion pushed me through all of the rejections.”

Robert worked as the pickup driver, loader, salesperson, everything!

“For every no that you get, you’re one step closer to a yes.”

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine receive grant funding from JP Morgan, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Clif Bar

They focused on corporate funding

Two of his main colleagues at Rescuing Leftover Cuisine were friends from NYU

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Heroku and CircleCI for their website

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Trello for project management

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Slack for team communication

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Salesforce for their CRM and email marketing

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Google Ad words

To Robert, nonprofit organizations are like two separate businesses: one that fundraises and the other that creates impact

Unlike for-profit companies, a nonprofit cannot simply provide a great product or service. They have to market it and fundraise to survive

Earned revenue is critical for nonprofits nowadays

Restaurants pay Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to take the leftover food because the restaurants 1.) get huge tax deductions 2.) have to pay a hauler anyways to pick up the leftover food 3.) want brand association with RLC

The hauling industry is not transparent at all about prices

They charge 10-20% of what a hauling company would normally charge

At one point Robert was at an all-time low when funding was drying up and he started to feel like what he was doing was just a bandaid solution

Instead of trying to address hunger, RLC decided to focus on food waste

Robert Lee misses meeting the volunteers and doing the pickups like in the old days

As a social entrepreneur not making much money, you must create a personal budget and works towards gaining more earned revenue

Robert does not waste time in the morning so he can use his fresh mind’s energy towards his three most important tasks for the day

For Robert Lee “Sleep is the best medicine” to fight burnout

Robert Lee enjoys hiking and kayaking

Robert Lee is afraid of growing too quickly

It was difficult for his parents to see Robert leave JP Morgan because they had sacrificed everything for his future

His parents were one of the first donors for RLC!!

Nov 17, 2016
Social entrepreneur Nedgine Paul immigrated from Haiti to the US at a young age. After graduating from Yale, she received her masters of education at Harvard University. She gained valuable experience working for the prominent charter school network known as Achievement First and then working for Dr. Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health in Haiti. Shortly after, Nedgine Paul started the nonprofit organization, Anseye Pou Ayiti (Teach for Haiti).
The NGO recruits and trains local Haitians and sends them out to teach in some of the toughest and most rural schools in Haiti. In a country where she must battle constant blackouts, natural disasters, and the fact that only 30% of children pass primary school, she is fighting against all the odds in her quest to create a new narrative for her home country.
Nedgine Paul is an Echoing Green Fellow and was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

Show Notes 

“Growing up, I was the child who loved school. I was obsessed.”

Coming from Haiti, snow days were confusing for Nedgine Paul

Nedgine’s father was a school teacher before he became a priest

“It’s not enough to just take in knowledge. It’s about using it to do good.”

Nedgine worked at Achievement First Public Charter School Network for three years

“Zip code is not destiny.”

Social justice was important to Achievement First

Continuous improvement was important for the staff at Achievement First, a trait that Nedgine has taken to Haiti

People really asked for the HOW and the WHY at Achievement First

“Who are you as a leader and how do you show up?”

Nedgine Paul was active in the Haitian American community during her youth

“I want to create and contribute to a new narrative of our mighty nation.”

Her father is one of Nedgine’s north stars

The power of “one person’s quest” as a story

The organizational culture at Partners in Health is: doing whatever it takes, being local rooted and locally informed

PIH has maintained credibility and legitimacy for decades through authenticity

AT PIH it’s not about working for or with a community. It’s about being “of” the community. Nedgine hopes to bring that culture to Anseye Pou Ayiti

Staff members at Anseye Pou Ayiti spent years getting to know their communities in the beginning

PIH maintained their roots and knew how to improve from criticism

“Scale in global education has become about numbers and not about depth.”

“It’s not about scale in numbers but in depth.”

It took Nedgine and her team four years of planning before launching, talking to community members

Their approach was to be “slow and steady”

“As the Millennial generation, we want to rush to the next best thing, the next bright thing, the next thing that will go viral.”

It’s time to pause and listen, especially to our elders

“Why do we think that everything in Haiti’s educational system is broken?”

They asked for a assets instead of deficits in their communities

Before launching, Nedgine worked on Anseye Pou Ayiti part-time, during nights and weekends

Echoing Green’s fellowship and funding allowed Nedgine to pursue Anseye Pou Ayiti full time.

Nedgine Paul questioned herself a lot in the beginning

Nedgine Paul had a “brain-trust” of allies

“We have to be solvers AND learners at the same time.”

All the operational stuff was really difficult for Nedgine, coming in as an educator and not as a manager

Nedgine was told at Echoing Green that “Failure is okay in social entrepreneurship”

Many social entrepreneurs struggle with fundraising during year one

Anseye Pou Ayiti is part of the Teach for All network

Teach for All operates in 40 different countries now

Anseye Pou Ayiti is recruiting and training LOCAL teachers

Anseye Pou Ayiti went on a national recruitment campaign

Current teachers could apply at first, and now they make up a majority of the corps members

“The best is yet to come.”

Anseye Pou Ayiti has a mixed cohort approach

Corps members get leadership training and additional stipend (paid by Anseye Pou Ayiti) beyond their regular salaries (paid by the local schools)

Only 30% of children in Haiti are passing primary school

Her team was “lean and mean” in the beginning

Staying up late was critical

They did not want to be just “marginally different” than everything else

Anseye Pou Ayiti leverages partners that can provide specific teacher training workshops

Their training sessions are held in rural Haiti where logistics are “hairy” but it allows them to live their values

Past corps members come back to help with training

Blackouts are challenging

Not having a Staples in the area makes it hard to just go out and buy supplies when needed

Co-founder Ivanley Noisette and Nedgine are able to listen to and criticize each other

Nedgine’s students keep her ego in check

“The elders must be brought back into the conversation.”

Getting fellowships is a great fundraising strategy

In terms of fundraising, ask yourselves who would care about your cause

For Nedgine, giving gratitude is important

She asks herself, what went well today?

Funding was not going as well as Nedgine wanted it to recently, so she had to reach out for help

That moment of crises reminded her to be more humble, and to more willing to reach out for help

Nedgine gives thank to her professor, Dr. Lillian Guerra, who encouraged her to keep going

Nedgine is worried about the negative narrative of Haiti  

Nedgine loves hearing about the progress inside the classrooms of her fellows

Nedgine recommends books: Visions of Vocation and also anything written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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