2019 GSBI In-Residence Investor Showcase illustrates how
17 unique journeys are making an impact
Every entrepreneur’s story reveals a unique path that led them to be leaders of their respective enterprises, but what they all have in common is that they are fueled by passion and heroic ambition.
As I sat in a room with the 28 participants representing 17 social enterprises selected to attend this year’s GSBI In-Residence Accelerator in August, it was apparent that every person there had been on a journey that led them to Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. Before diving into the hard week ahead of business review panel sessions—analyzing growth plans and dissecting impact and financial models—we took a moment on that first day to sit together in a circle and share stories of what brought them all here and why it is they do what they do.
We listened to Sandeep Giri of Gham Power tell his story of visiting his home country Nepal after having a successful career in San Francisco and being shocked by the disparate access to electricity. Even though he grew up on a rural farm and did not see electricity until he was 7, he could not believe the 16 hours of load shedding in the nation’s capital and seeing businesses shutting when electricity was unavailable.
Pratyusha Pareddy of NemoCare shared that she came from a family of doctors, and after witnessing in her home country of India the astoundingly high number of preventable newborn deaths, her need to focus on this particular aspect of healthcare felt like a natural calling.
After serving in the Peace Corp as a rural health extension agent in Senegal, Sarah Koch of DIG (Development in Gardening) shared how she wanted to build upon her experience working with vulnerable and HIV-affected communities and encourage health-based behavioral change through the act of sustainable farming.
Suniya Sadullah Khan of Mauqa Online shared her story of attending school abroad in the UK and working part time as a housecleaner to help offset the costs of her tuition. Then upon returning to her home in Pakistan, she was shocked by how women domestic workers were treated without dignity nor given the agency to build a better life with their existing skills and expertise.
We all inherently understand and agree that access to clean energy, healthcare, sustainable agriculture, and women’s economic empowerment are good things, especially if they are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But when you hear the unique stories from social entrepreneurs like Sandeep, Pratyusha, Sarah, and Suniya, it makes the work that they do personable and relatable. Above all, it provides direct lines of sight to social justice. The women and men selected to participate in this year’s In-Residence represent the stalwart ambition that is required to operate a social enterprise whose mission it is to improve, transform, or save the lives of people living in poverty.
The journey of a social entrepreneur is often a long and lonely one. At Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, it is our job to accompany these women and men on their journeys and to help foster a community in which they feel valued and heard. They have certainly been on a journey with GSBI. Upon being selected into our accelerator in January 2019 and then further assessed in April, these women and men worked for months on our online curriculum and met weekly with their mentors before coming to Santa Clara University for 7 days. Over the week, I witnessed them work tirelessly as they were grilled by our tough but loving panelists through review sessions, all with the goal of refining their business and impact models and making their pathways to scale a reality.
The week-long In-Residence culminated with an Investor Showcase on August 21, in which the 17 social enterprises presented for six minutes each. In attendance were 200 investors, partners, and influencers in the impact investing space. Their presentations took the audience along on their journeys for creating gender equality and human rights by giving women dignity and agency over their own lives in countries like Kenya, India, and Pakistan. They learned about technologies for stopping preventable neonatal deaths in the developing world; and about innovative models for providing equal access to education for children and youth in Jordan, Peru, and even in our own backyard here in the US.
In the second half of the showcase, the audience continued the journey to impact which involved supporting smallholder farmers, vulnerable communities, and the urban poor in Nepal, India, Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania by providing access to clean water, clean energy, food security, and access to markets. Needless to say, this year’s Investor Showcase left those in attendance feeling inspired by these many lines of sight to social justice, and perhaps also with the question: What more can we all do to accelerate them?
The journey to impact does not stop here. It has only begun and, with your help, will only continue to improve, transform, and save many more lives. I welcome you to join our network of 1000+ social entrepreneur alumni, 200+ executive mentors, 100+ student fellows, and our strong and growing community of supporters.
If you are interested in learning more about these 17 journeys, I invite you to watch their powerful video presentations and read these overview profiles.
For those already on the journey with us, I thank you.
About the Author
Associate Program Director
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Santa Clara University