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Meet the 18 Members of the 2019 GSBI In-residence Accelerator Cohort

Meet the 18 Members of the 2019 GSBI In-residence Accelerator Cohort

Every year, up-and-coming social entrepreneurs from around the world complete the rigorous GSBI Online Accelerator curriculum, and the 18 social enterprises of Cohort 17 are some of the most promising alumni to date. In the culmination of six months of transformative mentorship, these organizations have truly risen to the challenge, emerging with tangible growth so that they can better accomplish sustainable social change. For these social enterprises that have already been serving their target beneficiaries for one to five years, the online accelerator helped strengthen and validate their:

  • Impact and business model

  • Growth plan

  • Financial model

  • Funding plan

With tools of market success refined, these social entrepreneurs can now achieve maximum potential and maintain a sustainable business model while keeping their social impact missions the driving force of their enterprises.

The social entrepreneurs in Cohort 14 are achieving impact in a variety of sectors, but whatever their focus and wherever they work, they are tackling deeply rooted problems, asking the hard questions, and breaking unjust equilibrium.

Many of these social enterprises tackle a combination of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in different ways and every one of the 18 social entrepreneurs are already making lasting change.

Perhaps the most uniquely beneficial part of the GSBI Online Accelerator is the close mentorship from Silicon Valley professionals, who commit to providing insightful advice to their mentees each week.

Are you ready to scale and create lasting impact?

We’re currently recruiting for two new GSBI cohorts. Learn more about these exciting opportunities.

Meet the 2019 In-residence cohort

Organization Name: CityTaps
Headquarters: France
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Develop and deploy technological and financial innovations to help water utilities serve the urban poor
Countries Impacted: Africa

Organization Name: Cycle Connect
Headquarters: Uganda
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: Increase income for East African smallholder farmers through productive asset financing and training
Countries Impacted: Uganda

Organization Name: Dandelion Africa
Headquarters: Kenya
Enterprise Type: Non-Profit
Description: Improve sexual health and economy of women in Kenya
Countries Impacted: Kenya


Organization Name: Development in Gardening (DIG)
Headquarters: Atlanta, GA, USA
Enterprise Type: Non-Profit
Description: Enable vulnerable communities to become more resilient, healthy and connected through nutrition-sensitive and climate-smart agriculture using a community-led model
Countries Impacted: Africa

Organization Name: East Africa Fruits Co.
Headquarters: Tanzania
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Modernize agribusiness and increase farmers’ income by reducing post-harvest losses and adding value to produce
Countries Impacted: Tanzania


Organization Name: Ellie Fun Day
Headquarters: San Jose, CA, USA
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: Improve access to sustainable employment for victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and marginalized women in India and around the world
Countries Impacted: India


Organization Name: Eneza Education Ghana Ltd.
Headquarters: Kenya
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Making 50 million African learners smarter by leveraging on SMS, USSD and web technology
Countries Impacted: Ghana


Organization Name: Gham Power
Headquarters: Nepal
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Helping small holder farmers increase income
Countries Impacted:

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Organization Name: Grassroots Energy Inc.
Headquarters: India
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Provide sustainable energy solutions in the emerging economies
Countries Impacted: India


Organization Name: Ignis Careers
Headquarters: India
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: Improve access to empowering education for the under privileged communities in India
Countries Impacted: India


Organization Name: Jhumki Basu Foundation
Headquarters: Saratoga, CA, USA
Enterprise Type: Non-Profit
Description: Guarantee that every underserved American student receives an excellent STEM education
Countries Impacted: United States of America


Organization Name: Kantaya
Headquarters: Peru
Enterprise Type: Non-Profit
Description: Promote the human development of children in vulnerable areas in Peru, through an efficient and replicable academic and social emotional training model that links family and society
Countries Impacted: Peru

Organization Name: Kwangu Kwako Ltd.
Headquarters: Kenya
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Co-create opportunities for dignified living that is accessible to underserved communities
Countries Impacted: East Africa


Organization Name: Leap Skills
Headquarters: India
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Delivering high-quality workplace skills to the youth from small towns and rural India to bridge the skill gap in the country
Countries Impacted: India

Organization Name: Mauqa Online
Headquarters: Pakistan
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Provide jobs to uneducated people
Countries Impacted: Pakistan

Organization Name: NeMoCare Wellness Pvt Ltd.
Headquarters: India
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Be an integral part of a world where no child ever dies of a cause that is completely preventable
Countries Impacted: India

Headquarters: Kenya
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Provide affordable and sustainable universal basic utility access (UBUA) to empower rural livelihoods, eradicate poverty, and combat climate change
Countries Impacted: Kenya

Organization Name: The Alchemist Lab (Fun Science for Extra Curricular Activities)
Headquarters: Jordan
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Empower children & youth, through interactive hands on experiences, with the skills they need to explore themselves & the world around them with confidence & determination
Countries Impacted: Jordan; The Middle East

Innovation Works GSBI Boost

Innovation Works GSBI Boost

Can a global model be taken local?

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Nearly two years ago, Baltimore community development advocate Frank Knott reached out to Miller Center. He had been asked by Father Robert Hussey, S.J., Provincial Superior of the Maryland Province, to look into whether the work the center does supporting social entrepreneurs globally could be applicable in an urban American setting, serving social entrepreneurs in Baltimore and solving problems in their neighborhoods. Intrigued and compelled by the request, we have been accompanying Frank as he dug deeply into the work we do, surveyed the Baltimore ecosystem to identify gaps, and formed Innovation Works

On March 5, 2019, Innovation Works (IW) and Miller Center announced a strategic partnership to support IW’s goal to launch 250 social enterprises, create 5,000 jobs, and facilitate $100 million of investments into Baltimore by 2029. On June 18-20, 2019, we took the next step together by delivering our first Innovation Works GSBIⓇ Boost program to 28 Baltimore-based social enterprises. The program was a tremendous success; you can read more about it here. A big takeaway for me was the deep commitment by everyone – the social entrepreneurs, mentors, partners, and the IW team – to Baltimore City and making it a thriving place to live and work. The harmony around this commitment was palpable. 

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As you all know, events like this aren’t a success without a lot of planning and leg work. Frank and the Innovation Works team did a lot of the spadework in connecting with all of the social entrepreneurial activities happening across Baltimore, forging the partnerships to fuel the ecosystem, and being mindful of not reinventing the wheel. This is evident in the quality of the social entrepreneurs and the Innovation Works mentors that have been recruited and trained with support from Miller Center. 

When we first started talking with Frank, the question in front of us collectively was how to take our global model and make it local, even hyper-local. The context of Baltimore, with over 280 neighborhoods that are very separate and distinct from one another, had to be embraced. One of the ways that Innovation Works has addressed this challenge is by creating Ignite Hubs. Ignite Hubs are located in neighborhoods through partnerships with organizations already working in these communities. Within Ignite Hubs, community members are encouraged to identify the specific needs and challenges of their neighborhood, and are given support to turn their ideas into solutions. As that happens, these nascent social enterprises can be prepared for a Boost workshop and other Miller Center GSBI accelerator programs that Innovation Works will run. Figure 1 is the framework that IW created, with GSBI programs fitting in the Grow and Scale phases.

Figure 1. Innovation Works Framework

Figure 1. Innovation Works Framework

What’s next? A subset of the social enterprises that participated in the June Boost program will be selected for an Innovation Works GSBIⓇ Online program starting in August. Innovation Works will manage the cohort, with support from us, using our learning management platform. The social entrepreneurs will be accompanied by both a Miller Center and an IW mentor. Joint mentoring will continue to strengthen the IW mentor’s understanding of our curriculum and methodology. Miller Center is committed to a long-term relationship with IW – strengthening and deepening our partnership, and learning together how to refine a local/global model to solve urban problems in communities across the US. 

I’d like to thank Steve White who co-facilitated the workshop with me. Steve’s continued contribution to the center is invaluable, and his commitment to social entrepreneurs is unparalleled. I’d also like to thank Mervat Mina and George Economy, two Miller Center mentors who live in Washington DC. They traveled to Baltimore twice for IW mentor trainings and were mentors, alongside IW mentors, for the IW GSBIⓇ Boost workshop. Their support of the Miller Center / Innovation Works partnership is deeply appreciated.

About the author

Pamela began mentoring social entrepreneurs over 10 years ago and has been dedicated to and inspired by them ever since. She is grateful to be able to use the knowledge, lessons learned and wisdom she gained building and leading venture-backed software companies for over 20 years to support these passionate entrepreneurs solving problems of poverty and protecting the planet. She joined Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship five years ago and can be found serving as ambassador for Miller Center around the world

Complementary Partnerships Expand Impact for Microgrid Developers

Complementary Partnerships Expand Impact for Microgrid Developers

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Since January, Miller Center has been accompanying 6 microgrid developers across Sub-Saharan Africa to create a new energy infrastructure and close the energy gap. This program is part of our Replication and Scaling Initiative focused on spreading best practices to transfer successful know-how. 

We chose develop specific curriculum for microgrids because of:

  • Microgrids are the least expensive way to deliver power for at least 100 million people in Africa, and microgrids can have enormous impact on local economic development by suddenly providing electricity to a whole community

  • There is a growing interest in microgrids including emerging financing vehicles, support organizations, and innovations and cost reductions in technologies such as smart meters and solar panels

  • Our ability to develop curriculum directly from the success and best practices of the 115 clean energy entrepreneurs we have accompanied. 

In launching this program we also had a key partner to support our efforts: Energy 4 Impact, which manages the Green Mini-Grid Help Desk in partnership with INENSUS. The Green Mini-Grid Help Desk, funded by the African Development Bank, is part of SE4All’s Green Mini-Grid Market Development Programme.

Utilizing E4I’s deep research into the local energy sector in Africa, we were able to create interactive webinars monthly for both mentors and entrepreneurs to share and learn. These insights from local experts were key to help both Miller Center team members and mentors learn how to support the entrepreneurs even better. 

We’ve included our 3 biggest takeaways below:

1) Microgrid Developers are doing a lot

Microgrid business models are some of the most complex that many of our executive mentors have seen. Part of the reason is that the off-grid microgrid sector is nascent and developers must provide many discrete and varied services for which reliable contractors do not yet exist: site selection and assessment of electricity demand, engineering and procurement, operational management, and productive use promotion, including upselling productive load equipment like cold storage, refrigeration and other appliances.

Furthermore, many of the developers are also selling commercial solar or creating new business lines dependent on their microgrid such as purifying water, ice making in fishing communities, agricultural processing, etc.

Mercy Rose, Senior Business Analyst at E4I, shared, “the market is very young so people are still trying to figure out what works– [selling] solar home systems [for example] is more stable so that is their safety net as they explore the microgrid world.” 

As the sector grows more niche, organizations may enter the market to provide the services like productive equipment or project management software that support microgrids. 

2) Investment is essential  

Microgrid enterprises begin serving their customers only after installing a significant amount of equipment. Due to the cost of this equipment and the time spent acquiring customers, we found that most of our teams needed to focus on creating a strong financial model. 

Unlike other social enterprises that can subsist in their early years with relatively small amounts of incremental funding, a microgrid enterprise needs substantial capital to launch their first microgrid. And then to grow beyond their first 1-3 microgrids, such enterprises often require $1,000,000+ of capital. While it makes sense that creating infrastructure requires significantly more capital than other social enterprises, this is a significant hurdle for microgrid entrepreneurs. This is compounded by the fact that it takes quite some time to recover costs, especially for entrepreneurs with 1-2 microgrids.

Given the size of investment needs and the risk to set up dozens of microgrids, it became clear that it’s challenging to find the right type of funding for the stage of this sector and these enterprises. Organizations do not want to dilute themselves by giving away too much equity at this early stage, yet debt funding is hard to find for these entrepreneurs.

These findings are mirrored in two different reports that E4I created and shared with our cohort, including:

  • Financial and Operational Bundling Strategies for Sustainable Micro-Grid Business Models - Published in partnership with NREL, this report looks at the various financial bundling methods that micro-grids could employ to achieve sustainable business models. This is particularly interesting since it highlights possible financing options for various micro-grid business structures as well as various stages of project development. 

  • Strategic Investments in Off-grid Energy Access - The second report, published in partnership with Wood Mackenzie, looks at the various trends in strategic financing for off-grid energy companies, including financing models and types of investors. It’s interesting to see certain investors who have traditionally not engaged in this space taking interest in the off-grid energy markets. 

How can we create staggered investments in this sector that allow organizations to find and deploy grant funding to create infrastructure, then take on equity funding as they scale?

3)   Scaling fast vs scaling slow – old rules don’t apply

These microgrid developers were also focused on scaling up very fast, going from pilot systems to raising funding for dozens of microgrids. Through a webinar with E4I, we were able to discuss and learn some of the reasons why this trend toward scaling as quickly as possible is happening, including:

  • Governments, both locally and development organizations like USAID, launch for tenders that request companies supply multiple villages or electrification need for public services such as health clinics and schools.  

  • Investors want to see positive return on investments which isn’t possible with one project/site. Therefore, developers must take into consideration a portfolio of microgrids to provide sufficient return on investment. 

  • Economies of scale functions is important. How you procure materials, contract out sites, organize staff, etc provide improved margins and return on investment. 

E4I shared tips for de-risking this fast scaling including assessing the sites in-person in advance of commitment, ensuring your organizational structure includes a local team to keep local travel and other logistics costs down, and most importantly, hiring engineering procurement and construction contractors who can do construction and the commissioning and help start operations.

These learnings will be utilized to develop even more aligned content for both Miller Center and E4I to share and help support entrepreneurs and the energy access ecosystem as a whole. Check out more insights from Miller Center’s Replication and Scaling Initiative in our newest report linked here.

About the Authors

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Marie has been working as an educator for 10 years. After discovering the concept of social enterprise in 2012, she has been focused on learning about and supporting the growth of the ecosystem through running various education programs at Impact Hub San Francisco and more recently with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Inspired by her Miller Center work with maternal and child health organizations in east Africa, Marie has also recently trained and now practices as a birth doula through the SF General Hospital volunteer doula program.

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Neal Harrison has seven years experience working on social innovation, entrepreneurship, impact investment and supply chain management in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Ghana. He has experience in researching and report writing, leading entrepreneurial ventures, and managing international projects in the public, non-profit and social enterprise sectors. He is certified in Project Management Professional (PMP) and hold an MSc in Global Economics and Politics from the London School of Economics. Neal has a passion for economic development and finding sustainable solutions to pressing social challenges. He is particularly interested in entrepreneurship, food systems and environmental issues.

Mercy Leta Rose from Energy 4 Impact

Learning to Use my Voice for Good

Learning to Use my Voice for Good

I was born into the loving home of compassionate, patient, and resilient parents. Growing up in Uganda during the time of Idi Amin, my father could never have predicted that he would end up falling for my mother, who grew on the outskirts of New York City. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, my mother yearned for someone with a greater perspective for the world. Raised in a wealthy white American neighborhood, ignorant residents alienated my mother for viewing everyone as equal, and she in return despised the judgmental environment she grew up in. The two eventually would meet in Boston College’s School of Social Work and would go on to raise two girls, my sister Sarah and me. My parents raised us to speak up and use our voices for good, and as result, it has shaped who I have become.

I was raised in Arlington, Massachusetts, just six miles outside of Boston. The town of Arlington was predominately white and it impacted my experience as a young biracial girl. I developed many insecurities, the biggest being the texture of my hair. Since my mom wasn't familiar with styling black hair, my dad took charge--and he was great. He would decorate my hair with beads and braid in patterns that when I looked into the mirror made me feel beautiful. But when I went to school, that beautiful feeling quickly disappeared when people would touch my textured soft hair and pull out my beads. Not only did I feel like a zoo animal, but it was distracting and bothered me. One day I came home and told my dad that I didn't want him to do my hair anymore. He looked upset and asked me why. It was hard to tell who liked my hair more, my dad or me, but he knew that something had happened. He asked if what bothered me was kids playing with my hair, and I nodded as tears rolled down my checks. Then he said something I will never forget. He told me, "If you don't like something, you can tell someone to stop.” Later, with my mom, the two explained to me that I had to speak up when something was happening that I didn't like or feel comfortable with--so I did. The next day I went to school and a classmate tried to touch my hair.  I said, "Please don't do that. I don't like when you touch my hair.” She stopped and looked surprised, but I didn’t dwell on it because, finally, I felt comfortable.


Being able to use my voice and speak up became a way for me to realize what I wanted, and what I wanted more than anything was to see more of the world. I was eager to look outside the one perspective my town offered, which led me to spend every summer in Uganda where my dad’s side of the family lives. I developed a cultural competence early on and began to see things through multiple lenses. The culture, music, and people being so different from what I was used to in Boston was refreshing. I embraced and cherished all the unique values--some of which I like more than America--and as I got older, each summer became an opportunity to do more meaningful work, like helping my grandma with her nonprofit, the Makula Fund.  

When I came back from summer vacations, I was frequently met with judgment about Africa. My friends would ask me if there were any lions by my house and assume that it was a dangerous place to be. I was puzzled. Why would they think Africans would be okay with having lions running around a city? Didn't they know Africa has cities and not all countries in Africa have lions? If it wasn't safe, why would I be there? It took me a while to realize that they asked me questions because they were curious. They had pre-existing views of entirely false depictions of Africans. 

I felt that, as a friend, I should speak up and use my voice to break down their views. I wanted to start an open and honest dialogue about it, but I was nervous. I didn't want my friends to feel attacked or shamed for asking these questions. In addition, it was hard to speak to my friends because I wasn't sure how they would react. I went to my mom to seek advice because as a therapist, she knows a lot about the best way to communicate to people about things they don't understand. After all, she had to do a lot of that growing up. She told me that if they were true friends they will want to listen and learn. If they didn't want to change their opinions, then it was their loss. Ultimately, with the help of my mom, I found that I If I spoke to them instead of at them then they could not only understand my experiences better but gain an interest in something I loved.


When picking colleges, Santa Clara University stood out to me for its commitment to service and education. I am a major in Psychology and Sociology and am fascinated by people and groups. I am passionate about learning why people do things and how people and communities can create meaningful change. It was my desire to learn and drive to make a positive impact on the world in a sustainable way that led me to apply for the fellowship. During my first year at Santa Clara, I was faced with many challenges, all of which led me to where I am today. The biggest challenges gave me a new outlook on life and were the result of a traumatic event. After it happened, everything was altered in the blink of an eye. I was lost, confused, down, and broken. With time I started telling others what I had gone through and continue to face as a trauma survivor. What happened to me was awful and shouldn't happen to anyone, but as I struggled to overcome my trauma, I learned that I was not alone in my pain. As I healed and shared my story, peers, friends, and even family entrusted me with their similar narratives. I realized that my voice was powerful and evoked a common thread among many who otherwise felt alone. It was a challenge trying figure out how I could use my voice to inspire, motivate, and comfort others, but I found and am still finding that empathy is the best way.  Empathy, through listening, validating, and understanding people, can encourage others to pursue their voice and passions in return.

Over time, I have come to realize the power that my words have. Being a woman, it is easy to be complacent in the face of numerous barriers. It took numerous challenges for me to realize my inner strength, but with amazing opportunities that have come my way like the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, I have learned to use my voice for good. More importantly, I have learned that empathy is something that I not only want to continue to practice in my relationships, but also in the projects I undertake while discerning my vocation.

Learn more about empathy and how to apply it to a wide variety of real-world situations on Ashoka’s Empathy 101 resource page.



I am half Ugandan and proud of my multicultural background. While I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to travel to Uganda every summer. Spending time with people who have different life experiences than my own instilled me with values of compassion, consciousness, and cultural competence, that have guided my career choices and activities tremendously. While studying psychology, sociology and ethnic studies at Santa Clara University, my mentors and peers have challenged me to think creatively in response to problem-solving.

Programs at my school that are passionate about social justice have helped me discover that I love learning in new cultures and being pushed to grow. Through my fellowship program, I became a project manager for a community organizing nonprofit in Rwanda. It was there that I realized sharing and listening to experiences has the power to change how we see and interact with those around us. Now I strive to empower, strengthen, and engage underserved communities so that our world becomes a just place for all.

Wawira Ngiru and her Vision to Feed the Future with Food4Education

Wawira Ngiru and her Vision to Feed the Future with Food4Education

With only 1 kitchen in 2012 that used to feed 25 kids, Wawira has come a long way with her passion to feed 1 million kids in the next 10 years.

Wawira Ngiru is one of GSBI alumni who participated in GSBI online accelerator in 2017. She is the founder of Food4Education, an enterprise that sources fresh food directly from farmers and uses a central kitchen model to deliver nutritious, heavily subsidized meals to students in urban public primary schools in Kenya. Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship had a chance to catch up with Wawira for a lunch this past month.

Wawira Ngiru and Miller Center staff

Wawira Ngiru and Miller Center staff

Shortly after completing her education, Wawira struggled to find an answer to one question that lingers in many budding entrepreneurs’ minds; Is entrepreneurship a right path for me? She received her higher education from the University of South Australia where she nurtured a passion to become a nutritionist. After graduation in 2014, Wawira returned to her home country Kenya and started Food4Education with just one kitchen that fed 25 kids. In 2016, Wawira received her first grant, started managing Food4Education full-time and hasn’t looked back since. In 2018, she managed to serve 250,000 meals in total.

Wawira’s Vision for a Better Kenya

While growing up in Ruiru, Wawira witnessed the rampant education and health problems firsthand and saw many kids who did not have access to healthy meals, let alone regular meals. As a result, many kids stopped going to school and begged on the street as an alternative means to access food. Even those who did have access to meals scored low in exams and later had very fewer opportunities in life. She started Food4Education to feed those very kids healthy and nutritious meals so they could concentrate in class and excel in life overall. Her initial target was to feed 25 kids at Ruiru Primary School and then expand to other schools.

The Process to provide a meal at a subsidized cost

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Wawira first consulted with pastors, chefs, and school principals to identify the roots cause of this systemic problem in order to identify how to keep kids in school. Her team found a simple process to make it easier for kids to get healthy and nutritious meals. Her team sources fresh, raw, ingredients including vegetables and fruits directly from farmers and uses their own central kitchen to make meals for kids that are healthy and are served at a subsidized cost. All ingredients used in the meals are locally grown which makes it cost-effective for her team and the farmers.

The impact of Food4Education

Food4Education was initiated in 2012 and ran a successful pilot program to feed 100 children. With little or no support from government institutions, the organization still managed to achieve their goal in 2014. The schools showed an improvement in attendance ratio by 96% as compared to the national average of 87%. During that time, 100% of the students who purchased meals from Food4Education also scored 250/500 marks in KCPE compared to 49.1% nationally.

Food4Education interface

Food4Education interface

Payment and Adaption of Technology

A recent development in Food4Education was the adaption of an NFC payment system, #Tap2Eat, to log the payments of purchased meals. A small smartwatch gadget was given to the kids to use as payment for meals without the involvement of cash. Parents pay for subsidized lunches through MPESA and the amount is automatically credited to a digital wallet linked to an NFC smartwatch and students just TAP TO EAT in less than 5 seconds.  

According to Wawira, the adaptation of technology and convincing the parents to use the bands instead of cash has been a challenge. Her team is still testing the method by providing training to parents and kids in order to make them comfortable with the new payment technology. The payment system will be another milestone for Food4Education in making meals accessible and easy for all kids in Kenya.

The Role GSBI played in Wawira’s Journey

“After coming to GSBI, I learned the methods and language of Silicon Valley which I wouldn’t have learned otherwise”, said Wawira Ngiru. The GSBI Accelerator program helps the organizations with their business potential and equips them with the necessary resources and tools that they can use to run their business successfully. According to Wawira, it was GSBI that taught her not to underestimate her business potential and made her reconsider her justifiable ask. “Before GSBI, I was underestimating our justifiable ask. The mentors helped us look at the bigger picture and made us reconsider our pre-conceived notions about the investment world” Said, Wawira.

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Barriers, Bias, and Doubts

Like every other entrepreneur, it wasn’t just all success for Wawira. During her entrepreneurial journey, she faced countless “No’s” before that one “Yes.” According to her, she had a hard time convincing people with her idea and passion. Due to her age and young look, she faced countless rejections and was labeled as someone who is just doing it as a passion project and not involved in it seriously.

In the end… Persistence is the key

When asked about her secret sauce of success, Wawira mentioned “persistence”. According to her, the path of entrepreneurship is easy to walk on but it is really difficult to stay there. The one who stays persistent wins the race. “I still doubt my decision every day. I still think I should leave everything and do a corporate job that pays well. The feeling doesn’t go but I promise myself each day to stay persistent and stick to the mission I started”.

Wawira hopes to see a world where children don’t miss school because they are hungry or because they cannot afford healthy meals. With Food4Education, she wants a future which is open and inclusive to the needs of all vulnerable communities in Kenya and beyond.

About the author

Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.

Banner photo courtesy of Food4Education

“Converting” Catholic Social Ministries

“Converting” Catholic Social Ministries

Social enterprise workshop participants

Social enterprise workshop participants

Over the past nine months, Miller Center has conducted experiments to test the feasibility of adapting and applying our GSBI® methodology to these ministries, and results are quite promising. This month, in Nairobi, Kenya, Pamela Roussos, Thane Kreiner, and I presented two workshops to Jesuits and Catholic Sisters. Both of these African networks have asked us to accompany them as they transform their social ministries into social enterprises.

Catholic social ministries worldwide are aware that the funding landscape has shifted dramatically over the past generation. Traditional Catholic funding sources are fading, and being replaced by impact philanthropy, which expects innovative approaches to service delivery and enhanced accountability for their impact. Social ministries face threats from declining income, but are pursuing opportunities to develop more robust business and impact models. For Catholic social ministries seeking transformation into social enterprises, the GSBI methodology provides a structured curriculum and customized mentoring draw on 15 years of practical experience with a thousand social enterprises. Our acceleration services are practical, draw lessons from hundreds of successful social enterprises, and share with Catholic social ministries the vision for sustainable development as articulated by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. We call this initiative the Catholic Action for Social Entrepreneurship.

Sisters in social entrepreneurship

Miller Center has prioritized women’s economic empowerment as a strategic focus for five years, accelerating women-led and women-serving social enterprises. Still, we have rarely been able to recruit groups of entrepreneurs that are majority women. So imagine our response when we are approached by a network representing only women: Catholic Sisters. As Thane explained in a prior blog, ACWECA (Association of Consecrated Women in East and Central Africa) is network of some 30,000 Sisters organized into some 300 congregations, and this association requested a partnership with Miller Center.

Keith Warner OFM and Sisters

Keith Warner OFM and Sisters

The missions of these congregations are compelling. Many of them were founded to educate girls. Others organize their ministries to serve some of Africa’s poorest women. A number of Sisters engage in farming themselves, and work with local subsistence farmers to increase their income and resilience in the face of climate disruption. ACWECA recruited 11 congregations from 6 African countries to participate in the Sisters Blended Value project, and the workshop in Nairobi March 3-7. I had met a majority of these Sisters when I took them on the road to visit our social enterprises in January. This project would help the Sisters design their own social enterprise initiatives, consistent with their congregational missions, creating opportunities for their poor neighbors and earned income for the Sisters.

Each congregation was represented by three Sisters, and in the workshop, these Sisters developed a business plan for a social enterprise initiative to be sponsored by their respective congregation. The Sisters Blended Value project kickoff workshop drew extensively from our GSBI Boost curriculum for early stage enterprises, and so the Sisters developed skills used by early stage entrepreneurs. They designed value chains, segmented their target markets, wrote value propositions, and engaged in backcasting (imagining a multi-year organizational vision, and then working backwards to build toward that vision). In some cases, Sisters re-examined their expectations of merely writing up 1-page concept notes to ask for large grants.  

The lean startup methodology – designed to launch ventures in low-resource settings – will over-write historic dependence on external funders. The workshop concluded with each congregation’s team pitching to the whole group. Several congregations designed initiatives in agriculture, using chickens in partnership with GSBI alum Eggpreneur, pigs, or coffee with NUCAFE, another GSBI alum. Global Social Benefit Fellows will work with Eggpreneur and NUCAFE in 2019, and will foster collaboration between Sisters and social entrepreneurs.

Each congregational team is now charged with refining their business plan, and then presenting it to the leadership of their congregations. One great advantage of partnering with ACWECA is that its leadership understands the internal dynamics of these congregations better than we do. ACWECA’s vision for this multi-year project is to transform Sisters’ social ministries, step by step. The social enterprise initiatives are to be learning activities. ACWECA and Miller Center will accompany the Sisters as they launch them, and provide ongoing curriculum and mentoring over the rest of this year. ACWECA envisions this as a multi-year project, to position Catholic Sisters as the agents of a new form of pro-woman sustainable development.

Activating Jesuit networks

Pamela Roussos workshop

Pamela Roussos workshop

Co-sponsored with the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network of Africa, Miller Center provided a social enterprise workshop for 18 African Jesuit social ministry centers February 26-28 in Nairobi, Kenya. This network of Jesuit social ministry centers is a project of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar. Miller Center’s team (Pamela Roussos and your humble servant) led the participants through the process of writing a business plan for their centers to enhance their ministerial outreach and increase the financial sustainability of their organizations. 

Last year, the new director of the network, Fr. Charles Chilufya SJ, reached out to Miller Center to request a structured program of accompaniment to transform these social ministry centers into social enterprises. These 18 social ministries are spread across 13 Sub-Saharan African countries. Ten of them operate in French-speaking Africa. Four of the center directors are graduates of SCU’s Jesuit School of Theology (JST): Claude Domfang SJ of Center for Research, Education and Creativity in Benin, Jean Nyembo SJ of Center Arrupe for Research and Formation in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ismael Matambura SJ of Center Maisha also in DRC, and Innocent Rugaragu SJ of Centre Christus/People in Community Organizing - Rwanda.

These ministries were founded independently by various provinces in response to local needs, and have been generally funded by Catholic philanthropy from Europe. This funding model is coming to an end, and these centers recognize the need to network more effectively and to develop new business and social impact models to fulfill their common Jesuit mission. At this workshop, the 24 participants developed a social enterprise initiative for their centers, supported by a business plan. 

The predominant programmatic theme was the fostering of livelihoods, especially for rural and urban youth. The lack of jobs is a tremendous challenge across the continent. In addition, several of the centers foster climate resilient agriculture, such as the Jesuit Centre for Ecological Development in Malawi.

One of the social ministry centers is in fact a network of 8 programs, the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAM), distributed across several ministry sites in multiple countries to serve people with AIDS/HIV. AJAM was initially founded to provide medical support, but with improved medication, many of these people are living much longer, albeit with bouts of poor health. AJAM now recognizes the need to provide supportive livelihood services to respond to the socio-economic needs of people with AIDS. Another network, Jesuit Refugee Services, is also part of JENA.  

Agnieszka Winkler at Jesuit workshop in Nairobi

Agnieszka Winkler at Jesuit workshop in Nairobi

On February 27, Miller Center brought a delegation of executive mentors and friends to visit this workshop, and the executives provided feedback on the development of these business plans. In the first picture,

Winnie Wan, Pascalia Sergon, and Vedaste Nkeshimana SJ

Winnie Wan, Pascalia Sergon, and Vedaste Nkeshimana SJ

Winnie Wan (one of Miller Center’s executive mentors) is asking questions about the proposed business plans of Pascalia Sergon of AJAM and Vedaste Nkeshimana SJ (who directs Service Yezu Mwiza, an AIDS ministry in Burundi). In the second picture,

Lisa Fullam and Elphege Quenum SJ

Lisa Fullam and Elphege Quenum SJ

Elphege Quenum SJ – the director of AJAM – listens in next to Lisa Fullam, who teaches social ethics at JST. Lisa has taught classes on the ethics of responding to AIDS/HIV, and has proposed greater collaboration between Miller Center and JST to develop innovative curriculum in theology and social entrepreneurship. 

These JENA centers are in the process of reviewing their social enterprise initiatives with their local teams, and will be sharing them next month. Miller Center will continue to accompany them, while working with JENA to raise funds for further support.

About the Author

Keith Douglass Warner, OFM, PhD directs Miller Center’s education, fellowship, grants and action research activities. He directs the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, which provides a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and research for SCU juniors within the Center’s worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. With Thane Kreiner, PhD, he designed the fellowship and wrote the grant that funds it.

Miller Center’s Top 10 List of 2018

Miller Center’s Top 10 List of 2018

As the end of the year quickly approaches, I look back over these past twelve months and am humbled by our community’s progress and accomplishments. The urgency to advance and accompany the social enterprises that our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs serve was undeniably powerful this year.

I start each day scanning streams of social media and news outlets. This routine has unsuspectingly become my daily dose of hope. There is an abundance of stories that are at once poignant and energizing. One morning I’ll come across an approach developed by a Miller Center GSBI alum to help refugees earn respectable livelihoods, the next day I’ll read a fiery piece from a female-led enterprise that invokes my personal commitment to social impact. One of my favorite parts of my day is sharing these updates across our channels and amplifying the work of our Global Social Benefit Fellows, GSBI alumni, partners, mentors, and my Miller Center colleagues.

As a marketer, I appreciate that these stories–all this “content”–also offers context about you, our readers. With the help of Marketing Associate Alexis Tong, we collected and analyzed a year’s worth of media mentions, website analytics, click-throughs from our bi-monthly newsletters, and social media engagement across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to inform the composition of this Top 10 list. We generated an algorithm that ranked each news story, blog, and social media post to discover which were most engaging.

Serendipitously, this data-derived list authentically aligns with what the team agrees as our 2018 highlights. Here are the results:

10. #MeToo at SOCAP

In October Miller Center joined 20,000 participants at SOCAP (Social Capital Markets)–a gathering of impact investors, entrepreneurs, and cross-sector practitioners focused on increasing the flow of capital toward social good. Our staff and Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni participated on a variety of panels, including Tools for Scaling Social Ventures, Pioneering Social Enterprise Solutions for Refugees and Trafficking Survivors, and Creative Tensions: Investment & Impact. Yet, it was Senior Program Manager Karen Runde’s submission of Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo that was granted both a panel session and a workshop to explore the topic within the social impact ecosystem. The sessions at SOCAP explored restorative justice, the paradox of power, and even inspired this post-event blog by Avary Kent, Founding Executive Director of

Senior Program Manager Karen Runde introduces panelists participating on Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo Part 2. (Santa Clara University)

Senior Program Manager Karen Runde introduces panelists participating on Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo Part 2. (Santa Clara University)

9. Social Entrepreneurs, Mentors, Impact Investors… Oh My!

In August we welcomed 25 social business leaders, 63 executive mentors, and 18 social enterprises to the Santa Clara University Campus for our GSBI In-Residence accelerator. The gathering is an intensive 10-day convening of changemakers focused on scaling their innovative solutions that address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  Journalist Catherine Cheney of Devex met with a number of entrepreneurs in the cohort at the Investor Showcase and reported [h]ow grants can help for-profits and nonprofits alike fund pathways to scale. Visit our YouTube channel to view the pitches from the showcase.

Miller Center Chief Operating Officer Cassandra Staff hosts the 2018 GSBI In-Residence Accelerator Investor Showcase. (Chuck Barry)

Miller Center Chief Operating Officer Cassandra Staff hosts the 2018 GSBI In-Residence Accelerator Investor Showcase. (Chuck Barry)

8. Mastering Scale Out

Replication can significantly decrease the time and resources spent on getting a social enterprise up and running. In fact, replicated enterprises present reduced risks for impact investors. Associate Director of Replication Neal Harrison’s Scale and Adaption: The Two Sides of Replication and Global Social Benefit Fellow Lauren Oliver’s 5 Lessons Learned from Creating a Sector-Specific Accelerator Program make Miller Center’s Replication Initiative #8 in our Top 10 List of 2018.

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7. From Fellows to Fulbrights and Beyond

The accolades abound in 2018 for Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Fellows (GSBF). Poets & Quants recognized Haley Harada as one of 2018’s Best & Brightest. Nithya Vemireddy received a William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India from the American Indian Foundation. Five of the fellows were awarded Fulbright scholarships, one of whom, Erika Francks was also named a Rhodes Scholar Finalist. However, the GSBF story that took top honors in 2018 was the announcement that Athena Nguyen was not only awarded a Fulbright but was also named Valedictorian for the Class of 2018.

Santa Clara University Undergraduate Commencement, Class of 2018. (Santa Clara University)

6. Alumni in the Headlines

There was an abundance of news and updates from the social enterprises that make up our GSBI alumni network. For the first time, two GSBI alumni made a pivot to partner, forging a stronger path to scale. Vava Coffee, Neopenda, 734 Coffee, and Good Nature Agro were named by Conscious Company as Social Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2018. KadAfrica was one of four winners of the 2018 Roddenberry Prize. Of note, the alumni story that had the greatest reach in 2018 took place just over one week ago on stage in Johannesburg at the Mandela 100 Global Citizen Festival. Recording artist Usher and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins presented GSBI alumna Wawira Njiru, Founder of Food for Education, with the Youth Leadership Prize and $250,000!


5. Bay Area Boost

This summer Miller Center joined forces with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to offer a three-day capacity building workshop specifically for social entrepreneurs that are impacting the lives of those in need in the Bay Area. Journalist Heather Adams of the National Catholic Reporter covered the collaboration and Miller Center’s Chief Innovation Officer Pamela Roussos and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County’s CEO Greg Kepferle wrote this op-ed. "The university brings intellectual capital; Catholic Charities brings social capital," Kepferle said. "Marrying them both helps us address the reality of poverty in innovative ways."


4. The Power of Partnership: Addressing Maternal and Child Health

In partnership with GE, Miller Center ran its second cohort of the Healthymagination Mother and Child Program. Eleven social enterprises participated in the program and in March presented to impact investors in Nairobi. One of the eleven cohort participants, doctHERs, connects female doctors in Pakistan to underserved communities such as refugees. doctHERs was in Rome last week as one of the top 13 companies to be recognized by the Laudato Si’ Challenge.  

Robert Wells, Executive Director, New Growth Markets and Business Innovations at GE featured on CNBC Africa.

Robert Wells, Executive Director, New Growth Markets and Business Innovations at GE featured on CNBC Africa.


3. Ending Poverty Takes Energy

There are 1.2 billion people worldwide who have little or no access to electricity. This lack of access perpetuates a poverty trap and that’s why we are so focused on accompanying social entrepreneurs who make clean energy affordable and available.  Energy Access India was a program run by Miller Center and New Ventures from 2015 to 2018, with the support of USAID, which helped 30 renewable energy companies raise $40 million of investment and provide clean energy to over 2.5 million Indians through a customized capacity development and investment facilitation program. Andrew Lieberman, Miller Center’s Senior Director of New Programs, together with Colm Fay of William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, and Mark Correnti of Shine Campaign, published the research paper Closing the Circuit: Accelerating Clean Energy Investment in India.

The report analyzes business models and strategies, identifies barriers, and offers actionable recommendations.

The report analyzes business models and strategies, identifies barriers, and offers actionable recommendations.

2. Impact Investing: Positioned to Accelerate Impact

It may come as no surprise that the blog most read in 2018 was The Justifiable Ask: Realities of Raising Impact Capital written by GSBI Funding Facilitation Lead Anastasiya Litvinova. Lack of capital can be the biggest obstacle to growth. Bringing on the right investors can be course defining. Case in point is Miller Center GSBI alum Husk Power Systems–raising $20 million in equity investment in January, making it one of the largest investments in the mini-grid sector.

GSBI alum Husk Power Systems closed $20 million in funding in January 2018. (Husk Power Systems)

GSBI alum Husk Power Systems closed $20 million in funding in January 2018. (Husk Power Systems)

1. Accelerating Solutions At The Margins

Miller Center launched an experimental cohort named Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) in January: could the lives of refugees, migrants, or human trafficking survivors be improved at scale through social entrepreneurship? In his blog Mobilizing for Migrants, Refugees, and Slaves, Miller Center Executive Director Thane Kreiner wrote about the third Vatican impact investing conference that convened in July. It sought to mobilize capital to address pressing, interconnected, global problems, including migrants and refugees. Of the final 13 winners of the 2018 Laudato Si’ Challenge, four are Miller Center alumni, three of which are from the SEM cohort (Five One Labs, Leaf Global Fintech, and Workaround).  From the accolades and media coverage surrounding the cohort to growing commitment to unlock the power of refugees, the 18 social enterprises that made up the SEM cohort captured our attention throughout the year and tops our list for 2018.



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Karen Paculba had the privilege of serving Miller Center in 2018 as its Senior Marketing Manager. With an eye for the nitty gritty and a natural curiosity for the big picture, Karen enjoyed the breadth of programs and sectors supported by Miller Center accelerator programs. Karen is continuing her career at Santa Clara University and will kick off 2019 as the University’s Director of Social and Digital Strategy.

Banner/thumbnail image photo credit: Instagram/Wawira Njiru

Dare to dream bigger | Lessons learned from Yvonne Otieno, founder of Miyonga Fresh Greens

Dare to dream bigger | Lessons learned from Yvonne Otieno, founder of Miyonga Fresh Greens


They say talent exists everywhere but opportunities don’t. This statement stands true in every part of the world where entrepreneurs like Yvonne exists. Yvonne Otieno is an alumna who participated in Miller Center’s 2018 Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Online Accelerator program. She is a farmer from Kenya who embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship to change the livelihoods of fellow farmers. Yvonne’s enterprise, Miyonga Fresh Greens, exports fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenya to the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Ireland and South Africa. Miyonga started exporting from a horticultural farm with 10 acres located in Lukenya, Machakos County and expanded to become a fully-established exporter with access to a network of 5,000+ growers with over 200 hectares of land.

How did this happen? Let’s hear from Yvonne.

The lifelong journey of exploration

Starting and managing a business most commonly originates when an entrepreneur identifies a way to solve a problem or serve a need. What’s unexpected is that, once ignited, one’s entrepreneurial spirit permeates and turns into a lifelong endeavor. To move forward, a founder has to trust her instinct when it comes to decision making and, in those moments, there may not be any indication whether her choice will work out favorably or turn out to be disastrous. The journey is a roller coaster ride of emotions sprinkled with moments of unexpected wisdom. Once Miyonga Fresh Greens achieved its initial milestones, Yvonne regretted not dreaming bigger. (Well, don’t we all?)  “We executed what we set out to do. We have grown from farmers to exporters, diversified from just fresh produce to value addition of fresh fruits to dried fruits and fruit powder and were positively impacting our community by creating employment. But, my only regret is not dreaming bigger at that time,” reflected Yvonne.


Perhaps, the point to ponder here is that even the best-laid plans can go astray. Even though Yvonne carefully crafted a solid business plan, there was a stark difference when it came to the first round of financial actuals. The first planted product was a failure and, to her great frustration,, nothing was making sense to Yvonne. “There are days everything looks bright and there are days when you aren’t quite sure anymore why you are still in business. Our business began farming on a 1.5-acre piece of land growing green beans, or Haricot verts, as commonly known in Europe. Our first planting of the product made huge losses. When preparing the business case, all numbers seemed to make sense and I just couldn’t understand why we were seeing losses,” she shared.

The phase with patience, persistence, and passion

Patience, persistence, and passion make an unbeatable combination for success. When plans take an unexpected detour, entrepreneurs do not quit; they stay patient, become persistent and use their passion to explore the avenues to get back on course. In Yvonne’s case, her business found hope in remodeling the entire business plan and transitioning from just farming to an agricultural business. Since then, Miyonga has won multiple accolades including the 2016 Gender in Innovation and Agriculture, Social Impact award for women and top 50 innovators in Africa.

Besides the initial USD$10,000 seed capital Miyonga Fresh Greens received as an award, it has grown organically and is currently on its first round for investments. Yet, the journey has been quite challenging with a lot of questions that used to keep Yvonne awake at night. “One of the challenges we faced was where to find investors? Another was what type of funding should we seek: equity or debt? If equity, how much equity should we be giving up as a company? And last, because our business cares about positively impacting the community, how does our organization measure its social impact? Those are questions that we struggled with,” listed Yvonne.

Paving the way to find the “right” investor

Making the decision to let someone invest in your company is harder than anything for a founding entrepreneur. You find people showing interest in your idea, but do they really believe in it? Do they trust your passion or commitment towards it, or are they just after the ROI? These questions linger in every entrepreneur’s mind when they are seeking funds.

At Miller Center’s GSBI program, we prepare social entrepreneurs for investment, scaling their business and growth. 93% of the participants in the 2016 GSBI Accelerator cohort raised funding within six months after the program concluded. We match Silicon Valley executive mentors who accompany selected social entrepreneurs for the duration of their time in the program. Oftentimes, this accompaniment goes beyond the program dates to develop the operational excellence and investment readiness required to scale impact. Yvonne benefitted from her mentors’ expertise and now understands how to measure the impact for her business and what to look for in investors before shaking any hands for investment.

She said, “After going through the GSBI Online Accelerator program this year, we now have an understanding of our metrics and how to measure the impact. We have a living investment profile and now know what type of investors we should be speaking with. We keep a database of potential investors and maintain an internal checklist on what type of investor would best fit our company. Before the program, we would get excited every time any investor showed interest and we would share information. Before long we would see our ideas being implemented by others.


Right now, we still get excited, but we now approach  fundraising like dating: you have to find the right fit. Plus, we are more protective of our innovations. Through GSBI, we also learned about a pro bono legal services resource; we applied and qualified. We are in discussions with potential investors and an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is a prerequisite before we engage in any discussion.”

From a farmer to every entrepreneur in the world

“I just want to say: you can do it! If this farmer with little or no business experience is now contracting other farmers and impacting the livelihoods of 1,500 other farmers in Kenya, and exporting to five different destinations in Europe, you can do it, too.

How will you do it? Know your mission and focus. If you hold a magnifying glass over a pile of dry leaves on the hottest day of the year with the sun shining overhead, nothing will happen as long as you keep moving the magnifying glass. But as soon as you hold the magnifying glass still and focus the rays of the sun on just one leaf, the whole pile of leaves will erupt into flames. Take one day at a time and solve one challenge at a time.

Learn: Make use of the numerous opportunities available to empower you with the skills needed to run a business. The GSBI is just one of those programs that changed my perspective.

Lastly, you will fall 1,000 times and you will get up 1,001 times. Trust your instinct or intuition. It’s a God-given compass to guide you.”



Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.

Photo credits: Miyonga Fresh Greens

Miller Center 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Miller Center 2018 Holiday Gift Guide


Every time I come to work at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, I get a daily dose of inspiration and hope. I consider this one of the perks of the job. The sheer scale of social impact by Miller Center Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni is impressive and gives me hope that positive progress can prevail when it comes to addressing poverty. Another perk of the job is discovering the premium products from Miller Center social enterprise alumni. As the holiday season begins, we’ve curated an assortment of products from some of our alumni and compiled a gift guide from us to you. Click on any of the images below to be linked to the product page or continue to read below to learn more about each selection…and even some exclusive Miller Center friends and family savings! We hope this guide offers you some inspiration and hope knowing that you’re able to make a positive social impact this gift giving season.

1. 734 Coffee (CODE: MILLERCENT)

Coffee is almost an absolute staple here at Miller Center. 734 Coffee is providing a special offer on coffee beans for Miller Center friends and family! Purchase any medium roast coffee beans and receive 15% off all orders over $20 with the code MILLERCENT before December 7, 2018. Coffee from the Gambela region is lauded for its rich flavor—medium bodied with hints of caramel, spice and berries with a smokey chocolate aftertaste.

About 734 Coffee (Miller Center cohort: 2018 GSBI Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins)
734 Coffee is more than a number. It is a place of refuge. 7˚N 34˚E are the geographical coordinates for Gambela, a region in Ethiopia, where over 200,000 displaced South Sudanese citizens now live after fleeing war, atrocities, drought, and famine in South Sudan.

Our coffee is harvested by growers right in the Gambela region, and after it is brought to the US, 80% of sponsorship dollars go to educational scholarships for refugees of Sudan.

Our mission is simple: make great coffee for the greater good. With your support, we can make 7˚N 34˚E not the end of the story, but the start of something wonderful.

2. All Across Africa/KAZI Goods (CODE: MILLER30)

Looking for a new centerpiece for your coffee table? Check out the lovely handwoven Small Lake + Peach Pink Hope Basket from KAZI Goods. Enjoy 30% off this basket with the code MILLER30. Baskets carry their own symbolism in Rwanda because friends give them to celebrate major life events such as weddings, births and graduations, baskets are proudly displayed as symbols of wealth of friends, family and life. The sunburst pattern on these baskets is known as the “hope” design. Reflected on the Rwandan flag, this sunburst images stands for the county’s collective hope for a new dawn and brighter future. This design means a lot to the weavers as each basket they sell increases their chances for a better life.

About All Across Africa/KAZI (Miller Center cohorts: 2016 GSBI In-residence Accelerator, 2018 GSBI TECh)
We endeavor to bring to life your vision of home and style with artful craftsmanship that does good.

When you purchase and enjoy our handcrafted goods, you are creating opportunities for men and women across Africa to thrive.  It’s that simple. Inspired living, opportunities to thrive. Go ahead, take in your love for the world every day and share in the delight of connecting with African artisans. It’s what we do every day at KAZI.

Our business model reaches deep into rural villages in the developing world and provides training and fair wage jobs that restore dignity and promote self-sufficiency—we see it as the way forward for sustainable development in Africa.

3. Kiva

This holiday, create hope around the world by giving Kiva Cards. For just $25, your loved ones can make a loan in the country of their choice and extend a hand to entrepreneurs and those in need. When those loans are repaid, they can use their funds again and again to make an even greater impact. Best of all, Kiva Cards can be emailed or printed at home, so you know they’ll arrive on time.

About Kiva (Miller Center cohort: 2006 GSBI In-Residence Accelerator)
Millions of lenders have come together to support entrepreneurs, farmers and students around the world on, collectively funding more than $1.2 billion in impactful loans.

4. Rebel Nell

A perfect gift for the fashion forward and socially conscious person on your list, Rebel Nell’s Sterling Silver Post Drop earrings are handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces made out of repurposed layers of fallen graffiti paint. The earrings are crafted in Detroit, Michigan and have a sterling silver bezel and backing, as well as resin and graffiti paint. Every piece sold directly supports the women employed at Rebel Nell. These earrings are priced at $80 and are available online.

About Rebel Nell (Miller Center cohort: 2016 GSBI Online Accelerator)
Rebel Nell exists to employ, educate, and empower women transitioning out of homelessness in Detroit. We repurpose fallen graffiti, revealing the beauty underneath each layer. Forged through fierce determination, our jewelry is a testament to the woman who created it.

5. Relevée

Relevée’s Icon earrings represent the label's geometric approach to style with a hidden meaning inside the symbolic design. In ethically-sourced recycled Sterling Silver, these earrings have a sleek design, with an arrow pointing upwards encompassing the meaning behind Relevée—“to rise”. This upscale gift is priced at $85 and makes a beautiful gift for the sophisticated someone on your list.

About Relevée (Miller Center cohort: 2018 GSBI Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins)
Relevée is an international socially conscious fine jewelry brand. Our mission is to empower women through beautiful designs that elevate not only the wearer and beholder but the designers themselves. Our passionate jewelry team is guided with the ideology of "feeling beautiful inside and out". In part, our collection is inspired by purposeful designs featuring classic meets modern, day-to-evening styles that are foundational pieces in your personal jewelry collection. Every Relevée piece is simple and elegant with extraordinary attention to details. With precious materials strictly chosen through ethical channels and a global initiative to uplift the world's most marginalized women, we aim to deliver nothing less than perfect to our customers. Inspiring beauty inside and out.

6. Someone Somewhere (CODE: MILLER CENTER FRIENDS)

This holiday you can expand your wardrobe while supporting artisans from Mexico’s five poorest states. Someone Somewhere’s Confetti t-shirt pictured above is a playful cotton t-shirt with hand embroidered details made by artisans from the Northern Sierra of Puebla, Mexico. This is a great and impactful gift for both men and women. The retail price is $37 but with the special code MILLER CENTER FRIENDS, you can purchase this whimsical piece for $33!

About Someone Somewhere (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
Someone Somewhere works with hundreds of indigenous artisans, combining their traditional handcrafts with products that are carefully designed for the modern world. Each product is hand signed by the artisan involved in its creation. Click here to learn more.

7. Moringa Connect/True Moringa (CODE: MILLERCENTER15)

This holiday season, think global and shop local with a collection of True Moringa’s favorite Boston-based brands that care deeply about ethical and sustainable sourcing from around the world. Each Holiday Gift Box includes Taza Chocolate's Peppermint Dark Bark, your choice of MEM Tea's Moroccan Mint or Lemon Chamomile Tea, and the signature True Moringa Oil for Face, Body and Hair. This gift box is regularly priced at $35, but you can receive 15% off and free shipping in the U.S. using the code MILLERCENTER15.

About True Moringa (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
True Moringa works directly with over three thousand small farming families throughout Ghana to cultivate our cold-pressed moringa oil. To date, we have planted over two million moringa trees.

8. Yellow Leaf Hammocks (CODE: MILLERCENTER)

If you visit our Miller Center office on the Santa Clara University campus, you’ll discover that we have three comfy hammocks from Yellow Leaf Hammocks set up in our Innovation Space. They are the softest, most comfortable hammocks I’ve ever had the opportunity to lounge in. Now you can get your very own with a 20% savings using the code MILLERCENTER until December 17, 2018. The Montauk hammock, which is featured above, is one of Yellow Leaf Hammocks’ best-selling products at a great gifting price-point!

About Yellow Leaf Hammocks (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
Yellow Leaf Hammocks is breaking the cycle of extreme poverty through sustainable job creation. Our artisan weavers and their families were previously trapped in extreme poverty and debt slavery. Now they are empowered to earn a stable, healthy income through dignified work (we call this a "prosperity wage"). This is the basis for a brighter future, built on a hand up, not a handout.

9. Vega Coffee (CODE: MillerCenter)

Vega Coffee’s roast sampler is the perfect gift for office colleagues, party hosts, and any coffee lover in your life. You will receive four 6 oz bags of exclusive, curated coffees, one in each level of roast. The four bags of coffee will represent a range of high-quality microlots from Nicaragua and Colombia, making it the perfect gift for anyone who drinks coffee (everybody?). The price is $30 and comes with a note card and information about the farmers that grow the coffee. Enter code MillerCenter for 20% off any item purchased on the website!

About Vega Coffee (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
Vega Coffee reinvents the traditional coffee supply chain by empowering women farmers to earn four times more than through typical export channels. Vega connects farming communities who roast their own coffee to customers worldwide.

About the author

Sally Park is a fourth-year Web Design and Engineering major with minors in Communication and Computer Science and Engineering working towards a Master of Science in Engineering Management and Leadership at Santa Clara University. She is currently a Community Facilitator (Resident Assistant) with the Cyphi Residential Learning Community helping many first-year students transition into college. In her free time, she is working on a project to help animal shelters simplify the adoption process.

#SheMeansEntrepreneurship - In Conversation with Manka Angwafo, Founder of Grassland Cameroon and Her Journey’s Challenges

#SheMeansEntrepreneurship - In Conversation with Manka Angwafo, Founder of Grassland Cameroon and Her Journey’s Challenges


The hashtag in the title speaks for itself. But, I came up with this after an enlightening interview with our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumna, Manka Angwafo, a member of the 2018 GSBI Online cohort and the founder of Grassland Cameroon. 

Grassland Cameroon is a premier grain-handling company in Cameroon. It works closely with smallholder farmers in the North West region of Cameroon to improve the lives of farmers, their families, and their communities at large.

Manka along with other female entrepreneurs know that entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey. There are challenges every step you take and it is not an overstatement to say that those challenges are multifold when you are a woman.

 Manka’s story is full of such challenges. One day she is struggling to have a seat at the table and other days she is being mansplained that she will never get married because of her career choice. 

I am constantly told that my job is a man’s job and that I won’t ever get married because of my business.
Manka Angwafo, founder of Grassland Cameroon and Miller Center GSBI alumna (‘18)

Manka Angwafo, founder of Grassland Cameroon and Miller Center GSBI alumna (‘18)

On some of the biggest challenges she faced 

There are countless women in this world working hard in their respective fields who are eager and able to make a difference as peers; but when it comes to representation, the table is “usually” full. Manka faced a similar challenge initially when she was working with an all-male advisory board and constantly doubted her potential. She had to fight really hard with her need to validate her decisions to the men.

“I think the biggest challenge I faced initially was not believing that I ought to have a seat at the table. Given the country/industry my business is in, and the type of operations we run, I had only male advisors to look up to, and male counterparts to work with. Subconsciously, it made me doubt every decision and plan I would come up with, and then go back to the same men for validation. As time went on, I started noticing my advisors asking me for my input and feedback on their business strategy and it helped me realize that I actually am able to think strategically, and I had, without any doubt, earned my place.

I think more female founders need to find that strength to keep believing in themselves, especially in fields that are male-dominated,” shared Manka.

Fundraising was not easy for her

Unsurprisingly, in June 2018, the Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge published a report based on the study of 350 companies in total and found that startups founded or co-founded by women received an average of US $935,000 in investment. This figure contrasts sharply with the average US $2.12 million investment received by startups founded by men. Manka identifies with the reported disparities and believes the imbalances are not only limited to tech startups. She said, “I should also mention that fundraising is a bigger challenge for female founders than it is for male founders. The numbers on this are very stark. Female founders receive much less financing than males. I know that this topic has started to get more coverage, particularly in the tech world. However, as we are currently fundraising, I am realizing this disparity is across all industries.”

Let’s talk about Gender Bias

Photo courtesy of Grassland Cameroon

Photo courtesy of Grassland Cameroon

In our previous newsletter, I wrote a blog on challenging your unconscious bias and this week I am drafting an example of that bias. Manka and many other female founders are constantly being told that their job is a man’s job, that their chances of getting married are very low if they choose the path of entrepreneurship. All of this comes down to one word: discrimination. Society never questions the choices of our male counterparts and constantly nudge when a female does a similar thing. Manka had a similar story to share on this when I asked her if she ever faced any sort of discrimination during this journey.

“Absolutely. I am constantly told that my job is a man’s job and that I won’t ever get married because of my business. I obviously, don’t think either of this is true, and also feel it is really unfortunate that in 2018, society still places marriage as a woman’s definitive achievement (note no emphasis on happily married). As with all bias, I think the best way to deal with it is by outperforming everyone else and proving them wrong. I use that in business and try to extend that to other parts of my life,” she added.

advice FOR female founders

“Being a founder/CEO is a very lonely journey and, as such, is one that you should be ready for and in it for the right reasons. Seek out other female founders, regardless of their business sector. I stress on seeking out female founders because your female friends would never understand what you’re going through and the decisions you have to make every day. Your female founders will become your sisters and best friends. Create a tribe of unfailing supporters, and hold them close to you. This is what will keep you going through all the tough times.” 

Why Women’s Economic Empowerment?

Manka’s story tells us there is so much more work that needs to be done. At Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, we believe in women’s economic empowerment for a sustainable future and highly discourage gender bias within our center and programs. For the initiative and commitment-to-self, a new affinity group of women-led social enterprises has been introduced in our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. The goal for this affinity group is to bring more women, social entrepreneurs, onboard, refine and validate their business and financial models, provide a customized resource library with curated content specific to their businesses, match them with industry-relevant mentors, foster peer-to-peer connections with our alumni, and offer opportunities for their businesses to flourish.

 As Manka said, your female founders will become your sisters and best friends and, in their company, you will find a tribe of unfailing supporters. So let’s create a tribe of hard-working and talented women social entrepreneurs in the world and make this world an unbiased place to live.



Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.

Banner photo courtesy of Grassland Cameroon

The lasting impact of the GSBI® In-Residence accelerator

The lasting impact of the GSBI® In-Residence accelerator

Photo from 2017 GSBI In-Residence accelerator Investor Showcase

Photo from 2017 GSBI In-Residence accelerator Investor Showcase

Tomorrow, eighteen social entrepreneurs making impact around the world will showcase their work in front of an audience of investors and will highlight the hard work they have been doing over the past 10 months in the GSBI® In-Residence accelerator program.

To me, this event is one of the most inspiring days of my year and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the potential for these enterprises to scale their impact and truly help change the world. But the skeptic inside me also wonders how many of these ambitious social entrepreneurs will deliver on their promises and projections? Have we at Miller Center done our job and equipped these entrepreneurs with the tools they need to scale and to become architects of hope?

Looking back at the 2017 GSBI In-Residence accelerator lends us some insights and I am happy to report that our alumni’s ambitions are matched by their ability to deliver.

Out of the 14 social entrepreneurs that pitched at last year’s showcase, over 50% of them were successful in meeting or exceeding their justifiable ask or the investment request they and their mentors think is “justifiable" based on their financial model and ability to meet their operational growth targets.  As a cohort, they have raised a median of ~$500,000 and a cumulative total of over $12 million.

Raising investment is one thing, but are these enterprises able to utilize this capital they receive to grow their social impact and serve more people? Happily, the answer here is a resounding yes! Last year’s cohort on average doubled their impact in the 12 months since graduation and some have seen growth in the 5x range.

Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

One of last years’ Social Entrepreneurs who has had transformational success since last year’s showcase is Wawira Njiru, CEO of Food 4 Education. In Kenya, where food for education works, 1 in 5 children are developmentally stunted due to malnourishment. Food 4 Education provides high quality, nutritious meals to students in Kenyan public primary schools to improve their nutrition and education outcomes. They use a social enterprise model that caters healthy and convenient meals to Kenyan corporates and private institutions and uses the profits to provide the nutritious lunches that keep children in school, improve their learning ability and opportunities to use education as a means to break out of the cycle of poverty.

Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

When Wawira joined the GSBI program in 2016, Food 4 Education was one of our earliest stage enterprises; they had raised less than $100,000 in investment and had served only 2,500 school children.

Since graduating from the GSBI accelerator, Wawira has attracted some of the most influential partners in the impact investing space.  Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation invested shortly after Wawira completed the program, and Mulago Foundation recently named her as one of the fellows in their newest class.

Food 4 Education has now grown their investment from $100,000 to $550,000 and has utilized this investment to more than double their social impact from 2,500 children served to over 6,000.

Food 4 Education is just one example of the many social enterprises that have grown their impact dramatically since last year’s showcase and we would invite you to review their progress on our GSBI Alumni Database.

This retrospective gets me even more excited to be working with this 2018 class of GSBI In-Residence accelerator social enterprises. When I am watching the pitches tomorrow, I will be inspired by not only the audacious ambition of our social enterprises to create change, but the data that gives me faith that they will be successful in meeting their goals.

Please join us at the showcase or watch through our livestream. I look forward to connecting you with any of the social entrepreneurs you’ll see pitching.


Cover photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

How GSBI Online Validates Business Models: Meet the 21 members of the GSBI Online Cohort

How GSBI Online Validates Business Models: Meet the 21 members of the GSBI Online Cohort

Every year, up-and-coming social entrepreneurs from around the world complete the rigorous GSBI Online accelerator curriculum, and the 21 social enterprises of Cohort 13 are some of the most promising alumni yet. In the culmination of six months of transformative mentorship, these organizations have truly risen to the challenge, emerging with tangible growth so that they can better accomplish sustainable social change. For these social enterprises that have already been serving their target beneficiaries for one to five years, the Online accelerator helped strengthen and validate their:

  • Impact and Business Model
  • Growth plan
  • Financial model
  • Funding plan

With their tools of market success refined, these social entrepreneurs can achieve maximum potential and maintain a sustainable business model while keeping their social impact missions the driving force of their enterprises.

The social entrepreneurs in Cohort 13 are achieving impact in a variety of sectors, but whatever their focus and wherever they work, they are tackling deeply rooted problems, asking the hard questions, and breaking unjust equilibriums.

Education is often identified as a root cause of systemic change, which might be why six of the cohort members are focusing on education in their respective regions. Each of them takes a different and unique approach to the identified needs of their beneficiaries. Edupay is making quality, low-cost primary education accessible to the rural poor in Ghana, and accessibility is also a key focus of i-Saksham Education and Learning Foundation, which serves youth in India. Accelerated places emphasis on coaching teachers so that they can lead more effective and engaging classrooms in Ethiopia. Coschool moves beyond traditional educational techniques to foster Colombian students’ social and emotional well-being alongside leadership training and camps to build character. Bodhi Health is also education-based, expanding the accessibility of quality medical training through e-learning.

Many of these social enterprises tackle a combination of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in different ways. Miyonga Fresh Greens addresses environmental issues by reducing food waste through agro-processing, but also empowers local farmers by making certification more accessible to smallholder farmers, reducing poverty, and growing local businesses. Discovered not only addresses the economic growth of artisans’ small businesses in emerging countries, but advances gender equality as many of these artisan entrepreneurs are women.

Photo courtesy of Extensio

Photo courtesy of Extensio

Photo courtesy of Elevated Honey Co.

Photo courtesy of Elevated Honey Co.

Cohort 13 realizes the importance of understanding the specific context of unjust systems in place, engaging directly with the people they serve so that culture and way of life of those impacted are considered. A great example is Extensio, a social enterprise which found that Mexican farmers could greatly benefit from a digital field agent. The cell phone application communicates best agricultural practices, among other information that helps these farmers to increase productivity and standard of living. Elevated Honey Co., based in China, has identified a need for working to improve the honey industry, highlighting the need now more than ever for empowering rural beekeepers.

The global reach of a few in Cohort 13 is remarkable. VIA Global Health and GOODdler are both online platforms that do a world of good: VIA works towards universal access to the tools that enable quality healthcare in underserved markets, and GOODdler maximizes the impact of humanitarian assistance.

These are just some of the incredible social enterprises that completed the GSBI Online accelerator in Cohort 13 – every one of the 21 social entrepreneurs are already making lasting change. Check out all of their Investor Profiles, and view their final presentations to find out more about the work they’re doing to change the world.

Perhaps the most uniquely beneficial part of the GSBI Online accelerator is the close mentorship from Silicon Valley professionals, who commit to providing insightful advice to their mentees each week. Chris Bravo had the opportunity to mentor Extensio, and he shared with us a brief look into his experience:

Even though, I have mentored before; since it was my first time with GSBI, it was very helpful to be paired with Michelle… On a few occasions, I had the opportunity to visit the team, get to know them in person, and have very productive chats with them. Diana and all of the Extensio team was very open to learning and to receive feedback. Providing online mentoring brings up the challenge of how much, and how to push the entrepreneur… The GSBI curriculum provided a good guide for the weekly discussions, and we should not be afraid of revisiting items here and there to revise the business model.
Photo courtesy of Bodhi Health Education

Photo courtesy of Bodhi Health Education

The GSBI Online accelerator provides a challenging yet rewarding experience for participants, and over the past six months of collaboration and mentor accompaniment this year’s cadre of social entrepreneurs have proven that they have truly put in the work to get the most out of the program and have graduated with validated business models that will further serve the poor and protect the planet.

Apply for the next GSBI Online accelerator cohort here.


Cover photo courtesy of Accelerated