Over fifty women and a handful of men gathered at the eco-chic offices of Kiva in downtown San Francisco on Tuesday, February 12th 2013 to discuss social entrepreneurship. The panel of experienced women practitioners and mentors in the field was organized by Linda Cleary and Barb Krause of Women in Business (WIB), a subgroup of the Northern California German American Business Association (GABA).

GABA Panel of Women Social Entrepreneurs @ Kiva
Women Social Entrepreneurship Panel, hosted by GABA and Kiva

 

While the panelists—from IndieGoGo, Kiva, Santa Clara’s GSBI program, and social enterprise startups— explained their work and organizations’ missions, they made the gathering uniquely personal by sharing their individual stories and journeys in the field.

Moderated by Britt Huber of Kiva

 

Seven panelists shared the stage and were hosted by the evening’s Moderator Britt Huber, Kiva’s VP of Human Resources. Britt outlined the role Kiva has played in expanding microfinance, noting that repayment rate for the organization’s micro-loans to borrowers in developing countries is over 95%. Kiva, a 501(c)(3) non-profit,  has expanded it’s presence to 67 countries since its inception in 2005 and is powered by over 100 employees and 400 volunteers.
GABA Panel of Women Social Entrepreneurs @ Kiva
Moderator Britt Huber

The speakers sat on stools in front of the audience creating an informal, intimate setting.  Each gave a brief introduction, and then Britt posed a few questions spurring anecdotes and candid reflections before opening the session up for Q&A from the audience.

  • What was the trigger motivation that shifted your interest to social entrepreneurship?
  • What are you most proud of? What keeps you up at night? (See below for their responses)
  • How do you define a nonprofit and for-profit social venture? How should a social entrepreneur decide?

Meet the Panel

Panelist Dr. Laura E. Stachel, Co-Founder of WE CARE Solar.
After fourteen years practicing obstetrics-gynecology medicine, a back injury took Dr. Laura out of the daily practice of medicine and on a path to pursuing policy through a Masters in Public Health.  She redefined her connection to the medicine following a trip to Nigeria. The purpose of the travel was to study and support local physicians in a region with high maternal mortality rates; however, she discovered a very essential problem limiting medical care at the facility. Light, or the lack of it. Because of the region’s sporadic electricity, doctors and nurses were using makeshift lighting methods such as candles and headlamps to administer surgeries and intensive care. Dr. Laura emailed her husband, a solar energy innovator, and the seed of a social enterprise was planted.  Together they developed prototypes and researched need for a solar-powered off-grid electric system that was portable.  Five years later, and WE CARE solar suitcases have been delivered to medical facilities in countries including Sierra Leone, India, Sudan, Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, Malawi, Thailand, Burma, and Somalia. Organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, WE CARE Solar has received recognition, awards, and multiple grants facilitating its growth and scalability.

What she is proud of: Creating an impact on women’s healthcare.
What keeps her up at night: The daily challenges of running a business.

Panelist Lesley Silverthorn Marincola, Founder and CEO of Angaza Designs
Lesley’s background in human-centered design stems from her study of product design and mechanical engineering at Stanford and hands-on work on the first three generations of the Amazon Kindle. She co-founded Angaza Designs in 2009 after living in Tanzania and experiencing first-hand the local dependence to kerosene-powered light. Lesley and a small team were compelled to innovate a design-oriented solution. She shared the iterative ideation process Angaza Designs has gone through in developing an off-the grid energy solution that is also affordable. The team’s initial product was a high-powered light bulb with relatively steep up-front costs. Realizing that it wasn’t affordable for the populations they were trying to serve, Angaza pivoted to create a low-cost pay-as-you go solution. The product that resulted was the
GABA Panel of Women Social Entrepreneurs @ KivaSoLite3 Solar Home System that emits bright LED light and also charges cell phones, which is supported by a unique payment platform allowing for small-sum payments. Her company is a for-profit social venture, with an emphasis on keeping up-front costs low.

What she is proud of: Being okay to fail.
What keeps her up at night: Fundraising—you need to be really resilient as a social entrepreneur, passion is not always enough.

Panelist Dr. Lee Ng, Director of Social Venture Technology at Siemens and Mentor at SCU’s Global Social Business Incubator.
In a humorous, candid style, Dr. Lee imparted sage advice to social entrepreneurs and would-be social entrepreneurs based on her years of experience and mentorship in the field. Her day job at Siemens keeps her close to emerging technologies in cleantech, and as a mentor at SCU’s GSBI program for the past seven years, she has been able to impart valuable knowledge to entrepreneurs from around the world who have a social mission for their venture. She emphasized taking a practical approach to deciding on a social entrepreneurship structure—consider first, the type of funding your organization will be seeking and then evaluate the formation structures with that in mind.

What she is proud of: Her mentees who have succeeded in their social ventures.
What keeps her up at night: Her teenagers :)



Panelist Michelle Kreger, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Kiva.
When Michelle joined Kiva in 2006, after volunteering with the organization as a translator, Kiva serviced $2M in micro-loans to borrowers fighting poverty in developing countries. Seven years later, the non-profit has serviced over $400M in loans. The exponential growth in participation in  microfinance has also changed the landscape and needs of the industry. In 2011, she joined an emerging group at Kiva dedicated to exploring new loan products to serve the influx of new players in the social impact world. One main constituencies she focused on was social entrepreneurs. Kiva has partnered with over 30 social enterprises to fund projects and support their work. These new partnerships span fields from education, innovative agriculture, clean energy, water and sanitation, to transportation and health. Her team recently partnered with Strathmore University in Kenya to create student loans payable in 10-12 years.

What she is proud of: Consciously deciding to break a model that works to create new models.
What keeps her up at night: How to find people who are social entrepreneurs and don’t know it, and how to use Kiva’s network to support their work.

GABA Panel of Women Social Entrepreneurs @ KivaPanelist Erica Bliss, Past Manager at Technoserve and President of Women Entrepreneurs at Haas.
After gaining experience as a business analyst, Erica discovered Technoserve as a way to leverage her consulting skills to support social enterprises in developing countries. She spent two-and-a-half years as a TechnoServe Consultant and Manager in Uganda assisting local farmers develop partnerships and products to increase local market share. She also served as a consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Africa before returning to California to pursue an MBA with a focus on social enterprise. She shared a unique experience working with local farmers to create a mango juice sourced from local mangoes to parallel popular juices imported from other countries.

What she is proud of:  Building a cohesive team in Africa that continues the work they started together.
What keeps her up at night: The massive population of youth under the age of fifteen in Africa and the challenges, such as job creation, that they will face in the coming years.

Panelist Juli Betwee, CEO, Pivot.Point Partners and Mentor at SCU’s Global Social Business Incubator.  Juli has over twenty-five years of experience in business consulting and strategy. Recently, she partnered with the GSBI at Santa Clara University to leverage her knowledge and experience in business to support social entrepreneurs. New to the field of social entrepreneurship, she offered a practical look at the industry from the lens of corporate growth and scalability. About how to measure social impact, she noted that assessing social impact engages a three-dimensional way of thinking which calls on looking at predictive analytics rather than historic analytics and focusing on trends, patterns, and correlations rather than simply numbers.

What she is proud of: Impacting and influencing over 100 women entrepreneurs.
What keeps her up at night: How to move more quickly to make greater impact with social entrepreneurs.

Panelist Erica Labovitz, Director of Strategic Programs at Indiegogo.
Erica admitted to the audience that she hadn’t considered herself to be a social entrepreneur before speaking on the panel, but in sharing her personal history in engaging in education and policy work in the U.S. and abroad it became clear that she wears the title well. Erica studied in Economics in college and pursued a Masters degree at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. While on a volunteer trip in Africa she received an email from the founders of IndieGoGo asking her if she wanted to join their team. She was one of the first four employees at the popular crowdfunding platform. She is interested in finding creative ways to leverage the potential of crowdfunding platforms and enterprise tools to serve social impact. IndieGoGo is a for-profit corporation.

What she is proud of: Generating esteem-building through job creation.
What keeps her up at night: How to create a level playing field for startup entrepreneurs.

GABA Panel of Women Social Entrepreneurs @ Kiva

 

 

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