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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Isabel Medem, the co-founder of X-runner Venture, is a multi-talented, multi-educated, and multilingual individual who puts her knowledge, skills and talents to good use – and a waterless sanitation system is her notable contribution to the world. She has a degree in International Business Administration from the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, a Master’s degree in European Management from the European School of Management, and a comprehensive work experience across several sectors including community development, microfinance, and social entrepreneurship.

Medem has worked as an intern for several organizations including Terre des Hommes, PlaNet Finance, and Village Exchange International Ghana, during her undergraduate studies. She also worked in various capacities at LFS Consulting/ AccessBank where she mastered its microlending technology and banking services.

It is with X-runner Venture, however, that Medem appears to have discovered her calling. She joined the company in 2011 and has since been responsible for the success of most of its projects as well as for the company’s service hub and financial operations. She has a passion for providing people with excellent services that can be appreciated for their value in improving their quality of life.

X-runner Venture is an organization dedicated to providing underserved communities especially low-income urban households in Lima’s slums with a dry toilet solution. Once a week, teams from X-runner pick up human waste from these communities with the waste turned into compost. The solution has contributed to the decrease of diseases caused by polluted air and water, which carry diseases-transmitting organisms, in the communities.

The dry toilet solution is a reliable, cost-efficient and results-effective solution for Lima’s urban poor with little to no access to conventional toilets. The solution also works without sewers and pipe systems, which means that the dry toilets cost less than half the cost for primitive pit latrines.

Medem, its current CEO, is also planning to expand the program to other Latin American cities.

Sasha Fisher has an undeniable spark that inspires people to be active agents of positive change, too. As co-founder and Executive Director of Spark MicroGrants, she has ensured that people can be the agents of change in their communities and, thus, continuing the cycle of development.

Spark MicroGrants provides people in Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda with 6 months of community facilitation and training as well as a seed grant in designing and managing their own development projects. The company usually establishes strong partnerships with rural poor communities in impact projects including schools, health centers, and farms.

Its novel approach of proactive and catalytic community-led development from organizing people to granting the seed money has resulted in improved quality of life for over 100 communities in these three countries. Its projects have reached over 75,000 people.

Fisher has a Bachelors of Art, Human Security, Studio Art from the University of Vermont. She has been honored as a Draper Richards Kaplan Fellow, a Cordes Fellow, a Global Good Fund Fellow, and a BHSI Fellow for her work at Spark MicroGrants, among other awards.

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz discovered that there is, indeed, treasure in trash. In 2007, she co-founded Rags2Riches, the first fashion and design house and social enterprise company that empowers community artisans in the Philippines’ infamous dumpsite, Manila’s Payatas area. Her company has trained 900 community artisans, expanded its reach from 1 to 21 communities across the country, and recycled 800 tons of scrap materials into fashionable personal and home accessories.

Rags2Riches currently employs over 300 people including in-house artisans, professionals, and marketers from a single volunteer during its first year. Its 100% annual growth from 2007 to 2012 is an impressive feat but its approach toward empowering community artisans is even more impressive.

With its 4P goals, namely, empowering People, making sustainable Profits benefiting both the company and the community, protecting the Planet by repurposing waste, and making a Positive impact on society, Rags2Riches has improved the quality of life for its community artisans. In their previous business model, the community artisans made rugs from scrap materials but only earned just US$0.02 per rug because the middlemen took most of the profits.

With the Rags2Riches’ business model, they receive 40% of each item’s retail price, a 2,000% increase from their previous earnings. Many of the artisans have also founded a cooperative with shares in Rags2Riches, thus, reinforcing their sense of ownership.

Fernandez-Ruiz and her team taps into her extensive network of family and friends to transform the rugs into high-end items including fashion handbags, wine bottle holders, and eyeglass cases. These items are designed for the top-end market by many of the Philippines’ respected designers including Rajo Laurel and Amina Aranaz-Alunan.

Rags2Riches is not just about earning higher profits for the community artisans. The company also provides them with comprehensive trainings in health insurance, finance and nutrition as well as business practices.

Fernandez-Ruiz has said that the beauty of the high-end personal and home accessories has deeper meaning when its origins are known – a sense of humanity is woven into the fabric itself.

Katy Ashe’s Noora Health tackles a real problem in the United States and in other countries. The 30-day readmission rates for healthcare facilities particularly hospitals are at 20 to 30 percent, a staggering number considering that Medicare spends approximately $17 billion per year on patients’ return visits. These readmissions are preventable with appropriate education and training on the part of patients and their families.

Noora Health is a program designed to improve the health outcomes for patients with families living on less than 1 to 4 dollars per day. It supplies iPads, which will be placed on patients’ bedside tables, containing information necessary for successful recovery after a major medical event (e.g., surgery) and for effective management of chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes). It works by allowing patients to enter basin information about their condition, which will be followed by an interactive education program.

Ashe has Noora Health in 16 hospitals across India. With the program, she has become instrumental in training 13,000 family members of approximately 8,000 patients about their conditions and, thus, in saving lives and money.

Jen Anderson and Jane Mitchell share a passion for breaking down barriers and opening doors of opportunity for young adults and their families trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty and prison. And thus was The Reset Foundation born of their passion for helping disadvantaged yet talented people.

But it was a long road to The Reset Foundation. Jane Mitchell, its present-day Chief Executive Officer, was teaching in jails where she witnessed hundreds of people trapped in the prison and poverty cycle. The people were not just the prisoners themselves but their families, such as students meeting their parents for the first time in prison or children raised with the expectations of becoming criminals themselves.

Mitchell spent 4 years developing an alternative model for prison time for young adults. She integrated the best practices in various fields including education, socio-emotional health, and workforce development, among others. She worked with many of the thought leaders in each of these fields, too. She teamed up with Jen Anderson to establish The Reset Foundation.

Anderson, its present Chief Operating Officer, has a passion for prison reform and rehabilitation since the age of 12 when she learned the word “recidivism”. She decided to become a co-founder to take The Reset Foundation’s model from an abstract concept to beneficial reality.

The Reset Foundation has an ambitious yet viable model – it addresses the present-day realities of poverty among Americans through reforms in the justice system. Sentenced young adults, who have been selected by the foundation, live in Reset campuses where supportive learning environments are present. The young adults are encouraged to focus entirely on academics, healthy living, and career, thus, allowing them to open doors of opportunity to break out of the prison and poverty cycle.

Mitchell and Anderson are taking The Reset Foundation to greater height and, in the process, providing young adults with opportunities that they will not enjoy otherwise. Indeed, resetting lives in the name of their game!

Amanda Slavin founded CataylstCreativ, a company engaged in event planning and millennial marketing for brands, movements and cities. She started her experience studio, which is designed to revolutionize the ways Generation Y and Z experience and connect to brands, with the financial backing of Tony Hsieh.

She has since helped in raising public awareness for several projects including The Downtown Project in Las Vegas, as well as worked with big-name brands including Dell and NPR. She has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Neag School of Education of the University of Connecticut. Her thesis dealt with the impact of outdoor community on engagement, thus, enabling her to create a metrics of engagement.

With her background, Slavin proceeded to develop her unique approach to business development and grassroots marketing. She started her career with Paige Management, launched Ainsworth, and supervised the partnership between Madison Square Garden and Axe/Unilever, among others.

Slavin’s brand of grassroots marketing has made her a brand catalyst, one of the few with the extraordinary talent.

James Toney III believes that with optimum leveraging of strategic skills and creativity for better profitability among companies, businesses can both be influential wealth creators and powerful agents of social change. And thus was the idea for Sew born.

Toney is a co-founder and partner in Sew, a Los Angeles-based community-minded creative agency; it creates campaigns and strategies to unite communities and brands around their common goals. He and his partners and staff members look for ways in helping the community and assisting the brands/clients with image development – truly, a win-win solution for all stakeholders.

Sew has delivered on successful digital and brand strategies for several companies including Ford Motor Company, AAA, Lincoln, Verizon Wireless, Oprah Winfrey Network, and Gap, among others. Toney was behind “Voices of Power”, Verizon’s fundraising campaign that solicited messages for domestic abuse victims; the campaign also resulted in 45 million organic impressions.

Toney has experience with social impact marketing albeit in a less commercial setting. For example, he draws his inspiration for many of his projects from his previous job at Save Darfur Coalition.

He and his partners decided on the name Sew to signify their goal of binding business and philanthropy, customers and branding, and opportunity and talent into a cohesive unit. Sew conducts comprehensive research for its partners in identifying the brand truth that will effectively resonate with the target customers. The team develops a social impact strategy based on the insights gathered, design the campaign, and bring it to the market.

Toney and his partners initially started with their own money and loans but have yet to take on any investment. He co-owns Sew with Tyler Simmons, Steven Ocheltree, and Ian Elliott. He is also the Chief Strategist for lead business development.

His previous experiences include Creative Director at YouthNoise, Mobilization Director at Save Darfur Coalition, and a board of director at Bright Pink.

If her witty references to literary figures and fictional characters are anything to go by, Mallory Ortberg has probably read more books than anybody has on the Internet. As writer and editor as well as co-founder of The Toast, a feminist site with a love for classic literature, she is instrumental in the site’s continued success. She runs the site with her co-founder and co-editor, Nicole Cliffe, and her publisher, Nicholas Pavich.

The Toast, which was created in 2014, already has over a million unique visitors a month – truly, a testament to the witty insights about literary characters that Ortberg can dish out so well. Ortberg adopts a convivial approach in writing her pieces, thus, allowing readers to connect with literary greats and fictional figures, such as Jane Eyre, Don Quixote, and Lord Byron, among others.

She has also made it big business to send texts from Jane Eyre, thanks to her popular column and book aptly titled “Texts from Jane Eyre”, which became a New York Times bestseller.

Mattias Swenson, Dan Carlberg, and Patrik Ring, together with Daniel Gren and Daniel Swenson, co-founded Blogloving in 2008. In the tradition of many great companies, the group founded their company, which was initially called Blogkoll (i.e., to keep track of blogs), in a garage in Taby, Sweden.

Their initial goal: To make Blogkoll a go-to site for Netizens to keep track of their favorite blogs without opening several tabs on their browsers. The site eventually metamorphosed into Bloglovin’, an RSS reader that allows its users to discover, consume and organize online disaggregated content particularly lifestyle, beauty and fashion blogs. With over 30 million users, Bloglovin’ has a predominantly female user base (estimated 90%).

Of course, the group has had its share of challenges on its way to its current success. Finances came in the way of Series A funding, which raised $1 million in 2012, from the likes of Lerer Ventures, Jill Greenthal, and Hank P. Vigil & Fritz Lanman, among others.

In 2013, the company moved its headquarters to New York City although it still has offices in Malmo and Stockholm. In the same year, Bloglovin’ significantly grew in terms of signups, thanks in part to Google Reader’s demise, and was cited in the “50 New York City Startup You Need to Know About”. The site also underwent a major redesign including allowing users the opportunity to curate their own content.

The group also required the expert assistance of industry veterans and, thus, the company hired Joy Marcus as its Chief Executive Officer in February 2014. Marcus is considered an industry veteran, thanks to her stint at Gotham Ventures, Time Warner (AOL), and Barnes & Noble.

In yet another round of triumph for the company, it raised another $7 million in a Series A funding round with Northzone and the Babble and SoulCycle founders in on it. The company also received additional investments from Lerer Ventures, Bassett Investment Group, and While Star Capital.