Well, I am sitting in the lobby area of a hotel near the airport in Managua, Nicaragua after a week of amazement. I was honored to participate in a social entrepreneurship conference run by Agora Partnerships in Granada, Nicaragua. The event was awesome, bringing together some really bright, early stage social businesses that I was very impressed by. Agora did a great job of selecting businesses that had wonderful leaders that were appreciative of Agora’s efforts and businesses that are making a difference in their communities.
There were a couple of young people that I met that were truly outstanding. One set of entrepreneurs are based in Austin and they are promoting hand made boots that you can design yourself online and they are made by artisans in Guatemala. The young couple, Sophie and Travis, are so humble and they are really changing lives while building a business that will enable them to live a great life. In short, they have sold 1,000 pairs of boots in less than a year as they continue to grow their employee base in Guatemala. The boots are very cool and you can learn more about them at http://www.teysha.is. If you like boots I believe you will love what Sophie and Travis are up to!
Another young entrepreneur was Gina, who helps those with not ideal backgrounds get real jobs. Gina started her journey helping the blind become photographers. Her whole idea is that you should see people for who they truly are, not their story or how you see them. All we have is what is in front of us and there are many people that have made mistakes or come from a poor background and might have made some poor choices, but they could be amazing resources. She is now running a placement company in Mexico and London that trains alternate work pools to participate in mainstream jobs. In addition, she was one of the most positive and alive people I have met in a very long time.
Yet another young entrepreneur was Diogo from Rio. Diogo is looking to build an electric car sharing business in Rio. He went to business school in Barcelona and his thesis was this business plan. He has worked hard to move the initiative forward, including moving back in with his parents in his early 30’s to pursue his vision rather than taking a job. I have faith that Diogo will be successful in whatever he chooses to do in life.
There were a number of personal solar light distributors, one from Peru and one working in all of Latin America but based in Colorado. It was really exciting to see the energy of these individuals. One of their core issues, especially the ones based in the US, is dealing with family and friends that don’t understand why they are so driven to help those less fortunate around the globe. I continue to ask the same question, except in the opposite direction. How can you not spend your life trying to make the world a better place for those that are lacking in opportunity?
I continue to be amazed by the brilliance and dedication of young and old that are pouring their hearts and souls into this new social economy. I am working hard with others to build an infrastructure that supports this community and in the future I believe that working in this ecosystem will be just a profitable as traditional businesses that don’t have a social cause. I believe that as capitalists, we can do good and make money. That is part of my journey.
After the conference concluded we were provided a private tour from Granada to Managua by a gentleman named Felix. Felix’ story is amazing and someone that I hope to stay connected to for many years to come. Felix left his home at 13 years old to travel to the US to avoid joining the army. He ended up in the US 6 months later after swimming across the Rio Grande River. His focus and determination took him to Harvard and Yale and he is now a major developer of solar farms and alternative energy systems in Nicaragua. His energy, passion and compassion were truly inspiring and I was so happy to spend the day with him and my friend John Belluomini.
In addition, I continue to confirm that I can travel the world and stay totally connected to our business and even help it grow. The access to communication technology, even in the most remote parts of the world, is very suitable for staying connected. I even believe it might work even better for me when I am in different time zones and I can spend my days with my family and work in the evenings when I might have been watching TV back in San Diego. Having a business that fits into our life has been a huge goal of ours over the past 20 years and I believe that we have accomplished this. I am looking forward to a global journey that will help me have an effect on the world while still helping those around me achieve their goals in life.
‘Til next time ………