Social Entrepreneur exists at the intersection of profit and purpose. We tell positive stories from underrepresented voices, focused on solutions.
An Umbrella Made from Ocean-Bound Plastic, with Deirdre Horan, Dri
(For show notes and a full transcript, see https://tonyloyd.com/deirdre-horan).
Dri produces durable, fashionable, and environmentally sustainable umbrellas from ocean-bound plastic.
As a fifteen year-old, Deirdre Horan left her comfortable home in Acton, Massachusetts to join a youth group traveling to Gulfport, Mississippi. This was two years after Hurricane Katrina, and the community continued to struggle.
“What really struck me was the level of devastation that was still there two years later,” Deirdre explains. “It takes much longer than the initial relief to pick lives back up. People will always need assistance if they’ve been impacted. I saw at a young age that something can always be done for somebody.”
Deirdre continued to travel back to Gulfport year after year. But she also thought of how she could make a greater impact.
A shift in plans
In 2017, Deirdre watched a documentary, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic. In the film, Captain Charles Moore made a comment that stuck with her. “He said something like, ‘The oceans to a degree help clean itself out. We need to address the amount that’s flowing in,’” Dierdre explains.
“I went down a black hole, researching recycling. I learned that plastic bottles could be upcycled into polyester.
“One day I was walking to work and my umbrella flipped inside out. I was wet, discouraged, and angry. I threw the umbrella in the trash can. I checked the tag. It was made with polyester yarn. The wheels started turning. I realized that I didn’t know who made any umbrella, let alone an eco-friendly umbrella.”
That’s when the idea came for an umbrella made from ocean-bound plastic.
“I ran around telling everybody I knew about this idea. And then, I realized that I had to buckle down and do some research. One of the biggest hurdles was finding someone who could make it ethically.
“I vetted multiple companies before I made my decision.”
The world produces 380 million tons of plastic every year. Much of that is for single-use.
But what about recycling? Much of the plastic that is gathered for recycling is sent to countries with weak environmental laws and poor waste management systems. According to Deirdre Horan of Dri, over 17 billion pounds of plastic flows into the ocean every year. That’s more than one garbage truck per minute.
In many of these low-income countries, waste pickers will pick up ocean-bound plastic and bring it to recycling centers. That plastic is pelletized and can be spun into yarn and polyester.
Dri umbrellas are created from upcycled ocean-bound plastic. The handles are made from fast-growing bamboo, and the shafts are stainless steel, which is recyclable.
Learn More About Deirdre Horan and Dri
Dri on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dri_umbrellas
Dri on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DriUmbrellas
Vice Documentary, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic: https://youtu.be/D41rO7mL6zM
First Founders: https://firstfounders.org
Grants, Challenges, and Incubators (Oh My!) with Shubham Issar of SoaPen
For a full transcript and extended show notes, see https://tonyloyd.com/shubham-issar.
Shubham Issar and Amanat Anand go from the UNICEF Wearables for Good Challenge to Shark Tank and beyond.
Shubham Issar and Amanat Anand grew up in New Delhi but met at Parsons School of Design in New York. They loved working together on hands-on design projects that made a difference. In 2015, they entered the UNICEF Wearables for Good Challenge. While investigating the challenge, they ran into a statistic that shocked them. Hundreds of thousands of children under the age of five die annually from infectious diseases that handwashing can prevent. Shubham and Amanat were determined to do something about that.
They returned to India to see handwashing in action. They sat in classrooms and observed. They discovered that teachers, overwhelmed by a student ratio of sixty-to-one, were rationing soap. Proper handwashing was not happening at critical times during the day.
They also observed the children enjoying their favorite pastime, drawing with bright colors.
Shubham and Amanat had an idea to make handwashing fun. They developed a prototype of a soap pen. Kids draw on their hands with brightly colored soap. It takes 20 to 40 seconds to wash off the design, ensuring proper handwashing.
UNICEF selected their design as one of ten winners of the Wearables for Good Challenge. And so, SoaPen, the product, and the company were born.
With the prize money, Shubham and Amanat conducted research and development. In 2017, they conducted a Kickstarter campaign to fund a production run. In 2018, they launched their first product on Amazon, but they struggled with sales.
"Talking about 2019 itself, it was just such a hard year for us," Shubham says. "We were bootstrapped. We launched on Amazon because we wanted to be where the parents were. But when you launch on Amazon, you're this little fish in this massive pond. You don't know how to reach the right audience.
"In October of 2019, we were featured in Real Simple magazine. Being the millennial I am, I had no idea the power that print media had. We completely sold out our entire inventory in two and a half weeks."
SoaPen's supply chain was not ready. Amazon's algorithm sent people to their page, but SoaPen could not meet the demand. Their supplier took more than eight weeks to produce new SoaPens. When the SoaPen products returned in stock, the wholesale channel took 70% of that order. So SoaPen remained out of stock on Amazon.
"On Amazon, if you're inactive for two weeks, you're essentially starting from scratch. I think that was very stressful. We finally felt like we had market validation, that the parents were interested in the product and that it was filling a need."
That was January 2020. Then, COVID hit, and they sold out again.
During this time, SoaPen received crucial customer feedback. Parents wanted more vibrant colors. And, they wanted a smaller roller ball for better drawing. When it seemed like SoaPen should rush into production, they decided to pause to get the product right.
With a redesign and supply chain issues, they took time to get the product back on shelves. They missed sales opportunities, but they developed a product that kids and their parents love.
Can Meta be a Force for Good? An Interview with Emily Dalton Smith
Is it possible for the company formerly known as Facebook to be a force for good? There are some bright spots.
NOTE: For a full transcript of the conversation, go to https://tonyloyd.com/emily-dalton-smith
If you want to hear bad news about Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, you don’t have to look far. And, there’s plenty of bad news to find. If you’re interested in reading more about that, just Google the phrase Facebook Papers.
But, for me, there’s a more interesting question. Can Meta be a force for good? Is it possible?
As you know, here at Social Entrepreneur, our motto is “We tell positive stories from underrepresented voices, focused on solutions.” I admire models such as Solutions Journalism, where journalists ask the question, “Who does it better?” And I love appreciative inquiry, where leaders take a strengths-based approach. I would also recommend Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.
The point of all of these approaches is, look for the bright spots. Look for what is working and spread that around.
If you know my story, you know that I was a corporate executive. I was bothered by big questions that drove me to leave my career and learn about social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs use the power of business to do social good.
I believe, if we are going to save humanity, we cannot depend on government agencies and nonprofits to do the work required. Their work is necessary but insufficient.
Every business must look at its impact, both positive and negative. We must find the positive effects of our companies and amplify that.
Let me be clear. To make the kind of impact needed, companies cannot work around the edges. If ExxonMobil plops a solar panel on top of their headquarters, they cannot declare victory and go home. We have to rethink our business models fundamentally.
And positive change requires third-party verification. That’s why I’m such a fan of certified B Corporations.
In today’s interview, Emily Dalton Smith, Vice President of Product Management at Meta, describes how Meta is creating a positive social impact. She talks about Crisis Response, Charitable Giving, Community Help, Health, Mentorship, COVID-19 Information Center, and the Voting Information Center.
Think Against the Grain for Regenerative Farmers, with Dan Miller, Steward
For extended show notes, see: https://tonyloyd.com/dan-miller
Steward is a community of borrowers and lenders who support regenerative farming.
Can a farm make the earth healthier? Regenerative farming is a set of practices that rebuild soil health by restoring carbon and nutrient content. This improves productivity and the health of the planet.
But there’s a problem. The agricultural capital system wasn’t built for small, regenerative farms. That’s where Steward comes in.
Steward equips regenerative farms with the capital they need to grow. Steward is a private lending partner, but they don’t work alone. Steward brings together a community of values-driven lenders who participate in loans and earn a return.
A Capital Marketplace for Regenerative Ag
Steward brings together a three-sided equation – small to mid-sized non-commodity farmers, people who are passionate about food, and the Steward platform. But it all starts with the farmers.
“It’s about thinking beyond a short view of taking care of a resource and feeling the bound to it,” Dan Miller of Steward says.
“For many historical and indigenous cultures, that was obvious. With our current culture, we’ve been disconnected from the resources that we live upon.
“For most of these farmers, small to midsize growing non-commodity, the current financial system is built for large scale commodity agriculture - large soy and grain farms. If you’re one of these smaller producers selling at a farmer’s market or selling to a well-known chef, you don’t have an outlet for capital.
“So they come to us. At first, farmers are surprised that we exist, that there’s a financial service that is focused purely on them as a customer. We have a team member that works them through the funding process. We have an in-house team member who’s a farmer. He helps speak with them about their actual business plan.
“So it is about helping them think about what funding they need. What’s the right amount? What’s the right structure. What are the improvements that they can immediately make to help grow their business?
“They’ve been undercapitalized so long that it’s often a very simple piece of equipment, or tools, or operational capital, or land. It’s not complicated at all. What they need are things they’ve needed for years. They have not had access to capital.”
Learn More About Dan Miller and Steward:
Steward on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoSteward
Steward on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/go-steward
Steward on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/steward
Steward on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoSteward
Social Entrepreneur Six-Week Quick Start: https://cultureshift.com
The Many Faces of Service, with Kate Glantz, Luma Legacy
For complete show notes, see: https://tonyloyd.com/kate-glantz
Luma Legacy: A Fairer, Kinder World
“Luma Legacy is a segment within Luma Pictures,” Kate explains. “It’s a magical creative studio that's been in the world for about 20 years. The bread and butter of the business is making movie magic - so visual effects. Luma Pictures makes superheroes fly, creates new worlds and realities, and all of the really fun stuff that keeps us entertained and dreaming big.
“Luma also has a venture capital arm that makes early stage investments in companies and founders changing the world with really an investment thesis around future of healthcare, future of work or future of food, and the like.
“And the Luma Features is our newest division that's actually making movies from the ground up. It’s all centered around the goal of creating imaginative, emotionally rich stories that other studios or financiers just might not take the risk on. But these are stories that need to be in the world from voices that aren't always heard.
“And then finally, Luma Legacy is that the segment of Luma that I was brought in to help figure out. And the mandate, the very broad, bold, ambitious mandate is to help create a fairer kinder world for everyone.”
A Company Built on Compassion and Empathy
“Facing any of these existential threats that are imminent, be it climate change or things we don't even know about yet without a certain sort of adherence to participating in the social fabric of what makes us human through compassion and empathy - we're kind of screwed.
“We're really looking at this work is by grouping underlying root causes to some of society's greatest problems. So, we talk about it sometimes as rather than taking medicine for a sniffly nose or itchy eyes, what's actually making you sick?
“There are a number of underlying causes that have driven this heightened state of polarization and intensified prejudice. But two that we're looking at are apathy and intolerance. When you flip those, you're looking at empathy and participation, and tolerance
“That has helped us create these three pillars, which are:
· Building bridges across America.
· Catalyzing civic participation.
· Promoting equity and justice, specifically the people and policies that are helping to solidify equity and justice under the law.
“Behavior change is a really important component. If you are inspired, educated, or moved, it's not sufficient to then walk away and make a sandwich and go back to life. There needs to be a clear call to action.
“At that very high level, our goal is to influence outcomes at the ballot box, so that we can create a truly equitable and representative democracy.”
Luma Legacy’s Theory of Change
Luma Legacy is creating all sorts of media. “It’s going to be what it needs to be to meet people where they are, where they gather, where they play, where they scroll.
“And so our theory of change is essentially trying to shift conversations in culture at the level where pop culture happens. And that's in various segments of entertainment and arts. So music, arts, gaming, food - where people are is where we're be. And each initiative might have a different audience and a different medium, but the goal will always be consistent with those pillars that I shared.”
Learn More About Kate Glantz of Luma Legacy
Luma Legacy: https://www.luma.inc/legacy Luma Pictures on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lumapictures Luma Pictures on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lumapictures Luma Pictures on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lumapictures
Social Entrepreneur Six-Week Quick Start: https://cultureshift.com
Katherine Venturo-Conerly and Tom Osborn, Shamiri Institute
For extended show notes and a full transcript, see https:://tonyloyd.com/shamiri-institute
Half of the young people in Kenya have elevated depression and anxiety. 45% of the disease burden comes from anxiety and depression. The Shamiri Institute has an answer.
Kenya has been described as a young hustle culture. But that hustle takes a toll.
According to Tom Osborn of the Shamiri Institute, “Mental health and wellbeing are really important. This is especially true in low-income settings like Kenya where I was born and raised. In Kenya, the median age is about 19. There's evidence that shows this young population is stressed because they have to succeed so early in life.”
In Kenya, there is a massive wealth gap. The Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is around $1,750, while the number of millionaires in Kenya will grow by 80% over the next 10 years. Less than 0.1% of the population (8,300 people) own more wealth than the bottom 99.9%. This places pressure on young people to succeed or be left behind.
“Most mental health outcomes are strongly connected with future career outcomes,” Tom explains. “We think mental health is important at this young age because it determines the life trajectories of many young people.”
According to Katherine Venturo-Conerly of the Shamiri Institute, depression and anxiety make up 45% of the disease burden for young people in low-income countries. “Our research shows that approximately one in two youths has elevated depression and anxiety. Yet these young people go untreated because of a lack of caregivers. There is around one mental health provider for every one million Kenyans.”
Tom Osborn explains that “societal stigma, government under-investment,” are partially to blame. But he also points out that “most existing treatments are long, costly, and not culturally appropriate.”
And the answer is…
The Shamiri Institute provides mental health interventions in a simple, stigma-free, scalable, and school-based group intervention. Services are delivered by young lay providers, ages 18-to-24. Shamiri trains the mental health lay providers and provides vetted tools.
Randomized Controlled Trials of the Shamiri Institute’s interventions show more than 35% reduction in both depression and anxiety lasting up to 7 months. The interventions also provided 14% improvements in social support and a 2.5% increase in academic grades.
“Our approach lowers the cultural and systemic barriers that make mental healthcare inaccessible for Kenyan youths,” Katherine explains. “Instead of the typical psychopathology-centered approach to treatment, we use a simple, positively-focused intervention that emphasizes wellbeing, academic and social improvements. Our innovation is brief, accessible, and disseminated through a network of peers working in schools.”
Learn More About Katherine Venturo-Conerly, Tom Osborn and Shamiri Institute:
Shamiri Institute: https://www.shamiri.institute Shamiri Institute on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shamiri_institute Shamiri Institute on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShamiriTeam Shamiri Institute on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShamiriTeam Vuma Biofuels (formerly GreenChar): https://www.vumabiofuels.com Tom Osborn’s interview, Episode 50: https://tonyloyd.com/podcast/050-tom-osborn-greenchar-social-entrepreneurship-comes-early
Social Entrepreneur Six-Week Quick Start: https://cultureshift.com Self-Assessment, Are you Thriving?: https://cultureshift.com/are-you-thriving Self-Assessment, Discover Your Values: https://cultureshift.com/values
Love the podcast!
I love the meaning behind every episode of this podcast and what it focuses on. Really what the business world needs right now!
Love hearing from like-minded entrepreneurs
Tony does a great job finding awesome guests that truly have a strong social mission behind their enterprise. I love hearing from like-minded entrepreneurs who are also on a mission to change the world.
A must add to your podcast lineup!
There are a very few podcasts that deliver this kind of content.